Episodes like “The Good Soldier” fall into my least favorite type of case structure on Grimm: episodic crime plots that don’t reveal or advance anything about the central characters. Last week’s episode spotlighted Hank and showed him getting back in the game while working on a case. But this week’s plot didn’t involve the Airstream until the final 10 minutes, instead featuring a didactic missive against military contractors given immunity from prosecution in American war zones. However, rarely has an episode of Grimm culminated in such an outright cool fight sequence that didn’t involve the main characters. So as far as episodes like this go, “The Good Solider” is probably my favorite.
Beginning with the Biblical passage “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” the episode is already careening off course when it introduces the main creature. Ron, an army veteran working in private security (Kirk Acevedo, of Oz and most recently The Walking Dead) enjoys a drink with a buddy. A woman named Frankie (Francesca) approaches him at the Portland VFW, and it scares Ron enough to suggest something violent is about to happen to kick off the Law & Order body discovery.
The backstory is wrapped up in a commentary on the military situations overseas, and also buries some gruesome details. Four men—Ron (a decorated and honorably discharged soldier in the Iraq War), and three non-military private defense contractors gang-raped Frankie overseas, and got way with everything. The guilt has haunted one of the security guys, but none of the other three. Ron and another guy have already turned up dead, so it looks like Frankie is on a revenge spree. There’s a lot in the episode about the autonomy of the contractors and the inability of military leadership to punish crimes on a base, but very little about how unspeakably awful the crime was. The “weak” link in the group is a man who essentially gave into peer pressure when committing the crime, wanted to confess, and eventually writes a letter to his wife explaining the details. She promptly berates him for revealing anything and commands him to burn the letter, but before he can, they’re both killed in the same way as Ron.
Every single case Grimm shows Nick and Hank investigating turns out to involve Wesen, so it’s confusing that they’re confronted with a confusing and inexplicable murder case without the two of them jumping to a Wesen conclusion. Most of the time Grimm’s creatures are influenced by myth but twisted enough etymologically that it takes me a while to figure them out. But this time it’s pretty easy: there’s a manticore on the loose, a lion (or Löwen, in Grimm terminology) with a larger and powerful scorpion’s tail.
It’s been a few seasons now since the show depicted Nick actively training with Monroe or studying up in the trailer—which, by the way, is obnoxiously safe—but missing the manticore for so long is a stretch. A character acting dumber than they have previously is a narrative device that makes procedurals incredibly frustrating.
The moment Sgt. Wu tells them that other victims died of scorpion venom, with similarly large, inexplicable wounds. Nick’s mind should be racing trying to connect to a scorpion-like Wesen. And a manticore should be easy to find, even without the trailer’s information. It is unique for a case to go so far before Nick comes up with the Wesen solution, and it’s unusual for the detectives to pick the wrong person. That scene in the interrogation room twists to reveal Francesca is a different type of Wesen, but that left the far more intriguing possibility of her simply being human and completely confused at Nick and Hank’s accusations, which would sound like deranged nonsense.
But the final fight scene makes up for a lot of the messiness throughout the case, since the final piece of the puzzle is that the old CO—who regrets not brining the rapists to justice, and only has three months to live due to cancer—isn’t the only manticore. McCabe, the owner of the private security company, turns out to be one as well. That sets up a showdown between young and old manticores, fighting with lion growling and scorpion tails whipping around. It’s a lot more entertaining than watching Nick beat down yet another beefy predator Wesen, but that’s all it is: flash without substance or consequence. Nick doesn’t really learn anything or exert a unique Grimm talent, the case doesn’t bring new understanding of the Wesen world, and the investigation only reaches a conclusion by the detectives first accusing the wrong person.
The Monrosalee plot holds up the character development end of the episode, as Rosalee brings Monroe to dinner at her mother’s house in Medford, a lovely little city close to Ashland, the Shakespeare Festival town near the California border. Rosalee hasn’t been home in seven years—due to her murky past and struggles with substance abuse that has been more and more a part of this season. That absence created a strained relationship with her mother, and made her sister act like a martyr who stepped in where Rosalee abdicated responsibility. She’s understandably nervous, and the way she leans slightly on Monroe’s encouragement is appropriately adorable for where these characters are.
Still, it’s obvious that an outburst over dinner will happen, and only a minute or so into the awkward scene, the sister lets loose the dam of bitterness. When I directed a play in college, the best outside advice I got on my show was from a close friend who observed that my leading actor started the show at 11, leaving him with nowhere to go with his energy. It makes me feel bad for guest actors who only get one featured moment with only a few lines to leave an impression. Rosalee’s sister wastes no time rushing up the emotional mountain to something like, “You could’ve at least come to dad’s funeral!” Which is followed by Rosalee’s outburst, “I was in jail!” It’s an outburst of August: Osage County condensed into about a minute of screen time. And then, in no time at all, Monroe calms Rosalee down, her mother is willing to reconcile, and the sister pops up behind Monroe to warn him not to hurt Rosalee. I love Monrosalee dearly, because Bree Turner and Silas Weir Mitchell have sweetly dorky chemistry together. But the purpose of Rosalee’s backstory insofar as it helps Nick and Hank or progresses her relationship with Monroe have been tenuous at best.
I liked a sizable handful of individual moments throughout this episode, but the overall execution was uneven. Like I said, I’m more partial to episodes that end with some kind of achievement or benchmark of Wesen knowledge reached, because the show needs to build to a point where Nick is adept enough to handle the small things in order to focus on the bigger picture outside Portland. The change of pace provided by an episode with a case that basically runs itself and evens out the balance between the criminals and the investigators is a good idea. But this time it didn’t really make sense why this particular plot needed to happen in this fictional world.
- Europe check-in: Adalind is getting closer to having her baby, and her powers are starting to return. This is going to last all season when it should’ve taken like three episodes to grow a magic royal Wesen baby and get her back to being a villain. This is holding up the overarching antagonist plot that Grimm sorely lacks.
- Now that we’ve met Rosalee’s family—played by two Northwest actors who appeared on TNT’s Leverage—it’s as good a time as any to point out a few months late that Monroe’s parents will also show up on a future episode of Grimm. They’ll be played by Dee Wallace (E.T.) and Chris Mulkey (Friday Night Lights, Justified, and Captain Phillips).
- Back to the trailer for a minute: it’s a mobile home, and yet it has sat hidden in a junkyard for three seasons, neither moved to a cooler location that could actually protect the information (since Nick just leaves it unattended) nor taken on the road like how Nick’s Aunt used it.
- Ron’s medal box has two purple hearts, but the Iraq Campaign Medal seems to have the wrong ribbon colors.