Graceland: Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Graceland - Season 1I think it was about three weeks ago when I wrote a piece exploring the relationship between Jeff Winger and Annie Edison on Community. And in that piece, I also took the time to detail my feelings on pre-determined “endgame” couples – namely, that I’m not hot on them. I think one of my biggest issues with couples like that is, because these’s just so much storytelling in television, sometimes things happen that I don’t think a couple can recover from. That they shouldn’t recover from.

To be fair, I don’t know if it was ever Graceland‘s intention to make either Briggs and Charlie or Mike and Paige into big, all-encompassing OTP level couples, or if they were just following where the story and chemistry led them. And since the show’s not over, there’s no way of me knowing how their respective love stories will end; whether they’ve got further to go or we’ve reached the end of the line. Personally, I hope it’s the latter. Because I really don’t see any way for these two couples to recover. And more than that, after what’s gone down for both of them, I really don’t want them to.

It’s not that I don’t want either relationship to improve at all. It’s not that I think Briggs and Paige, for example, are awful people and should be hated forever by Charlie and Mike respectively. No, that’s not it at all. Both pairs are friends and colleagues and even family to a degree, outside of their romantic entanglements. But at this point they’re both suffering from some serious trust issues. For me, one of the aspects of this third season I’ve been most engaged in (and occasionally frustrated by) has been watching Charlie and Mike navigate life after the betrayals they’ve suffered. But that’s the key word, isn’t it? Betrayal. Mike and Charlie were hurt by these people to such a degree, it’s too hard to come back from that. So I do want them to work things out and get back to a place where they can trust and be comfortable with each other and know that the other is there for them. I just think the romantic aspect of both relationships has passed.

To be honest, when it comes to Briggs, I’m still waiting on some insight or explanation as to certain aspects of his character. His heroin addiction I get. I know how it came about, I understand it. And his vendetta against Jangles who caused his addiction and murdered his lover and teammates. And I absolutely understand and, more importantly I think, empathize with and even justify his killing of Juan Badillo.

But Odin Rossi. That I still don’t understand.

Briggs was straight up a heroin dealer, skimming drugs from federal busts; and since Juan’s death, absolutely nothing has come of that. No consequences, no fall out, nothing. It’s simply been brushed off, swept under the rug, no harm no foul. Everything he’s dealing with in connection to the Sarkissian family comes from Juan’s murder, not his heroin dealing. I don’t even think I understand why he became Odin Rossi. An addict does not necessarily a dealer make. But I seem to be getting off track here. For whatever reason, Briggs is (or, I guess, was) Odin Rossi. Which ends up being only one factor in the fracturing of his and Charlie’s relationship.

With Briggs and Charlie, just the simple deception of his heroin addiction and his identity as Odin Rossi could have been the breaking point for the couple. Or, more accurately, the breaking up point. But if that was all it was, I could see them coming back from it. Working their way back to trust and love and intimacy. Charlie has such a strong maternal and caring side that the heroin addiction would have really been no problem for her. She would have been understanding and supportive and done everything she could to be someone Briggs could learn on. Odin Rossi makes things a little more tricky. Addiction is a disease, but dealing and skimming off the FBI is just straight up crime. But I think even that Charlie could have accepted. Especially if it was something Briggs was trying to move away from.

Instead, the real trouble came not from Briggs’ actually deception, but the depths he was willing to sink in order to maintain his deception, both as Odin Rossi and as the murderer of Juan Badillo. Charlie’s a smart girl. I’m sure when she heard the tape she, just like Agent Logan, was able to work out that Briggs may have been drunk but also truly thought he was being attacked by the real Jangles. Juan’s death was an accident. Forgivable. What’s unforgivable is thinking it was Mike in possession of the tape and orchestrating his murder in order to keep the truth hidden. What’s unforgivable is letting Charlie think she was the one at fault for Juan’s death through aiding the real Jangles, and that therefore she was responsible for Kelly Badillo’s new life as a widow and her subsequent depression and relapse into alcoholism.

Those are the acts that broke the relationship. And those are the acts that I can’t see anyone coming back from. How can you be intimate with someone when the last time you were like that with this person, he was pretending to be someone so very different? How do you allow yourself to show you must vulnerable feelings to someone when the last time you did he allowed you to wallow in your guilt and despair without relieving it with the truth? I just don’t think a person would be able to get past those hurts.

Paige and Mike are different from Briggs and Charlie, in large part because they never actually had a relationship. There was potential. There was certainly interest. And at least once there was sex. But circumstances never quite let it become something more. And before it could go any further all Hell broke loose between them.

From the very beginning, Paige saw something in Mike that I honestly was never sure was actually there: the idea that Mike was “real.” The irony of that statement was, of course, that from the very beginning Mike was a traitor in their midst, in the house not simply to become one of them but to investigate one of them. But I don’t think that’s what she meant when she said he was real. I always took to mean he was honest (though not necessarily truthful). Honest as in he was good. Righteous. Someone who you could always count on to make the right choice, to do the right thing. Someone without secrets. Maybe even someone a little bit innocent. That image was certainly tarnished when he revealed to her he was investigating Briggs, but I think it was restored in the time Mike was away in DC between Season One and Two. That time apart washed away his investigation into Briggs and made him pure again. Season Two, however, crushed that image for Paige.

To be totally clear, I actually side with Mike’s basic thought process during Season Two. I found Paige’s crusade for the drug smuggling sex slaves to be noble, but short sighted. As Mike said once, saving this handful of girls doesn’t stop Carlito from smuggling in more and more. And so it was necessary – horrible, but necessary – to keep operations going for a little bit longer. But Paige couldn’t see that. Paige was in it just a little too deep and it had become just a little too personal. And so to Paige, the most important thing to do – really the only thing to do – was to save that handful of girls. To save Lina. And when Mike didn’t agree with her, she couldn’t see the difficult choice he was making. She couldn’t see the bigger picture or the end goal. All she saw was a man who was willing to let girls get sold into slavery – be beaten and raped and killed – in order to win his game. And her conception of Mike – righteous, honest, real Mike – shattered.

And finally we get to the worst betrayal. You don’t get to come back from murder. Paige murdered Mike. Okay, the doctors were able to revive him and he’s still alive and kicking, but he still went down. Paige still gave up his location to a man hell-bent on killing him, with the intention of that man killing him. Paige murdered Mike. And you just don’t get to come back from that. It doesn’t matter that Mike turned out to be far grayer than the black and white she was hoping for. It doesn’t matter that in the course of their operation he wasn’t able to save Lina. It even doesn’t matter that he covered up her murder in order to bring down Carlito and his family. Paige murdered him out of spite. And you just can’t come back from that. Not even just in a romantic sense. Paige proved herself to be totally reckless and irrational with that act. It’s a wonder Mike’s able to even work with her, let alone live in a house with her. And romance is right out.

When it comes to Season Three, both relationships have been thoroughly rocked and no one really knows how to proceed. Charlie’s been struggling with a pregnancy she’s not sure she wants. Mike’s in denial over a pain pill addiction. Briggs’ secret that he wrecked his relationship over is causing more trouble than ever. And Paige is (rightfully) consumed with guilt over orchestrating Mike’s murder. The fall out from their failed relationships has been messy and emotional and so, so satisfying. Briggs is the father of Charlie’s baby, but doesn’t know how to be there for her and the child now that their not together. Mike’s been almost obnoxiously forgiving towards Paige which is just adding to her guilt. And it was so gratifying during his intervention to see him finally lash out and actually call her out on what she had done. We’ve still got a few episodes left of the season, and I’m sure we’re not done exploring just how deeply these four have crossed each other.

Not all couples are meant to survive a series. Even ones that start out at OTP levels. Joey picked Pacey over Dawson. Marissa died leaving Ryan alone for the final season. Same with Derek and Meredith. Rory never got back together with Jess. Laurel is so much better off without the baggage of Oliver. And there are so many more. Some relationships just run their course. Some crash and burn. And some are destroyed so thoroughly there’s just nothing left. And as a viewer, sometimes the ruination of a couple and the fallout from the destruction can be just as compelling as a functional relationship.

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