Post Mortems
Graceland Briggs Murders Ari

Graceland Creator on Finale's 'Very Dark' Twist, [Spoiler]'s Close Shave: 'We Didn't Want a Felicity Moment!'

The following contains spoilers from the Season 3 finale of USA Network’s Graceland.

Just when you thought the Graceland residents’ antics couldn’t go much darker, the USA Network drama’s Season 3 finale crossed a “very, very dark line,” series creator Jeff Eastin acknowledges.

In the wake of the Homeland Security sweep that nabbed Martun Sarkissian on a domestic terrorism rap, Briggs & Co. came to realize that the only loose end in selling the bust to Special Agent Logan was Ari, who knew exactly all that had transpired in recent weeks.

Jakes, meanwhile, had serious second thoughts about the $9 million he had “peeled off” for Briggs, once it became evident that do-right Mike was poised to come clean to their bosses about their assorted transgressions.

Here, show boss Eastin answers some burning questions as well as gives a taste for what Season 4 might look like — if USA renews the edgy drama.

TVLINE | I would argue that Ari’s execution was the biggest line this team has ever crossed. Would you agree?
Yes. Yes. And it’s probably the most obvious line they’ve crossed.  From the beginning of the season, when Briggs was made the “sin eater,” we hoped Ari would really pop as a character –and I gotta say, he was probably the hardest character I’ve ever had to kill; Rhys [Coiro] did an amazing job of making this reprehensible guy really interesting and a lot of fun. But we had him do some of the most horrible things we ever had a character do — taking a  kidney, throwing a guy off a bridge, chopping off heads…. He was pretty despicable. In the end, they were able to take down Martun, Homeland Security came in, so the only loose end for Briggs and for the team was Ari. You can see, the idea was to flip the team. Charlie is not in favor of it, Paige swings from “We can’t do this” to “Ari can’t walk out of here.” We end the season in this fractured place where Briggs has without a doubt crossed a very, very dark line.

TVLINE | Was there any discussion in the writers room Graceland - Season 3a la “Maybe we have Ari reach for a knife in his back pocket,” or maybe he lunges at Briggs, to make it a smidgen self-defense-y?
No, not really. It was always cold-blooded. There’s a bit of Briggs describing it as self-defense, but I think that was more just the two guys talking. We played with different versions of how that final moment would happen, but a thought-out execution seemed most appropriate for what we built to.

TVLINE | Which brings us to the question: How does Jeff Eastin want us to feel about Briggs? And characters such as Johnny and Paige, who ultimately supported him in this execution?
Conflicted. My other show, White Collar, was a fun, “blue sky” show, but we went into Graceland with the idea of making a show that was very edgy and provocative. I take a lot of lessons from [Breaking Bad creator] Vince Gilligan….

TVLINE | But we liked Walter White.
Right. And [writer/producer] Dan Shattuck, my No. 2, is often fond of saying there’s a huge difference between likable, relatable and watchable. And I would argue that perhaps Walter White isn’t likeable or relatable even, but he’s infinitely watchable. And that’s what we want to do with these characters. Briggs may not be that relatable either, but I’m hoping he’s very interesting and watchable.

Other characters, like Mike and his journey this year with the drugs, I’m hoping can be relatable. I lost somebody very close to me who died of a drug overdose, so that inspired a lot of the stuff with Mike. Johnny has always been a bit of conflicted character who wants to believe Briggs is a good guy but can’t. Brandon [Jay McLaren] is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with so it was nice to finally give Jakes something meaty. I know that last year, based on what I saw online, people hated Paige and we tried to redeem her this year and I think ultimately she turned out to be a more interesting character; her stuff with Toros was very watchable. So be as conflicted as you want about the characters, but hopefully you’ll keep watching them.

TVLINE | Among the roommates’ reactions:Graceland - Season 3 If I’m Charlie, I’m transferring out of the house at this point. I’m not there for Season 4.
You may not be in the house but you’ll probably be in the season. [Laughs] Those are the bigger questions. Assuming we do get a Season 4, which we’re hopeful about, there’s some really cool story stuff that we really want to do. There’s a song at the end of the finale, one shot on Briggs’ face, that may give you a hint on who would be the final person remaining in Graceland if everybody else can’t be. The question is: What happens to Jakes and Courtney? Johnny has now taken a shot at Briggs, can that [friendship] ever be repaired? And like you said, Charlie has essentially been witness to an execution, so can she and Briggs ever get to a [better] place? But could Walt and Skyler ever be redeemed? I used to think that was an impossibility but I don’t think anybody is completely irredeemable, especially on TV.

TVLINE | You gave us the beginning of the Jakes/Courtney conversation on the couch. What did the rest of it sound like? What all has she signed up for?
That is one of the big keys in Season 4. I wish we had a bit more time in our finale to touch on it, but what we started realizing is there’s a lot more to Courtney than we know right now. She’s a lawyer, she has a lot of bad clients, but going into Season 4 — hopefully — we will discover a lot more about her and that particular conversation. From the voiceover and the later conversation, you get the idea that Jakes isn’t even sure. He takes that money because he thinks Mike is going to turn him in, and he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in jail. He just happens to have this beautiful woman with him. What is his plan? Stay tuned.

TVLINE | Before we go, you must confirm: Did Brandon really cut his dreadlocks?
He did. That is something Brandon has been talking about since the day I met him. He grew them out for 15 years and that was him shaving them off, live on camera.

TVLINE | See, that’s big, because when I think of Brandon Jay McLaren, one of the things I think about is his hair.
He definitely tears up [in the scene]. I asked him about it afterward and he said, “Yeah, I feel a whole lot lighter.” It was a big decision for us, too. We spent a lot of time trying to decide — can we do this? We didn’t want to have a Felicity moment on our hands!

Want more scoop on Graceland, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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48 Comments
  1. Ellinaras78 says:

    If there is no Season 4, I’m okay with this as a series finale. Let your imagination work.

  2. amysue4772 says:

    I’m completely freaking out right now. Way too much to handle all at once. And I can’t believe he did that to his dreads.

  3. Ellinaras78 says:

    Let me be the first to say this: you shouldn’t put Walter White and Breaking Bad in your mouth. Yes I do enjoy Graceland for an OK summer show, but making comparisons to the best show ever and Walter White? No. Just no.

    • tallsy says:

      Check out his comments after the end of last season. They make comparisons to Breaking Bad sound rational.

    • Dean says:

      agreed graceland is a decent show but comparing anything to breaking bad is sacrilege.

      • sladewilson says:

        I agree that Graceland can’t carry Breaking Bad’s water, but comparing anything? I’d put The Wire head to head against Breaking Bad any day. Probably the only two modern day shows that can go up against one another (Maybe GoT but I don’t watch it and can only go by what others tell me)

    • Wordsmith says:

      What’s wrong with aspiring to emulate a great show? they’re not saying Graceland is as good as Breaking Bad, just that they are aiming to do some of the same things.
      I don’t see the harm in claiming that there are narrative similarities.

  4. Bwhit says:

    Paige is becoming Briggs 2.0 which can set up an interesting dynamic in *fingers crossed* season 4 with Johnny/Charlie/Mike being on one side and Paige/Briggs on the other. Courtney is definitely shady and Jakes wants so badly to attach himself to someone that he’s ignoring all the glaring signs! I have been a fan from the beginning and hope USA gives it at least a six episode season 4 to tie things up.

    • wrstlgirl says:

      Paige just keeps going farther and farther down that rat hole she made for herself last season. There’s absolutely nothing likeable about her anymore.

  5. tallsy says:

    Mike should have turned them in. He doesn’t owe them anything. I was hoping Briggs would be the one killed at the end.

  6. diane says:

    This was not my favorite season, but I will miss those dreads.

  7. Maryann says:

    Mike had a number of demands from Logan to sign off on the report. I got that the kid with the rat walking was one. What were the others? Did anyone catch what some of the others were?

  8. ndixit says:

    At this point, Mike and Charlie are the only ones worth rooting for even a little.

  9. mrmcgee says:

    What were Mike’s “demands” to Logan?

  10. Joey Padron says:

    Good season finale. Glad Jakes didn’t get in trouble with the money at the beginning but now he is at the end. Sad to see him and Johnny fought. Hard for their friendship to go back to the way it was in season 4. Surprised Brandon actually shaved his head. Glad Mike work out some deals with Logan to keep his friends/housemates out of trouble. Charlie won’t look at Briggs same again for what he did to Ari. I guess she’ll move out of house next season. Hope show will get renewed for season 4!

  11. pecola says:

    I think maybe the writers need to go back and watch “Breaking Bad” again because…I mean…yipes…

  12. m3rcnate says:

    It was decent…but not all that much happened…essentially two things happened in that 42 minutes and that was Briggs murdered Ari and Jakes bailed with the $9mil.
    .
    My expectation is for this series to get cancelled given the ratings, but if it is not, I’ll most likely continue to watch if not for the lead (Mike) and Paige, not because I like the character anymore but honestly the actress is so damn fine.
    But I don’t see where this show can go that is good…the only way I saw this show turning around and becoming FUN again like it was season 1 was to kill/arrest Briggs. This show was at its best when the group had the family vibe, when they were surfing between cases and when Paige and Mike had a thing between them. Now it is all super super super serious drama, they are almost all guilty of murderer, grand larceny, and more along with Paige who tried to have a FBI agent assassinated which is treason, punishable by lethal injection.
    You expect me to root for anyone but Mike? To like anyone but Mike (if him)?
    .
    Step one of your show: Make your characters likable. Make the show fun to watch. Don’t ruin half of your characters. :/ Breaking Bad was unique in what it was able to do and how we were able to care and be entertained by Walter White and the rest of the cast. Graceland is NOT Breaking Bad. The writing is no where near the same ball park.

    • Paula says:

      I don’t know how the show could be fun again without Briggs being around. On Justified, when Ava was in jail, that was such a terrible storyline and she wasn’t even a main character. Graceland just doesn’t work without Paul and Mike being in it.

      • m3rcnate says:

        I can respect that, and to clarify I said Briggs in jail or dead, not Mike, Mike IMO is integral to the show. I agree about Justified and Ava, but Briggs was never “fun”, even in S1 he was just a mentor and then kinda dirty then the bad guy. The fun ones were Mike, Johnny and Paige, with a bit of Charlie mixed in sometimes.

  13. Cass says:

    Maybe I missed something this season but I can’t recall Paige doing anything near redeemable. I don’t necessarily mind disliking the character, but it seems to me as if he’s saying that I should like her again. It was a relief to see Mike finally standing up for the truth, even if that screwed him in the end. That is one of the things I do like about the show, none of the characters are perfect. You could point any of them and start listing off where the screwed up, but most of them I want to see a happy(at least not dismal)ending. Briggs and Paige belong in prison, the rest maybe just need to be fired.

  14. Mara says:

    Mike is a total hypocrite and back-stabber. Not a character I will ever root for and I am sick of him judging everything. If there is a season 4 I won’t be watching. Not in the least bit interested in watching the “Mike” self -righteous show.

    • Sally says:

      How is he a back stabber? Examples, please. Did he try to get a fellow housemate killed? No? Did he knowingly manipulate his housemates into doing despicable things? No? Did he murder anyone in cold blood? No? Did he steal $9 million and run off? No? So how? Like someone said, he and Charlie are the only ones worth rooting for even a little. The big sin of those two is not reporting the TRULY despicable things their housemates did.

      • Hmm says:

        Please refer back to season two with all the lying, covering up of crimes and manipulation of Paige to achieve his end goal before you pretend Mike is squeaky clean. The best part about this show is that everyone is dirty. Everyone has baggage and everyone has done unspeakable things. EVERYONE.

        • ndixit says:

          Mike did some dubious things in season 2, but he hasn’t committed the crazy offenses that Briggs, Paige, and jakes have committed. These guys are guilty of murder, attempted murder, reckless endangerment among other crimes. These are very serious crimes.

        • ndixit says:

          In addition, Mike actually showed some remorse for his dubious actions last year. Briggs has committed crime after crime all under the pretense that he is doing the right thing. And for all the talk of Paige feeling regretful for what she did to Mike, she seemed to get over it pretty fast as soon as Mike said that it was ok.

    • Bwhit says:

      If Mike was what you say he is than he would have ran to the DEA and turned Paige in for aiding in the attempt to MURDER him. Instead he forgave her and even admitted that most of what he did in season 2 with Lena was selfish and it haunts him. A backstabber would not have signed off on that report and would have just turned Briggs in. He also made sure Gusti was taken care of and not punished. Has he been an angel? No, but he is not at all like Paige and Briggs and that’s a good thing.

    • Ladorn says:

      I hate Mike because he is soooo self righteous but Briggs is by far the worst of them all.

    • GracelandFan says:

      I agree fully with Mara. The worst character on this show is Mike, he is so self-righteous and his “goody-goody”, tell the truth when it suits him attitude is annoying. Let’s be real, Briggs is the only real character on this show, he does what needs to be done all for a greater good. If we remember where he is coming from (his old housemates murdered and him forced to become an addict), he is a man with nothing to lose and he will do whatever needs to be done to complete the mission. The criminals they are dealing with are no joke. Things aren’t as simple as black or white; right or wrong….there are a lot of grey areas and Briggs works in them! he make the hard decisions that we normal people benefit from but cannot make ourselves. He reminds me a bit of Jack from 24.

      Briggs has helped every last person in Graceland out of a sticky situation because he is the only one who has no problem working in that grey area! Briggs IMHO is likable, relatable and watchable!

      Paige needs to go! make a decision already, choose who you want to be and quit backpedaling so often!

      Jakes doesn’t really trust anyone in that house and he always had one foot out of the door. He has alway been unhappy in that place and I can understand why he took the money and ran!

      Charlie is probably the only ‘good’ one in the house and even she had her run ins with drugs.

      Johnny is the baby and he seems to be a bit too naive . He just wants things to be simple and innocent and easy.

      Ari was fun to watch but he had to go!

  15. marcus leon holt sr. says:

    what was the name of the ending song on the 3 season finale and who made it.

  16. Mr. Tran K says:

    I give it a B but the entire season where Briggs has gone rogue really let me down and kudos to Rhys Coiro on a superb performance even though the actor is known for playing darker roles on TV not to mention his Season 7 stint on 24.

    • Dean says:

      yeah I always felt even though he was a despicable criminal Ari was entertaining to watch honestly his quips and one liners were funny.

  17. Sarah j says:

    I hope he show gets renewed.
    I agree that killing Ari was the biggest line they crossed so far. However there was no other choice. If Ari lived he would tell all.
    I wonder what Briggs was going to do with the money.
    I really did not want Jakes to take the money. Next season if there is one will be about tracking Jakes down. I want to know more about Courtney.I could tell that Brandon really did shave his head. It was neat to see his real reaction to shaving his head. That is crazy it took him 15 years to grow it. I wonder if he will start the process again.
    The song at the end was powerful as was the last scene.

  18. Robert Salas says:

    Love the edginess that this show brings always having a sense of betrayal from the characters, Mike is surely a hypocrite after being at rock bottom, love this show plain and simple.

    • Jax&Juice's Girl says:

      That was a good finale….even tho. this is my first time watching the show. I was like WTF when Dale cut off his dreads!!!! I’ve seen Brandon Jay on another show before Graceland w/dreads but his face was clean shave. Anyhow that was sad to see him and Johnny fight those 2 are really close. I like to see a S4 to see the aftermath.

  19. Loreal says:

    I really loved the season 3 finale! I have to say, Jakes divesting himself of his dre

  20. Paula says:

    Eastin was wondering if Johnny and Paul’s relationship can ever be prepared, Well my thought was if Mike and Paul’s relationship can ever be repaired. In season one, Mike said that Paul was the brother that he wish he had and in the past, Paul was the one person Mike could rely on when he needed help (when Mike got shot and when he needed to detox, who did he turn to?). Now that Paul has manipulated Mike so much this season, how do you come back from that? I’m looking forward to a season 4 to see how that turns out.

  21. Mos479 says:

    Wow. All these people drinking the Breaking Bad koolaid. Awful show, awful acting, boring characters.

    Graceland is about ten times more interesting.

    • I agree! I wont watch breaking bad, actually on accident I sat down with a friend and they were watching the finale of the last season haha, it was gripping but I had no idea what was going on, and they were like shouting at the TV. I just didnt get into it in the beginning and I don’t like getting into it late after everyone else was soooo obsessed with it for so long (same with the walking dead.) meh, I stopped watching after the 3rd season, it got old.

  22. Alondra says:

    I really enjoyed season 3 I was shocked at what happened season finale I really hoped Ari(Rhys Coiro) would have stayed for another season his character was amazing I fell in love with him well I can’t wait to see season 4 you guys are doing an amazing job!!!:-)

  23. I hope there is a season four, all of these characters I have come to love and hate at different moments and I see a bit of me in each one from time to time. What decisions I would make, what I would do. It definitely teases with your mind a bit. If I was Jakes I would have taken that money as well, and made sure I didn’t end up in prison, I’d put my life in my own hands and go off the grid. The execution of Ari I really didn’t feel that bad about, yeah he was a polarizing character, but in the beginning I thought he was just really stupid to believe everything Paul was saying, his cover was almost blown countless times and he always saves it; somehow. Ari was gullible, but he was always conned into doing something by a smarter Paul Briggs. Briggs decisions throughout the first three seasons really baffled me, but it all came together in this third season and I thought it was well executed. Killing Ari was essential to there possibly being a 4th season, unless the 4th season was all taking place in a courtroom, but this isn’t Reckless, (very good show though). I wish there to be a season 4, because I wanna see more of Paige, I think I am in love with her..

  24. dani says:

    renew graceland for season 4!!!!!!!!!!