“Leave It To The Beavers” S1 / E19
- B Community Grade
About two thirds of the way through “Leave It To The Beavers,” one of the beaver Wesen tells Nick that “bravery isn’t in our nature,” but our hero refuses to believe that ancient standard. He’s still relatively new to investigating matters of the Wesen world, and wants to believe in change; that any creature, like Bud, the first beaver he encountered, can muster up enough bravery to stand up to anything, from bridge trolls enforcing archaic tradition to Reapers out collecting heads. Though there is a moral built into that conversation, and the episode at large, it's hard to believe that this show would reach for an episodic moral over darkly lit action sequences, which inevitably pop up in the last ten minutes this week. It's a thrilling conclusion to an episode filled with a lot of talking and stunted inaction. Over the back half of this season, I've gone from wanting this show to succeed while feeling frustrated at how it squanders potential, into largely enjoying everything with a few reservations. That trepidation was more pronounced tonight that it has been the past two weeks, but still, I'm very pleased with the progress.
After stringing together a couple episodes that pushed the larger story arcs of the season and built the Wesen world outside of Portland, “Leave It To The Beavers” builds on secondary plots from previous episodes, narrowing the focus, and dropping off in quality just enough to make me miss the larger plot movement. I’m much more interested in the serialized storytelling—and I’ve made that point more than a few times—but I admire the truly compelling case-of-the-week plots Grimm has employed. Unfortunately, a spin on “Three Billy Goats Gruff” wasn’t inventive enough to overshadow the flaws this week, leaving behind decidedly average character work amidst an attempt to make Nick look as though he’s really learned a lot since the beginning of the series. An offhand comment to Monroe about a creature we didn't see Nick deal with isn't as good as showing us precisely how he gets better, which is exactly what the bookend training and fight scenes accomplish.
The best scenes of the episode are the “training montage” with Nick and Monroe at the beginning, and Nick’s final battle with two reapers. It’s nice to see that he’s actively learning, and using Monroe as an assistant during weekend training sessions, but he gets to put that learning to good use in the most overly telegraphed way possible, dodging scythe cuts and shooting a crossbow, which is a bloodier and easier to trace weapon than the kind of gun Nick could easily obtain.
The beaver creatures have always appeared meek and unable to stand up for themselves, but when faced with the impending threat of the bridge trolls, Nick believes they should enact some kind of change. Unfortunately the democratically voting lodge shoots down Nick’s idea, but his goal is achieved anyway. The witness to the central murder comes forward, if only as device to put Nick in the path of two Reapers from Mannheim, Germany, who travel all the way to Portland to beat up the troll that summoned them before stalking Nick and the beaver Wesen.
Before I get too far into apologizing for the aspects of this episode I enjoyed, there is one terrible scene to discuss: the dinner with Nick, Juliette, and Monroe. Grimm hasn’t been successful at navigating this particular rough spot—Nick lying to Hank or Juliette—to cover up the Wesen world and his newly discovered abilities. Faced with the need for an origin story for their friendship, Nick and Monroe scramble to cobble together a completely implausible explanation, and Juliette doesn’t question it at all. Just like my misgivings about Psych, I can’t stand when Grimm turns otherwise sensible characters into morons to cater to the plot structure. It’s a gimmick that pulls the audience out of the ever-expanding world. Juliette is a veterinarian, and seemingly a bright woman, who completely ignores the giant red flags that tell her Nick and Monroe are concocting a giant load of bullshit at dinner. The fact that she dismisses the oddities as Monroe's quirks and buys the whole story made that scene feel like it was dropped in from three months ago, and considering the whole payback for saving Juliette concept comes from more than a few episodes back, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.
Nick’s progression into a fighter capable of eliminating two warrior Reapers is a bit of a stretch—he's been practicing with the weapons, but that doesn't make him an invincible fighter able to take out lifelong warriors). At least he's training, though. He wants to get better, and here’s the right moment to show just how far he’s come from the clueless nephew firing a gun at the first reaper he encounters. Rosalee doesn’t appear this week, but Nick and Monroe have a humorous rapport of their own that keeps the investigation interesting. They collaborate, train, and help each other in order to fight for the greater good of the Wesen in Portland. I still don’t think it makes sense that a whole lodge of beaver creatures resides in Oregon—that seems like an arbitrary distinction based on Oregon State University. Still, Nick’s increased relationship with any sect of the Wesen world helps him gain knowledge of how to interact with other creatures. I wasn’t interested in how this particular case ended, since none of the characters involved were in serious danger, but this is an example of Grimm building humor and specific character moments around the empty shell of a well-worn procedural plot of an investigator going into an unfamiliar isolated community. In a non-supernatural procedural, it would be a minority community, but here, it can be any number of Wesen sects.
There’s still enough in this episode to keep it from being a bore, but it isn’t as exciting as the past two weeks. Procedurals and supernatural genre shows operate by oscillating between overarching plot satisfaction and episodic diversions. After a few weeks of advancing the plot, “Leave It To The Beavers” settled for pushing the boundaries of Grimm wider rather than deeper. Let’s hope the final few weeks of the show burrow ahead to deal with the more pressing issues in Nick’s life: what happened to his parents, whether or not he finds out about Renard’s status in the Wesen world, and Aunt Marie’s place in the Wesen world as a Grimm, either aligned with a royal family or off on her own. There are still big questions to answer, and delaying providing the audience with answers will only serve to hold Grimm back from achieving a promising potential in the final stretch of its first season.
- Thanks so much to Les Chappell for filling in last week. It was great to read his thoughts on what I too believe was another strong episode in the home stretch to May sweeps. He may join us again in the future, so be sure to read his reviews of The Borgias if you get the chance.
- This week’s epigraph seems to come from the Norwegian fairy tale “Three Billy Boats Gruff,” though I couldn’t place what version the exact quote comes from.
- As Les noted last week, Bree Turner is getting promoted to series regular next season. This is without a doubt a smart decision. She has great chemistry with Silas Weir Mitchell, and together they bring out a better performance from Giuntoli. It’ll also be interesting to delve into her new knowledge of the Wesen world, since her family fought with the Resistance and she was at one time a drug addict.
- I’ve been calling Silas Weir Mitchell’s character Eddie Monroe all season, but since nobody has ever called him Eddie, it’s apparently just something from the show’s IMDB page. He’s only Monroe from here on out, especially since Rosalee only calls him Monroe, and Bree Turner must have it right.