In the buildup to season five, several members of the Grimm cast and creative team promised that this season wasn’t going to be like the others, that after the climactic events of “Cry Havoc” the show would be exploring darker stories and different tracks for its characters. And while those kind of pronouncements are common for most shows during their hiatuses, it’s proven to be a correct statement this time around. Season five didn’t lack for ambition, as on the macro level it traded the oft-muddled Royal/Resistance jockeying for a worldwide conspiracy, and on the micro it explored new character dynamics in the wake of Adalind’s pregnancy and Juliette’s “death.” Not everything worked—Grimm’s case of subplot fatigue never fully went away, especially in the mayoral race—but I’d say that if not Grimm’s best season it’s definitely been it’s most interesting.
The fifth season finale adds another level of interest in that “The Beginning Of The End” is the first official two-parter that Grimm’s ever done, leaving aside how you choose to classify its season finale/premiere bridge episodes. Yet despite being twice the length of your normal Grimm, it never feels like it’s padded or dragging its feet, and in fact moves at the quickest pace the show’s ever set. It’s a finale that pays off all the rising tensions of the season and sparks every powder keg that’s left to spark: there’s beatings, gunfire, boiling of blood vessels, magical feuds, two miraculous resurrections, and a little girl with enough power to offset all of it. Alternatively thrilling and horrifying, it’s a worthy cap to an ambitious season, continuing the show’s commitment to not be business as usual.
A large part of why “Beginning” works so well is the way that it turns up the heat on Team Grimm, keeping them on the defensive for the bulk of the episode. The focus on local politics over international events and the semi-regular breaks for monster-of-the-week episodes have diluted some of the Black Claw threat, and this is an episode that proves the danger of their scope. Not only are they smart enough to take advantage of Nick’s decision to gun down two of their agents last week, they have two detectives who can take Hank into custody for the crime, and an entire police precinct who can smugly try to goad Nick into action and woge for good measure. It emphasizes the episode’s prevailing sense of dread, that Team Grimm has fought the battles but lost the war in the process.
Losing the war is a feeling that’s readily apparent as Hadrian’s Wall gets taken down, Zuri’s apprehension last week turned to their advantage as they send a team to purge the government agency’s bunker clean. Grimm smartly uses the move to both show how much better Black Claw is at playing this game, and also pushes the genre needle in the direction of an action movie by including more gunplay than ever seen before and nicely blending it with wesen abilities. And while Team Grimm’s ambivalence toward Hadrian’s Wall means that the agency’s loss isn’t a big emotional hit, it gets those beats thanks to making Meisner the last man standing. While never a main character Meisner was a part of the Grimm universe for the last four years and Damian Puckler always a sturdy presence, so killing him off is a smart way to ramp up the stakes without sacrificing the main ensemble.
The way that he dies also helps push Grimm even deeper into horror territory, as Conrad gets a chance to show off his powers. Grimm’s had a mix of ostensible Big Bads over its lifespan, and Shaun Toub’s made Conrad is a contender for their best. James Frain and Alexis Denisof did their best as Princes Eric and Viktor but could only manage an aloof sense of superiority, and Nico Evers-Swindell’s Kenneth was more active but also more of a blunt force. Conrad is cultured and calculating, and he can back up his machinations with truly horrifying Zauerbiest powers: the traditional Force choke to torture and kill his enemies, a petrifying touch and likely cursed engagement ring to get his point across to a still-petulant Adalind, and a mix of dream logic and threats to try to bend Nick to his will.
Mustered against these forces, our heroes are running more of a guerilla effort. The advantage of the longer running time is that everyone on the team gets a moment to distinguish themselves, and it pays off several of the plot threads running through the season. Tony’s appearance and Monroe’s increasing frustrations get to pay off when Nick decides to introduce the two of them in an interrogation room, and Rosalee’s barely concealed smirk at the sounds neatly mirrors my own. Hank’s keeping up a stoic facade in the wake of Zuri’s betrayal, one that serves him well in the face of being captured and held for supposed interrogation. And when Nick’s in trouble, Wu gets to unleash his were-Wu abilities to take out two cops and then prove his control over said abilities in front of Hank.
Speaking of that trouble, “Beginning” takes Nick to an even further extreme than last week, his normally even demeanor gone in the wake of Renard’s election night celebration and Meisner’s death. The promised confrontation between the two spilled out in one of Grimm’s better choreographed fight scenes, turning the familiar environment of the captain’s office into a battlefield that ends with Nick going out of one of the windows. Last week I talked about how the story was approaching a place where Nick may have to hand in his badge, and fighting his outgoing captain in full view of the precinct and heading to a jail cell certainly seems to put him on that course. At this point Grimm has surrendered so many pieces of its status quo, why not take that element out entirely?
If it’s not a police procedural, it may be turning into an action series, as from Nick’s arrest on the finale is a near-constant influx of fight scenes. Moving from the northern precinct to the Fortress of Grimmitude, Nick and company are on a constant defensive post, laying waste to a horde of crooked cops via guns, blades, and the occasional boiling in their own skin. Directors David Greenwalt and Norberto Barba do a great job keeping the momentum going, building to what’s arguably the show’s best action scene to date when Nick proves himself master of his domain by taking on the entire squad himself. The Grimm abilities are doled out (and occasionally forgotten) on this show, so it’s a treat to see him enter near-Terminator status in the fight, throwing knives and swinging axes and literally coming back to life thanks to Chekov’s Splinter of Destiny in his pocket.
In the end though, it all comes down to Diana. For so long on Grimm various factions have talked about how important she is to any number of causes, and in “Beginning” the full scope of those abilities comes to light. She continually tries to give herself the perfect family with some voodoo dolls of her mother and father, and removes any obstacles to that in a bed sheet suffocation of Rachel that ties Adalind’s paralysis for most unsettling visual of the night. Ambition and greed have always been present in this story, but what Diana is doing comes from a much different place, a child who’s aware of what she can do but not mature enough to understand the consequences.
The greatest trick she manages to pull though is to completely upend the entire arrangement of the show in one fell swoop by getting her father to stab his main backer in the back. (Now that’s what you call ironic.) Renard may try to excuse his behavior to both Meisner and Nick as making the smart decisions, but he’s unequivocally a bad guy in this finale, privy to most of Conrad’s worst decisions and standing by as others die or come close to it. Diana’s move to use him to kill Conrad upends all of that—would he have done it on his own to protect Nick? How does either man read this decision? And what does this mean for the already eternally complicated relationship that exists between the two and Adalind? It asks all the most fascinating questions, which is of course why it has to cut out at that point for a “To be continued…”
At the close of last season, I talked about how one of the greatest things about “Cry Havoc” was that it did so many things that couldn’t just be swept under the rug. Now, “The Beginning Of The End” makes those developments look tame by comparison. A precinct and Fortress of Grimmitude full of dead cops, a mayor-elect who just committed coldblooded murder, physical and psychological resurrections, and a young girl who’s now proven herself worth the two seasons-plus of effort to control her power. Grimm ends its season much as it began, with mere anarchy loosed upon the world, and all evidence is that it’s primed to keep that streak going.
Episode grade: A
Season grade: B+
- This Week In Portland: Another episode where locations from the real Portland are in short supply, as that’s not an actual Portland precinct location and there’s no such address as 521 Skyline Drive in the state.
- This Week’s Epigram: “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” The defiant words of Emiliano Zapata, renowned Mexican revolutionary.
- Know Your Wesen: Honestly with this episode, it’d be easier to count all the ones that aren’t there: Murcielago, Quijada Vil, and Coyotl are only a handful of the recognizable members of the Black Claw ranks. Additionally, Conrad marks himself as the first full-blood Zauerbiest to appear on the show, and puts Renard’s half-blood abilities are to shame.
- In mentioning Grimm’s renewal for season six a few weeks ago, one thing I failed to bring up was that the renewal is only for 13 episodes. Given the title of the finale and the developments of this last season, it’s within the realm of possibility the next season might be its last. I’ll hold out hope it’s not as season five recharged the show nicely, and if it is I expect NBC will at least show them enough courtesy to know that in advance. But as ever, Grimm holds this timeslot better than anything else from NBC, so I’m confident it’ll keep going as long as it wants.
- Monrosalee are expecting! It’s a move that makes the couple even more adorable, even though Grimm’s already gone to the pregnancy well twice with Adalind (and Bree Turner’s real-life pregnancy kept her from being an active player at the start of her tenure as a regular). The show did better with the Kelly balancing act this year than expected, so benefit of the doubt applies.
- The one false note of the finale—or at least the one I didn’t approve of—is the way it reverses course on last year’s finale. Nick uses the Splinter of Destiny to save Eve’s life and she acts decidedly un-Eve afterwards, with “I feel… a lot” her response to Trubel’s concern. My complaints about Grimm going back to status quo with Juliette are well-documented by this point, so I’ll just wearily resign myself to seeing her back in the regular cast next year.
- Diana’s manipulation of her parents also produces the funniest moment of the finale once they snap out of it. Adalind: “Did you expect I was going to hop into bed and take my clothes off with you?” Renard: “Well, I am the new mayor.” Adalind: “… I didn’t vote for you.”
- Not enough Bud this season. Well, there never is, but still.
- And that’s a wrap on season five coverage. As always, thanks for reading and keeping us in the regular rotation, and I’ll see you in the fall for season six!