Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Saving Grace (TV series 2007-2010)

Saving Grace is one of the several fascinating television series of recent years.The show stars Holly Hunter as Oklahona City police detective Grace Hanadarko.  Grace is brave, fearless, and feisty in her job -- but she also lives a life full of drinking and promiscuous sex. Yet Grace is kind and loving to her friends, people she encounters, and most of her family. Her fellow detectives also provide a type of extended family for her.

At the outset of the series, Grace encounters Earl, a disheveled angel played by Leon Rippy. Earl is warm and loving.  He brings Grace messages from God that are sometimes cryptic. Earl is a "last chance angel" and his job is to try to help Grace find redemption before it's too late for her.  Throughout the series, Grace slowly becomes more of a believer though she often has personal and spiritual setbacks. Some of the psychological issues that plague Grace stem from her being raped in her church by a priest when she was a young girl, and feelings of guilt that she has because she thinks it is her fault that her sister was at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City where she died in the 1997 bombing.

The supporting cast of Saving Grace is a rich one. Kenneth Johnson is wonderful as Grace's detective partner Ham Dewey. Early in the series, Ham has an extramarital affair with Grace. Eventually he leaves his wife and remains in love with Grace throughout the series. Grace doesn't necessarily return the same degree of affection to Ham. Grace has several siblings who appear on the show from time to time.  One is a fireman; another is a Catholic priest played by Tom Irwin. She has a nephew Clay whois winsomely played that Dylan Minette. (Clay's mother was the sister who died in the Oklahoma City bombing when Clay was a baby). Bailey Chase and Gregory Cruz portray fellow detectives, Lorraine Toussaint is the warm police captain, and Laura San Giacomo plays Rhetta Rodriguez, Grace' best friend since girlhood.  Rhetta is also the police department's forensic specialist. All the actors are well cast and strongly define their roles.

Most of the episodes of Saving Grace have Grace dealing with a spiritual aspect of her life that often stems from whatever case that the detectives are currently investigating.  Accordingly, this series becomes more than a police procedural. The spiritual issues that are raised are generally thought-provoking and sometimes profound.

Holly Hunter is simply magnificent in the title role as she brilliantly captures the mercurial nature of Grace's personality. The importance of Leon Rippy's presence presence cannot be underestimated as his Earl keeps Grace grounded and seeking for answers -- despite her will. The stories are usually interesting and even compelling. Though the series has a somewhat dark nature to it, it is always an insightful lookat the human condition and it illustrates many human truths.

One aspect of this series that needs to be discussed is the show's spirituality.  As a practicing Christian. I felt that Saving Grace presented a lot of Biblical truth, even though it never endorsed or explained the concept of Jesus Christ (or any other spiritual leader or religion, for that matter.) In essence, the show seemed to have a solid spiritual doctrine as far as it went, but it did not delve deeply into Christian dogma.

All in all, Saving Grace is a television show to cherish. I looked forward to each episode, and most of them rewarded me with good drama, good storytelling, fine acting, and ideas to chew on. Each season after the first one improved on the season that preceeded it.  The third season especially was top-notch television. The series was adequately wrapped up at the end of the third season, and left me feeling disappointed that the beloved characters in the show would have no new stories for me to watch.  They certainly will dwell in my memory though.  I applaud this unusual drama.  Grade: A

I watched Seasons 1 and 2 of Saving Grace on the cable channel TNT when it originally aired. I watched Season 3 on Netflix Streaming  in the last few weeks of 2012.


  1. Yes, Saving Grace was one program I really liked. I also think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Although not overtly spouting religious doctrine it moved the viewer to see Grace grappling with her reality then seeing her collision with this spiritual force.

  2. Grace was such a wonderfully complex character, but it was that spiritual journey of hers -- reluctant as it was -- that kept me watching.