In the past decade of television, heavily serialized shows have been given preferential treatment over procedurals, showered with praise as heralding in a new stylistic paradigm while traditional genres get a bit of a short shrift. Procedurals are widely successful—just look at the proliferation of Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS—but they tend not to receive as much critical adoration unless remixing and distilling pre-established drama types like Law & Order blending police and courtroom, or going flashy like CSI.
There’s a passing moment in the most recent episode of Masters Of Sex when Bill Masters’ mother Essie is beginning her campaign to connect with her son and make him some dinner, when she mentions being scandalized by an episode of Perry Mason where the typically upstanding defense attorney would do something as scandalous as tampering with evidence. And that moment made me question my very cursory knowledge of the character in light of procedural expectation. Legal, police, and medical dramas that function as procedurals tend to fall into an overarching simple structure, where the case gets solved, the criminal gets convicted, or the patient is saved. The variety is in how the characters arrive at that final turn.
But it’s often more fun to see a procedural zag when the audience expects a zig. Those are the cases where Law & Order fails to convict a defendant, or a patient dies on the operating table. Or in the case of tonight’s Grimm: Nick, Hank, and Captain Renard must release a little old Boogeylady Wesen because nobody will believe the overwhelming evidence that she has been committing murders for most of her life where crime has run rampant.
I liked “El Cucuy” a lot despite some of the on the nose signaling that the episode was inspired by a Spanish legend. Last year’s “La Llorona” episode got special promotion around Halloween, and that Mexican legend was one of the best standalone stories of the second season. “El Cucuy” doesn’t have much significance to the larger arc of the show—except for the very brief interludes with Adalind’s first ultrasound and Renard receiving video evidence of the baby—but what makes it so fun is how differently the case plays out when compared to the regular structure.
Usually, Nick gets a case with Hank, sees a suspect reveal themselves to be Wesen, goes to Monroe for advice, then tracks down the culprit and hands down some Grimm justice while revealing a small slice of the Wesen underbelly. This time around, the wealth gets shared around the Portland Scoobies, as Nick works with Hank while they get advice from Renard, Juliette, Monroe, and Rosalee. They track down two separate red herrings before arriving at the little old lady twist.
And Grimm is finally finding some footing with regard to mixing up the info-dumps about fictional world-building information. Instead of the spice shop or Monroe’s house or the Magic Airstream, information about a suspect gets bandied about at what looks like a group potluck. It’s a downright funny setup, and one that shows off how comfortable these characters have become with each other. (And in my opinion, they’re all a bit too safe at the moment.) Juliette is finally in the loop on Nick’s mother—which present another set of problems if the impending return of the damn Fuchsbau coins will actually happen. But that dinner scene combined with Monroe talking with his mom on the phone and then he and Rosalee discussing when to tell their parents about living together made this one of the funniest episodes of Grimm in the entire run.
Back to the case, I really liked how the investigation spread out across Nick’s partnership with more than just one character. A lot of cases end up involving Nick and Hank doing heavy lifting, assisted by Monroe, with an even smaller assist from Juliette or Rosalee. But this time Juliette got to help with the Wesen research at the Airstream, and actually point Nick in the right direction by taking him to see Pilar, the supernaturally atuned woman who first appeared in “La Llorona” last year.
Better still, the Airstream provides no help. Nick has been able to use that resource on nearly every case, and it’s about damn time Grimm gave him a Wesen encounter he could write down for the next generations. In a lot of ways this reminded me of the alien episode last season, which felt heavily inspired by The X-Files—because of how far removed it was from the normal rhythms of the show.
In terms of going through suspects, “El Cucuy” is fairly standard. There’s a doglike small-time criminal Wesen whose kind traces back to Egyptian times. He’s carving out drug territory, but clumsily, and in a way that reveals himself far to easily to Nick. And there’s an angry concerned citizen who shows up at every crime scene to criticize police for not protecting the neighborhood. Surely, it must be one of those two hotheads, unless it’s the little old lady who inexplicably shows up in the security footage at two separate violent crime scenes. Once that’s introduced, it’s not all that surprising, but making what is essentially The Boogeyman into a 77-year-old lady (who gets away without criminal or Grimm punishment) is an unexpected surprise.
“El Cucuy” is a standalone procedural episode, but one that plays with the expected pattern of the show. That can and should happen more often now that Grimm has two seasons under the belt. Episodes like this, an above-average mythical interpretation peppered with well-crafted comic relief scenes, help keep my mind from wandering to the slow progression of the serialized elements. I don’t particularly care about Nick’s mom or Adalind’s baby—or the ineptitude of those first two criminals taking off masks way too early every time—when I’m laughing and keeping up with a deviation from the norm.
- Grimm Justice sounds like an awesome show, even further in the pulp crime direction.
- Seriously, those two guys holding up convenient stores took off their masks way too early. At least drive away first before relinquishing the disguise!