You can say this for Grimm: despite the fact that it’s a show getting long in the tooth (or fang, tusk, or lamprey maw as it were) it’s not a show that wants to settle down. Between its largely procedural format and the fact that it airs on Friday nights when not many people are watching television, it’d be easy for it to keep to the monster of the week format and only pay off its mythology in bits and pieces. But no, Grimm has exhibited a clear willingness to go beyond that, cutting a bloody swath through various parts of its cast and setting important landmarks ablaze in the service of drama.
In its first episode of 2016, Grimm is quick to both remind the audience of the various seismic shifts that occurred last season and then piles a few more on top of that. The arc of the secret society revealed in “Eve Of Destruction” to be called the Black Claw turns out to be potentially the greatest threat our Portland gang has ever experienced. A long-standing fixture is torn apart, our group finds itself reeling from unknown threats, and a vague yet menacing government agency might be their only external ally. It manages to remind everyone of the stakes that are set, always an important thing to do after being off the air for close to two months.
Before we get into the Black Claw and their ramifications, we have to deal with the reveal at the end of “Wesen Nacht,” that one-time clueless civilian cast member turned surprisingly effective antagonist Juliette is back from the dead, now capable of taking out an entire platoon of thugs with the power of her mind alone. “Eve Of Destruction” casts her metamorphosis in a new light, as she claims not to be Juliette any more, but a new person named Eve. (“Because I’m starting over,” she explains, as if the name wasn’t groaningly obvious enough.) Whatever Chavez, Meisner, and their cabal did to her—savage beatings being only part of the process—it appears to have eradicated whoever she used to be. Her interactions with Nick lack any of the rage and spite of their time together last season, instead it’s an alien disconnect as if she doesn’t even register his presence.
The idea of Juliette returning as Eve—and based on interviews since the reveal that’s how we’re supposed to think of her—isn’t a bad idea at its heart. I run a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and on two separate occasions I’ve found ways for PCs who died to come back as reincarnated versions of their prior selves. Part of the reason is that it’s difficult to let go of a character that you’ve poured a lot of time into developing them, and part of the reason is that it’s interesting to see how said character copes with their changed circumstances. And the level of removal Eve demonstrates is more suited to Tulloch’s acting range, as Juliette was always better being in control than being confused.
However, I’m not buying the metamorphosis just yet, partially because there’s not enough distinction between Juliette and Eve in the early goings. The reveal that she survived Trubel’s crossbow bolts and was brainwashed into being this thing comes across both a cheat and an easy way to return to status quo, as it implies a resurgence of Juliette is still in the show’s back pocket. It’d be much more reassuring if she’d outright died and then been brought back to life through some combination of science and magic, the better to wipe Juliette entirely from the show. It’s still early enough in the game that Grimm can justify this decision, but they’ll need to draw clear enough distinctions between Juliette’s prior relationships—her friendship with Rosalee, her twisted attraction with Renard, her animosity toward Adalind—and the way Eve approaches them.
It looks like it’ll be a good thing that the Hadrian’s Wall agency has Eve in their corner though, because Black Claw turns out to have more resources than expected. An interrogation of Xavier reveals that Monroe and Rosalee are marked Black Claw targets due to their friendship with Nick, and they seek the Wesen Council’s aid. The Council is well aware of the trouble Black Claw is causing and almost unanimously willing to take action, but it turns out one of their members is already on the Claw’s side and shreds their entire membership with an uzi, including the council head who’s been a constant since the second season. (I know the character has a name, but after the actor’s memorable appearance in Portlandia’s season three premiere he’ll always be Fjohürs Lykkewe to me.)
On its surface, the eradication of the Wesen Council doesn’t seem to have an immediate effect on Grimm structure. Much like the Watcher’s Council on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it existed as an entity off to the side of what was going on in Portland, there to be a resource at some points and mostly antagonistic on the others, which included putting a contract on Nick’s life back in “Maréchaussée.” Instead—as Monroe and Rosalee are quick to identify—this is more important for its future ramifications, as without a nominal governing party the rules taken for granted can no longer be treated as sacrosanct. There’s no one to stop Wesen from woging in public or applying their way of life over the Council restrictions, and no one to fall back on when a Wesen is so far outside the norm Nick and company don’t know how to deal with it.
That move comes on the heels of the realization that Nick, Hank, Wu, and Renard might not even be able to depend on the Portland Police Department they’re ostensibly part of. A Black Claw agent makes his way into the cell next to Xavier, uses a false hanging to get the other man in throat-ripping range, and traumatizes an officer enough that he’s forced to shoot him dead. Renard coldly declares that all wesen business needs to be done off-books from now on, a move that both shows how bad things are and finally acknowledges that none of what they do meshes with police work. (The fact that they were able to run away from a crime scene to keep their tracks clean and then commandeer a SWAT team to storm the apartment of a person of interest from said crime scene is one of the most questionable parts of the episode.)
And if that’s not enough activity for one episode, we also get the first kiss between Nick and Adalind—well, the first one where both are in their right bodies. A lot of comments have been adamantly opposed to this relationship, arguing that Nick shouldn’t be attracted to the woman who essentially raped him by taking Juliette’s body. That’s a convincing argument, but Nick and Adalind finding some odd sort of comfort in each other—Trubel as houseguest, Juliette back from the dead, wesen murder left and right—feels of a piece with the insanity that’s already taking place. And both of them back off immediately after it happens: “That was so not a good thing to do.” “I wouldn’t say that, it’s just complicated now.” This continues to feel like two people trying to deal with a fucked-up history and a reason not to hate each other rather than writers contriving to pair up two characters, a much appreciated difference. It’s one more complication added to the pile, and Grimm has built the pile so high that the fascination in watching now is seeing how they’ll dig their way out.
- This Week In Portland: Prosecco’s isn’t an actual restaurant in Portland, but a front constructed in the Urban Studio space on the corner of NW 10th and Davis. The space proudly advertises itself as a wedding venue, which is amusing given how it’s used for pretty much the opposite purpose in this episode. And I wonder how much the Grimm team had to pay for that part of the space rental if that was the actual window taken out by Nick’s bodyguard toss.
- This Week’s Epigram: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, from Pip’s unrequited love Estella. Fitting for both the approach of what Meisner and company did to Juliette and her cold reactions to Nick.
- We learn that Billie survived the slaughter of “Wesen Nacht” and also get to meet Lucien (Longmire’s Bailey Chase), the new head of the Black Claw in Portland. Billie’s survival is a positive thing as Madeline Brewer made for a good antagonist, but Lucien’s given some truly groan-worthy dialogue in his first appearances reassuring her and leading the funeral pyre.
- There are no words for how relieved I was when Juliette’s new hairstyle was revealed to be a wig, because that platinum bob might be striking in the middle of a crowd but it’s so obviously fake it could spearhead a successor to our Inventory on horrid hairpieces.
- Evidently I was in the minority in not seeing Juliette’s resurrection coming at the end of “Wesen Nacht,” as I bought into the idea it was Diana early on. Given Meisner was the last person seen in Diana’s company and his clear reaction to memories of bringing the girl into the world, that card has to pay off at some point this season. (Also, one wonders whether it’s Diana or Adalind that his attentions are most fixated upon.)
- Monroe trying to educate the group on the Battle of Teutoburg Forest is a welcome moment of levity during Xavier’s interrogation. Hank: “You mean like the Alamo?” Monroe: “Close enough.”
- “Is this another back from the dead thing? Because I’m not ready to host another Jack the Ripper party.”
- “I would have killed you.” “Well, the night is young.”