The Grinder Season 1 Episode 12 Review: “Blood is Thicker than Justice”

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The Grinder Season 1 Episode 12 Review: “Blood is Thicker than Justice”

The Grinder blood is thicker than justice

The most frustrating element of The Grinder‘s meta commentaries are how they’re contained to the opening moments of each episode. Sure, they act as clever little gags to convey the show’s willingness to break and reflect upon conventional television construction – but when the 20 minutes that follow aren’t at all interested in breaking out of that predictable mold, each cold open feels like a tease for a much more experimental, self-aware version of The Grinder, which is really the version of the show I’d like to be watching. As “Blook is Thicker than Justice” proves, the more The Grinder sticks to convention, the less engaging a show it becomes, bringing the show’s first foray into multi-episode storytelling to an underwhelming end.

We all knew Dean’s run at Roz & Landy wasn’t going to last long; the entire beef between him and Stewart was mostly constructed in Dean’s hand, and what bits of existential angst the final scenes constructed are completely abandoned. Pretty quickly, Dean’s self righteous attempt to find himself at Roz & Landy turns into a story where poor, innocent Dean gets used by the bros at R & L for schmoozing clients, in turn making Stewart feel bad, yada yada yada. You know how this all ends up: Dean and Stewart awkwardly hug in a courtroom, then The Grinder finds a neat way to completely re-engineer itself to where it was at the beginning of the pilot – only now, the bulldozers Dean’s been running through Stewart’s life and career are taking the form of real bulldozers, clearing room for Dean to build his new dream home behind Stewart (“it could take a few months… a few years” he says at one point, conveniently locking them into this story line for the near future).

And how it gets there isn’t exactly an exciting, enlightening endeavor: in fact, The Grinder willingly eliminates any kind of soul-searching it alluded to at the end of “Exodus” when it presents Roz and Landy as two jerks taking advantage of Dean. Initially, it seemed they revered his acting prowess and position on television as bad ass lawyer; in this episode, they’re just using him as window dressing for new clients, removing any responsibility on Dean’s part to actually reflect on his life, and how he wants to move forward. It’s just “well, Roz and Landy are meanies… and they’re not family, which makes me sad!”, a couple unfunny courtroom scenes, and boom – we’re back to square one, the twelve episodes preceding it only a slightly clever prelude to whatever comes next for the eternally positive Dean Sanderson.

That’s disappointing; in how it sells the rest of his family short (does Dean Sr. do anything but yell one-liners supporting Dean?), in how it undercuts the actual tension created between Dean and Stewart in the last episode – and of course, how it refuses to engage with the existential questions it raised for its main character, completely eliminating the only unique element of the dramatic stakes of this episode. Otherwise, it’s a typical Odd Couple comedy story, stretched out across 40 minutes instead of 22; rather than addressing significant conflict through humor, The Grinder just shrugs and makes some unfunny jokes about lawyer talk in courtrooms before getting back to the business of hitting the reset button.

Maybe this is finally the episode that pushes Dean in an interesting direction; but I feel like that’s a phrase I utter after every episode of The Grinder, propelled by the slightly clever opening scenes and the faint suggestion in moments that there’s something more than predictable story arcs and archetypal characters awaiting below the surface. That feeling hasn’t evolved or changed since the first episode; and as we reach the halfway point of the show’s first season, it certainly feels like The Grinder needs to make some changes if it’s going to ever fulfill the promise it has occasionally shown.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

  • The Todd/Claire story line was actually kind of fun, even though it once again revolved around a character trying to date/have sex with her (or at least talk about it), and ultimately, placing her back in her neat little place as Dean’s potential play thing.
  • Stewart finally changes the checkered shirt he wears in nearly every single episode… and then I notice it on his father in the last courtroom scene.
  • Dean helps Ethan meditate and Lizzie write terrible poetry; these are the things that convince Stewart to have his brother move back in. That is enough for him to put aside 40 years of his brother stepping all over his life.
  • Ethan calling Lizzie’s poems garbage was the one laugh out loud moment of the episode. That, and the jump cut on the fake The Grinder that put a bunch of minority children in front of The Grinder, seemingly out of nowhere.

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