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GRACELAND Checks With a "Pawn"

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Written by : published Sunday 15th September 2013


USA's Graceland has proven a steady, reliable draw all summer, doing for crime shows what Suits does for lawyer ones. That is, raising the genre to the next level with a smart, serial story, wonderful characters, and unexpected twists. With "Pawn," Graceland's first season may be over, but thankfully fans have a recently-ordered second year to look forward to.

The main friction in the titular house has been between shady Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) and fresh-faced Mike Warren (Aaron Tveit). Mike has Briggs on the run as "Pawn" begins, close to having the evidence to put Briggs away once and for all. It's a great accomplishment for the young, talented officer, going up against such an experienced, intelligent veteran and winning.

But not so fast. Briggs hangs around town to catch Jangles (Vincent Laresca), who is posing as a Mexican federal agent. Briggs screws up in the take down, leaving both he and Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) captured. Luckily, Mike, who is tracking Briggs, bursts in and saves the day. Unfortunately, once the crime scene is examined, Briggs is cleared of all charges.

Briggs uses Mike as a "Pawn," and as smart as Mike is, he still falls for it. Briggs leaves Mike the clues to trace him, as an insurance policy. Then, Briggs acts surprised and grateful for the rescue. Briggs is always several steps ahead, and while I do buy that Mike gets the drop on him in earlier hours, the season finale finds Briggs in control again.

As far as the CIA is concerned, Mike did his job admirably, and gets the promotion in D.C. that he wants, leaving Graceland behind. But for Mike, it's a disappointing failure, knowing Briggs is a guilty liar and manipulator, no matter what the evidence says. Sadly, he doesn't have the tape that can put Briggs away, which some kid is seen pocketing in a pawn shop at the end of the season finale.

Graceland is good because it builds the tension excellently, and creates a compelling tale of a hero versus a villain. Briggs can fool everyone, except Mike. But Mike is wise enough not to go at Briggs with everything he has, assuming he will lose that battle. Instead, Mike plays the long game, acting the friend for now. It's a dynamic we've seen before, but never quite in this manner.

At the end of "Pawn," it appears Mike has given up, as we see him in his new role, all the way across the country. But Mike misses the house, and it isn't long before Briggs gives him a good reason to return. Surely, this is the setup for season two, and while Mike may seem to go back at the behest of Briggs, it's clear that Mike will also be keeping an eye on his former boss.

The writing is great in that it makes this complex scenario convincing. Here we have two men who can see the game, the others around them more observers than players. Yet, like life, there isn't an easy quick solution that can occur in an installment or a season. This is destined to be a much bigger tale, one that Graceland deserves to get the chance to show us.

I don't know how well Mike will be welcomed back to Graceland. Paige (Serinda Swan) has a thing for him, despite Mike's outing as a rat. And Charlie will be grateful for Mike saving her life. Briggs wants Mike back for his own reasons, and Johnny (Manny Montana) should be able to get past his disappointment with Mike for the greater good. But Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren) has firmly sided with Briggs, making he and Mike enemies.

It's hard to tell if Jakes is a good guy or a bad one. He helps Briggs escape the law when Mike goes after Briggs, but "Pawn" makes it seem like Jakes owed Briggs a favor that has now been repaid. Will Jakes continue to work with Briggs to protect himself, or might he be willing to flip if Briggs keeps pushing him?

Why is Briggs encouraging Mike to return? Isn't he worried about the danger Mike poses to Briggs' freedom? Does Briggs think he can continue to control Mike? Or does he need help that Mike alone, who stands head and shoulders above the others, can provide?

One thing is for certain: the chemistries of Graceland are ever shifting due to circumstance. There will not be stability in the house as long as various factions clandestinely butt against one another. Friendships go hand in hand with rivalries, and betrayal is all part of the deal. It's an intriguing series that will likely undergo big changes in its makeup as season two and future years play out. As long as it stays as interesting as this has been, it is a welcome contributor to the television landscape.

Graceland will return next year to USA.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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