Warning: Spoiler Alert
The term “Jumps The Shark,” became part of the television lexicon back in the seventies, as the ABC hit comedy series “Happy Days,” hit the downward slope in quality and ratings, after an episode of the series took place in Hawaii, that had Fonzie waterski up a ramp and over a man-eating shark. The term became a buzzword over the years, when a series pulls a stunt that seems so contrary to the story they’ve presented, that the show never recovers. The USA Network Original Series “Graceland,” may have reached its “Jumps The Shark,” moment in episode nine of the second year of the series, by allowing it’s alleged “good guy,” to commit an inexcusable and unpardonable act.
The premise of “Graceland,” has always played around with shades of gray, allowing FBI Agent Paul Briggs to remain unpunished for dirty-deeds he committed in the first season, including dealing heroin and accidentally killing another agent in a scuffle over a gun. Only one other character, Dale Jakes’ knows about the shooting, while all remain in the dark about him formerly moonlighting as a Drug Kingpin. Briggs may soon be implicated in the death of the agent Juan Badillo, as a Los Angeles Detective possesses a cassette tape of the conversation between the two agents, as well as the sound of the gun being fired.
However, this episode also showed the former “Boy-Scout” FBI Agent Mike Warren, watch a woman he was trying to protect get murdered and rather than blow his cover and risk not capturing cartel boss Carlos Solano, he’s covered up the death and incinerated the young woman’s body. The situation’s a plot device to signify how a law-enforcement official could get so obsessed over taking down a criminal, that he’s allowed the case to go against his morals and principles. Unfortunately, it came off in the eyes of this viewer, as totally unrealistic given what we know about Warren.
Sophomore slumps unfortunately are far too common on the small screen, as series that come out of the gates with all cylinders firing, seem to lose their direction after completing their first season. Unfortunately, that’s due to not thinking about the ramifications of events that have occurred and then getting stuck in a corner when the previous story-arc comes back to bite them in the butt.
The housemates throughout the second season are on a mission to close down the Solano Cartel, a major provider of heroin and weapons from Mexico to the USA. They were able to shut down his drug trafficking operation as he was using a bus line he owned to bring in the heroin, but the cartel got word of the bust and destroyed all the evidence as the task-force closed in.
DEA Agent Paige Arkin proved that the cartel was also involved in human trafficking, as they are running a sex-slave operation, promising foreign young woman that they’ll become American citizens, before selling them off to become prostitutes. Paige took the place of a young woman who died of a drug overdose and imprisoned in the facility along with a young Ukrainian woman named Lena she had tried to track earlier. Warren was able to rescue Paige by posing as a buyer and paying the facility’s operator Sulla $250 thousand for her. However, he told Paige he wanted to keep the facility operating until he could connect the Solano Cartel to it. Paige vehemently disagreed with the decision fearing for all the young women still imprisoned.
Warren tried to keep the operation going but rescue all the young women, by offering Sulla $1.5 million for them in the previous episode. Sulla told Warren that his boss wouldn’t make the sale now, as the FBI were monitoring his operations. The agent then offered Sulla to hold another $250 thousand as a deposit on the young women, on the condition he stay at the facility to protect his employer’s assets and Sulla agreed to the proposition.
Sulla wouldn’t leave Lena alone, beating her and then trying to force her to perform oral sex on him, Warren burst in the room stopping the operator but getting a black-eye in the bargain. He told Warren that the facility was his and he called the shots, but the agent tried to call his bluff. He told Sulla he was taking Lena to his employers and paid no attention to the threats the operator made. Sulla ran after the pair with knife, slicing Warren’s hand, then repeatedly stabbed Lena in the abdomen and she died seconds later. He told one of his henchmen to shoot the agent, but Warren promised him a million dollars and to make sure nobody would find out about the young women’s death.
He then got into his car and called Paige who was standing nearby with a SWAT team and told her he had Lena with him, but she struggled thinking he was taking her for nefarious reasons and she was in his trunk. He then drove past the SWAT team and told Paige to meet him in a parking lot a few miles away. He then parked his car, opened the trunk, pulled out a tire iron and whacked himself in the head with it Paige arrived soon after finding Mike on the ground bleeding from his head and told her that the young woman had run away and knocked him out with the tire iron. As she called the officers to start a search, Warren told her he had to go back to the facility to protect the rest of the young women.
Warren then took Lena’s body wrapped it in a sheet and incinerated her in a blast furnace in the facility. If he told Sulla that he would take care of things, just to save his life, he could have returned with the SWAT team and arrested him for murder and along with his associates for human-trafficking. Instead, to keep the operation going to catch the Solanos, Warren covered up a murder and disposed of the body.
Warren graduated at the top of his class at the Academy and got sent to Graceland last season to determine if Briggs was dirty; how could ambition, obsession or both change a man so radically? And if the law enforcement officers stoop to the level that Warren did in this episode, are they any better than the criminals they capture?
Graceland can be seen Wednesday nights on the USA Network.