It took me over a year to watch the entire first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I watched the first three episodes over the course of one rainy afternoon at the end of a school year and then stalled, catching one here and there, but never really finding anything that grabbed me and kept me interested—except for “Angel.” But I held in there, slowly whiling away that first season, moving into the second, growing more interested as the show began to turn the corner. To be sure, that season had quite possibly the series’ dumbest episode (“Ted”), but it also showed a flair for the two-parter. By the time I got to the season-ending “Becoming,” I was hooked. The buildup, the ending cliffhanger, everything—I knew the second that episode ended that I was pot-committed to finishing the series, and even jumping over to Angel and drudging through that first season.
“Goodnight Sweet Grimm” gave me similar jolts of delight and excitement. I should immediately note that these feelings are marked by many asterisks, because comparing this show to Buffy dooms Grimm to languish in a towering shadow of cultural significance and wild entertainment. After two full seasons, Grimm is nowhere close to accomplishing what Buffy had already done. It just gets a bit too hard not to note the similarities at a certain point, especially since David Greenwalt’s work lends better to the parallels than Jim Kouf’s work on Taxi (the Jimmy Fallon one) or Snow Dogs. Grimm shares a good amount of DNA with Angel, as a more adult detective procedural without the coming-of-age plotlines—though I would probably watch that. (Quick, someone get on a prequel web comic that shows Aunt Marie’s early life becoming a legendary feared Grimm.)
I am extremely wary of placing too much hope in the future of this show, mostly because last season, after some gradual improvement, Grimm drove into another ditch with a fairly lame finale that had two bad side effects: ruining Juliette’s character—which has taken an entire season to slowly and methodically correct—and buying into the worst subplot on the show, the sought-after Hitler power Fuchsbau coins. Thankfully, this season avoided repeating that problem, instead building more tension by the minute, drawing in every major character to some of their best scenes of the season, and ending on a cliffhanger that makes last season’s reveal of Nick’s mother seem like tawdry pablum. I have my reservations, but this was some damn fine fairy tale supernatural intrigue detective television (yes, that’s a giant hodgepodge of genres, but I don’t like the umbrella “genre” distinction as much), a nice capstone on all the progress Grimm made this season to become one of my favorite shows pure entertainment value.
Let’s focus on Juliette for a minute. At the beginning of the series, Bitsie Tulloch was by far the worst cast member on the show, playing a character who didn’t fit into the story in any way other than harping on Nick or falling into the damsel in distress role. Giving her amnesia is the single worst decision the show has made in two seasons, but instead of immediately reversing course, Grimm went about gradually steering into the skid and bringing the plot around. Now, Juliette knows who Nick is, remembers everything she loves about him, and knows about Wesen, Grimms, Aunt Marie’s trailer, Monroe, Rosalee, and the whole gambit. It’s exactly as it should’ve been about 30 episodes ago, and though it took an incredibly long time to get to this point, it suggests a promising future.
I used to see Juliette as the permanent heel, the Chester McBadBat of Grimm, a character best used as a semi-meaningful death to signal that something bad could actually happen and inspire Nick to steel himself. Now I see Juliette kind of like Tara: awkward, with an acting style I don’t particularly care for, but I’m at least interested in her character and how she fits into the rest of the group. I hadn’t given this much thought before the first reconciliation scene between Nick and Juliette in the finale—since a cohesive New Scooby gang has only begun to take shape in the back half of this season—but having a veterinarian on board when dealing with Wesen would actually round out the team nicely.
Wait—the finale. Yes, that episode. Well, that was certainly a new way to use the zombie craze that’s been flying around the past few years. A pufferfish Wesen called a Cracher-Mortel added to the Haitian voodoo inspiration of Baron Samedi, in service of a royal family member seeking to create enough havoc to capture Nick and bring him back to Europe. Just like last week, when I noticed there wasn’t enough time for everything to wrap up, the same thing happened again as the team ran around the shipping containers, and then that possibility dawned on me, and I gasped. That’s really the first time anything on the show has surprised me to that degree, and I immediately thought of Buffy leaving Sunnydale, what it meant for all the other characters, and how it improved my opinion of every other character and upped my emotional investment in the show.
Reg E. Cathey (Norman Wilson from The Wire, and Freddy the BBQ owner in House Of Cards) gets to ham it up a lot as Baron Samedi, but it’s a cool combination of mythical inspiration and Wesen creation, not fearful so much as compelling, a calculating man in service of a prince. Sean and Eric Renard actually get to interact in person during this finale, and it give Grimm a chance to fill in their past and rewrite some of the perception. Though they’ve talked on the phone a fair amount, they’ve actually not seen each other since Captain Renard was 13, which makes Eric’s appearance in Portland all the more significant. Renard is right to be suspicious—Eric is so callous that he offers up a loyal longtime employee just to see Samedi woge and create a rage zombie.
If I have one big complaint, it’s that the idea of a character being in major danger was a total bait-and-switch. As Juliette threw herself into the case, tagging along with Nick at Rosalee’s spice shop and helping to administer an antidote to the crazed citizens, she was the most vulnerable and unprepared, the most likely to suffer some tragic accident just as she starts to accept and embrace this new reality with Nick. And yet, this choice seems like the better and more challenging one, and considering the long-term rehab of her character over the course of the season, I’m willing to trust it for now.
I didn’t see folding Juliette into the team in this fashion coming at all, and if Grimm goes with the same kind of narrative jump between seasons that Buffy went for between seasons two and three, we could get a version of the show that sees Monroe, Rosalee, Juliette, Hank, and Captain Renard working together to prove that it doesn’t always have to be Nick against whatever creature stirs up trouble in Portland that week.
Right now, the dynamic is a bit wonky, with Nick fighting and Monroe woge-ing out, with the girls hanging back—but that final scene running around the shipping containers is the first time Grimm has built a team out of its cast—minus Hank, but I’ll assume that’s just because of Russell Hornsby’s Achilles injury—and actually put it to good use fighting an enemy, one that will be around beyond the scope of a few episodes.
That scope does leave a ton of leading questions, given the massive significance and reach of the overarching mythology. Sean’s brother comes to Portland, but with all the royal families—of whom not much is known, especially what kind of creatures they may be—with all the keys to a mythic treasure, that story sure seems to lead away from Portland, which has grown into a nice home fit for quirky characters like Monroe and Bud. The families, or at least a determined prince like Eric, want the key badly enough to send increasingly dangerous assassins after Nick in order to get it. But the ambitious and wide-ranging back-story slowly chugs along, and the writers keep figuring out what works best in episodic arcs. I’m willing to follow this group wherever it goes.
But I keep coming back to feeling happy that this finale makes me think about all those possibilities and questions, about the future adventures for Nick and Monroe and Rosalee and the rest of the group coming together. Damn the law, kidnap the crazed car mechanic and deal with the Wesen cases off the books if necessary, I don’t need to hear about IA or political oversight of the Portland PD. “Goodnight Sweet Grimm” tells me that putting faith in this show to get better might not be rewarded with something at the level of Buffy, or even Angel, but it’s worth finding out just how much better the show can get when given the chance to keep building this world.
- Yet another wonderful romantic moment between Monroe and Rosalee at the beginning of the episode. “Well, Nick’s not home…” Silas Weir Mitchell continues to be the MVP of this series, and though he and Rosalee are my new Xander/Anya, I hope he doesn’t fall victim to obsolescence like other standout supporting characters.
- Along with “Season Of The Hexenbiest,” this finale is in a tie for the best episode of the season. Worst is pretty easily that video game killer episode, but other season standouts include the run from “One Angry Fuchsbau” through the end, “Face Off,” and “La Lloranna.”
- I didn’t find a way to fit anything with Adalind into the body of the review, but even though I called the ending from a mile away, I still liked the way the scene played out, especially the look on Claire Coffee’s face when she woke up and realized the old hag took the bait. I’m curious where this largely independent sidebar goes, and how it will eventually have to tie back to the main plot if Adalind gets her powers back.
- I really like that Grimm is starting to nail the witty throwaway exchanges: “So just a normal day at the office?” or “Learning curve.” “Works for me.” both show just how much better the dialogue is now.
- Having said that, “Ding-dong the witch is dead,” and the title quote are a couple clunkers.
- Thanks for following along with Grimm this season. I’m not too excited that NBC moved the show back to Fridays, since I think it deserves a better night and could hold the post-Voice hour reasonably well, but I’m glad it will get another season, and I look forward to NBC shuffling it around even more!