Shocking 'Graceland' ending explained: Mike had to 'pay for his sins'
This story contains major spoilers from the Graceland finale. If you haven’t watched, turn back now.
Did that just happen?!
That’s what many Graceland fans may have screamed at their televisions at the close of the season 2 finale. It’s a natural reaction considering the show has seemingly killed off its main character and said goodbye to series star Aaron Tveit.
Here’s how it all went down: Mike’s plan to take down corrupt FBI agent Sid Markham was about to come to fruition. What he didn’t know, however, is that Sid had discovered Graceland, effectively blowing Briggs’ cover, and stole Mike’s gun from the house. In Mexico, when Briggs discovers that Charlie was missing, he abandoned the mission to take down cartel boss Carlos Solano, leaving Mike to pick up the pieces by going south of the border unsanctioned. When Mike arrives at the Solano compound to catch Sid in the act of accepting money, he discovers a bloodbath. Sid used Mike’s gun to kill pretty much everyone, including his own team, before putting a bullet in his own gut in order to frame Mike.
Unfortunately, Mike couldn’t go on the run from authorities for very long because he was shot while entering the compound. Paige and Briggs assist the now-wanted agent in getting checked into the hospital under an assumed name. But when Mike, in a haze from so much blood loss, accidentally spills that he really had faked Lena being on the run and she was actually dead, Paige decides to give Mike’s false name over to Sid. Vowing to murder everyone in Graceland, Sid cuts off Mike’s air supply until he codes—but the hospital is blissfully unaware since Sid put Mike’s vital monitor on his own finger so he could get away with murder. With a single tear in his eye, Briggs arrives too late to save Mike.
What does this all mean? Is Mike really, seriously, for sure dead? EW caught up with executive producer Jeff Eastin to get some answers:
Is Mike really dead?
Well, he looks pretty dead. I won’t confirm or deny, but what you see is what you get. I would say that everything we’ve led up to so far has really been to set Mike in a position where he needs to pay for his sins. Really, the finale was about that payment coming due.
He died in a hospital, so could he potentially be resuscitated? Do you know what the first scene of season 3 is?
The beginning of the season 3 isn’t what you’re expecting probably. We don’t open season 3 in a hospital. We open season 3 with Charlie and Jakes getting ready for some kind of event and Jakes can’t find his black tie and both of them are in really sh–ty moods. They could be getting ready for a funeral or they could be getting ready for something else. But that’s how the season opens.
Are you scared for the audience reaction to Mike’s death or that they won’t believe it hoping it’s all a set-up to take down Sid?
You always run that risk. Personally, I was a huge fan of The Shield. I don’t think it’s a big spoiler to say that when they killed Lem, it took me two years to finally come back and watch the rest of the show. I swore after they killed Ned Stark, I would never ever watch Game of Thrones again, but I was right back there. For me, I always have very mixed emotions about that.
From the beginning, we set up that Briggs and Mike were really the same person. They were the first at Quantico, they’re both very smart guys and they were both very driven. This was an exploration of what happens if you take these same guys, put them through essentially the same wringer and see what emerges. Briggs goes one way and Mike goes another. This was something we were working towards for a while, which was investing Mike in these sins. He kept trying to do the right thing. He tried to save Lena and it didn’t work. Really, the question was about the greater good. For us, it really was about taking Mike and saying, “Here’s a guy who has done these things and at some point must pay for what he’s done. Does he pay with his life? Is that the ultimate punishment?” His heart stopped, so the payment has come due in that sense.
Will Sid return next season to fulfill his final promise of killing every Gracelander?
Yes. Carmine Giovinazzo and I had worked together before. He was the lead in [UPN’s] Shasta McNasty, my very first TV show way back in ’98. I always thought Carmine is a phenomenal actor. I lost him for years to CSI: NY. I’d been looking for a project to bring him back on. I didn’t want him to do a one-off. I thought this was the perfect opportunity. The network also really embraced him. In our discussions early on, the plan was to always really pit Sid against the house coming into season 3. We’re moving forward on that. Obviously, that moment when he says, “I know where they live, I know where they sleep, I’m going to take them out one by one,” that’s the promise of season 3. Right now, that’s what we’re working towards.
Will Paige regret her actions?
Oh yeah, she already regrets it. We had gone back and forth on this and then Dan Shattuck, who will be the No. 2 next year, crafted the scene where Paige comes in and says, “Look, I got the letter and I was wrong,” and Mike says, “It’s good they believe [Lena’s still alive].” The moment there for Paige is everything she’s built to this season. We really embraced her storyline this year. For her, the betrayal in that moment ultimately leads to her betrayal of Mike. Really, this season was a lot about balancing the scales. Ultimately, Mike’s get balanced in a pretty dramatic way.
Mike still has the tape that incriminates Briggs for Juan Badillo’s murder. Will that come into play?
The tape is still in play. Charlie had given the tape to Mike in episode 12 and Mike hasn’t made a decision. In season 3, what will come about is the fact that Mike still does have this tape. Let’s put it this way, Mike’s death would simplify Briggs’ life a great deal.
Is that the last we’ve heard of Briggs’ alter ego Odin Rossi or will the rest of Graceland find out the truth about him?
Yeah. The truth will come out, but by that point, there will be so many more bigger issues, it will become somewhat irrelevant.
Charlie didn’t lose the baby, but will she be suffering from PTSD when the show returns?
Yes. She’s going to have some serious things to deal with, as will all of them. In season 3, the story line that we’re embracing is Johnny and Carlito’s newfound friendship, if you want to call it that, which is basically Carlito’s attempt to turn Johnny into the new Sid and Johnny really put in a position where it’s him versus the house. On the one hand, he’s got Lucia to try to keep alive, and on the other hand, he’s got to try to keep his friends alive.
Obviously, one of the big things this next year will be the resurrection of Briggs. Briggs had, early in the season, really gone to a place where he was trying to do good. It was about episode 6 when they ended up vodka boarding that guy when the old Briggs started reasserting himself. Season 3 will be the return of Briggs in the way he was in season 1, which is that he ultimately realizes that being a good boy is not necessarily who he is. That will become a big deal, especially with Sid coming after the house and Johnny put in a position to betray the house or lose the woman he loves.
Graceland has been compromised, but they don’t know it yet. Will they get shut down?
There’s a possibility. The reality is that our people know that once it gets out that the house has been compromised, then the house goes away. It puts them in an interesting position once they realize it. Right now, the only person that knows the house has been compromised is Mike. They’ll be able to guess it once Sid starts making moves against the house. The real question becomes: Who’s interested? Sid can’t really go announcing that he knows where the house is, and he probably doesn’t want to. He’s got all his targets in one spot, which makes it convenient for him. If word of that gets out, the house goes away. They want to keep the house intact. That, and the fact that it’s a $2 million set, I’m guessing the house will stay around a little while longer.
Sid is targeting the current Gracelanders, but is there a chance this could affect those who have left, like Lauren or Donnie?
It’s possible. We hadn’t initially gone down that line recently, but now that you mention it, it sounds like a cool idea. Donnie, who we lost in the pilot, I really liked his character. We always discuss the idea of bringing Donnie back for something. It always depends on whether Clayne Crawford and Scottie Thompson are currently working on another show. Both of them are possibilities.
The show hasn’t been renewed for season 3 yet. Should we expect news soon?
I haven’t heard anything official yet. All signs point to yes, but until we get anything official, nothing is official. I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed at all times. Until somebody tells me I need that backup plan, I don’t have one.
Read our full recap of the Graceland finale here.