Saving Grace – Episode 3-3 Review

When a show can have you rolling in the aisles one minute and welling with tears the next, you know you’re onto a winner. Tuesday’s episode of  Saving Grace amped up the tension, with Grace feeling the pressure as her family members were systematically targeted by an unrelenting assailant with a lethal grudge. With bombs and bullets raining down on her loved ones, Grace had to identify the culprit before he managed to re-define the notion of hitting too close to home… but with her track record for pissing people off, vetting the candidates wasn’t an easy task. 

Meanwhile, Rhetta felt the strain of selling her family’s farm and decided to take a leaf out of her best friend’s book and drown her sorrows in a bucketful of  booze, becoming evermore obsessed with finding the time capsule that she and Grace buried on her farm as idealistic ten-year-olds – and leaving us to wonder why Grace was suddenly sporting the deer-in-headlights look.

The episode was interspersed with its usual laugh-out-loud hilarity – a bemused Ronnie was left playing third wheel to Grace and Rhetta’s drunken double act, and could only mutter, “Lord, help me” when they decided to take a joy ride on his tractor. Neither woman plans to forgive him for screwing up the farm’s finances anytime soon, and Ronnie seems to be living in perpetual fear of Grace kicking his ass – and perhaps justifiably so, when it is later revealed that Grace was cultivating her vengeful streak at the tender age of ten.

Whether Holly Hunter and Laura San Giacomo are dissolving into uproarious laughter or drying each other’s tears,  their chemistry is unprecedented, and Rhetta’s meltdown when Ronnie turned up at the office and asked if anyone was in the market for a combine harvester was a perfect blend of humour and tragedy. Grace, as always, was quick to rush to her best friend’s aid, and the look on her face when Rhetta threw herself into her arms and proclaimed that she wouldn’t sell the farm until the time capsule was found was the pained expression of someone who knew the truth was going to send her friend spiralling even further over the edge.

Thankfully, given the intensity of the episode in its entirety, the big reveal was played for laughs. I busted a gut when Rhetta eagerly opened her much-coveted time capsule only to discover that Grace had removed all of her possessions and left her a note proclaiming, “Ha ha, I will still be mad at you in fifty years.” Ronnie better watch out. Cue Hunter and San Giacomo gleefully hamming it up as they chased each other around the lab, with Rhetta taking her revenge by attempting to set Grace’s much beloved doll – aptly named Siggybaby – on fire and then wrenching its head off and throwing it on the floor.

Other highlights included the revelation that the comatose Neely is far from being a “lump” – her elevated blood alcohol level is due to the fact that she’s been living it up and knocking back Mai Tais in Brazil with Earl, who took the opportunity to wax poetic about the wonders of human anatomy, prompting Grace to observe: “So, according to you, proof of God exists in the small intestine?”

The Hanadarko clan must have been raised on tough love. When Grace received a call from Ham, notifying her that a bomb had detonated inside her brother’s church, you could almost see her re-living the moment when she realised that her sister, Mary Frances, was inside the Murrah building during the Oklahoma City bombing. The broken expression on her face while she surveyed her brother from afar at the hospital was heart-rending, but in typical Hanadarko fashion, the poignant moment was short-lived and Grace opted to poke Johnny in his (bruised) ribs rather than tenderly embrace him: “What happened, did you give that sermon on birth control again?” Brutality must run in the family, because shortly thereafter, Leo arrived and promptly cuffed Grace around the head for not calling him sooner, and when she demanded that he order Johnny to co-operate with her investigation, she was left with a towel over her head and a facetious declaration that, “It’s a little early for all that Dirty Harry shit.”

Watching Grace’s composure be stretched to its limits was riveting stuff. Johnny had only just managed to accomplish the admirable feat of making her say grace prior to their evening meal when shots rained down on them, and Grace didn’t hesitate to throw him to the floor of her apartment and shield his sizeable frame with her far more petite one. When Leo’s fire truck was assailed by a fresh round of bullets, leaving him with a scratched cornea courtesy of some flying shrapnel, Grace couldn’t contain her emotions any longer and in a gut-wrenchingly emotional scene, Ham had to take her aside and plead with her to keep it together.

She did so, admirably, when her beloved nephew, Clay, walked into OCPD’s headquarters to deliver a pot of flowers intended for his Aunt. Knowing that the original bomb had been transported into the church via the same means, a horrified Grace ordered everyone out of the office and told her nephew to remain perfectly still, walking gingerly towards him and cupping his hands with her own. The tension was almost unbearable as Grace became a pillar of strength for Clay, keeping him calm and commending his strength as he held the pot at arm’s length while the bomb squad assessed its properties. Clay, dripping with sweat, showed what a brave young man he’s becoming as his Aunt steadied his shaking hands with her own, and I breathed a sigh of relief when they both escaped unscathed. The scene between them afterwards – as Grace gently coaxed information from her traumatised nephew – was touching, and for all her family’s accusations about her being self-absorbed and anti-social, this episode proved that Grace would do anything when it comes to protecting her own. Johnny’s heartfelt praise for Grace’s heroics was equally as heart-warming, especially as the Priest has been one of his sister’s harshest critics in the past.

It eventually transpired that the assailant was a Vietnamese immigrant who Grace tried to help when he became the victim of hate crimes in his neighbourhood. She attempted to persuade him to re-locate his business, but he was too stubborn to move, and wound up in prison after attacking one of his tormentors. The process of revealing his identity was somewhat rushed, and his motives for targeting the Hanadarko clan seemed a little skewed given that it would’ve been far more logical to take his revenge against the families who were directly responsible for his misery (as opposed to the woman who did everything she could to prevent it!) but we got to see Grace in all of her kick-ass glory when she confronted Fan:

“You wanna blame me for all your mistakes? Fine, come and get me.”

Holly Hunter has such palpable screen presence that it doesn’t seem remotely impracticable to watch her fell a man who is a foot taller than her and twice as wide. Grace somehow has the capacity to make you forget that two wrongs don’t make a right – that violence breeds violence – and there’s a certain degree of satisfaction in seeing her giving suspects a taste of the misery that they’ve inflicted on others.

Grace didn’t beat around the bush, and floored Fan when he swung for her, nailing him right in the cojones. She then proceeded to deliver a brutal kick for each member of her family, leaving Fan curled up in a fetal position and groaning. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get out on parole again anytime soon, because something tells me that his vendetta just amplified tenfold!

I was admittedly surprised that Grace didn’t rail at Earl and suffer an explosive crisis of faith when her family was in danger, especially given that he offered her no help or counsel. Maybe it’s a sign of progress and she’s starting to accept that God – and Earl – have no control over people’s free will, but I hope she doesn’t become too agreeable. Grace is supposed to question, not conform.

All in all, this was a stellar episode, and while Saving Grace may not be perfect on the procedural front, the case was – for the most part – compelling, and the richness of the characters and their complex relationships is second to none.