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Grimm’s all about the devil in disguise—or vice versa

Brady Romberg (NBC)
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There’s a piece of good news to kick off tonight’s review, as earlier this week Grimm got picked up for a sixth season. It’s a renewal that doesn’t come as a surprise, as the show continues to do the work of holding down Friday nights better than anything else NBC’s tried there in recent memory. Its ratings have been down this year, but in these end times of ratings no show’s immune to that erosion, and more crucially they’ve remained in a consistent range from week to week. As such, Team Grimm gets at least one more year to engage in all sorts of monster-hunting and madness in the general Portland area, and barring an unexpected cast change it’ll keep operating with the same tightly-knit ensemble.

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“The Believer” is a good episode for Grimm to air in the week of its renewal, because it makes a good case for the show’s continued existence. While another case-of-the-week installment, it’s one that has the most thematically interesting case they’ve featured in weeks, one that manages to ask some interesting questions even if it stumbles in providing the answers. And its ties to the show’s mythology are better handled than they’ve been in recent weeks, introducing more intrigue and even levity to a season arc that could do with more of it.

What makes this week’s crime interesting is that for the first time in a while it’s wesen-adjacent rather than wesen-committed. A revival preacher named Dwight Eleazar (William Mapother, otherwise known as Ethan Rom of Lost and Delroy of Justified) brings his act to Portland, an act that includes him using his woge to take on a Satanic air and allegedly absorb the sins of his congregation. It’s a plot that borrows from past episodes like “The Show Must Go On” and “A Reptile Dysfunction,” featuring wesen who are using their woge abilities on normal humans to great effect. It’s a plot that I expect we’ll see even more of as time goes on, now that the Wesen Council isn’t around to enforce the Gesetzbuch Ehrenkodex, a reminder of the fact that a lot of wesen who have stayed in the shadows for years may feel less inclined to stay there with the threat of retribution taken away.

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Walter Perez, Melinda Page Hamilton (NBC)

This narrative has something important that the others lacked though, in that for once the wesen appears to be working on the side of the angels. Mapother’s performance gives Eleazar a definite core of sincerity, both in his preaching and his rationalization to Nick once the latter reveals himself as a Grimm. He’s not doing this for mercenary reasons, he genuinely seems to want to help his parishioners, viewing his woge as nothing more than the performance of the faith healer or snake handler. In a season where a vast wesen conspiracy is controlling the bulk of the action, a little goodness is compelling—compelling enough that Team Grimm appears reluctant to take much action against him.

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The human side of the equation is less interesting, however, as a local congregation feels the devil needs to be forcefully driven out. While there’s an interesting idea in this crisis of faith, in execution the Church of the Word of God is too heavy-handed in their motivations, stating their intentions with their first appearance and being largely bland in their zealotry. A potentially interesting shade exists with the idea that the church’s leader (Melinda Page Hamilton, Anna Draper of Mad Men) was married to Eleazar, but Grimm doesn’t do anything interesting with it, as she’s largely one-dimensional in how she blames the devil for his infidelity and never betrays an iota of anger. (And even for a show that’s never been particularly subtle about naming its bit players, “Joan Vark” is still groaningly obvious.) In a similar vein, the bodyguard who goes on to betray Eleazar changes his position so quickly—doubting his decision the second after he makes it and hanging himself as soon as he’s alone—that his character is reduced to nothing more than plot instigator.

Against these clods, Eleazar may be overpowered but he still winds up getting the last laugh. He’s strapped to a pentagram for an exorcism, one that only leads the congregation to be privy to his becoming the great red dragon (no, not that one). He’s able to take a few pokers to the chest and still break from his bonds, only dissuaded by the appearance of Team Grimm to force him back to human form. And his final words to reassure Joan that she did in fact drive the devil out of him is a reinforcement of the goodness that he presented to Nick and Hank earlier, turning the other cheek to his killer. It makes for a melancholy ending to the story, Eleazar using his gift one last time to remove the guilt of those around him. If only we were able to connect more with those around him, this plot would have been upper-tier.

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Russell Hornsby (NBC)

If Eleazar was a master of showing two different faces to the world, Eve is leading the charge on that front. She shows up at the spice shop to reinforce yet again her transformation from Eve, which checks off another box on her Team Grimm reunion scorecard by giving Rosalee her first glimpse of the operative formerly known as Juliette. (A glimpse that dispelled any chance the normally empathetic Rosalee would try to redeem her former maid of honor, thanks to an emphatic declaration: “That is definitely not Juliette. Not the good one, or the bad one.”) And her Eveard form gets its first field test as Renard’s mayoral race is kicking up to the televised debate stage, and she decides it’s time to have her own conversation with Rachel.

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While in practice this is an important move for the Black Claw/Hadrian’s Wall conflict, it’s honestly more rewarding for the degree of humor it inserts into this notably dark storyline. An early interaction between Monroe and Eve is the first instance we’ve seen of the latter’s unemotional nature being played for laughs (Monroe on the shapeshifting: “Not to mention he’s got other anatomical…” Eve: “It hurts”), and for the first time her unflappable nature is cracked when she realizes where things are with Rachel. Sasha Roiz, so often asked to play the same beats of cryptic or conflicted, gets to have some fun with Eveard’s stilted speech and dumbfounded stare once Rachel takes charge—and in the aftermath where he/she has to deal with the new anatomy not working as well as expected. The door is open now for some wacky misunderstandings, and Grimm could do with a little more wackiness.

“The Believer” also gets some points by returning to the origins of the Splinter of Destiny, which remains buried in the tunnels but not forgotten. Monroe draws on an old friend and a cock-and-bull story about inheriting the Splinter’s wrappings from Uncle Felix, and some cutting-edge technology is applied to bring out the old writings. The final translation—dangerous miracle—is one that only heightens the mystery and concern over what they brought back from Germany. So much time was spent thinking that they were after a treasure that was being hidden, yet the question was never asked if this was something buried for a more urgent reason. For a show that so often buries its plots, it’s encouraging that the Splinter remains in everyone’s mind. Here’s hoping that the knowledge of a sixth season doesn’t give them an excuse to postpone any further developments.

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Stray observations:

  • This Week In Portland: The Alberta Rose Theater, also appearing in the most recent season of Portlandia, plays the part of the Church of the Word of God. Additionally, the moderator of the Portland mayor debate is real-life Portland KGW news anchor Brenda Braxton.
  • This Week’s Epigram: Our second Oscar Wilde quote in four weeks, after “Lycanthropia” went to the same well. I’m a big Wilde fan, so I say keep them coming.
  • Know Your Wesen: A largely wesen-light episode tonight, though Rachel’s Löwen form makes an appearance again, and Nick and Adalind share some words about Zauberbiests.
  • One thing that remains unexplained: why does this church need gold coins to pay off its traitors? Whatever happened to the big stack of money? (Related, I’m impressed that the writers didn’t decide to pay off Mark with 30 pieces of silver.)
  • The potential rise of the Wu-wolf gets some more exposure this week as he’s experiencing blurred vision and neck spasms. Also to settle some debate in the comments, Wu-wolf is the proper terminology we’ll be using going forward, as going from the Old English/Germanic calling him a were-Wu implies that he’s a man turning into a Wu.
  • Nick walks Monroe and Rosalee through the steps of the Dixon assassination, adding yet another reiteration of this story to the stack I complained about last week.
  • “So what do we think? Are we voting for him?” Every week, Monroe continues to be the best. May Silas Weir Mitchell never depart Grimm, for the show will lose its spirit if it does.
  • “Do you remember when Adalind became me and I became Adalind?” “I’m pretty sure none of us are ever gonna be able to unremember that.”
  • “I’m not sure he’d make a good mayor, considering what I know about him.” “That and he’s a Zauberbiest.” “Not really known for their altruism.”
  • “Well, none of us get out of here alive.”
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