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S.W.A.T - Miracle - Review: Finding Grace

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From the precinct’s annual holiday party, where money is handed over to charity in exchange for rides in Black Betty, to an underground casita where money is exchanged for less noble reasons, SWAT’s first Christmas-themed episode, Miracle, opens showing us both sides of the season, and ends leaving us just a little more uplifted and hopeful.

At the casita, Diego has stolen gold bars from El Malo and during his getaway, as bullets scream through the bar, fichera girl Reya is caught in the cross fire. Police arrive at the scene, things escalate, and the news of an officer in trouble gets Hondo out of the precinct soirĂ©e, heading out to the scene with Mumford’s team.

“Time for a little bah humbug for the bad guys.”

Opening credits are easy to want to skip through, but not SWAT’s. The catchy theme plays over the infographic-like opening, sneakily diffusing snippets of Metro SWAT history into our brains.
It isn’t just history snuck in there, but little pieces of info about how the units are made up, making it a solid, attention-grabbing opening.

Early in the episode we see Deacon struggling with home/work boundaries. One alert tone from his phone and he’s like a horse with blinders on, focused on only one thing. A subtle verbal nudge from his wife reminds him to refocus before heading out the door, and he hugs his kids goodnight. From what we’ve seen of these characters’ home lives, Deacon appears to be one of the few with a wife and kids, and seeing how this aspect of his life affects him while on the job, watching him struggle to keep his emotions in check when things go sideways, definitely tugs at the heart.

Hondo isn’t thrilled about having to bring his team in from their vacation time to help Mumford’s team bring down the cartel. The team isn’t thrilled either. To boost spirits, Hondo initiates a game of SWAT Tag, and the response is instantaneous joy.

“What’s SWAT Tag?”
“War, Street. All-out war.”

The prize, for two, are tickets to NYC, to advise the NYPD on security at the Grammys. Luca could not be more motivated.
Street doesn’t know the rules, but the team won’t go easy on him. He’s going to have to pick it up with the audience as the game is played.
They all take a card, and those who draw the golden tickets start, but the winners are the ones who are holding the golden tickets at the end – and they’re going to be tough to hold on to.
Anyone who breaks a SWAT rule can be tagged out by a team mate, and the card is passed on. Street is tagged out by Deacon in the first few minutes of the game because of a crooked arm patch. Deacon wasn’t kidding when he called it all out war.

There’s a moment, slipped in between the SWAT tag and the team finding Reya, of casual conversation between Hondo, Chris, and Street. It’s nice when the team is allowed little moments of bonding, before things heat up, to find out what kind of music they each like (or don’t like). It’s little more than small talk, but a lot about a person’s personality can be revealed through the music they listen to, so for the audience too it’s a nice moment to learn just a bit more about these characters.

Suspecting she might be Diego’s accomplice, knowing the cartel will be looking for her too, the team needs to find Reya - and they do, in a back alley, getting her arm patched up. They bring her in, and in an Interrogation Room Hondo plays bad cop, pushing Reya for information, threatening to put her in prison, before leaving to “talk to the D.A about filing charges”. Alone with her, Deacon plays good cop, apologizing for Hondo, calling him a hot-head. He brings faith into the conversation by playing on the religious symbolism of her bracelet, and it’s enough to allow her to open up.

“I trusted the wrong people and it messed up my life,” Reya tells him.
“I think there’s more to you than you’re letting on,” Deacon replies, having found the way to connect with her now. “I think your mother raised you to do the right thing.”
“I’ve tried to do the right thing, and it never works out for me.”
“Yeah, well just because you have good intentions does not mean you get rewarded. Not yet anyway. It’s when you do good without the reward, that’s when you find grace.”

Reya admits she lied to the cartel, told them she had the gold to buy time, to keep them from killing her until she could escape the city. She gives Deacon Diego’s full name, and we move from emotional storytelling, to action packed as the team arrives at his home, and Luca uses Black Betty (who might just be his work wife?) to breach the entrance.
Inside, Hondo notices fresh paint of the wall, suggesting a fake wall, but reactions are slow, and Deacon takes two bullets to his vest. They knock him flat but neither penetrate beyond the kevlar.
He’s winded, but unharmed. Rib fractures, internal bleeding, there’s plenty that can go wrong even if the vest stops the bullet. The vests don’t make the wearer a super hero, and nothing is ever really bullet proof. Deacon gets away with just a couple of new bruises – and some new shadows darkening his thoughts. The first thing he does upon returning to SWAT headquarters is phone his wife. She doesn’t seem perturbed by him phoning her to hear her voice, and perhaps it’s because he covers for the strain in his voice by mentioning he’s struggling to find the nerf gun his son wants. Maybe she’s too preoccupied with Christmas herself. Or maybe it’s explained in the conversation with Hondo when Deacon tells him how she “stopped worrying about my bruises years ago.” They have a work/home separation in place, a wall between the two that’s solid because it has to be.
Perhaps later in the show’s run we’ll see the contrast to this, of one of our SWAT officers in a new relationship, and the stress and tension that can cause relationships to fracture.

When Reya’s friend is taken by El Malo, Jessica makes the hard decision to include her in the op to bring down the cartel. To use her as bait.
It’s Deacon who is able to convince Reya to help them. He’s honest with her, building on the connections made earlier, while promising to look out for her, and to help her start a new life.
The writers have slowly been working their way through these characters, giving them all an episode that allows the audience to get to know them better, and in which the actor’s been able to truly shine. This episode is Deacon’s. He’s a calming presence when wiring Reya up and getting her ready, and it’s here that she reveals her real name is Mireya, meaning ‘miracle’. They pray together, allowing her to find strength in her faith before being put in danger, and it’s a moment Deacon needed too, to help ground him a little after the evening he’s had.

Jessica’s been working on policing proposals, including improving police accountability, mentors for female officers, and training for cops to reduce the use of force. She lists them off, apologizing for rambling, but Michael Plank (Peter Facinelli) is listening. Whether he’s listening because he’s truly interested, or because he’s flirting, remains to be seen. But she has the ear of the commissioner, so she won’t turn it down.
Later he comes back to her, having read the proposals. He admits most are too big, too expensive, but there
are two that he deems doable – police accountability, and anti-bias training programs - and offers to help her with them. He’s impressed by what she’s done already, and by the work she’s quick to offer to do to build on what she’s written. She’s passionate, and he appreciates her determination.
I’m quietly trying to ignore the sparks crackling between these two.

We get our tense moment of the episode when Reya is taken inside the chapel by El Malo’s men. Deacon, having promised he’d protect her, stays back, obeying orders, despite wanting to go in after her. But when the men pull guns on Reya and her friend, he takes one out, allowing the women to run to safety. El Malo and a few surviving members of the cartel are arrested, and the team heads back to the precinct.

The game of SWAT tag comes to an end with Chris and Luca left holding the golden tickets. All Luca wanted for Christmas was the opportunity to meet Beyoncé. Looks like he might get his wish.

The final scene with the team all together is lovely. They’ve gelled well, and are becoming a family. Every character has been given an episode in which to shine, but in the center, holding it all together every week, is Hondo, the man with the biggest heart on TV right now. To show his gratitude, he has left stockings full of gifts on each of their lockers.
In Deacon’s stocking is the only toy his son wants for Christmas. Another little miracle to bring this episode to an uplifting end.

On a slightly less positive note, do you think Michael’s line to Hondo about Jessica being destined for bigger things means he might try to tempt her away from the precinct later this season?

Every year, on Christmas Eve, I have a collection of Christmas episodes of my favorite shows that I watch, to which Miracle has just been added.

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