David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby (NBC)

We’re about two-thirds of the way through season five of Grimm, and for a serialized drama that means it’s time to start getting its ducks in a row for the big finish. Last year, the show pulled this off by taking the ongoing royal intrigue and tying it with the parallel rise and fall of Juliette and Adalind, an empowered Juliette becoming a villain as a pregnant Adalind fled to the sanctuary of Team Grimm. In theory, season five should be poised to leap to an even bigger finish, our Portland heroes caught between the pinchers of Hadrian’s Wall and Black Claw and fighting to stay together in this war.

Unfortunately, “Inugami” is an episode that reflects how much work there is to do to get us to this point. I joke at times about how many plots Grimm is juggling at any given time, but this is an episode where it’s a serious structural problem, allotting some time to all of them and nudging them forward without managing to make any of them compelling. Renard’s campaign, Adalind’s professional life, the Fortress of Grimmitude’s tunnels, Wu’s nocturnal activities—the plot pings back and forth between all of them without taking the time to let any of them breathe accordingly. It’s a placeholder episode pure and simple, lots of secondary stories inching forward but begging for a burst of creativity.

Perhaps some of this could be forgiven if the case of the week was more interesting, but it’s unfortunately not. It’s another return to the world of wesen traditions, where a slight needs to be repaid in blood outside the law, this time with the mysterious death of a young man involved in the death of a friend. Despite some interesting ideas in the origin of the killing of how an unplanned woge can lead to tragic consequences, the whole event feels flat in presentation, with the kids being difficult to connect with and the parents unable to move past presenting simple grief and anger. And there’s something disappointingly lazy about the setup of the legend, which in the end boils down to an elderly Japanese man with a samurai sword talking about honor in a matter that’s on par with a bad 80s karate movie.

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (NBC)

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That traditionalism could be more easily forgiven if there was anything to hang onto in the story, which unfortunately there isn’t. The plot setup is handled primarily by stiffly delivered exposition, first with Brian’s dad dropping the news of his son’s involuntary manslaughter charge midway through a conversation and then later with the Akagis explaining the inugami as procedurally as Nick would read in one of his books. Both Team Grimm and the viewers are being pushed along through the story as opposed to being active players in it, and it’s not a particularly fun experience to witness.

Speaking of explanations offered up repeatedly, “Inugami” also bears the marks of Grimm’s ongoing problem of having some characters in the know and some not, as we’re subjected to the explanations of Renard’s allegiances three times. First Eve passes it on to Nick in a clandestine car meeting, then Nick goes to Monroe and Rosalee’s house to pass on the info, and then we see Nick go to Hank to explain it all over again. It’s both frustratingly repetitive and also tied into one of my least favorite story tropes, the decision to keep other characters in the dark when getting everything out in the open would clear things up. (Also, does Hank do anything on this show anymore other than have things explained to him?) It’s a pile of exposition that the viewer already knows, and a promise to keep other characters from knowing this and guaranteeing more iterations of the same.

One of the other problems with the way the story is progressing is the way Renard’s campaign for mayor is being framed. This campaign is presented as Black Claw’s first step in controlling the world, but for an organization that was previously depicted as inciting riots worldwide and able to orchestrate the execution of the Wesen Council, their aims seem disappointingly short-sighted. Perhaps there’s more of a long game being played by either Black Claw or Renard, but there’s no concrete indication of that on either side. The former’s motivations seem disappointingly municipal, and Renard’s motivations are so vague as to be nonexistent. If there’s a big picture plan the writers need to give more of an sign that’s what’s going on, as the story has dwelled in ambiguity long enough.

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Russell Hornsby (NBC)

That questionable motivation also colors what should be one of Grimm’s biggest plot twists in the return of Diana, a return that they thankfully establish as genuine with a flash of those distinctive violet irises. Her entire life, Diana has been set up as this child of destiny, possessed of a power that the royals were desperate to possess and the resistance were desperate to protect. Yet to Black Claw all she seems to represent is a component of their plan to get Renard elected. This was a big picture plot for roughly half the series and now its ramifications are being elided over, the power she represents being side-stepped for the familial value. Again, I’m fine with the idea they’re playing their cards close to the vest, but if that’s the case they’re so close I’m concerned they’re not even playing.

That being said, it’s good to finally have Diana established in the show’s world again, and reunited with one of her parents—and likely to soon be reunited with the other, if her mother can get a long lunch hour. Remember all the way back in “Lost Boys” when Adalind met up with an old coworker and he suggested that she could get her old job back? Well, now Grimm finally does as not only is her boss ready to have her back, he’s more than happy to have Kelly there during the day. This plot has lingered so long that this development is only enough to bring a halfhearted shrug, and is mostly interesting for the confirmation that Adalind’s abilities have returned in full force and don’t seem to bother her son all that much. Adalind’s return to fighting form is another detail that comes out in exposition dump this season, but despite all the murmurs about what being a Hexenbiest does to you, there’s no indication that she’s any different in any of her interactions.

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Instead, Adalind getting her job back is used as an excuse to delve deeper into the tunnels under the Fortress of Grimmitude. Nick’s decision to send Monroe and Rosalee down there is a baffling one to me, given that he’s barely explored it himself and there’s little reason why he’d defer to his friends to do it on their own beyond scheduling reasons. A few new reveals are doled out—the observation that the steel door looks like it’s rated for water pressure, a skeleton on loan from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride discovered in the tunnels—but it’s all a side trip that feels like an afterthought, outsourcing the development to the show’s more entertaining characters.

If nothing else though, all of these plots do create a solid convergence at the end of the episode as Eve finds her way to the Fortress of Grimmitude. Adalind becomes the last member of the cast to cross paths with the new version of Juliette, as she shows up and warns her against Black Claw digging said claws into her, all while Monroe and Rosalee hover uncomfortably in the crawl space. This scene is the only place where “Inugami” can be said to have real energy, the weight of what exists between the Hexenbiests and the threat of discovery for the onlookers adding up nicely. Hopefully now that the ground has been cleared, more of that will be on the docket in the last third of the season.

Stray observations:

  • This Week In Portland: The bridge where Brian and Roger get buried appears to be the Stark Street Bridge, which puts the actual killings in Troutdale—a good half-hour outside of Portland proper. This department has some broad jurisdiction.
  • This Week’s Epigram: This one comes from Samuel Johnson, long regarded as one of England’s greatest literary critics. I appreciate how Grimm’s gotten more cultured with its references as the seasons have gone on.
  • Know Your Wesen: Adalind’s boss turns out to be a Lausenschlange and is very interested in having her otherworldly talents on the business side of things. Is this entire law firm made up of wesen, or is it a mix? That’d make for an interesting business card: Lausenschlange, Siegbarste, Ziegevolk, and Friedman.
  • We see the return of the Wu-wolf—sorry commenters, that’s the name and I’m sticking to it—as Wu’s apparent dreams of running with the moon are implied to be not so dreamlike. At this point, this story is operating in the same orbit as Renard’s Jack the Ripper possession did last season, a problem not fully understood by the person experiencing it and slowly developing into a major affliction.
  • Also in the exposition dump is Rosalee disclosing the truth of what happened with Tony. Rosalee: “I didn’t want to say anything.” Monroe, eyes flashing red: “I swear to God I’ll kill that guy!” Rosalee: “Because of that.”
  • Rosalee shows that she’s been married to Monroe for some time now, delivering a great reaction to the news that Eveard slept with Rachel. “Well. I wonder what that was like.”
  • “If she becomes a Hexenbiest again, she will not be who you know now.” “Kind of been there, done that.” Sick burn, Nick.

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