“Saving Grace” mini-cap: dog days


Let us, for one moment, discuss Det. Grace Hanadarko’s hair. It is wild and unruly, beautiful and brazen. In short, it’s a metaphor for her life. I have never seen a major crimes detective with hair like Grace’s in real life. I’m sure there are some out there, but as yet I have not had either the fortune or misfortune to run into them in my daily life. It is one of the many reasons Saving Grace continues to intrigue me and has me back for a second season.

The season’s first two episodes are pack in so much capital-D drama you realize TNT wasn’t kidding with its recent “We know drama” campaign. For those keeping score at home, the two hours of TV includes, in rough chronological order: a pedophile priest, a kidnapping, shooting, childhood sexual abuse, redemption, murder, the cycle of child abuse, suicide, the Oklahoma City Bombings, adultery, guilt, the inappropriate use of condiments, familial distrust, chickens, a lost dog and a very unlucky deer. In short, they are just like Grace: rich, complicated, meaty and messy.

Last season ended on a cliffhanger with Grace confronting the priest who sexually abused her as a child. As the season premiere begins, an off-duty Grace meets her best friend Rhetta at a cafe. But before they get to the topic of what happened Grace spots a guy across the street who look hinky and wouldn’t you know it, her book-by-its-cover instincts were right on. He is indeed bad and carjacks a man in front of them.

Grace chases after him, guns blazing, and is soon joined in pursuit by backup as well as police dog. As the K-9 officer runs after the suspect, they both jump over an overpass. The leap kills the suspect and injures the dog. As Grace and the officers arrive, she runs straight for the dog as the others check on the man.

Grace: “I don’t give a s*** about him, get a bus, we’ve got an officer down.”

Oh, Grace, how I’ve missed you.

The rest of the season opener unfolds on two main fronts. First, Grace’s public “atta girl” for catching the man who turned out to be No. 6 on the FBI Most Wanted List is under investigation because a witness claims to have seen her in a bar beforehand. Second, Grace’s private interactions with Father Murphy who — oh, didn’t I mention — is rolled up in a carpet in her living room.

While her behavior at work is investigated, at home she has Father Murphy on her couch. He is there of his almost-free will, a compliant abductee who confesses his crimes. You see, Earl is his last chance Angel, too. Wow, someone up there has a twisted sense of humor. The interaction between the two, the repentant molester and empowered victim, is at once terribly uncomfortable and impossibly mesmerizing. Is she going to kill him? And then she does, and for a few seconds I actually believe it and wonder if I can ever watch the show again. But she wakes up, slugs him and brings him to the police station instead. Whew.

But just when it seems justice will run its course, Father Murphy is found dead. The chief suspect is a federal agent who was also molested by him, but refuses to acknowledge his abuse. Grace tells him he has about 12 hours before they come for him, so he should try to get out of town.

Meanwhile, Grace’s blood alcohol test comes back negative, so the woman who turned her in was lying. She was a friend of Grace’s sister, the sister who was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. She blames Grace for her death because the day before the attack, she was supposed to babysit for her sister but called it off because of a hangover. Instead her sister had to go the next day, the day of the bombing, and was killed.

Then, to lay on more guilt, the fiancée of the federal agent Grace told to skedaddle comes into the offices and says she came home and found him bathing her 11-year-old daughter, and it’s not the first time it happened. The realization turns Grace’s stomach and mine too. The police surround his house, but he kills himself instead. And then an exhausted Grace makes it home for a beer and a big hug from Earl. Oh, and the police dog pulls through.

The second episode is somewhat simpler, but no less dramatic. It opens with Grace enjoying naked time with her police partner Ham. Condiments are applied in ways condiments were never meant to be applied. Ham has apparently separated from his wife, a fact that disconcerts Grace.

We also learn that Grace’s nephew Clay is nursing a bit of a grudge against her for the death of his mother. Some kids at school told him she was drunk and that’s why she didn’t babysit him when she should have. Wow, schoolyard taunting has gotten a lot more specific then when I was a kid. I blame the internet.

But the episode mainly deals with two missing persons. First, an Olympic hopeful college rower who happens to be dating the son of a Oklahoma City Bombing victim Grace knows. The other is Grace’s bulldog Gus who Clay lost while walking in the park.

After some intricate twists and red-herrings in the missing woman’s case, it turns out the young man Grace knew didn’t kill her after all (nor did the drug dealer he was partnered up with, nor did the wealthy college alum who was bankrolling her riverfront condo). No, it was a deer that ran in front of her car on the way back from confronting the drug dealer who her boyfriend had partnered to sell cocaine. But the deer didn’t really kill her, it just left her badly hurt in a ditch in her car. (Confused yet? Heck, I didn’t even mention the chickens.)

Well, all you need to know is that Grace deals with her guilt from her sister’s death and comes clean to her nephew, who seems to be dealing with his resentment better too. Oh, and they find Gus. Thank heavens, or then I’m sure I would have had to stop watching the show.

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