An episode like “Kiss Of The Muse,” one of the best examples of the kind of compelling, consistent genre show Grimm can be at its best, always reminds me that it was the first overall pick in Grantland’s cancellation draft. Almost nobody gave this show a real chance, and yet, with modest success compared to the rest of the NBC lineup, it earned enough survival time to work out its problems and develop a solid group of characters. Now, here it is, stringing together a streak of strong episodes, on the verge of falling right in line behind David Greenwalt’s previous successes on Angel. It’s a familiar formula, but that doesn’t diminish how damn entertaining this show can be when it all comes together in the right way.
The best aspect of tonight’s episode is how effortless it feel when everything is clicking. Take one scene early on in the episode: Nick falls under the romantic influence of Chloe—the primary witness in the opening murder, and obviously a Wesen modeled after the Greek Muse. But his nascent obsession occludes his memory—he has dinner plans not only with Monroe (delicious veggie steaks!), but also with Juliette (important relationship conversation!). The phone call between Juliette and Monroe, intercut with Nick obviously about to forget both plans in order to see Chloe, blends the mythological intrigue and tension with witty humor and advancing character arcs (both Juliette and Monroe were happy to get some alone time with Nick, for different reasons).
Monroe sounds hurt but tries to hide it from Juliette, then gets annoyed with Nick, who, under Chloe’s spellbinding attraction, grows distant, disturbed, and violently jealous. Sure, the episode gets off to a slow start, but it picks up momentum quickly, separating Nick out as the victim this time and allowing Monroe, Hank, Rosalee, and even Renard to come to his aid. This is the first time Nick doesn’t participate in the Aunt Marie’s Magic Trailer research scene, reminiscent of Buffy and Angel scenes when the supporting characters rallied each other to prove they could take down the evil force without the central hero. Buffy’s friends had to learn this, as did the other employees (then former employees, then co-workers) of Angel Investigations. Now Nick’s Grimm Gang (somebody please come up with a better name; New Scoobies sounds too derivative) has a framework to go on, and they’re starting to draw Juliette back into the fold.
It bears noting that Nora Zehetner is one of the strongest guest stars this season, and that she has more feisty chemistry with David Giuntoli in a few scenes than he’s had with Bitsie Tulloch in two seasons. Zehetner was wonderful as the femme fatale in Brick and one of the best parts of Heroes’ early, not-so-infuriating years. (I’m far less certain about that second part, as I’ve deliberately blocked most of that show from my memory.) She brings that same kinetic energy to her role here, as the gallivanting muse flitting from one artist to the next, pleasure-torturing them into madness while collecting trophies.
Grimm establishes Musei, or Muses, much in the same way that Christopher Moore used the mythological character in his most recent novel Sacre Bleu—as inspiring but dangerous women capable of elevating artists to their greatest potential at the cost of their sanity. They even share a description of Van Gogh as a classic victim of such a muse.
There is still one big problem with all of this happening now, but I think that can be boiled down to one line, right after Juliette realizes that Nick is under the influence of a Wesen: “That’s what Nick was trying to tell me last year.” (Emphasis mine.) Yes, it has taken an entire season for Grimm to walk back the bad decision to use amnesia as a plot device, and now, Juliette’s character turns on a dime, gaining her memory back in bits and pieces, emotionally committing to Nick again, and coming to a place of understanding about the supernatural elements he tried to explain to her in the first place. But the added benefit of that puzzle piece falling into place, if a bit quickly, means that Grimm can focus on moving forward instead of being stuck trying to fix the past.
In an episode of Buffy, there would be some larger metaphor for everything going on, and even though I took a good amount of time trying to string some kind of theory together, there isn’t much thematic depth between a reckless Muse as a villain and Nick getting so lost in his work that he ignores what really matters. If anything, this episode advocates that Nick needed to get some strange out of his system (not a great suggestion) and emphasizes that he needs to appreciate his friends and colleagues more for all the help they give him. That the message doesn’t reflect the mythological elements of the episode keeps it from being a perfect episode, but even still, the vast majority of this episode works, moving from scene to scene without losing pace.
Cramming all of this progress into one episode with a fascinating mythological element, Juliette’s quickened recovery, and a New Scooby team-up overloads the hour, but I’d rather there be an overabundance of good things than one saving grace in an hour of tedium. I feel safe saying that Grimm has turned a corner in the back half of this season, and now there’s a rare dud in the midst of many very good episodes. Not many have risen to be truly great, but as far as standalone cases and the Nick/Juliette romantic arc go, “Kiss Of The Muse” is one of the show’s best.
- How glad are we about that final scene? Renard letting Chloe go is the best possible scenario, however legally implausible. Any opening for her to return, perhaps as a weapon against Renard’s brother, would be rather intriguing. And that final woge sneer from Renard was fantastic.
- Another character looming out there who’s overdue for a return: Titus Welliver’s Farley Kolt, if only they could find a way to bring him back without the damn Fuchsbau coins.
- Nice to see Russell Hornsby back in action, but writing his Achilles injury into the script was decidedly awkward. Not really a way around that though.
- Seriously, the natural chemistry between Silas Weir Mitchell and Bree Turner is so good that they improve everyone around them, as proven by how they coax understanding out of Juliette.
- If I have one nagging complaint left—aside from those moronic coins—it’s that I never feel a truly palpable sense of danger for any of these characters. Nobody that we’ve met of any importance has been seriously injured or killed in nearly two whole seasons. Apparently, there’s a big change coming, and in my opinion, that’s long overdue to push Grimm not to get too comfortable with its stable of characters.
- Next week: Juliette’s progress will be the B-plot, but it looks more interesting than… ZOMBIES!