The last thing Grimm needs to add is more subplots. I haven’t wondered at any point this season whether there should be more going on in the show, that the story feels too thin, or that there aren’t enough characters across the Wesen world that seems to only consist of Portland and Vienna. But “Red Menace” kicks of Grimm’s 2014 by heaping on another multi-episode arc, where Juliette’s longtime friend—who’s never been seen or heard from before—Alicia finally leaves her violently abusive husband, and decamps to Portland.
Once there, to add the supernatural wrinkle, Nick discovers that a woman he’s known for a long time—and presumably Juliette has known for even longer—is actually Wesen, a Fuchsbau by the look of it. That’s an intriguing concept for Grimm to play around with: old friends or acquaintances turning out to be Wesen and surprising Nick. But at this point in the season, it feels like an unwise overload designed to give Juliette agency in something involving Wesen when she could much more easily help out with other cases.
So there’s the matter of what will happen when the boyfriend eventually tracks them down—which he does, at the end of the episode, revealing he’s Wesen as well, meaning Nick and Juliette will grapple with something more unusual than a friend’s trauma. I must confess that I don’t have an eagle eye when it comes to identifying Wesen when they woge out on the show. Unless it’s identical to Monroe, I don’t automatically think Blutbad. The same goes for Rosalee and a Fuchsbau. So all I can say for sure is that the husband looks menacing, and that Nick not telling Juliette about her friend being Wesen seems to backpedal needlessly on the progress they’ve made over the past season.
The front half of this episode is so convoluted, tossing in a scene with Sean and Adalind in Vienna and one with Hank asking out his physical therapist, who will likely develop into another recurring character. That café scene in Vienna hints at everything that’s going on that isn’t here: the Verrat, the rebels Renard has tossed his chips in with, the gypsy woman taking Adalind’s child, Alexis Denisof’s new royal (still confined to mere minutes onscreen over nine episodes). And then, before there’s any chance for more to happen with all of that impending plot in Europe, Sean is back in Portland to take charge of his precinct, because otherwise he’d be gone for an unseemly amount of time.
But it’s not all hectic. “Red Menace” opens with an excellent callback to the pilot of the series with that opening scene set to Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs “Little Red Riding Hood” (I think I prefer the 999 cover of it, but I’m not totally sure). But seriously—what is the point or significance of a throwback to the first episode of the series in this context? It has absolutely nothing to do with anything else that happens in the episode, in the arc of the season. It’s just a little gag for the viewers who’ve been watching since the beginning, and referencing a rather poor first foray into this world doesn’t really engender a lot of goodwill. It makes me think nobody on the writing staff has any idea why they’re doing anything other than filling time. I’m nitpicking a red herring that I actually enjoyed—Giuntoli delivering the “Good morning” punchline was great—but other than Juliette noting that Nick isn’t sweating, which ties into his new super-Grimm low heart-rate powers, there’s no reason for it to be here.
Still, once the case of the week takes over, “Red Menace” is a whole lot of fun. Though there’s a lot of testosterone involved, watching Nick, Hank, and Renard work together through different channels to investigate the case of a Koschei, a creature of Slavic mythology known for immortality, and typically an antagonist who steals the hero’s wife. Knowing that, I was dreading another Juliette kidnapping plot.
What I like so much about how Grimm uses the creature is that the episode doesn’t go for some kind of protracted version of hunting for the hidden soul of a villainous Koschei. (Essentially the way one would kill the creature has been borrowed by a bunch of different authors, perhaps most well-known being J.K. Rowling with the concept of horcruxes.) Instead, Boris is an adulterous former hitman who now attempts to cleanse his past sins by magically healing others. He accepts the pain of others, which over time will kill him—and again, it’s unclear why the show deviates from the traditional depiction of the mythical creature, but I liked the original twist.
The final bit of plot shuffling is somewhat unnecessary hat shuffling. Instead of the telegraphed jealous wife, who turns out to be a red herring, the woman after Boris is in fact the maid he’s been sleeping with, whose brother was the earlier assassin. The Koschei killed her father while he was still working as a hitman, and to prove he’s a changed man, sacrifices himself to heal the girl. It’s a neat bow on the story, but nothing more. As a one-off episodic plot, this is one of the more inventive twists on a fairy tale the show has come up with in its entire run. But as a piece of the continuing story over the course of the season, it offers such a disproportionate amount of teasing larger events in the future while adding even more new ongoing plots. That’s not a good sing for the rest of the season, as it’s unclear which elements are a priority to be solved quickly, which may play out by the end of the season, and which will drag on even further without definitive answers.
- Monroe is barely in this episode. That is a problem. Every episode of Grimm is better with more Silas Weir Mitchell. No offense to Sasha Roiz, who’s doing a fine job transitioning from being mysterious and menacing to a tenuous ally, but Monroe adds much-needed levity to the sometimes stuffy and stock police procedural dialogue.
- Some hawkeyed fans noticed that when Nick and Juliette were having “problems” that Nick slept on the couch. Here, there’s a guest bedroom for Alicia to stay in, so somewhere along the way continuity changed and they got an extra bedroom.
- Sharon Leaf’s physical therapist character will recur throughout the rest of the season, since presumably a Dreamgirls cast member doesn’t get sidelined that easily.