The premise for “Stories We Tell Our Young” didn’t look promising. Grimm had already dealt with a case involving a church last year in “The Good Shepherd” that amounted to one of the worst episodic tangents of the season. And nothing makes The Exorcist look terrifying like lame network television appropriating the bare bones of an exorcism plot, which is what every promo suggested. But “Stories” is actually a perfect example of how much Grimm has grown in the past few years. It takes small elements of previous episodes that either felt incomplete on their own or simply didn’t work and blends them into a much stronger story that doesn’t need a direct fairy tale equivalent in order to build out the world of the show to include larger forces.
Sure, the episode takes a while to get going. The opening segment, apart from Renard’s sudden departure to Europe—to secretly be in town for some sort of miserable family meeting—depicts a failed exorcism that leaves a priest dead and a seminary student unconscious in the hospital. All the hemming and hawing over the boy, the seminary student pitching demonic possession, and the fretful parents sends the episode moving in a somewhat tedious direction. Halloween has passed, and the prospects of an Exorcist homage somehow tying back to Wesen didn’t really grab me.
But once Nick and Hank stop by the spice shop to get the Wesen birds and bees talk from Monrosalee, everything changes with the introduction of an intriguing (and quite ridiculous) alternate explanation. A demon hasn’t possessed the boy, and neither of his parents are Wesen, but he could be a Grausen: a mythical occurrence passed down through Wesen oral history of a mutation in a young child that creates violent psychopathic with a physical shift that looks like possession. Since Grausen got so out of hand they in turn caused Wesen persecution, the overarching Wesen Council, which governs all Wesen everywhere as another shadowy overlord organization.
At which point the episode also creates a resonant division between Monroe and Rosalee. The two of them are so damn adorable together at every moment that it’s possible to forget just how different these characters have been in their approach to wider Wesen issues. Monroe has mostly forgone his Wesen loyalty because of his friendship with Nick, such is the power of finding a Grimm who defies all stereotypes of the label. Rosalee’s brother was part of a resistance movement, which was the center of “Cat And Mouse,” against the royal families, and the episodic case at hand points to larger powers that be which have started to come into play more often.
Rosalee, fearful of retribution against her and Monroe, alerts the council to the existence of a Grausen (not reporting it carries a death sentence), which in turn dispatches a Wesen operative—a Balam, the jaguar-like creature that first appeared back in “La Llorona.” But Nick, consulting Juliette, finds that the mutation may in fact be a very rare disease gone untreated and misdiagnosed throughout history without modern medical technology. Now that connection, coming so quickly from a veterinarian who just happened to have an anecdote about thoroughbred horses traveling in Jordan, seemed a bit convenient for the narrative. But Nick working with everyone in the Grimmsters for equal support has its benefits, and poring over books with Juliette and enlisting her help in peripheral police work (the captain is out of town) continues her progress as a character. She’s not someone Nick needs to save an protect, but an active contributor and problem solver in the field.
The final showdown is a chase scene, a clever and risky amateur use of therapeutic hypothermia to kill the parasite infecting the child, and Nick subduing the pursuing Wesen Council operative. And what keeps the episode in solid positive range is that the culmination has larger implications. Nick confronts the Balam and makes it clear that Portland is his city, and that his new way of thinking has tangible benefits, like not killing an innocent child over misunderstood tradition. Right now Renard has a bigger part in the European plot, staying alive while setting foot on his old continent, that he does as a secret Wesen puppet master in Portland. The conflict between Nick and Sean will eventually heat up again, but for now, I like that Nick is asserting his own power and laying a foundation for a new Grimm/Wesen symbiosis.
Better still, Nick continues to write down his own observations, this time of the Grausen, adding to his ancestor’s knowledge with an entry that explains the previous confusion and offers a type of treatment, with Juliette’s help. But the most important accomplishment of the episode is that it further establishes Nick’s reputation outside of Portland. One way or another, Nick ends up solving the Wesen issues in the city whenever they pop up. But now he’s on the Verrat’s radar for the key and the Wesen council’s radar for discovering the reason behind Glausen. What matters now is that Grimm figures out how to take the Portland-centric storylines woven with a few short scenes in Europe and expand the plot to send bigger pieces into Nick’s path to take action with his supporters.
- There’s a new prince at the head of the royal family in Vienna. Though we don’t get to see him, his voice should be familiar to many Buffy and Angel viewers.
- Taking AP Biology finally paid off as a television critic since I didn’t have to think in order to spell eukaryotic in my notes as Juliette rattled off information for Nick to put down in the book.