Once upon a time, on a far-off network called NBC, there premiered a little show called Grimm. Debuting to lukewarm reviews, winding up in the number-two position of modernized fairy tale twists thanks to Once Upon A Time’s breakout success, and scheduled with a combination of network and timeslot not known for longevity, it seemed one of the easiest cancellation bets for the 2011 season. However, something strange and wonderful happened to that show: it not only survived but it thrived. It built a devoted fan base, maintained its ratings for years at a level its network could be happy about, and turned into a reliable bedrock on a night that long lacked for inconsistency. And tonight it gets a happy ending, closing after six seasons and 123 episodes, and ending its tenure as NBC’s second-longest currently airing drama.
I’ve talked many times about Grimm’s unlikely success and the reasons for that success, so I won’t belabor those arguments again. Instead, what’s worth noting is that how consistent Grimm remained throughout its entire end, never truly going off the rails. It jumped those rails more than a few times—subplots getting messy, a tedious amnesia arc, those goddamned magic Greek coins—but those failings never broke the show. It had the ability to keep moving, thanks to a near-boundless imagination for new monsters and a cast of characters that only became more comfortable the longer they served together. It countered weak central narratives with strong wesen of the week and vice versa, doing enough right that its flaws could be excused and even in the right circumstances enjoyed.
That consistency means that Grimm didn’t limp to the finish. While the delayed rollout of the Other Place kept the season from being as unified as prior years, and the apocalyptic prophecy wound up being an flimsy justification for where we ended up, season six exhibited a lot of the things Grimm did well. On an episodic base it was full of standouts, hitting strong emotional beats in “El Cuegle” and “The Son Also Rises” and reaching comedic heights with “Blind Love” and “Oh Captain, My Captain.” (I’m even prepared to be kinder to “The Seven Year Itch” in retrospect.) From the ambitious CGI to the increasingly tight group bonds to the introduction of other worlds than these, there was a definite sense of a show knowing this was its last go-around, choosing to enjoy said go-around to the fullest.
“The End” is a series finale that definitely has that mood of a last go-around to it, the feeling that there’s nothing to be gained by holding back. A literal devil walking the earth for ultimate power, a nigh nuclear poison to be brewed that takes all their combined talents, and the intervention of Grimms from beyond the grave—all of it is on display here. Even though there are some quibbles, they’re quibbles that are as much a part of the Grimm experience as the witticisms and monsters.
What isn’t a part of Grimm is the tendency to kill main characters, and “The End” follows the shocking end of “Zerstörer Shrugged” with a regard for characters on part with The Walking Dead. The Splinter of Destiny failing to heal Hank or Wu sets a dark pall from the first minutes, a sense of loss that only gets worse as the episode goes on and Zerstörer picks off Team Grimm one by one in his pursuit of said Splinter. A de-powered Julievette promises she’s not done, and then stabs herself in the stomach minutes later. Renard charges into battle to save Diana and dies while she impassively watches. Adalind yanks the axe out of Zerstörer’s hands with her magic and he buries it in her chest in response. Rosalee and Monroe are bitten by the staff’s snake form and watch the light go out of each others’ eyes. Trubel is strangled in almost offhand fashion for daring to defend the children. For a show that never pulled the trigger on its main cast—or did so and then undid it—it’s a brutal culling, and the regularity of the deaths doesn’t make you any less numb to the next one.
For all the pain that it causes the dying characters, no one takes on the pain more than the one who can’t die. In the early days of Grimm David Giuntoli took a lot of flak as a weak lead for the show, but he grew into the role as the series went on, never its most outstanding player but a sturdy center for more colorful characters like Monroe and Wu to revolve around. “The End” recognizes that his best moments were the times where Nick embraced the darker side of being a Grimm and was willing to skirt the law in favor of fulfilling his duty, and gives him plenty of those. His increasing rage at losing those he loves culminates with a Grimm-on-Grimm brawl as Trubel tries to stop him from handing over the Splinter of Destiny, and it’s somehow even more difficult to watch than the various stabbings.
If the Grimms of the present can’t stop Nick, it falls to the Grimms of the past, as Nick’s mother and aunt materialize to help him do what’s right. Grimm’s never traded on regular guest stars, which makes the return of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Kate Burton a very pleasant surprise. It gives both characters a proper sendoff, a reminder of why they were so feared—no ignoble off-screen death for Kelly and no cancer rendering Aunt Marie an invalid. Watching Nick stride forward bracketed by his mother and aunt is an undeniably badass scene, enough that their cracking of Zerstörer’s invincible veneer feels all but inevitable.
And then, once this pyrrhic victory occurs, magic happens—a form of retconjuration as it were, as Zerstörer’s ashes and his staff combine to draw Nick into a portal. Or rather, back into a portal, as it throws him through the same portal that took him from the Other Place to Monroe’s living room, when he and Julievette escaped the first time. This second time Zerstörer doesn’t come through, the portal is sealed, and Nick gets the chance to hug a bunch of confused people and deliver a corny speech about just how much they all mean to him.
This is a move that I suspect will be controversial, given that a jump back in time resetting the bad events is far ahead of the magic that’s been seen before and only a few degrees removed from that laziest of storytelling choices “It was all a dream.” On balance though, it’s a move that that needed to happen. Yes, Grimm could have ended with Nick left alone, he and Trubel leaving Portland forever to continue their fight on the road. But to do so would break the show’s long-standing consistency, running antithetical to everything we’ve seen. This was a show that lived on the strength of its ensemble, and to whittle that ensemble to noting after six years of keeping it together would be worlds more infuriating. “The End” may cheat but its cheating gets the best of both worlds, the raw grief of the team losing these members and the joy when they get them back.
The proof of how important these connections were also lies in the fact that the best scene of the episode isn’t any of those poignant deaths, but the moment where this unlike team bonds together to brew their nuclear option poison. Nick, Monroe, and Adalind lock hands, Renard drives a blade through said hands with some assistance from Trubel, and Rosalee yells for them to keep it together. (Although with three friends dead and counting, she could also be yelling it to herself.) It emphasizes how much they’ve come to need and rely on each other, and the fact that the poison proves utterly incapable of disarming Zerstörer doesn’t affect the efficacy of that scene in any way.
Hand in hand with that move is one of the central arcs of the series. As corny as the speech that Nick makes to Team Grimm in the end, it reinforces the most notable part of his Grimm tenure, the way that he found a way to break the mold of these lonely crusades. He didn’t abandon his previous life but found a way to mesh it with his new one, bringing his human allies Hank and Wu into the fold. He approached his Grimm duties with a more pragmatic treatment, building heretofore unseen bonds with wesen like Monroe and Rosalee. Renard and Adalind were antagonists, and rather than killing them he found ways to collaborate and even fall in love with one of them. (No, not Renard, though I know those slashfics have to exist.) While Grimm didn’t reach the heights of predecessors Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel, like those shows it understood full well the importance of the makeshift family to storytelling and that fighting the end of the world is better done as a whole.
The reinforcement of both family ties and the Grimm legacy also gets a delightful coda in the closing scene. With all the attention to Diana’s destiny, the fact that Kelly’s been born to a destiny of his own slipped under the radar. Cut to 20 years later, and he’s come into his own and continuing the family tradition: a fully stocked and high-tech Magic Trailer 2.0, Zerstörer’s staff as his weapon of choice, his half-sister Diana and Monrosalee’s litter of triplets along for the ride as Team Grimm: The Next Generation. As the story we’ve watched for six seasons ends, it leaves us with a sense that we only reached the end of a volume, and the adventure continues in books yet to be written.
And that feels like the right way to end. For all of the ways that Grimm leaned into the darkness of the fairy tales it built on, it was also a show that didn’t stay mired in the mood its title promised, one that retained its sense of humor and wanted the best for those at the center of it. Leaning into that spirit is what allowed Grimm’s many imperfections to become part of its charm, to weather the rising tide of the Peak TV era and NBC’s near-constant implosions, to retain its ensemble and its aesthetic and produce six seasons of overall solid genre fare. By any standards, that’s a story that earned a happy ending.
Episode grade: A-
Season grade: B+
Series grade: B+
- This Week In Portland: No real time spent in the city this week, moving between familiar interior environments. Though the way the weather changes in the third act, from pitch black to daylight to storm clouds, isn’t far from the norm of mercurial Oregon weather.
- This Week’s Epigram: “Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.” We close on the Biblical note of Psalm 23:4. Apropos given just how much time in “The End” is spent in the valley of the shadow of death.
- Know Your Wesen: Nothing for a closing installment, so let’s just take a moment to recognize how many different wesen Grimm was able to come up with in its lifespan. Some worked better than others (we shall not speak of their take on Rumpelstiltskin) but that’s still a damn impressive body of work.
- So, Adalind’s wedding ring turned out to be another plot swept under the rug, as Nick removes it from her dead body and then it’s gone from her fingers in the new timeline. A shame, as between its early mention and the kids being so tied to Zerstörer, you’d think it could be used as a weapon to bring him down.
- It would’ve been nice to see Bud one last time, but it was already an overcrowded finale and we did get some good Danny Bruno moments in the first few episodes. Plus, introducing Bud in this context would’ve likely meant Zerstörer would have killed him, and no viewer could have dealt with seeing that.
- Also disappointing that ghost Meisner doesn’t reappear, particularly when Trubel makes it clear she still blames Renard for his death. I wonder how she’ll react if he tells her about the haunt of hilarious accents.
- Trubel is Nick’s third cousin on his mother’s side. Glad to see that cleared up, and for Trubel to get some genuine family ties beyond just being adopted into Team Grimm.
- Despite the clear emotion as Nick smashed through the spice shop in the wake of Julievette’s death, all I could think was “I hope he plans to pay for that.” (He did pay for Monroe’s window.)
- “It’s sort of an Achilles heel deal.”
- “Some would say it’s just a myth, legend, or fairy tale. But I know it’s true.”
- Series MVP: No contest here. Even in the rough early days Silas Weir Mitchell was the reason to stick with Grimm, and he only got better as time went on. Monroe was funny, he was intellectual, he was complicated, and he helped create the show’s best romance in Monrosalee. And he always landed even the smallest moments, as his reaction to the news of Hank and Wu’s death brings the pain home even more than Nick’s primal screams. In a series that introduced over a hundred wesen, its first one remained their best creation.
- Most Improved Character: Claire Coffee was sadly misused for half of the series, with Adalind Schade stranded in various European environments away from the rest of the cast and never hitting the Big Bad heights that were teased in season two. In the latter half of the series though, her journey from Renard’s scorned henchwoman to fiercely protective mother made for a much more interesting character development, and they finally brought her back into the fold to everyone’s benefit.
- Best Season: I’d give the nod to season five. Between the scale of Black Claw as a threat and the fact that all the main characters were finally in the know and involved with each other, there’s a consistency and involvement earlier seasons lacked.
- Best One-Off Wesen: A lot of competition here, but La Llrona remains one that stuck with me even years later, proving that that for all the diaries and wesen contacts Nick obtained some mysteries still defied explanation.
- Best Big Bad: Grimm leaned more towards organizational Big Bads rather than individuals, Zerstörer excepted. The royals were inconsistently depicted, and while Black Claw had the world domination aim going for it, the Wesenrein from season four edge them out for their personal touch. Their fascist targeting of Monroe and Rosalee cut close to the heart of the Team Grimm family, and was also uncomfortably relevant to the real world.
- Most Glaringly Dropped Plotline: So, whatever happened with that whole royal family thing? Is King Alexis Denisof just no longer interested in Portland and whatever mess is going on over there? (Please, please offer your suggestions for others in the comments.)
Postscript: And with that, we come to the end of our story. Grimm was an important show to me, a show that premiered in my adopted hometown of Portland at the same time I was taking steps to enter the world of television criticism. It’s been entwined with my critical development since the beginning—filling in for the occasional early episode, taking over the beat from Kevin McFarland in season four, seeing it through to the end. Thank you all so much for reading over the years, for providing the community and discussion and kind words that overcame all my reservations about working long and late on Friday nights. You readers are the reason this coverage came back, and why it remained on the site until the end. I’m going to miss talking about this show with you guys. Thanks again.