Saving Grace is striking me as a little schizophrenic — why is Grace a cop? Why do the writers or producers have to add that into the mix? Could Grace just be a foul-mouthed, sexy, sinning accountant or something? Is there some sort of immutable law of television that scrappy, kick-ass women have to be in law enforcement? Because the Crime of the Week stories are feeling a bit superfluous to me. Why do they bother?

Spoiler-luia!

The show is at its most enjoyable when we see Grace acting like herself. This week, that came in the form of pissing off her brother — the priest, who everyone from Rhetta to Earl identifies as a tight-ass — counseling her nephew in the art of kissing, and kicking back with an old friend. Plus, some sex, because we wouldn’t recognize Grace without it.

One of the things I like about Grace is how at ease she is with everyone (except priests) — she has no trouble sharing a cigarette with a working girl, and she’s just got this friendly, easy, laid-back manner. She revels in hanging out with the sinners. It’s the people who think they’re without sin — like Johnny — that she has trouble with.

Johnny, Grace’s brother, does seem like a bit of a tight-ass, actually, except when he’s dealing with his nephew, Clay. He’s sure there’s only one path to God, and that Grace could never get a direct line to the big man in the form of a tobacco-chewing angel. He’s eager to find fault, and he likes setting traps for Grace. So yeah, he seems like a realistic older brother, except he’s got the power of the church behind him, too. That would be a nightmare.

He’s also a little oblivious. He seems to think Grace’s problems with the Catholic church are just a way for her to spite him, when it’s pretty obvious something nasty happened to Grace there. They’ve alluded to the pedophilia scandals, so it’s a fair bet Grace was molested by their priest. Did she tell Johnny, and he refused to believe her? Or did she never tell him, either because she was afraid of what he’d say, or because she didn’t want to destroy his faith? I hope we find out someday.

Earl likes tweaking Johnny as much as Grace does. And that’s almost as fun as him reacting to Grace. Filling her apartment with religious iconography from around the world? Pretty cool. (I liked the neon "Redemption" sign the best.) But of course, Grace had to push it — she got right up in Earl’s face and announced "I’m not afraid of you!" Bad idea — Earl went all Wrath of God on her, showing a face of furious intensity. Poor Grace looked so small, and she was almost whimpering, but she still didn’t back down.

Our crime of the week involves a hotel manager with his throat cut in a pay-by-the-hour joint. Esther, a maid at the hotel, found the body, and she’s pretty shook up about everything — she even called her priest to give the dead guy extreme unction. I will say this for the crime plots — they do give Rhetta an opportunity to get off some good lines. "I have grown so weary of finding new places for semen stains." Hee!

We also get introduced to Captain Perry, Yukon’s replacement. She’s a tough woman, someone Grace used to work with in Vice, and  initially it seems like they won’t get along. Thankfully, the show busts that cliché of two women not being able to work together and support each other — they’re old friends, and it’s great seeing them interact. "Okay, who are the assholes, who do I need to watch out for and who are you screwing?" Perry asks. On hearing that Grace had slept with Butch, who went to University of Texas (apparently a cardinal sin in Oklahoma): "Gracie, what has happened to you? You used to have standards! Not much taste, but standards!" I like it.

Granted, their relationship gets put to the test when Grace has to push the boundaries. Esther seeks sanctuary in her church, and Grace wants to get her to talk. Perry says she doesn’t want to see Grace anywhere near the doors of that church — so Grace breaks in through a window. Probably not what Perry meant … After confronting Esther with the news that her story doesn’t add up — the dead guy was seen following her into a room, and there were two different blood types, both from men, on her uniform — Esther kicks Grace out. Grace does manage to snag Esther’s bible and purse, though, which gives her the clue she’s looking for. There’s a photo of a young Esther with a boy — who turns out to be Esther’s cousin and protector. He killed the manager when he tried to rape Esther. Esther sought sanctuary to give him a chance to run away, but he wouldn’t leave her.

But like I said, the crime bits almost distract me from what I like seeing — Grace interacting with people, Grace struggling with Earl, Earl trying to break through to Grace, Rhetta being steadfast, Johnny being a jerk, Clay being a cute kid. That’s what draws me to the show, not the procedural elements. They get in the way. Did the producers think they couldn’t sustain a show about a woman’s struggle with faith, life and herself over a full hour? Did the network say "Sounds great, but can you make her a cop?" Is there a deeper point to the crime storyline that I’m not seeing? What do you think?

Posted by:Sarah Jersild