Grimm isn’t a show that you normally think of when you think of big dramatic twists. There have been plenty of cliffhangers deployed over four seasons, and plenty of things that were surprising as they’ve occurred, but it’s not a show that relies on huge narrative twists to keep going in the way that shows like Scandal or Empire do on a weekly basis. By contrast, Grimm is an almost leisurely paced show, one that lays the groundwork for its reveals so what happens feels like the natural order of things. If anything, its problem is that it lays too much groundwork for too many things, to the point that events get subsumed by the weight of plot or mythology and the payoff gets muted.
Well, there’s no chance of that happening to the last event of “Wesen Nacht,” because it’s a doozy of a reveal. The Portland branch Occultatum Libera is taken down to a man, and it’s done by the last person you’d expect: Juliette. Last seen taking two crossbow bolts to the chest in “Cry Havoc,” she’s back and looking like the love child of Sydney Bristow and Rachel Duncan, sporting a black leather outfit and platinum-blonde bob. She doesn’t say a word as she hurls a Skalengeck ringleader 30 feet in the air with a wave of her hand, and is gone as quickly as she arrives, leaving the men of Team Grimm stunned speechless as the episode cuts to black.
It’s a striking return, almost eclipsing her torching Aunt Marie’s trailer in “Iron Hans” for dramatic effect. Outside of instant shock effect though, her return to the story is a move that without any context I’m ambivalent about at best. It’s not so much that a character’s coming back from the dead, as Grimm’s done that once or twice before, it’s that this is a character we don’t really need to come back. Her downfall and death was a huge part of why season four closed so strongly, and in the last few episodes one fewer member of the ensemble has helped the balance issues the show’s always struggled with. On the other hand, Bitsie Tulloch found the character’s stride as she embraced her dark side, and even in one glance this version of her is worlds more interesting than an amnesiac veterinarian. There’s potential to do this idea right, and equal potential it could fall apart as a story introduced simply because the producers want to keep Tulloch around in some form.
The White Canary-esque return of Juliette is so unexpected and abrupt that it overshadows a lot of the events of “Wesen Nacht,” no small feat considering how busy this episode is. Going back to my earlier point, season five of Grimm is taking its time to set the groundwork between the Occultatum Libera group and the vague yet menacing government agency that opposes them. This week, we get more information courtesy of Trubel, who reveals that the agency operates under the name Hadrian’s Wall and is specifically dedicated to stopping a wesen uprising. While its motivations are clearer now, it remains appropriately obscured, as Meisner keeps to the shadows and even with her clear relief seeing Nick again Trubel retains a level of reserve. You want to know more, but not in the frustrating way of feeling like the writers are jerking you around.
The agency’s enemy forms the spine of the case of the week, as the Occultatum Libera engage in a campaign of terror against wesen-owned businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Showrunners David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf are the credited writers on this episode, and while the Juliette reveal betrays their tendency to write the more climactic Grimm installments, “Wesen Nacht” also manages to keep from falling apart in a way it may if another writer had tackled it. Events are vague as to why they’re carrying out these attacks—it’s not clear if these wesen are human supporters or were drawn out of a hat—yet the vagueness works in the story’s favor by making the violence seem random and directed at the same time. The police aren’t able to get a handle on what’s going on and the surviving wesen are terrified, as a later scene at a spice shop community meeting nearly boils over.
Events are made even more interesting as the main characters are further drawn into the story, once a kidnapped shop owner turns out to be a friend of Monroe and Rosalee. Played by Bob Clenendin of Cougar Town, Xavier is the perfect messenger for the Occultatum Libera’s campaign of terror, so unsettled by his experience that even one glance at a mug shot is enough to make him shake. It’s a good choice to use a third party here, as it would have been too easy for the spice shop to be attacked and Monroe or Rosalee to have been victimized. Here, Silas Weir Mitchell and Bree Turner get to use their empathetic side, always a good vein for both actors, and one accentuated by the fact that their old friend is lying to their face.
That fits into the overall feeling of “Wesen Nacht,” which is one of Grimm’s more unsettling episodes in a good way. David Giuntoli and Sasha Roiz are genuinely intimidating over the course of the episode as they pressure Occultatum Libera agent Billie (Madeline Brewer, Tricia from Orange Is The New Black), between Nick reassuring her that he does his Grimm work off-hours and Renard deploying his woge to maximum effect. (Wu, who’s never seen this side of his captain, is similarly freaked out.) And while the audience knows that Xavier is being less than honest,the group doesn’t, so the minute that Rosalee says she’ll take him home while the rest of the team goes to a location a cold feeling about who’s truly in danger settles in. Director Darnell Martin cuts expertly between the two that you don’t know who’s in the most danger, until—in another great moment for Turner—Rosalee decides that enough is enough and smacks her passenger around until she gets the truth.
Rosalee’s able to deal with things, which can’t be said for the rest of the team. The action of the ambush is a little disappointing—Martin has to make do with a lot of shadows and closed quarters to obscure what’s going on—but it retains a feeling of motion as they’re pushed deeper and deeper into the factory, and there’s a level of gunplay not normally seen on Grimm as the team draws down on various wesen leaping at them. Events build to a moment where all of the team is cornered and ready to count their bullets, so the White Canary Juliette reveal lands with even more effect. It’s a deus ex machina move, and one that asks enough questions it distracts from any concern of contrivance.
Grimm’s heading into its hiatus after only a half-dozen episodes this season, and while that’s not a lot of episodes the writers have set things nicely in motion. The Occultatum Libera remains a worrisome threat even if the bulk of their Portland operation is seemingly neutralized, Hadrian’s Wall remains about as trustworthy as the Initiative was in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Nick and Adalind’s relationship is progressing at a realistic rate. (Adalind’s reaction to Trubel asking if the two are in love I possibly the most caught off guard she’s ever been.) Things are at a good pace right now, and we’ll have to wait a month to see if this big twist pushes it to the next level or the good work is derailed.
- This Week In Portland: For once, Grimm’s dicey relationship with Portland geography is on point, as Hank’s early directions to Denver and Kilpatrick correspond to the right intersection.
- This Week’s Epigram: “Awake, arise, or be forever fall’n” comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Makes sense in context of the Occultatum Libera’s position, as well as the way that Dallas Cruz shuffles off this mortal coil.
- The one thing that’s frustratingly unclear is why Cruz was asking Xavier questions about Monroe specifically, and then Monroe wasn’t singled out in the ambush. It’s good that they didn’t go that route as the Wesenrein arc from last season was enough Monroe torture for now, but it’s an odd detail that doesn’t fully mesh with what came.
- Until we saw Juliette, I was 95 percent convinced that Mystery Blonde Lady was Diana, her unnaturally fast aging accelerated to adulthood since Meisner pushed King Frederick out of the helicopter. Trubel’s hesitation when Adalind mentioned her was more grist for the rumor mill, and I’m still not ruling that out as a possibility.
- Trubel’s account of her international Grimm exploits over the last year sounds like a fun show. Maybe Greenwalt and Kouf can sell NBC on a summer miniseries?
- Xavier wins the prize for most revolting woge in Grimm history, a blobfish-inspired design that even Monroe and Rosalee can’t stomach witnessing again.
- Renard’s now fully behind his friend’s candidacy and is even recording political commercials. It’s still hard to get invested in this, given how little exposure we’ve had to Andrew as a character and how little we’ve seen Renard react to the idea of getting involved in politics. Plus, the odds feell pretty good that Andrew turns out to be a corrupt politician affiliated with the bad guys, in the vein of Sebastian Blood from Arrow season two.
- “I got sent away.” “To do what?” “What Grimms do.”
- “I got a bad feeling about this, a really bad feeling! A feeling that’s it’s gotta mean something. Something bad.” Oh, Bud.
- “They got to him!” “Well, now they’re getting to us.”
- And that’s a wrap for this year! May your holidays be free of Krampus and Kallikantzaroi, and I’ll see you on January 22 when Grimm returns.