Graceland 2×12 ‘Echoes’: Convergence and divergence

Graceland - Season 2

Season 4 of Breaking Bad wasn’t its best season, but the end of the season was what elevated it above and beyond the rest of it.  “Crawl Space” took an entire season worth of build-up and brought it crashing down in the time span of about ten minutes, bringing us one of the show’s most intense scenes.  What made the final act of Season 4 so brilliant was how it took that build-up and centered the action around it, utilizing all of the complex relationships and plot threads to create one final push instead of a hundred different threads coming to different conclusions.

Graceland 2x12-2

Source: USA

Graceland has been far more serialized than last season, and while that’s done wonders on episodes like “The Head of the Pig”, the way that the show has never converged all of its plotlines means that there has to be separate climactic events within all of them.  Sure, some plotlines combine, but only to diverge again and make things too complicated for their own good.  Complexity is great; The Wire is probably the most complex show I’ve ever seen, but more than that, it’s a show also filled with vivid character development and thematic resonance.  Graceland is certainly complex this season, but the issue is that it has shed a great deal of character development and thematic resonance in order to make way for plot.  Graceland has been so loaded with plot that it forgets the “do more with less” mentality that carries most shows.  Just look at Breaking Bad’s “Fly”, one of the best episodes of the season and essentially a two-man play.  As long as the characters are crafted well, all we need is to see two of them in a room together.

Graceland - Season 2

Source: USA

Not to mention that Markham is a terrible villain, and as Season 2 of Graceland comes to a close, he’s certainly the most immediate threat.  As he finally finds out that Briggs is undercover investigating him, we know that there’s going to be a face-off between Briggs and Markham, as well as Briggs and Mike.  It’s entirely possible that Briggs could make it out alive here, but he feels a lot like Homeland’s Nicholas Brody, a character introduced into the series that has a timer on his chest counting down his life.  It would resonate to see Briggs go, but Markham is such a terrible villain that losing Briggs to Markham would almost be worst.  There’s also Charlie’s kidnapping, which is a lazy way to create tension in these final scenes.  She may be pregnant and she may love Briggs, but Amber and her crew are almost worse than Markham in terms of being villains.  She just doesn’t really have a personality to speak of, and that makes it difficult to become invested in her.

Graceland - Season 2

Source: USA

And then there’s the Mike/Paige romance that’s definitely gone up in smoke.  Now that Paige knows that Mike covered up Lina’s death, there’s no way that they’ll come together in the end.  But there still isn’t really a reason for them to be together in the first place.  We don’t know what attracts them to each other; the only thing that connects them is the Tinker Bell storyline.  This has been an issue that I’ve had with the Mike/Paige storyline since the beginning of the season, and it hasn’t really improved because of the emphasis on plot over character.  I mean, look at where Jakes is at right now.  He had this great character development early on in the season, but has again been relegated to the supporting cast because there was nowhere for that development to go.  The writers just didn’t know what to do with his character, and while the plot is fairly crisp, that’s what the season feels like as a whole.  There are things that happen, but the characters are just being pulled around the story, not a whole lot happening otherwise.  The only story I’m even remotely invested in is Johnny and Lucia, as we’re still waiting to see Johnny’s reaction to his inevitable failure (unless Graceland pulls its punches like it did last season.

It’s entirely possible for Graceland to pull this all together in the finale.  It’s entirely possible that we’ll see a brilliant, poignant way to finish off the season’s plotlines, and that all of the disparate storylines will converge into an intricate web.  But it’s looking like it’s becoming more and more difficult to pull it all together, just like Season 6 of Sons of Anarchy.  Shift the focus too many times and it’s difficult to care about what’s going on in the present.  This season of Graceland is still definitely better than the last, but it’s becoming harder to see an ending where I might actually feel something for anybody involved.

So what do you think about this season of Graceland?  Do you think the ending will be any good?  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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