It’s hard to find a line more brutally honest about Grimm’s oft-dicey plotting than one of creator David Greenwalt’s teasers for season five, dropped during the show’s San Diego Comic-Con panel: “At last, we’re going to explain the damn keys! We still don’t know what they do, but by God, we’re going to explain it.” The idea of these seven mysterious keys has hung over the show since its earliest days, when Aunt Marie’s key was the treasure the Royals and Renard hungrily sought and keeping it safe was Nick’s most sacred duty. Since that time they’ve faded in prominence, Adalind’s first child becoming a more tangible bargaining chip and immediate concerns like the Wesenrein achieving dominance.
Now, with “Map Of The Seven Knights,” the keys are back on the scene, another plot added to Grimm’s china cabinet of spinning plates. As if the clash of a populist monster conspiracy and a shadowy government agency weren’t enough to drive the season, now there’s the location of a treasure that could be anything up to and including the Ark of the Covenant. Yet despite everything else that’s going on, there’s something about this introduction that feels like a jolt instead of a burden, the playing field suddenly expanded in the right way.
The last time the keys were mentioned prominently, in season three’s “Inheritance,” former Grimm reviewer Kevin McFarland credited them as the one plot thread he felt the show could pull on without diminishing returns. I share that sentiment, partially because of too much time spent pulling other threads to no avail, and partially because there’s something about this idea of a mythical Crusades-era treasure that rings true. It taps into an Indiana Jones-like spirit of adventure, and also the idea that what Nick does is part of a tradition spanning thousands of years. It keeps some level of mystery alive in a show that’s frequently about dispelling it, putting olden times against modern times where frequently the latter is what comes out on top.
It also helps that the reveal comes at the end of an episode steeped in the Grimm tradition. The real treasure for the majority of “Map Of The Seven Knights” isn’t the keys but a newfound stash of Grimm diaries, one that comes to the attention of Team Grimm thanks to Monroe’s uncle Felix. While the idea of a new treasure trove of information to replace what was destroyed in “Iron Hans” sounds at first like a step back—an heavy reliance on those diaries made a lot of the early episodes come across as too formulaic—but it counters that by way of character enthusiasm levels. To Nick, Monroe, Rosalee and company, these are invaluable resources, and their drive and reverence for them helps overcome concerns we’re returning to repetitive trailer days. Plus, the early glimpses of the books promise even more esoteric wesen of mantis and shark extract, which would be fun to see in action.
Enthusiasm levels are driven ever higher by Rick Overton as “bookbaden” Uncle Felix, who demonstrates that Monroe’s more endearing qualities are shared family traits. He enters long diatribes about the exact origin of where the books were printed and how his passion for the written word won out over his wesen instinct to destroy Grimm resources, leading to several amusing beats when the others look between him and Monroe and the resemblance is apparent. It’s a passion that’s nicely balanced with a moment of rage upon seeing Trubel appear with Nick, another reminder of the prejudices that go along with the Grimm histories.
Sadly, being a delightful guest star on Grimm means that you’re naturally destined for a short life, which comes true when two Black Claw assassins (Anubi, last seen in “Once We Were Gods”) track him to his hotel. It’s yet another tragedy that strikes Monroe, and also a reminder of the reason why the writers visit these on him so regularly: Silas Weir Mitchell is a terrific actor and is more than capable of running with whatever he’s given. When Felix’s phone rings and he’s forced to impersonate his uncle not 30 seconds after he was choking back tears over the body, it’s a moment that’s devastating in a surprising way given it’s about a character we’d never met before tonight.
“Map Of The Seven Knights” is written by co-creator Jim Kouf—his first script for the series that doesn’t share a writing credit with Greenwalt—and his familiarity with Mitchell means that there’s plenty of great Monroe stuff in the episode. In addition to the scenes about his uncle we have what feels like the first time in ages where he and Nick are just allowed to talk with each other as friends, hanging out on the roof of the Fortress of Grimmitude and trying to get to the bottom Nick’s love life. (“It is so weird that you slept with both of them when they were each other” is the understatement of the ages.) His first interaction with Eve is as dumbfounded and awkward as expected, as well as taking a necessary step toward introducing this new character to the main cast. And when he exacts revenge on the Anubi—in a brief parkour-laden warehouse fight—there’s a moment where he stares at Nick with his mouth covered in blood and a long-dissolved tension reforms, a beat where close friends feel like hunter and beast.
Kouf doesn’t short-change the rest of the story to focus on his favorite character, as there are plenty of moments that feel possessed of the spark I like in Grimm as a whole. While we don’t get to spend much time with the housewarming party (or fome-warning as Adalind puts it) just having the team together like this in a non-stressful setting is a welcome thing, a reminder of scenes like the dinner from “Mr. Sandman” where it’s clear how close-knit these people have become. It also takes another necessary step in pushing Hadrian’s Wall and Team Grimm together with the discussion of potentially purchasing the Grimm diaries, a reminder of the agency’s resources and the fact that it’s going to want a quid pro quo if this relationship is going to progress any further.
Even the most tangential of plots, Renard’s alignment with the Dixon mayoral campaign, feels fresher this week. This story’s lack of connection to the Hadrian’s Wall/Black Claw intrigue has hurt it as a whole, but an even bigger problem is that as presented it’s told us nothing new about Renard or painted him as anything other than ambivalent. Now he’s all in, coolly admitting to piles of incriminating evidence on Dixon’s rival and with no hesitation about deploying it via the press—“slit his throat with a couple of drug charges” in his exact words. This is a Renard we haven’t seen in a while, and it’s a welcome sight indeed, a reminder that he’s always pursued an agenda one way or another. And now that the mystery which was his agenda once upon a time is back on the scene, it’s an open question what role it will play in the schemes to come.
- First, an amendment to last week’s review. In the stray observations for “Star-Crossed,” I lamented the fact that the water symbols carved on the back of the crosses didn’t incorporate the symbol of the Water Tribe from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Well, Grimm writer Jeff Miller contacted me on Twitter to explain the writing staff are all big Avatar fans and did in fact incorporate some imagery, as one of the carvings was intended as a variation on the Air Nomad symbol. It’s comforting to know that both they and I believe Aang can save the world.
- This Week In Portland: The view from the roof of the Fortress of Grimmitude indicates that it’s located in the Inner Southeast Industrial District, an area that despite continual development is still home to many lofts and warehouses that could feasibly double as Nick’s hideout. (Adalind’s also seen with a six-pack of Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, another reminder to drink local!)
- This Week’s Epigram: Taken from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Fitting for an episode that centers around very long books, and one that closes with the announcement of an odyssey all its own.
- The reveal of three keys in one place counteracts established Grimm lore that the royals possess four of the seven. Hopefully someone remembers to throw in a line of dialogue that makes it clear two of theirs are forgeries.
- Best visual of the night: Eve using her Hexenbiest powers for no-handed push-ups.
- Amongst the treasures of the Grimm chest are a triple crossbow that indicates Grimm armorers took a page from the Moe Syzslak school of design.
- Apparently Monroe’s friendship with a Grimm is common knowledge thanks to his mother. One wonders if her stories floating to friends of the family are the reason why Black Claw’s marked him as a person of interest.
- Trubel’s questions about her own family life are shelved with the reveal of the key, but it’s a safe bet that’ll come back up at some point. Probably in about eight or nine episodes based on Grimm track record.
- Monroe’s take on the Fortress of Grimmitude: “Kind of homey, in a post-apocalyptic, neo-industrial, steampunk chic kind of way.”
- “She would have killed you too.” “… Glad we talked.”
- Grimm’s off next week. See you on March 4!