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TV Review: ‘Saving Grace’ Still Hard to Swallow, Harder to Turn Off

[IMG:L]In the second-season premiere of TNT’s Saving Grace (airing Monday at 10/9c), the positive aspects have certainly carried over from season one. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the show’s main drag: its premise.

Oklahoma City Police Detective Grace Hanadarko (Holly Hunter) is still a troubled, chain-smokin’, booze-drinkin’, profanity-spewin’ woman of the law, who just so happens to be a damn good cop AND a not-so-damn-good civilian.

And there’s still that pesky angel, Earl (Leon Rippy), who pops up frequently as Grace’s saving grace, which in my opinion remains such a difficult conceit to overlook.

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But episode one of season two is quite bold and engrossing nonetheless.

While off duty, Grace meets her best friend, criminologist Rhetta Rodriguez (Laura San Giacomo), for a cup of coffee. Not one minute after sitting down, Grace witnesses a carjacker in action, chases after him, and naturally sparks a shootout.

The season premiere, however, is more so about what happened before the shootout–as well as what follows it–and here’s the only non-spoiler-alert-necessitating hint I’ll offer regarding this episode: It involves the reappearance of Father Patrick Murphy (Rene Auberjonois), who molested Grace when she was a young girl and whose life Grace reluctantly spared last season (before Earl intervened).

It makes for an interesting, and at times riveting, season opener, complete with the rawness we’ve come to expect from Grace. The show seems beefed up and tighter than ever before in this episode, and as always, nothing is taboo.

So what’s the problem, then? Same old story: Grace would be unique and compelling enough if its title character was a very imperfect police offer who didn’t suffer bouts of supernaturalism and religious crises.

But each times Earl appears, it totally crashes the party for us viewers–and all for the sake of a little tonal levity?

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Furthermore, creator/writer Nancy Miller wants so badly for viewers to see Grace as an organic cop show/character study, but it becomes the opposite thereof as soon as Earl the Angel enters the fray (which is definitely not a knock on Rippy’s superb acting).

Oscar winner Hunter, though, is really what keeps viewers (and there are lots) coming back for more, and her performance will always offset the bad that is accomplished by the faulty premise.

The actress is characteristically flawless as Grace, and in this episode especially, she oozes both agony and sexuality, physical and emotional.

Grade: B-

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