10 March 2009

Saving Grace: The Review

Grace Hanadarko is a crass, self-destructive hedonist. She also happens to be a police homicide investigator. She's busy destroying her (male) partner's marriage. She's may be an officer, but she's not a "good guy." Then, an angel enters her life. A real honest-to-God Angel: Earl.

Earl isn't your Touched by an Angel, goody-goody angel. Nope. He's a tough as nails, Last Chance Angel and he's there to save both Grace and a guy on death row, Leon Cooley.

It sounds pretty hokey. And Grace isn't a likable sort. And I may not have been the bestest learner in Catechism classes growing up, but I'm pretty sure we never talked about "Last Chance Angels." And, despite it all, this may be my favorite show on TV right now.

An angel comes to save Grace and she ain't buying it. Does the angel go away? No. Does Grace see the error in her ways after a couple episodes and reform? No. Earl persists, refusing to cease in his efforts to save Grace. Grace persists, continuing to choose to err, suffering serious consequences for her failures, and driving on with bluster, cussedness, and grit - and we start to see the parts of Grace which, while rough hewn, may allow her to live up to her name. Meanwhile, we are drawn in and a large cast of characters have been brought into play (Grace's flawed family - including a priest brother, her best friend the forensic analyst, the officers she works hard and plays harder with). And we also see Earl's persistent efforts with the just as stubborn Leon on death row and how this is interwoven with Grace's life.

It's a parable on a large scale and, much like a parable, the exact meaning of the story is hard to fathom. Is it the persistence of God's offer of grace? Is it about how God wants us to work to help our fellow man (Grace to save Leon) (Grace's friend and brother who seem to be getting roped into helping her by Earl)? Is it about the forgiveness of the failures of others? It's probably all these plus. This lends a depth to this series which one rarely finds on television.

It's on Mondays at 9 or you can watch episodes over at TNT online. Check it out. You may not like it, but I bet you get hooked.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To the extent that Saving Grace is about a deeply flawed human being, struggling towards redemption, and who happens to be a female police detective, it is innovative and engaging, even bold. That's what it started out to be.

I loved it. I am not religious, but I enjoyed the fantasy element carried by Earl (played by Leon Rippy, who delivers the perfect Earl for Grace), who did an excellent job of pointing up the deep contradictions between Grace's personal life and her profession.

To the extent that it is a police procedural featuring a rather quirky female detective, it is routine and boring. It started drifting that way the last few episodes.

To the extent that it shows Grace Hanadarko as a special person who deserves, more than the rest of us, the special perks and powers appertaining to the police, including the power to judge the fitness of her fellow citizens to wield their rights, it betrays its premise, its audience, and Hanadarko herself.

This last happened in the season opener, which focused on a serial killer attacking buxom blondes in black pants. Hanadarko was furious at the news media getting the story, because (paraphrasing from memory) "women will start getting guns, and that's the last thing we need."

Her own sister, Paige, a blonde wearing black pants, came to her in panic and anger, furious that Grace had not told her she was at risk. Grace mocked her fears -- Paige was too flat chested for the killer's taste, a detail Paige didn't know because Grace hadn't trusted her with the info. The message is clearly, "I don't trust you, but you should trust me to know what you need to know, and to protect you."

Next morning, Grace finds her sister has stolen her backup gun. Again, she is furious at Paige for presuming to want to protect herself.

In the next episode, she uses her police pull to get her niece out of a drug rap -- but the show does not question the general appropriateness of either the law or the way most people's children would have been treated under it.

The fact is, Grace is so far gone she needs a personal salvation angel, one she shares with a condemned killer, who is accepting his fate with a good deal more grace than Grace is accepting hers. She is in absolutely no position to judge the way anyone else chooses to live their lives or protect themselves.

She, and the show, is in danger of losing sight of Sir Robert Peel's Seventh Principle of Policing: "...the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen...."

That was what hooked me on the show at first -- Grace was the embodiment of that principle. The more Grace is special because she's a cop, the less the show is worth watching.

I'm sticking with SG for a few more episodes, but if they don't get back to Grace saving herself by facing and accepting her flaws, and granting the same grace to those around her, they're losing me.

(Not to mention I was bloody furious at the gun business. Any government official, real or fictional, who does not wholeheartedly support the Second Amendment, automatically becomes a jack booted thug in my eyes -- and jack boots do not look good on Grace. They help her on her walk to damnation, and I don't trust the show's creators to understand that.)