The Grinder is no more. Because he’s dead. You don’t even want to know what happens after that alligator roll. Last week, I talked about how The Grinder had a turned this intangible corner, from a show with potential to one that was actively rising to the task to fulfill that potential. “Grinder Rests in Peace” continued the storyline of “Giving Thanks, Getting Justice” successfully. It’s certainly a beneficial sign of maturation that major plot arcs could exist over two episodes. But the best part of this episode is not that it continued the arcs of the previous episode, but that it continued this overarching sweetness that began with “Giving Thanks, Getting Justice” and continued through this episode.

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“Giving Thanks, Getting Justice” was the origin story of Dean’s return to Boise, or why he bought into a life that was less glamorous than what he was living by playing Mitchard Grinder. “Grinder Rests In Peace” was the natural conclusion of that equation with Stewart buying into Dean’s desire to be there and around his family, even if that means Dean lives in Stewart’s house and gives his children terrible dating advice. But killing off Mitchard means that Stewart will never be rid of him, so he goes to great lengths to make sure Dean’s most famous character can stay alive. But he blows that all up when he figures out that what he wants shouldn’t override what Dean wants. Dean is a committed guy — once he gets on the set, Dean no longer exists — and Stewart owes him the same amount of commitment.

It’s a nice sentiment for The Grinder, which started out as Dean and Stewart so entirely at odds with each other, even though it was Stewart who was the source of the antagonism, without any of the, well, niceness, that has defined these last couple of episodes. Stewart knows he has made a mistake, and takes it upon himself to fix it, even if it means becoming Barry Grinder, the younger brother Mitchard thought had died at birth, eventually leading to a new ending where Timothy Olyphant and Arielle Kebbel/Avery Banks have sex on what is presumable Mitchard’s corpse (which was amazing). This episode may have been about Dean’s Hollywood life, but it was still so rooted in the new one he has created where Stewart is a major part of that. Turns out I do want to watch the show about the less cool, less handsome brother, especially when his cooler, hotter brother is by his side.

Another pervading feature of the episode was its focus on Hollywood, which the series has worked in before but less effectively than it has in these last two episodes. The joke on Dean’s celebrity status tends to work better when it is specific, not when it’s simply commenting on his fame. Some of the best parts of the beginning episodes featured jokes and plots that zeroed in on the crime procedural, rather than just commenting on Dean’s celebrity. “Grinder Rests In Peace” was honed its humor specifically on the TV industry. “What matters is what the fans are saying on Twitter and other social media platforms,” Bemus says to Dean about why he must close out his storyline on The Grinder: New Orleans. “The true barometer of success,” Dean replies knowingly. The best example though, is when Dean figures out Stewart has sold him down the river: “Bemus never uses diversity unless he’s pressured by the network.”

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One of the issues The Grinder has is making the law firm plotlines as interesting and funny, as the domestic scenes, especially after the initial novelty of the concept wore off. There was a step in the right direction in the “Grinder Rests In Peace” in that Natalie Morales was given something to do other than shut down Dean and join Stewart on Team Wet Blanket. Morales is a talented comedian and in this episode she was allowed to show that off more than she has in previous episodes. The episode is not as meaty as Mary Elizabeth Ellis’ turn in “Buckingham Malice,” it was more than what she’s usually given to do. And if Morales can take something as universally true as finding Timothy Olyphant insanely attractive and making it funny, think of what she could do with a full plotline to herself.

Stray observations

  • Natalie Morales’ costumes were on point, very Flashdance
  • I would watch Fred Savage do his Florida Keys nightclub owner dance all damn day.
  • “First my TV brother stabs me in the back, now my real one. I don’t know what hurts most. I’ve given it some thought: It’s the real one.”

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