This week, fellow TV Clubber and all-around insight machine Ryan McGee stirred the pot with a For Our Consideration wondering if strong serialized television has killed the art of a good episode. While I can’t say I agree with every bit of that article, it’s certainly fantastic food for thought, and since he name-checked Grimm, I knew that no matter what the show chose to throw out on the air Friday night, I’d be looking at it through the lens of McGee’s article. Though I may be harping on some sticking problems - and The Atlantic’s counterpoint to Ryan does make me want to be forgiving and focus on my enjoyment of the more gruesome action comedy in the later half of the episode — I did end up enjoying parts of “Last Grimm Standing” quite a bit. The tone of the show, with its uniquely hokey CGI and casual affinity for violence, is dark enough to keep me interested, and each vessen lesson from Monroe is always a treat. Still, this was a weaker outing, that highlighted the distance Grimm still has to go towards prime entertaining fluff and possible renewal.
An illegal underground fight club between vessen run by some lion creatures is an exciting premise, but it took Grimm half of the episode to walk through its cookie-cutter steps to even get Eddie Monroe through the door. With some firecracker previews that focused heavily on the fighting itself, watching Nick and Hank roll through the same steps was especially boring. First we see the crime in question, then the investigation, then some interviews, a jaunt to the Magic Trailer, then the obligatory scene where Nick and Hank repeat all of the information they know so far to Captain Renard, who gives his advice. I could make up a chart for people to fill in with steps to build the first half of a Grimm episode at this point.
And that’s not to mention the Nick/Juliette anniversary plot, introduced for the sole purpose of making Nick late for dinner at the end of the episode, causing Juliette to start questioning things. After mimicking Law & Order predictability in structure, the last thing Grimm needs is a carbon copy of a plot from a million other shows. It’s a procedural, yes, but a supernatural one that should be able to play around with these things more. Buffy the Vampire Slayer navigated this sort of balancing act with aplomb, but Grimm has the distinct disadvantage of starting Nick from square one and just discovering the creature world and the lineage to his skills.
Finally, as if on cue to abate my worries, Silas Weir Mitchell shows up and immediately breathes some levity into the dour proceedings. His lighthearted attitude about almost everything brightens up the mood, his sense of appreciation in the Magic Trailer gives a sense of just how important of a resource that vulnerable plot device is, and some good one-liners help things out. Monroe helps investigate the creature side of things, going to a rat bookie to get information, but ends up getting kidnapped by the lions and forced to participate in the fighting. Nick goes off to rescue him, and suddenly turns into a super cop, entering the ring himself to fend off an unhinged gladiator creature long enough for Hank and the rest of the backup to arrive.
To make the Buffy comparison again, she already had an established history of prowess in kicking ass and taking names in the pilot, whereas Nick is a skilled detective, but not exactly a rough and tumble kind of guy. Aunt Marie did the heavy lifting on the violence and shooting. Now though, Nick seems rather indestructible because the show requires him to be, with the slight nagging problem of never really showing how that progression happens. Then there’s the matter of a truly terrible character name. Seriously, the Lion creature is named Leo Taymor? He is a lion, he’s not taming other lions, and wouldn’t he find the idea of that circus act rather insulting? At least Nick managed to comment on its laziness.
In the scheme of Ryan’s post, Grimm falls into the unsteady territory of mostly episodic procedural shows that throw in overarching serialized plots to give the impression of more forward momentum and questions that demand continued viewing. Tonight’s dose of that backstory centered on Captain Renard, who knows Leo Taymor and his operation, and gave Leo a list of acceptable people to snatch up for the fights. Now that Taymor has decided to deviate and even question Renard’s authority, there’s hell to pay. The Captain visits a church for confession, and after some veiled conversation that basically says the lion must die, the priest goes to change. After all the police investigating is through, Renard talks to Taymor again, and then an unseen creature attacks Leo, though we don’t see the extent of the damage or who’s causing it.
This raises more questions than it answers really, given that church involvement has never been mentioned, and the idea of Renard having a creature sidekick like Monroe — albeit a much more highly trained and violent one — mirrors how Nick has been learning to make sense of this world. I can’t un-see the possible spoilers from NBC’s website, but I’m only guessing on how Nick and Renard are similar in that way.
Though tonight’s epigraph came from “The Lion and the Mouse,” one of the better known of Aesop’s Fables, there were only a few little nods to the story. Perhaps it was a bit more of the Greek myth “Androcles and the Lion,” or The Slave and the Lion. Monroe pulls the nail out of a fighter in the next cage over from him, and the creatures that preside over the fights are lions. While Monroe pulling out the nail produced a rather humorous moment as Eddie quickly got in a comment about impending pain, but the use of this particular myth felt peripheral. The story itself is concerned with the act of mercy, something that has absolutely no significance in this episode. Adopting reference to a folk tale each week is a given, but finding a way to weave in the actual story or message of the fables would be a much more telling step forward.
- My roommate was the first to point out that The Lion and The Mouse was one of Aesop’s Fables instead of a Grimm Fairy Tale. The broad use of folk tales from various sources is a choice I’m willing to look past, but you’d think that since they used that idea s the impetus for the show they’d be a bit more interested in mining that source material first.
- No Sgt. Wu again this week. I do hope he returns soon, his comedic timing livens up the droll beginnings of each investigation.
- Titus Welliver, AKA The Man In Black from Lost, is a guest star next week as an old friend of Aunt Marie’s. Looks like we’re in for a backstory heavy hour next week.
- Do we not get to see the non-creature cases Hank and Nick work on? Or are there just so many criminal creatures out there that they commit most crimes? The show has a very slight sense of time elapsed from week to week.
- Eddie Monroe line-of-the-week: “What kind of meat has…a tattoo?”