In the second episode, Graves agrees to sit down for an interview with a newscaster and opines that George Washington would “blow his fucking brains out” if he saw how the country was handling immigration today. Off the cuff, he invites anyone who’s received a deportation notice to seek asylum at his Santa Fe compound; at the episode’s end, a convoy of nearly 300 undocumented immigrants speeds onto his property and sets up camp on his lawn. The third episode tracks Graves’s attempt to secure documentation for the immigrants — none of whom really become characters, aside from a smoldering Latin lover type who ends up sleeping with Graves’s daughter (Heléne Yorke), newly separated from her congressman husband.
The episode turns the undocumented immigrants into props for the sake of the Graves family’s enlightenment, even as Graves saves the day: He negotiates with the current administration to grant asylum to the immigrants — a largely symbolic victory that rings hollow.
There’s a little too much uplift on this series, an ill-advised impulse to keep it light. (Graves’s son has just returned from Afghanistan, where he quite literally served his country: He worked in food service operations, and didn’t see any real combat.) Tonally, it’s more in line with the aw-shucks idealism of The West Wing than the ballsy irreverence of Veep. Graves appears far more interested in celebrating the redemption of its gravelly-voiced, cool-dad hero than exploring the consequences of his administration’s policies — which might have resulted in sharper comedy.
Speaking at the cancer charity event in the first episode, Graves says, “Until we start forgiving ourselves for every bad decision we’ve ever made, we will be defined by our past, and nothing will ever be done.” And yet, coming as it does at this particular moment in American political history, Graves inadvertently indicates the limits of remorse. There is such a thing as too little, too late.
Graves airs at 10 p.m. on Sundays on Epix.