If last week’s episode—with a case centered around child kidnapping, inbreeding and ritualistic rape—was what Grimm: SVU would look like, now we know what this show would look like when filtered through a minor zombie plague outbreak. “Quill” isn’t Grimm’s version of 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead or anything apocalyptic, it’s a standard plague, spreading through a small population, eventually infecting one of the major characters, before a quick remedy comes through right before the episode ends. Nothing particularly special on the plot front, but that's not as important as the character progress, which is moving along nicely to build a stronger character base so that riskier episodic plots will have a better chance for success.
As a Portland Parks & Recreation employee drives under a freeway (a bit of a strange location), he’s rear-ended out of the blue by another speeding vehicle. The offending driver gets out of his car enraged, covered in sores, and aggressive, assaulting the Parks & Rec guy before crashing through a glass door into a nearby building. As Nick and Hank investigate, they discover it’s an old strain of a Wesen plague, of unknown origin, that causes victims to briefly lose inhibitions, then grow gravely ill before losing their minds with rage at anyone who happens to be around. Basically they become rage zombies, but somehow there's a cure, because the disease is supposed to be ancient and rare.
The case is limited, perhaps by budgetary constraints, so there’s never really any sense that a plague outbreak is going to take the city’s sizeable Wesen community by storm or create a larger panic. The origin is never fully explained, there are a ton of loose ends about containing the resurgence of the old plague, but maybe it’s a sickness equivalent to Legionnaires’ disease, which recently had an isolated outbreak in Chicago at a Marriott hotel. Either way, the plot holes aren’t that concerning, since there are moments of suspense and delight throughout.
What I’m more interested in is the slow construction of a team of friends behind Nick as he learns more and figures out how to approach the Wesen world around him. For me, the best part about this reconstituted Scooby Gang is that it’s difficult to draw parallels to the characters from Buffy. Nick certainly isn’t Buffy, Juliette is no Angel or Spike, and there’s no Giles, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, and the rest of the supporting cast. But the core group is growing more compelling, with the cast settling into more defined roles.
I said at a few points during last season that Hank and Monroe seemed to serve the same purpose, just on either side of the police/Grimm line. But now that Hank knows about Nick’s abilities, he can serve as a different link at Nick’s side. Monroe is the personal connection to the Wesen world and its history; Hank provides police cover and the resources to investigate suspects—something Renard covertly uses as well when tracking down a potential threat to his authority elsewhere in the episode—while Rosalee fills the technical role as apothecary, able to heal and combat any number of strange spells. It’s an important step for the show to make, and now it’s less about Nick keeping his abilities secret from those he cares about, and more about how those allies rally around him to fight alongside Nick as he solidifies his place as an anomaly among Grimms throughout history.
Bringing Hank into the fold pays dividends immediately. Once Nick sits him down at a diner (and I’ll leave it to my colleague Les Chappell to delineate the geographic accuracy of the shooting locations in Portland), Hank is on board with the development, much in the way that Buffy’s friends just accept the strange circumstances surrounding them as baseline fact. His reactions to re-meeting Rosalee and Monroe after learning they’re Wesen is priceless, and as he finds out more of the truth, he becomes a stronger partner for Nick in police investigations. The only nagging problems is that Hank can only see Wesen when they totally lose control, not at any emotional moment like Nick, so there’s always going to be a perfunctory Q&A session after they meet a suspect or a witness.
Monroe and Rosalee are growing closer together, which is just wonderful to see, since Silas Weir Mitchell and Bree Turner are adorable together. That picnic scene is so quaint and beautifully shot, with low-angle sweeps showing the forest—and then both hilarious and tense once the Parks and Rec employee shows up as a Wesen rage zombie. Better still is the scene back at the apothecary, where Rosalee loses all inhibition, and Monroe goes from being excitied to concerned on the phone with Nick, all while Rosalee physically overwhelms him.
And Sgt. Wu even gets a tense scene to himself, as he explores the Stanton’s house, looking for the initial victim’s wife. She’s infected as well, and attacks Wu with a giant knife and a screwdriver, which leaves him shaken up as Nick and Hank take over investigating the outcome. Mrs. Stanton worked with domesticated animals, specifically pigs, and there are photos in the house that suggest that a porcine carrier may have been involved in the current outbreak.
It’s a step in the right direction that a middling episodic plot still provided more entertainment than comparable episodes last season—the one with Jimmy Barrett from Mad Men or the Mauzhurtz/Lausenschlange episode come to mind as particularly dull. Bringing the recurring characters together to form a tight-knit group that is interesting to watch no matter the situation is drastically important for a genre show like this, and now that more of the ensemble has reason to interact naturally in a way that helps Nick, I’m excited to see how the show will go about solving the other nagging problems now that it has a core group with better chemistry and a flair for comic relief.
- The epigraph tonight comes from the Grimm fairy tale “Death’s Messengers”, which in all honesty reminded me a lot of the Peverell myth from Harry Potter. Another instance where the quote only vaguely inspires the case without direct parallels.
- The titles are almost fixed! No more voiceover, thankfully, and I can deal with the unnecessarily flashy new sequence.
- It’s really obvious that Bree Turner is pregnant, but so far Grimm has done an admirable job shooting around it while still putting Rosalee in some action scenes. Making her run must have been an interesting day of shooting.
- We never got a name for the Porcupine Wesen, which is the first time we’ve seen a new creature, but an interview with the Robot Chicken writer who plays the guy says it’s called a Stangebar.
- The bumbling Eisbiber is back! His scene with Juliette was basically an encapsulation of his entire plot from last season, just cut down to bits in order to make Juliette curious about Nick. It’s unclear whether she’s suspicious of something nefarious, but Grimm isn’t backing away from Juliette knowing exactly what Nick is, just holding off on rebuilding their romance. As with much of this show, I remain cautiously optimistic.
- Renard is dealing with a subplot of his own, another assassin sent by the family in France. This time the creature seems to resemble a horse. It’s a poor introduction, since he just looks menacing while following Nick and Hank around in three brief shots as the music swells.
- On the SPOILER front, Sasha Roiz gave an interview with Entertainment Weekly a while back that I just encountered, where he discusses the origin of his character, which was an enlightening read for his continuing arc. But if you’d like that to remain a secret, don’t click. I’ll talk about it more in the coming weeks.
- “You could be infected.” “With love!”