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Black Claw brings ritual killing to Portland as Grimm’s war becomes more insidous

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One of the reasons why Grimm’s introduction of the Black Claw has been so important for this world is the fact that it’s dragging out into broad daylight things that have long been confined to the shadows. Over the last few seasons, the bulk of Nick’s efforts have attempted to turn away from the executioner side of his Grimm heritage, maintaining a status quo to ensure that both wesen and non-wesen are able to exist in peace. Admirable as those efforts were, they’re still efforts that depended on keeping the general population ignorant and placed most of the burden on the wesen, hiding their real faces and further homogenizing centuries-old cultures under the umbrella of the Wesen Council.


The uneasiness of that status quo is on full display in “Star-Crossed,” which takes a familiar move out of the show’s playbook—barbaric wesen ritual in modern times—and updates its import by tying it to the season’s unrest. The end result is a case of the week that’s more interesting than that usual format, helping to spell out on a micro level the changes in the show’s ecosystem. While Black Claw’s engaged in many acts of rebellion around the globe, “Star-Crossed” understands that the group’s reach is far more insidious than outright declarations of war, and that its promise of dominance can spark a thousand fires.

Or, perhaps, flood a thousand oceans given this week’s case. With a drought covering much of the surrounding Portland area, an old ritual unique to the minotaur-like wesen known as Fuilcré is introduced, a ritual sacrifice designed to bring rain as a result of human sacrifice. As I mentioned before this sort of plot is nothing new to Grimm, but it goes past other offerings like this season’s own “Maiden Quest.” The revival of these traditions proves to be dangerous one for everyone not on its side: the homeless who are nothing but a means to an end, the families like the Holloways who may have nothing to do with it but are swept up in the crossfire. As Holloway Sr. points out, being old doesn’t make it right, and that distinction is one that this level of energy can obscure.

Reggie Lee, David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby (NBC)

“Star-Crossed” also succeeds over “Maiden Quest” because it has a good pacing and presentation to it, as opposed to the latter’s jerky mobster framework. Between the presentation of the crosses and the shards of glass covering the victims’ eyes there’s more than a few shades of Hannibal to the murders, shades that are always welcome on Grimm where things can get too same-y between episodes. The reveal that there are multiple victims—and just how many victims they can expect—is paced fairly well, both to give bloody reveals when necessary and to increase the tension on Nick and Hank at moments when they feel like they’re starting to get a handle on the investigation. And most rewardingly, while a lot of Grimm crimes irritatingly fall back on a family member being the “unexpected” culprit, “Star-Crossed” introduces the possibility but pivots away at woge’s end by calling back another likely suspect, leading to a twist that’s not a huge surprise but succeeds by not being the norm.


Where “Star-Crossed” scores its real points on the family front comes at the Black Claw community meeting, where Holloway Jr. has been swayed by the charismatic preachings of one Donald Jones—so much so that he’ll stand by while his father is brutally beaten. Again, it’s a good move to establish how ruthless the Black Claw threat is, how it won’t only devastate non-wesen but it’ll grind down those wesen who don’t follow its beliefs. Monroe, long the most expressive character on the show, makes a fine witness to this part of the group’s evil as he tries to stand up for Holloway Sr. and narrowly avoids a beating himself.

Bree Turner, Silas Weir Mitchell, Russell Hornsby (NBC)

The way the team eventually gets to the answer is also handled well. Leaving aside the awful faux-Wikipedia Nick has to use to explain what triangles mean and the Big Dipper on the too-perfectly sized tracing paper, there’s some good investigative beats as they work from crime scene to research material. Rosalee gets the episode’s best moment when she interprets one of the old books and proves herself fluent in Middle Irish (to Monroe’s dumbfounded delight) and even Adalind gets to contribute something by filling in the blanks from the book and leading them to the astronomical significance of the killings—using an Arabic word that Renard knows right away. Team Grimm has felt a bit fragmented this season, so it’s nice to see everyone adding something to the search.

That sense of team is also explored in the potential alliance between Hadrian’s Wall, albeit in a less satisfying fashion. While Rosalee’s declaration that they shouldn’t make a decision unless all of them agreed on a course of action, that means that anyone can delay a decision being reached, and this week everyone punts the ball. Monroe and Rosalee don’t want to jump in because of their feelings on involvement with Eve, and Hank and Wu’s finely honed cop suspicions mean they’re reluctant to join up with a group they know nothing about. They’re sound reasons not to get tied up with Hadrian’s Wall just yet, but after saying they need to know more about them, they do nothing to find anything else out. It’s another delaying tactic to advance the plot, in a season where there’s a worrying amount of that.


The audience gets to learn more about them this week though, as we follow Meisner, Trubel, and Eve on the investigation of a Black Claw member linked to terrorist events in London and Osaka. It’s the first time we’ve seen them on a mission together, and all perform as expected: Meisner punches through people, Trubel swings a machete, and Eve—now not even trying to avoid the Alias comparisons by sporting a red wig—sliding people along the floor. A bit disappointingly, most of the scene takes place after the fight has already wrapped up, meaning that we’re forced to imagine the way this Resistance/Grimm/Hexenbiest tag team gets things done.

Appreciation of their abilities winds up being on more of a psychological level. If the case of the week had Hannibal overtones the interrogation represents the show going full Silent Hill, as Eve pulls out her bag of tricks against the Black Claw agent, sewing his mouth, eyes, and ears shut gradually to trap him in the prison of his own mind. This is definitely the creepiest part of the entire episode, simple CGI and the gradual removal of sound effects used to a deeply upsetting extent. (Similarly upsetting, the casual way Trubel guides Eve toward removing his final facial orifices.) Once again, Eve’s transformation is conveyed by the absence of feeling, the dead stare that replaces whatever facial expression Juliette would have in similar circumstances.


The unfeeling way that Eve dispatches the Black Claw agents is a prime example of why Team Grimm might hesitate at jumping into bed with these people, meaning that our heroes are at a point where lesser of two evils is the only selection they can make. Not a lot of new ground is covered in “Star-Crossed,” but it makes clear that the ground left to cover is primed to soak up a lot of blood.

Stray observations:

  • This Week In Portland: Given that it’s mid-February in Portland right now the idea of a drought sounds like a laughable one, but the dry weather that’s swept most of California over the last few years has also left a brown mark on Oregon. Things have yet to get bad enough that sacrifice has been factored in, but a few more springs and summers of this and nothing’s ruled out.
  • This Week’s Epigram: Grimm goes Biblical this week with Deuteronomy 12:16. (And on that note, there are no words for how grateful I am that in an episode with crucifixion, a grail, and blood spilling into that grail, no suggestions or even jokes about Jesus being wesen were made. That would have been a can of worms the show should never open.)
  • Other events of the episode: Renard is sleeping with Dixon’s press secretary, Rosalee’s ex is now calling up the spice shop, and Nick tries to open the door in the tunnels underneath the Fortress of Grimmitude. The latter refuses to budge, in a handy metaphor for all these subplots.
  • The biggest disappointment of the episode for me had to be that despite all of the water symbol variety, they couldn’t have a great inside joke and put amongst them the Water Tribe symbol from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • So despite the fact that the group knows Monroe’s picture was passed around through Black Claw agents, no one has any qualms about sending him to a Black Claw meeting. This will probably come back to bite everyone, but his half-hearted fist raise to the group’s slogan was a classic Monroe beat.
  • Renard, uncharacteristically, has a great comedic moment when Nick and Hank leave his office. “You know, my great-great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a big believer in rituals and sacrifices. I think that’s what got him burned at the stake.” The awkward moment of silence gets the episode’s best laugh.
  • “If I’d known he was getting murdered, I would have told him not to go.”
  • “Tell me you didn’t find a body.” “None that wasn’t supposed to be there.”

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