David Giuntoli (Image: NBC)

The announcement that the sixth season of Grimm would be its final season is a move that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. NBC’s managed to dig itself out of the hole it was in when the show first premiered, and it no longer has the same pressing need to retain its old yet steady performers. And given how long Grimm has carried the network’s weight on Friday night and the loyal fanbase it’s built over the years, it stands to reason NBC would give David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf the courtesy of letting them know it’s the ending, and let the show finish on its own terms.

Exactly what those terms are is an open question. For five seasons now Grimm has found a way to exist equally in the realms of episodic procedural and serialized drama, flitting between them but never committing to both. It’s a show that’s capable of making big strides when it wants to, and one that also seems to delight in finding a way to reset from those strides. There’s never been a sense that Grimm is building to a major, long-gestating conclusion—if anything it feels like the writers have made it all up as they went along. That’s all well and good, and frequently a lot of fun on a weekly basis, but it doesn’t provide a picture of how Grimm ends. Will the show bend over backwards to resolve its umpteen plot threads, or will it burn them all away to produce a glorious and centered final season?

“Fugitive” doesn’t provide an answer to the question right away, but that’s not a big surprise since Grimm’s season premieres are rarely when the show puts its best foot/paw/wing forward. The show’s predilection for the explosive finale means they always begin a new year picking through the shrapnel, and “The Beginning Of The End” left even more shrapnel than usual. The shattering of Hadrian’s Wall and Black Claw, Diana’s ability to kill off enemies with the power of her mind, and twin resurrections by the Splinter of Destiny are all big developments, and Team Grimm is battered around by all of them. The episode is a bit bowed by its obligation to introduce a new status quo, especially with the knowledge of an end date that means it could be the last one they ever do.

Sasha Roiz (Image: NBC)

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It’s fairly easy for Grimm to locate at least part of this new status quo, as Renard’s ultra-opportunist mind decides to capitalize on the power void and secure his mayoral authority by eliminating Nick. On paper, it makes perfect sense why Renard would become the final season’s Big Bad. He’s always been kept at arms’ length by the rest of Team Grimm with relationships that are uneasy truces at best, so his willingness to burn those relationships feels less contrived than a natural result of the distance. Greenwalt and Kouf also rely on Renard’s established character qualities to make his actions seem equal parts pragmatic and palliative, rather than simply malicious. Pinning events on Nick clears up a lot of questions, and also removes a reminder of a few actions he’d rather not think about—thoughts driven home by regular hallucinations of bloody hands and faces.

Raising the stakes of Renard’s power means the team spends much of its time on the run, which unfortunately makes the premiere a largely joyless episode of Grimm. (Monroe says it best, as he so often does, when Rosalee asks him to keep their pregnancy under wraps for now: “Oh. I guess it’s not really the time or the the place for anything remotely happy.”) There’s no real problem-solving, only scrambling, which even if happening by narrative design isn’t a lot of fun to watch. Much of the action is spent on our heroes running through darkened tunnels, trading rushed phone calls, or huddling around a table discussing magical artifacts. Moments of levity do exist—Danny Bruno’s welcome return as the terminally nervous Bud, Rosalee chopping off a corpse’s arm as a “not that complicated” way to break a curse—but they’re few in number and don’t keep the endeavor from feeling disjointed.

Reggie Lee, Russell Hornsby (Image: NBC)

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Some of that disjointed nature comes from the fact that the Splinter of Destiny, having brought Nick back from the dead, has to take up the majority of their focus that isn’t devoted to survival. Grimm spent so long treating the item as a MacGuffin even before they knew what it was, and now that it’s in the picture they can’t stop investing it with otherworldly abilities. There’s talk of it cleansing souls, enabling some sort of passage between life and death, and a bunch of weird arcane symbols that manifest on its cloth cover to spell out the latest mystery. Even if some of those mysteries are intriguing, the lack of restraint means it’s feeling increasingly overpowered, running the risk of either taking over the show completely. All anyone can say about it is that they don’t know what it is or they think it’s dangerous, a vagueness that doesn’t exactly make for compelling television.

And of course, the Splinter also jolts some controversy by bringing Eve back from the dead, only it’s an Eve who seems closer to Juliette territory. The choice to settle on this hybrid of the two—a “Julievette” as it were—is a weak middle ground for the show, a further walking back of what at the time was Grimm’s most shocking and effective development. Grimm’s loyalty to its central cast is in some ways an endearing trait, but it’s also kept it from some of the heights of Greenwalt’s previous show Angel, a show that understood the lasting impact of death. Thankfully “Fugitive” doesn’t make Julievette an unwelcome presence in the early going, opting to catch her up in the chaos rather than asking too many questions about her mindset, and also trapping her in the series’ most otherworldly sequence to date when she’s pulled between life and death. And thankfully her experiences are also leading her to focus on the Splinter rather than any connection with Nick, as that’s a love triangle none of us need.

The other locus of power that Grimm now has to deal with in full is Diana. Now with two kills to her name and her powers showing no signs of limitations, it’s beginning to seem that the series could potentially end with her wishing everyone right into the cornfield. Both Renard and Adalind—the latter still frustratingly confined to Renard’s mansion, isolating Claire Coffee from the majority of the cast—are uncomfortably aware of her power and unable to do anything about it. Like the Splinter, Diana has the impression of being kept in the hypothetical realm and speculated on for so long that the writers seem obligated to make her overpowered.

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“Fugitive” is clearly the first half of a two-parter given its cliffhanger ending, so final judgment will have to wait until next week’s episode. What it does make clear though is that the often messy storytelling of Grimm will be difficult to cohere together into a satisfying ending. And that’s not even touching on everything else they could call back to: the other surviving Grimm, the last member of the Wesen Council, King Viktor and the entire royal family, or any number of one-off escaped baddies that might return for a last hurrah. The scattered nature of Grimm is an oft-endearing thing, the jury’s still out on whether that trait will get in the way of it producing a satisfying conclusion.

Stray observations:

  • We’re back everyone! You asked for it and we’re delivering, as The A.V. Club will give full coverage to Grimm’s final season. Looking forward to finishing the ride with the most loyal group of readers a critic like me could ask for.
  • This Week In Portland: We have actual addresses for the Grimm cast! The Spice Shop’s Old Town/Chinatown location is confirmed, and Monroe and Rosalee’s house confirms long-held suspicions by being set in Northeast Portland. (Both are set on fictional streets, but they get the region correct.) And continuing its efforts to frustrate those who actually live in Portland, it plays loose with real-world geography. Wu’s apartment building was shown in Northwest but is located in Southeast, and Nick’s loft is in Northwest Industrial despite a rooftop view that clearly places it in Southeast.
  • This Week’s Epigram: “Maybe this world is another planet’s hell.” Aldous Huxley sets an appropriately bleak tone for the final season.
  • Monroe idly muses that Portland may not be the best place to raise a family, potential hints of how the show may divide its characters in the end.
  • Speaking of Monroe, Silas Weir Mitchell remains delightful in his enthusiasm for even the strangest things. At some point I want Monroe to try summarizing everything that has happened in Grimm up to this point, bouncing back and forth between plot points with that vaguely perplexed look on his face.
  • Does it not occur to Hank that using a police station landline to conspire against his superior isn’t the best of plans?
  • “You’re not a ghost, are you?” “I hope not.”
  • “If they’re going to shoot one of us, it’s going to be in front of the other! … That didn’t come out right.”
  • “How do we stop that son of a bitch?” “There’s always a bullet? Sort of half-joking.” “Sort of half-not.”

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