Graceland, Ep. 1.02 “Guadalajara Dog” remedies what pilot lacked–quality character development

Graceland, Season 1, Episode 2: “Guadalajara Dog”
Written by Jeff Eastin
Directed by Renny Harlin
Airs Thursdays at 10 pm (ET) on USA

Mike (Aaron Tveit) poses as Charlie’s (Vanessa Ferlito) boyfriend to keep men from hitting on her while undercover.

On this week’s Graceland, Mike attempts to earn Briggs’s trust but stumbles over his own “green” status, we meet roommate Paige, and Briggs comes closer to meeting his elusive target Bello.

With some choice group scenes displaying the entire undercover crew, Graceland immediately remedies what its pilot lacked–quality character development. Over breakfast and, later, a bonfire, the cast is given the chance to interact as a whole, and the result doesn’t disappoint. Mike fits in well with the experienced group, mainly because of his easy charm, but also because of his genuine skills–as Mike’s new control officer (posing as Mike’s shrink) points out, Mike was chosen to spy on Briggs because Mike was the best in his graduating class.

Though the episode’s focus is clearly on Mike and Briggs’s developing relationship, “Guadalajara Dog” still gives side characters several chances to shine in various storylines that converge neatly by episode’s end. Dreadlocked Jakes adopts a Jamaican accent to pick up a truck of illegal birds but finds a crate filled with armor-piercing (and highly-illegal) bullets instead, Charlie recruits Mike to help her deliver birth control pills to undercover Paige (so Paige can drug her target instead of sleeping with him), and Lauren packs her bags while mourning Donnie’s (now permanent) absence from the group. With the exception of Johnny (who seems to exist solely for laughs), there’s not a weak character in the cast, which is no small feat for an ensemble this big.

Posing as a marine, Mike showcases his gun skills for a group of drug-dealers

Meanwhile, Briggs remains an enigma–complete with a mysteriously shady past and moral ambiguity–but the household clearly loves him. The sole holdout is Mike, who spends the episode second-guessing Briggs’s decision-making and openly admitting his distrust for his training officer. After prying advice from Charlie, Mike formulates a plan for getting Briggs in with drug-dealer Bello. The plan involves Jakes’s newfound bullets (which Mike acquires in exchange for two of Jakes’s turns on the chore wheel) and some excellent marksmanship from Mike. By episode’s end, Paige’s target, Bobby, is arrested and Briggs manages to get the bullets safely back to Jakes while still keeping Bello’s trust.

After Briggs’s successful mission, Mike finds himself in awe of his training officer and (wisely) doesn’t overestimate the man. Unfortunately, Briggs also keeps a close eye on his trainee and knows Mike’s been chatting with someone in secret. Briggs winds up luring Mike into a trap, aiming a gun at his head, and demanding to know who Mike’s been secretly reporting to. The scene nicely sets up next week’s episode, as well as the rest of the season.

After such a thoroughly-solid episode, Graceland successfully proves its up to the task of delivering both quality characters and storylines without skimping on either–an impressive and, more importantly, promising feat.

 

Ashley Laggan

 

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