Graceland / Screen

‘Graceland’: Episode 109 ‘Smoke Alarm’ Review

In tonight’s episode, Jangles makes a bloody splash in California on a hunt for Odin,  putting Bello and his men on edge. Meanwhile Briggs sets out to entrap him as Charlie finds an ally in her hunt for Odin.  It was a packed episode with new information about my favorite morally dubious anti-hero plus a death and the reveal of a secret. With only three episodes left, everything that transpired in this one is leading up to some really great things for all the characters but especially Mike, Charlie, and Briggs. 

I’ll begin by saying I’m very disappointed in the lack of Dale this episode and the apparent ease with which he’s excluded from episodes without any explanation while none of the other cast members have been absent.  Just because Dale’s a private guy doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be included in the overarching story, and since all the other members of Graceland are proving to have their own roles to play in this arc, Dale should get some attention, too.  I’m expecting a return next week plus Dale becoming just as integral as his roommates are turning out to be.

While Dale’s wherever he is, Paige and Mike are getting closer or at least Paige is trying to get closer to Mike, but he’s making it difficult.  Noticing his discomfort in the house and his mood since the dissolution of his relationship with Abby, she’s trying to be a person he can talk to, agreeing to keep the whole thing secret for him.  Paige’s kindness to Mike ends up making her privy to the awkward and surprising truth that he was placed in Graceland to investigate Briggs, which sends her out the door.  Whether or not she says anything about it is up in the air, but Paige has known Briggs longer than she’s known Mike.  She’s undoubtedly aware of Briggs’ unorthodox methods, but like Johnny she probably doesn’t think he’s capable of real wrongdoing.  Her acceptance of Mike, and her efforts to make the Graceland transition work for him are going to make coming to terms with this information hard for her, and it’s unlikely she’ll be very willing to listen to any explanation he tries to give.

Charlie’s also got her own thing going on as she’s picking up in her own hunt for Odin.  Briggs’ purchase of a motel room attracts everyone but Jangles. Charlie turns up and promptly discovers and disabes his smoke alarm camera, and she’s followed by Rafael Cortes, a Mexican federal agent.  Now that Charlie has someone on her side who’s just as hungry to find Odin as she is,  I can see her investigation getting even dicier for Briggs especially since she’s still suspicious of him.  She won’t find any allies willing to doubt Briggs within Graceland, but she’s potentially got one in Rafael.

Briggs’ realizing Charlie’s suspicion of him, courtesy of Johnny was my favorite scene of the episode.  Though Briggs may consider the other agents his friends, he’s not afraid to manipulate them for his own needs, and he easily gets Johnny to tell him what he needs to know.  His breezy transition back to their Jangles/Bello problem was a highlight because the scene wasn’t heavy-handed, a failing I’ve noticed in other shows who employ this same tactic.  Usually the questioning is so obvious and goes on for so long that I wonder how the unaware party isn’t totally suspicious by the end of the conversation, and it was nice to see the writing team being aware of the delicate situation Briggs is in especially since a prolonged chat would have probably stirred up some suspicion from Johnny’s end anyway.

Briggs’ past is a seemingly endless pit of revelations, this time handed to us by Juan who tells us of Briggs’ first placement in a house such as Graceland. It was the Estate where he lived with partner and friend Roberto, another agent who was also his girlfriend named Lisa plus three other agents.  They all died in a fire set while Briggs was being held captive by the cartel.  Juan’s convinced Briggs gave up the location and purpose of the house to the cartel, leading to the murders of the agents, and it’s hard to say if he’s right or not.

Briggs is certainly guilt-ridden over something, and as revealed in the episode’s final moments, he played a role in the fire (though it was Jangles who did the actual killing).  The lack of specificity makes me wonder if Briggs’ responsibility was more abstract in nature, but if he didn’t give up the location then who did?  The phone calls placed to the Estate and to Lisa imply that he knew something was about to happen. Or perhaps he was just looking for help after his release by the cartel.  A part of me is hoping for the first option just because it adds another layer of complication to Briggs’ already complicated persona and anything else would seem like a cop-out after making such a huge fuss about it, and costing Juan his life.  Briggs’ involvement in the fire would make a lot of sense.  He was high at the time so it would have been easier to get him to talk, and it would account for his quest for vengeance now.  So far I’ve assumed it’s because of the personal damage done by Jangles and the cartel in addicting him to heroin, but perhaps it’s also partly because of the deaths of his friends which may also explain his protectiveness of the people of Graceland this time around.

Even though he violently subdued Mike in last week’s episode, it obviously wasn’t Briggs’ preferred choice.  Tonight when faced with the choice between pursuing Jangles and tending to an injured Mike, he chose Mike.  If Briggs had to choose between continuing his hunt for vengeance and Graceland, I think he’d pick Graceland especially if it would mean avoiding a repeat of the Estate.

The continued figuring out of Briggs’ character is a lot of fun, and I’m pleased with a lot of the solid answers we’ve been given.  I’m assuming there are no falsehoods being spewed, and the information heard from Briggs’ himself regarding that time in his life is mostly true.

Graceland does well with character, even for a minor role such as Juan’s.  The personal stakes are high for everyone, including him who lost a friend in the Estate fire, and his going after Briggs was an impulsive but believable choice.  With Mike refusing to help him, Juan’s forced to handle it the only way he can think of: by approaching Briggs as Jangles, an encounter which ends in Juan’s death. 

It’s going to be pretty apparent pretty quickly that Juan isn’t Jangles, and his death is going to cause some huge problems for Briggs while getting Mike back on Briggs’ trail.   The Mike/Briggs dynamic grows more and more interesting as the show progresses.  As Juan said, Mike is trustworthy, but he’s placed his trust in Briggs.  Briggs saving his life again is only going to strengthen that, but Mike knowing of Juan’s paranoia and the potential abuse of power that could come with that may prove to be beneficial to Briggs when the truth is revealed, especially if Mike’s holding on to his belief in Briggs.

Tell me what you thought of the episode in the comments, and feel free to add your own speculation about what happened at the Estate and what will happen next week as Mike goes back undercover, this time in prison.

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