‘Graceland’ Pilot Episode Recap And Review: ‘Real Wold’ Meets ‘In Too Deep’

If you watched White Collar creator Jeff Eastin’s pilot for USA Network’s newest series, Graceland, then you’re fully aware that it’s a much darker law enforcement show than the network’s usual programming. A good way to describe the plot would be Covert Affairs meets Dimension Films’ In Too Deep, with a touch of MTV’s “Real World” added to the mix.

This time though, Aaron Tveit (Mike Warren) replaces Omar Epps (as Jeffrey Cole), and his target, Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata), is essentially LL Cool J, as Dwayne Gittens in the 1999-based crime thriller. In the film, Jeffrey Cole’s job is to go undercover to capture a powerful drug lord known as “God” to his disciples, while Mike Warren is tasked to investigate a “legendary” FBI agent who is also his superior. The set-up in Graceland uses the same tropes in the urban drama flick, but with a slightly different approach.

Whereas Aaron’s character is still a rookie who plays by the rules (in hopes of becoming a deputy director), Omar’s role sees him as a fearless veteran with little to no conscience as the movie progresses. Another comparison between Graceland and In Too Deep is: where the personalities in the story are roughnecks who dwell in sketchy neighborhoods, Eastin’s cast members boast picturesque bodies and blue-sky milieus. Not only that, but each of Graceland’s house members have weekly chores they must complete on top of each assign from their respective agencies – it’s an interesting angle which comes off as a frat house for government field operatives. But rather than planning college parties they must figure out how to infiltrate ruthless criminals before moving up the ranks.

After graduating at the top of his class in FBI school, Special Agent Mike Warren is transferred from Quantico, Virginia, to Southern California to replace undercover DEA agent Donnie Banks, who was sent to a safe house after being shot. When he arrives at the airport, he is briefed by Johnny (Manny Montana) – a fellow agent – who fills him in on what its like to work undercover. When the two operatives reach Graceland, Warren is then introduced to his other roommates, who aren’t very enthused to meet him. Later, he meets his training officer, Paul Briggs (which Warren obviously idolizes), the #1 operative in the Federal Bureau. But when Mike’s hero fails to live up to his expectations, he has to adjust; and the scenes that follow do a great job grabbing the audience’s attention.

So what can spectators expect on the first episode? For starters, I’d like to know why a newbie was sent to the flophouse to spy on Briggs, when the other agents have known him for much longer? Furthermore, If Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) claims that there are no secrets between the other operatives, then why is the ringleader’s past still a mystery to them all?

Until next time, here are some things to ponder:

  • Now that Donnie was sent to a safe house for blowing his cover early on in the episode, how long will it be before he returns to Graceland?
  • Will Paul figure out why Mike was suddenly transferred to California instead of DC?
  • Since Warren’s cover was blown during his first assignment, which involved arresting a cocaine dealer, he was forced to go undercover to kill a suspect in an effort to bust members of the Russian mob (which ended up being a trap), where Paul Briggs saved his life. Will this compromise his ability to perform each forthcoming task in later episodes?
  • Also in the pilot, viewers get some insight on back-stories of the other main characters, many of them directly in the middle of sting, except for DJ (Brandon Jay McLaren) and Johnny. Will their characters contribute more in the first episode?

What are your predictions for the next episode? Leave a comment, and tune in to see if the answer will be revealed on Thursday, June 13, at 10p.


  1. This was a pretty good pilot. The name of the series is a bit misleading, but it got me to watch it! I think that Warren was chosen to investigate Briggs because he is so driven and because he is so new, will more likely report what is actually happening and I think Briggs already knows it. I definitely think DJ and Johnny will be more of a focus in the first episode. Donnie, I don’t even have a guess, will be interesting whatever way they go with that story line.

  2. I liked graceland and i will keep watching. hot chicks cops chasing bad guys. double crosses its all good

  3. Thanks for reading, you all! I like Graceland too, and will keep watching to see if Briggs is smart enough to figure out Mike’s agenda.

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