Graceland 2×10 ‘The Head of the Pig’: Cleaning up

Graceland - Season 2

Graceland has been spinning its wheels for a while now, and even though I’ve been fairly impressed by the vast majority of the show’s various plotlines, there hasn’t been enough forward movement on anybody’s front in order to make the narrative very exciting.  Some episodes have been fantastic, some stories have been fantastic, but as a whole, Graceland hasn’t been able to ascend much higher than it did last season.

Graceland 2x10-1

Source: USA

However, everything smartly converges here in “The Head of the Pig”.  Well, mostly everything.  There are still characters like Jakes whose development are largely swept aside, and Charlie’s bank robbing storyline is still at a standstill until a later episode (although now it’s more important than before, which makes me nervous).  But the way that Johnny, Briggs, Paige, and Mike’s storylines all came together in the raid on Sulla’s compound was absolutely a highlight of the season in that nothing seemed out of place.  The raid was a natural climactic fallout of the convergence of these storylines, and Sulla’s death starts to knock down the dominos that the season has been setting up.

Its placement was rather smart as well, as it took up about fifteen minutes of the episode’s runtime, and was positioned in such a way that there was a great deal of tension surrounding the raid.  While we didn’t necessarily want to see Sulla escape, we knew that Mike has endured so much within the compound that his death was almost tragic.  It was great to see Graceland consider every protagonist’s perspective as the raid went down, from Paige being able to rescue the Tinker Bell’s to Briggs trying to hold everything together while staying undercover.  The way that Graceland attuned itself to these characters’ perspectives made the raid a harrowing sequence.

Graceland 2x10-2

Source: USA

What I’m not particularly thrilled about is the way that Badillo’s tape has come to haunt Briggs.  While it’s great to see Briggs’ role increasing as the season moves towards its conclusion, the show waited nine episodes to include Badillo’s tape as a dramatic point.  It disassembles the façade of realism that Graceland has been creating (which is something that every show does) by taking the writer’s hand and making it abundantly clear.  There’s also the matter of Charlie’s pregnancy, which was frustrating in the same way that pregnancy was a plot point in Homeland’s third season.  It seems dropped there for dramatic effect as Badillo’s tape took a larger role in Briggs’ narrative.  It’s especially shaky when juxtaposed with the raid on Sulla’s compound, as that storyline is such a highlight.

But Graceland still seems to be keeping most of the storylines fairly interesting and effective, even Johnny’s, which slowed down a little during his time in Mexico.  The sexual tension between him and Carlito, as well as his relationship with Lucia, were both great ways to add complexity to how Johnny feels in over his head.  The character of Carlito Sr. is still somewhat one-dimensional and doesn’t really have much of a personality past “brutal drug kingpin”, but the relationships between characters is what keeps these stereotypes and one-dimensionalities from being too frustrating.  It’s still a great story, and it’s the one that I’m normally most excited to see during an episode of Graceland this season.

Even though Graceland has had a difficult time finding a middle ground between subtlety and action, between character development and plot progression, “The Head of the Pig” was a solid outing.  It occasionally bifurcated in quality, with the Charlie storyline looking exponentially worse when juxtaposed with the raid, but I was impressed when multiple stories came together to create the great setpiece at the center of this episode.  If Graceland can do this in the final stages of the season, if it can move past the Badillo storyline to wrap everything up neatly and effectively, then maybe we can move into a Season 3 that will be an improvement from even this one.

So what did you think of “The Head of the Pig”?  Is it setting us up for an amazing finale?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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