[Warning: This article contains major spoilers from the Season 3 premiere of Graceland. Read at your own risk!]

Well, that's a relief!

After leaving Mike's (Aaron Tveit) fate up in the air in the months since the Season 2 finale, the Graceland producers nearly broke our hearts with a huge, panic-inducing red herring of an opening scene in the Season 3 premiere that featured Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) and Sid (Carmine Giovinazzo) standing over a grave in a cemetery. But, fans' worst fears were finally put to rest moments later when it was revealed that Mike's alive! (The grave was for Archie, R.I.P.)

TVGuide.com spoke with Graceland creator Jeff Eastin about the decision to keep Mike around, and how his near-death experience will affect the team going forward.

Graceland boss teases "severe ramifications" in Season 3

You all have been so secretive about Mike's fate during the hiatus. Did you ever consider actually killing him off? Why did you decide to take the show in this direction?
We discussed [having him die] briefly. The way it'll ultimately play out over the season was something I was much more excited about ... playing with this idea of an afterlife.

We learn that Mike was technically dead for six minutes and Briggs seems to have a lot of questions about it, even if Mike is a bit dismissive (at least in front of Briggs).
In the first season, with his girlfriend dying ... we built into Briggs' character a guy who was really fascinated by what happens after [death]. And to put Mike in a position where he really felt that something had happened to him while he was clinically dead just seemed like a really fascinating way to go. It also seemed like a nice way to sort of take a character and turn them 90 degrees in a legitimate way. ... We figured we had a setup that Briggs was somebody who was going to be fascinated with that, and Mike, who is probably the ultimate skeptic, to put him in a position where suddenly, things are happening to him that he doesn't understand. ... The other thing, in terms of Mike and Briggs, was trying to say, can we redefine this relationship in some way that we haven't seen before, try to take that relationship in a [new] direction?

It does seem like we're seeing a different side of Mike, as Briggs notes.
It does severely change the way Mike approaches everything. It's sort of a softer Mike, a guy who's more introspective and less concerned with winning and more concerned with really the big picture and with life in general. Those ramifications will play out throughout the season. ... All I can say about it ultimately is, Mike's experience in those six minutes when he was under, whether it was random neurons firing or whether it was something greater, takes on a huge significance in the season. And I would say that the answer is not at all what you'd expect.

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Mike says he forgives Paige (Serinda Swan). Is that true? Is her betrayal going to create tension for them going forward?
When he says he forgives Paige, it's legitimate. Mike forgives Paige. The problem now for Paige is that she doesn't forgive herself.

Is Paige really going to leave Graceland?
No comment.

There are hints that Mike may become addicted to morphine. Is that going to play out in future episodes?
Mike's addiction to the painkillers becomes a very heavy plotline throughout the season.

Switching gears a bit, is Briggs completely in over his head with this Ari (Rhys Coiro) assignment?
As the season started, we spent a long time talking about what we wanted to do with Paul, and the idea of a sin-eater had come up. It's an idea in general that I've liked quite a bit. We based the Briggs story a lot on the true life Whitey Bulger story. Whitey becomes an informant for the FBI and had done a number of heinous things. And, depending on whose account you take, there was one FBI agent that knew what was going on, that knew about the murders and everything else. That agent's still in prison to this day. But that guy became the sin-eater and according to him, the FBI knew all about it, but they pinned it on him. So, that was really the storyline we found for Briggs that we liked. The difference there for us was, you don't pin Paul Briggs down. You don't threaten him. Because he will react in some way. So really, this season begins with this idea that the FBI is pinching Paul and saying, you're going to ride Ari the whole way and when it's all over, you're going to eat all those sins. ... As the season progresses, those sins get worse and worse, and Briggs ultimately is supposed to go down for those. But, Paul's not a guy who could go quietly into that good night. He has a plan. And everything ties back into Mike and what he saw in those six minutes. All of that comes into play.

What did you think of the Graceland Season 3 premiere? Are you happy Mike's alive? And is Ari the worst villain the show's ever had? Sound off in the comments!