Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Grimm: “Headache”

Sasha Roiz (NBC)
Sasha Roiz (NBC)

As the grades for the last few reviews indicate, Grimm has been going through a fairly terrific upswing late in its fourth season. It’s interesting because that growth comes from two seemingly opposite sources, an acknowledgment of the show’s mythology and its willingness to destroy parts of that mythology in ways that can’t be excused with a wave of the hand. The moves to push Juliette and Adalind to opposite sides and eradicate both Nick’s relationship with Juliette and the trailer have worked because of the level of familiarity we have, using callbacks and flashbacks to reinforce where we’ve come from and how far in another direction we’ve gone. It’s made things more exciting than they’ve been in years, raising the question of how far is too far.

However, amidst all the good stuff going on, one outlier has been sticking out like a sore thumb—or bleeding wound as the case may be—in the unanswered question of Renard’s mysterious affliction. While increasing in severity from week to week, it’s lacked for any sort of direction, something that’s occasionally disclosed to others but that has no bearing on the bulk of the episode. It’s a plot that’s largely separated Renard from all of the action with Adalind, Juliette, and the royals, a major problem given how significant all three have been to the character in the past. And the less said about those painfully cheap CGI demon hands from “Hibernaculum,” the better.

“Headache” pulls off Grimm’s latest successful trick by bringing that plot to a successful conclusion. Unlike several of you in the comments last week, I didn’t immediately make the connection that Renard’s blackouts suggested he could be Jack the Ripper, but it turns out to be a highly satisfying answer. (Less satisfying is the way Adalind’s able to explain it immediately when neither her mother’s book nor Henrietta could, but oh well.) The gradual escalation of his symptoms make it feasible that a split personality would take a while to manifest, and given Grimm always left the door open in terms of the supernatural beyond simple woging outright possession doesn’t strain credulity. Plus, it allows us to see another side of what Sasha Roiz can do: Renard is so frequently portrayed as composed that it’s a treat to see him chewing scenery, embracing Jack’s lurching walk and exaggerated London accent.

Once the idea of Renard and Jack being the same is formalized, “Headache” runs with it excellently. Showrunners David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf wrote this episode and they expertly string feelings of paranoia and deception throughout the entire story, taking advantage of the fact that Jack’s nature makes it hard to tell what moments Renard is actually in control of his body. It’s a nice return to some earlier dynamics when Renard always had an agenda aside from Team Grimm, giving rise to some tense moments—particularly in the scene when Nick and Hank ask for Renard’s gun—when you wonder at what point the monster comes out to play. Kouf, who also directed the episode, goes a long way toward expanding those feelings with camera angles that isolate Renard or put him just off to the side of the rest of the team.

The resolution to the story is also well-constructed, and one that works far better than the last time a cure was deployed. I always enjoy when Team Grimm deploys subterfuge rather than brute force (see also “One Angry Fuschbau” and “The Law Of Sacrifice”), and the ruse to seemingly drug Renard only to build to a faux shootout is a great moment for all parties. (Best moment goes to Rosalee when she stabs Renard in the neck with a syringe to bring him around, payback for Jack nearly snapping her neck.) It also leaves the door open for further complications, as despite Grimm’s reputation for shaky police procedure the degree to which Jack’s crimes were publicized—and the complete lack of a scapegoat—makes it far less likely this one can be swept under the rug.

As one person is cured of their villainous tendencies, another one is further solidifying themselves in the choices they’ve made. Dark Juliette continues to be the most fun that Bitsie Tulloch has had with this character since the beginning, from her self-satisfied smirk after nearly shooting Monroe via Nick to the way she walks alongside Kenneth into the house as his Verrat enforcers murder all of her next-door neighbors. I’m continually worried that the writers will try to backslide on the decision to make Juliette a villain, though with both everyone on Team Grimm writing her off after the standoff and her hooking up with Kenneth on the bed she shared with Nick (satisfying the Julienneth shippers I’m sure), the contortions they’d have to go through to get her to that point would be massive.


However, while they’re not moving to redeem her, they are putting in the effort to show her transformation hasn’t wiped her humanity away. With a lot of time to think as she waits for Kelly to appear, there’s several moments where Juliette ponders the better memories of her time in the house, allowing hints of regret to shine through even if she doesn’t call it off. And when Kelly arrives in the house and engages with Kenneth’s people we don’t see her (more on that in a bit), we see Juliette war with her not-quite dead impulse to intervene. The way Kouf frames her heading downstairs to finally claim Diana—who has evidently pulled a Lexie from Falling Skies and aged a few years in a few months—has an air of finality to it, as if she’s bidding goodbye to the person she used to be at the same time everyone else is.

And with all this chaos, here comes Trubel, as the junior Grimm responds to Monroe’s call for help and returns to Portland. Several of you jumped on a throwaway comment I made a few weeks ago about how Trubel hasn’t been missed since she headed to the East Coast, as apparently you’re more kindly disposed towards the character than I was. To clarify, my issue with her wasn’t so much hate as it was fatigue, as she came in at the end of a overstuffed third season and didn’t distinguish herself enough in ensuing weeks to rise above it. (Plus, her interactions with Wu were just another annoying reminder that for some reason he was still being kept in the dark.) I’m willing to grant the benefit of the doubt this time around though, given both the excellence of her return—taking a Verrat head on her first night in town—and Grimm’s near-constant upheaval making more room for her this time around.


Nick could use all the help he can get, as the population of Grimms has been cut by one. Shades of Se7en come up almost immediately with the sighting of a bloody cardboard box, and the foreshadowing is true: Kelly Burkhardt’s decapitated head is left for him as a warning. The abruptness of Kelly’s death is the one sour note of “Headache,” as only representing her via a body double and ADR lines—echoing Viktor’s hilariously abrupt exit earlier this year—is disrespectful to the character. Even if Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio isn’t the easiest guest star to book, the importance of Kelly to the bigger story of Grimm implies a character who deserves more of a sendoff than this, and it’s regretful the writers couldn’t find a way to postpone her final scene until they could have her there in person.

That being said, the sight of her head in the box coaxes the rawest emotion from Nick yet, all his grief and rage over Juliette, Adalind, the trailer, and everything else he’s lost in his role as a Grimm finally expelled in screams to the heavens. Things are the worst they’ve ever been right now, and if the events of the last few weeks are any indication, the worse things get the better it allows Grimm to become. And with its already established track record of amping things up even more for finales, excitement abounds for just how far they’re willing to go.


Stray observations:

  • This Week In Portland: The Oregon Leather Company sign has Jack stalking his latest victim at the corner of NW 2nd and Couch, close to his hunting grounds from “You Don’t Know Jack.” And if you recall “Season Of The Hexenbiest,” this puts the action on the exact same block as the storefront used for that episode’s exteriors of the spice shop.
  • This Week’s Epigram: This comes from Euripedes’ Medea, whose themes of death and betrayal run deep throughout this episode.
  • While I didn’t think after last week’s cliffhanger there was any way Grimm would kill off Monroe, especially in so abrupt a fashion as this, I’ll admit to breathing a sigh of relief when Hank got him out of the way of the bullet.
  • Does anyone ever leave the spice shop not in a hurry? There’s Nick and Hank bolting out twice this episode, Nick/Hank/Monroe leaving quickly in “Hibernaculum,” and I’m sure at least a dozen other instances where characters bolt out without even taking the time to replenish their stocks of Earl Grey or cumin.
  • Someone should take an inventory of how many dress shirts Renard ruined over the course of this story.
  • Monroe refers to the poison he consumed in season two’s “Over My Dead Body” when he needed to play dead to escape a bounty.
  • Kenneth leaving Kelly’s head in a box also recalls season one’s “Leave It To Beavers” when Nick sent two Reaper heads to their organization’s leader as a warning. Which reminds me, whatever happened to the Reapers? Seems with three Grimms (until this week) and two keys outstanding their services would be in more demand.
  • “I hope this hurts.” Pissed-off Rosalee is my favorite flavor of Rosalee.
  • “All in all, I’d say this has been a rather good night.”
  • Season finale next week!