Russell Hornsby (NBC)
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“Mishipeshu” is one of those occasional episodes of Grimm that decides to produce a story far outside their typical mythology scope. While the show is steeped in magic and the supernatural, most of what happens obeys a certain set of rules, few of which can’t be explained by a visit to the all-knowing Airstream or the ever helpful spice shop. Every so often though, the writers will introduce something that states there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, beings whose nature defies categorization even to the Grimms. Season two’s “La Llorona” and “Volcanalis” are prime examples, where the creature encountered is not what you’d identify as typical Wesen and whose origins remain in the realm of myth even after the story’s resolution.

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This week, the myth ties itself to Native American culture with the mishipeshu, a lake spirit that takes the form of an aquatic panther. Summoned by a young man on a coming-of-age spirit quest, the mishipeshu possesses him and uses its power to take vengeance on the three men who beat his father to death over a decade ago. Spirits aren’t an entirely new area for Grimm to approach, but this goes further by establishing it as a creature that’s only barely connected to our world, manifesting itself through others rather than taking physical form for an added level of unsettling. It also helps that the design of the creature—horns, scales, blue glow—is one of the most eye-catching ones the creative team has come up with, giving the episode an increasingly otherworldly quality every time it appears.

And the possession angle of things also further complicates matters in an interesting way. Recent weeks have raised many questions about the handling Wesen crimes in a court of law, and this one goes even further by stripping Simon’s agency away completely. He’s not the one tearing the killers’ throats out, yet he’s the one waking up in the morning with blood running down his chest and images he can’t explain running through his head. Most of the Wesen who kill on this show are entirely in control of their actions, so it’s interesting to Grimm expand its portfolio into what happens when primal forces take charge.

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The odd nature of the mishipeshu also means that Grimm is able to get away with some behaviors outside the norm. Deputy Janelle Ferris, introduced earlier this season in “Highway Of Tears,” returns to assist Nick and Hank in their investigation and introduce them to the Native American community. As she’s able to see the spirit for what it is Team Grimm doesn’t have to play dumb with her when things go south, a refreshing change of pace from some of their usual obfuscation. (Ferris: “I don’t want to sound crazy.” Hank: “You won’t.”) While Ferris doesn’t dramatically shake up the status quo between the detectives, it’s nice to see them relying on someone who does solid police work rather than referring to a stack of musty tomes.

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What doesn’t work, even though it feels like it should, is Hank’s possession. As a character Hank has been largely underserved this season, stuck in the role of sidekick while characters like Juliette, Monroe, and even Wu have gone on to have significant arcs. (The latter arc has the unintentional consequence of diluting Hank’s contributions, as Wu’s enthusiasm eclipses his sturdiness on the Wesen side of the investigation.) Having him engage directly with the dream world and taking on the mishipeshu himself sounds like an idea ripe with potential, but in practice all it lets Russell Hornsby do is run around the woods and make some silly faces. Plus, the fact that it’s almost entirely dispelled by blowing some dust into his face evaporates the early sense of danger, as well as the character-driven connections that similar instances have taken on in the show. Grimm’s track record makes it entirely possible some side effects of the spirit will linger, but given that it’s Ferris who tears the third killer apart in the closing scene the writers appear to be going in another direction. (That is, if/when they decide a bit character like Ferris is ever worth revising.)

Speaking of Juliette, her journey to the dark side continues this week, albeit less murderously than in “Hibernaculum.” She’s decided to show off what she can do in a seemingly safe space by waving her Hexenbiest powers around at a bar, getting free drinks and then scaring the hell out of the other patrons, and then letting herself get arrested just to see what Nick will do. These scenes are beats that have been played several times in recent weeks, but they serve their purpose by illustrating that Juliette’s growing to love the taste of power and is less inclined to give it back even if she could. It gives the character agency, the lack of which (as I’ve said many times) killed her amnesia arc in season two, and further defines her as someone independent from her relationship with Nick. An important distinction, given that every week it looks less and less plausible for the two to ever become a couple again.

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Otherwise, most of Grimm’s overarching narrative grinds to a halt this week. Renard’s traded seeing silly demon arms for randomly assaulting and robbing the guy in front of him at the coffee cart, Monroe and Rosalee are back in research mode by taking custody of the Hexenbiest spell book, and there’s nary an Adalind or Kenneth to be seen. The strength of the mishipeshu story is such that I don’t mind lower levels of the others (even though the more Monrosalee we get the better), and the status quo gets away with sitting where it is. Historically Grimm picks up speed the closer it gets to the end of the season, and hopefully after this jaunt into the spirit world elements will start to converge again.

Stray observations:

  • This Week In Portland: Renard gets his coffee this week from Dogbone Farm, which while relocated to a more urban area for this episode yet is regularly found in Portland’s excellent Tidbit pod.
  • This Week’s Epigram: Drawing a blank this week as Google doesn’t turn up any matches. Any suggestions or more reliable source material?
  • The decision to open the episode with a flash-forward to the Hank/Nick fight is meant to build suspense for what’s coming, but I found it had the opposite effect.
  • It’s disappointing that dinner at Casa del Monrosalee doesn’t materialize, given that when the team gathers around that table it produces some great scenes. Though Monroe’s “Who’s hungry?” after Nick rushes out is a fine comic beat.
  • Wu finally asks the question that everyone who watches Grimm regularly asks at some point: is all this Wesen crime that Portland experiences out of the ordinary? Renard’s response—“Most crime in most places is Wesen-related”—winds up somehow being even more unsatisfying.
  • “Everyone else just seems bland.” Given where Juliette’s been in the past, this line is unintentionally hilarious.
  • “Really hard to believe.” “Yeah.”

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