Kevin’s out of town at the moment, so he’s handed the reins of Grimm back to me for the week—a role I retake with some hesitation, as my hopes for the show have dimmed considerably since the last time I reviewed it. After the terrific midseason finale “Season of the Hexenbiest” I was convinced that the show had finally found the right way to use all of its best elements, and we were heading into a second half of the season that would live up to the potential I always argued was there. The ensemble had evolved into a strong and likeable Scooby Gang, several plot developments shook up the status quo irreversibly, and the narrative indicated a focus on broader mythology over standalone cases.
Since then though, Grimm has not lived up to expectations, as after a promising return in “Face Off” the show’s been on a downward spiral. Adalind’s mostly vanished from the main storyline and the feud between Nick and Renard has been put on the back burner, with more attention given to standalone cases that either expand the show’s world poorly (“Natural Born Wesen”) or not at all (“Mr. Sandman”). Characters I enjoy like Monroe and Rosalee haven’t had nearly enough screen time, and Juliette’s been trapped in a subplot that’s worn out its welcome after only three weeks. And last week’s “Nameless” was the worst episode Grimm has ever done, a sloppily plotted and poorly acted dud that proved there some fairy tales the show should leave alone if it can’t adapt them smartly.
“One Angry Fuschbau” doesn’t quite recapture the same energy that “Season of the Hexenbiest” promised, but it’s a definite step up over the last few weeks for many reasons. There are a lot of things happening in this episode—almost too many to make it feel structurally sound—and the majority of what’s happening are events that need to happen if we want to move onto something stronger. And more importantly, after three bleak and violent episodes that fixated on serial killer Wesen, this is probably the most fun an episode of Grimm’s ever been, one that takes the show’s stronger elements and sets them loose in a good old fashioned caper.
What’s especially fun about this is that at the start of the episode there’s no indication it’ll be as lively as it is. Rosalee’s been selected for jury duty in the case of a hot-tempered businessman who murdered his wife six months ago, a case that seems like an open-and-shut affair thanks to multiple witnesses and the prosecuting skills of District Attorney Lauren Castro (who we first met back in “To Protect And Serve Man”). The case is complicated though by the fact that the defense attorney Brad Kellogg is a Ziegevolk, the goat-like Wesen introduced in “Lonelyhearts,” and he’s found a more profitable use for his pheromone powers than keeping a sex dungeon. With a wave of his hand and a smarmy delivery he’s able to cloud the minds of the jury, the witnesses and even Officer Wu—but not so much Monroe, who witnesses the smoking gun when he sees Kellogg swallow a toad in the bathroom.
The focus on a crime where the suspect’s already in custody makes for a nice change of pace from the usual investigations, but more encouraging is the fact that it employs a Wesen that the show’s already established. Too often, it seems the writers of Grimm feel like they need to introduce a new Wesen every episode, and the more new ones they introduce the more it feels like they’re trying too hard to top themselves. This has worked to the show’s detriment especially in recent weeks, as the Jinnamuru Xunte and Fuchsteufelwild came across as far too outlandish for the show’s universe, a decision that also wasn’t helped by some unintentionally hilarious CGI. At this point the show’s introduced over 40 different types of Wesen, and the installments where it takes advantage of this stocked bench are increasingly turning out to be the better episodes. Here, what works is that we already know what the Ziegevolk can do, and the episode can provide a new visually interesting interpretation of those abilities by showing two different versions of events: one where the witness tells their story, and one where Kellogg is able to subtly tweak their memories.
Once Nick, Hank and Monroe are able to get Rosalee alone and enlighten her as to the truth, they hatch a plan to disable his abilities, and it’s here the episode really takes off. Grimm’s primary achievement in its second season has been connecting these four together as a team—their dinner scene a few weeks ago was a wonderful moment—and it’s terrific to see them all collaborating in a plot to obtain Kellogg’s sweat, a key ingredient in a concoction to disable his abilities. Monroe gets to play monster again by “attacking” him in the street, sending him running while Nick and Hank show up to “enforce” the law. In a particularly delightful twist, they even recruit Bud the Eisbeiber to play a part in the charade, picking up the terrified Kellogg and offering him a handkerchief to obtain the key ingredient.
The second stage of the caper is, if possible, even more fun. As the concoction has to be injected into the toad before Kellogg eats it, they have to sneak into his hotel room, a feat accomplished by having Nick and Hank interrogate him about the “attack” as Monroe takes his briefcase into the other room. The result turns out to be much funnier than Grimm usually allows itself to be, producing a cringing comedy of misdirection as the detectives distract Kellogg with increasingly asinine questions (“Could you describe him?” “The man who attacked me?” “No, the man who picked you up”) while just over his shoulder, Monroe leaps to grab the escaped toad and tries not to be noticed. And the fact that there were two toads present both allows Silas Weir Mitchell to play increasing levels of frustration, and builds up the uncertainty leading to the verdict to legitimate levels.
The moment after the trial where Nick and company are toasting a successful plan—and the increasing horror on Kellogg’s face when he comes to the spice shop for help and unwittingly realizes the depth of the conspiracy laid out in front of him—was satisfying in a way that little of what happened in the last three weeks was. I don’t think the show needs to become a supernatural The Sting every week, but it’s worth remembering that the show’s inherent darkness could stand to be balanced by more than just a steady stream of Monroe quips.
An established Wesen means that a research session at Aunt Marie’s Magic Trailer isn’t necessary, but that doesn’t mean the trailer doesn’t play a big part in the episode’s events. Nick finally acquiesces to allow Juliette to see the trailer—or rather persuades Monroe to show Juliette the trailer, a move that probably costs him a few friend points. Once inside she starts to connect the setting with some of her visions of Nick, a thought process that soon turns into flashbacks of when Nick excitedly explained his actions as a Grimm to her. (Less fortunate was that those flashbacks reminded me of how bad David Giuntoli was in the first season finale, a serious explanation quickly devolving into fanboy frenzy.) And the flashbacks begin to turn into even more serious audio/visual hallucinations, flashes of her life with Nick now intruding on her daily life at almost schizophrenic levels.
It’s an unsettling effect to be sure, but put up against the teamwork of the episode’s caper it only further heightens the unfortunate truth that Juliette has no place on this show any longer. She’s not part of Nick’s group, and it’s hard to see how she’d fit in with their dynamic even if she does get her memories back; and aside from scattered dreams her relationship with Renard appears to have been mostly discarded on both their parts. Grimm’s been struggling to find something for her to do pretty much all season, and this is yet another step in a plot that feels increasingly irrelevant to any of the things the show does well. The elderly woman from “La Llorona” stops by to offer her some encouragement with cryptic statements like “You are standing on the border between two worlds: darkness and light,” but her promises that Juliette’s journey has only begun can’t leave anyone feeling good.
And time spent on Juliette also distracts from the power struggles of the Seven Houses, which receives only a few brief scenes this week. Renard provides Nick and Hank information about the Verrat operative he killed last week, ostensibly to help keep them on their guard but almost certainly designed to rebuild some of the trust that he’s lost. (Which, by their reactions, doesn’t seem to have worked as well as he’d like.) And across the Atlantic, Adalind’s returned to Eric without the key, but has given him the motivation to visit his brother personally—a move that would be welcome, as James Frain’s been mostly off on his own show in his scattered appearances. I was disappointed the show chose to move away from the direction I assumed it was going in “Season of the Hexenbiest” by turning Adalind into a Big Bad, so hopefully she’ll tag along with Eric to cause more mischief in Portland, rather than continuing to only play a medieval power game with the contents of her uterus.
If Eric and Adalind do come to Portland in the near future, that conflict may not live up to the hopes I had for it after the midseason finale, but I am at least encouraged that whatever they bring with them it will be fun to watch Nick’s group counter. In terms of mythology “One Angry Fuschbau” is more of a collection of plot threads than a cohesive episode, but more importantly it’s an episode that reassures me the show knows what strengths it has and can apply them when it wants to.
- This Week in Portland: Kellogg is clearly used to four-star accommodations, as he’s staying at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland. And while Monroe putting the courthouse on Sixth would indicate it’s the Pioneer Courthouse, the exterior is that of the Mark Hatfield U.S. Courthouse over on Third.
- The epigram this week comes from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Garden of Paradise,” a cheery little tale that about a prince that ends with Death himself promising to “put him in a black coffin, lift it on my head, and fly upward to the star.”
- While I do think it’s good the show knows it has a pool of Wesen to draw from, I do think it runs the risk of overusing them. The husband and wife in the case were revealed early to be a Löwen and a Mauzhertz, and the story could have gotten away with having one or both of them just being human.
- It’s always fun to see Bud, and even more fun to see him working directly with our central group. He even managed to trump Monroe this week in terms of most flustered line delivery when trying to get the handkerchief back: “My wife gave it to me as a birthday present last year. For Christmas.” David Greenwalt and company saw that Bree Turner and Claire Coffee deserved to be series regulars, and I hope soon they give the same consideration to Danny Bruno, because he’s delightful.
- Almost lost in the multitude of plot points this week: Nick receives a cryptic email from his mother: “Sorry to be off the radar for so long. I miss you, always will. I plan to spend the money wisely.” Nick deduces that she’s referring to the Coins of Zakynthos, and if she wants to do the right thing, she’ll dump those goddamned magic Greek coins in the ocean so Grimm never has to mention them again.
- Monroe continues to be the best, between his hesitant replies to Juliette’s reactions in the trailer (“That’s a really good question, and it deserves a really good answer”) and his frustration over having to take a gamble (“Two toads… one dose. Seriously?”). And while the show loves to play him for laughs, it never forgets the beast behind the man, as he points out to Nick when the latter intervenes after Kellogg’s outburst: “He attacked Rosalee. You just saved his life.”
- Rosalee’s term for their concoction—“pheromone vasectomy”—is one of my new favorite phrases. Shame there’s almost no context to use it in, other than as a psychedelic/alternative rock band name.
- As always, thanks to Kevin for letting me check in on one of my favorite shows to talk about. I’m sorry I had to take another of the season’s better episodes from him, here’s hoping next week continues the upward swing.