It’s becoming a common occurrence for me to grow increasingly worried about the direction of an episode of Grimm up through the middle, only to have the back half wind together the various positive threads into something coherent. “The Waking Dead” isn’t much of a complete episode, and the pace doesn’t set out to provide the same kind of payoffs as a typical case-of-the-week plot, but there’s a simple reason for that: It’s the first half of a two-part finale. The dramatic cliffhanger may be lacking intensity, instead inspiring a few questions, but it’s a testament to the progress the show has made that even when the structure doesn't quite fit together or build properly, there are enough positive character moments to keep it from completely devolving. This is all setup for next week's finale, slowly building through longer scenes instead of cutting quickly and putting clues together at a healthy clip.
The major selling point of the commercial barrage for this episode is the presence of zombies, but as Nick and Hank discover, they’re dealing with Baron Samedi, a Loa of Haitian Voodoo (or Papa Ghede, seriously, Haitian Voodoo is confusing), who continues to raise dead, mindless, crazy people by spitting some kind of hallucinogen in their faces and waiting until they fall under his control. It’s yet another expansion into multicultural folklore for the supernatural development of this world—and anything that reminds me of Keith David’s role in The Princess And The Frog can’t be all bad.
The detectives manage to catch on to certain elements of the case right from the start and make quick progress, even though they always seem to be a few steps behind the Voodoo Priest. But for long stretches of the episode, the investigation takes a backseat to backtracking Juliette’s character to better integrate her into the group, and following Adalind’s out-of-family royal pregnancy intrigue. Though each plot has its moments of spookiness and laughter, there are still some big questions lingering about both.
Grimm wants desperately for the Juliette problem to vanish as quickly as possible, so it skips a few steps while blurting out blatant exposition in an overly long scene where Rosalee, Bud, and Monroe go full woge to show they are Wesen. Unlike a year ago, when she freaked out completely, Juliette stands her ground as she finds out what a Fuchsbau, Eisbiber, and Blutbad look like. It’s her next step back toward Nick. Why she’s better equipped to deal with this information now isn’t clear at all, glossing over the difficult transition in favor of barreling headfirst into a new, better Juliette. Correcting that earlier misstep is the entire point of walking back that character direction. Still, I can’t help this nagging feeling that Juliette is just starting to come around and truly accept all of the Grimm and Wesen information only to become Jenny Calendar all over again. Man, that would be the first truly brutal moment for the show after building up some emotional capital.
On the other side of the world in Vienna, Adalind’s baby is due in seven months, coincidentally just around the midseason finale for Grimm’s already-announced third season. So that’s a bit of telegraphing for where the show will be going, and how Adalind may be a part of it. But she’s being pulled between her Hexenbiest advisor and the gypsy promising to give her powers back, all while keeping the pregnancy a secret from the royals and staying in Eric’s good graces. I’m still not quite clear on why anyone wants a child of royal blood. I get why Adalind wants to use one as a bargaining chip, since it gets her exactly what she wants. But considering Sean has been exiled to Portland and had his life threatened many times, it’s not known whether this creates embarrassment for the royals or some other kind of blackmail opportunity.
And speaking of Eric, after spending most of the season lifting his pinkie up with a glass of brandy from afar, James Frain deigns to set foot in Portland—“Portland you are no Vienna…you are the home to Nike.”—to put a larger plan in motion that finally lurches all the serialized backstory of the old world from thought to action. With the zombie plot dragging and the episode running out of time, it became clear this wasn’t going to be settled in one week. But I still think it’s a deft payoff to have the Baron walk into Eric’s hotel room, illustrating just who that shipping container of mindless, agitated zombies is for. Nick hasn’t faced a formidable force before, just some difficult individual creatures, so presumably this time he’ll have to gear up for the fight with the help of his friends.
So much is up in the air at the end of this episode—Adalind’s fate, Juliette and Nick’s relationship, Eric’s ultimate plan, that one guy back in Vienna who Sean still talks to—that the grade this week is even more arbitrary and provisional than usual. But Buffy practically majored in this kind of ending, and Angel attempted it several times as well, so it seems right that Kouf and Greenwalt (who co-wrote tonight’s episode) should be allowed next week’s finale before it’s clear whether this extended setup episode builds to something that makes it worth the delay.
- Small spoiler alert: The preview for next week does suggest that Adalind may not exactly carry to full term, so that seven month prediction could quickly get reversed.
- Danny Bruno continues to make the most out of every appearance he gets with the rest of the New Scoobies. Unlike Monroe, who gets more moments of darkness or romance, Bud is always the bumbling comic relief. He’s the George Costanza of Grimm.
- The moment a dead body opens its eyes and lurches to life will never not make me jump slightly.
- Hank, on seeing and getting used to Monroe’s Blutbad form: “Let me just say: I didn’t take it well the first, second, or third time.”
- Sgt. Wu’s Line Of The Week: “This is getting too weird, even for Portland.”