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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Grimm: "The Ungrateful Dead"

Illustration for article titled Grimm: "The Ungrateful Dead"

Everything was set up for Grimm to pull an “Anne.” The second season ended on a bold note, with Nick confined to a coffin-like container thanks to Baron Samedi, ready to be shipped back to Europe with Captain Renard’s royal brother Eric. I have to admit, I was desperately hoping the show would commit to this right from the beginning of the third season, with MonRosalee, Hank, Juliette, and Sean working together to keep the Wesen of Portland at bay while searching for Nick’s whereabouts.

Instead, “The Ungrateful Dead” repeats the final moments of last season’s premiere and picks up seconds after, as the Portland police round up the Cracher-Mortel’s zombified creations in a shipping container, and the rest of the gang searches for Nick before he can be flown away to Europe to be used as some kind of caged, anti-Wesen assassin by the royals.

I wish Grimm had the balls to be like Buffy and Angel and just commit to a time jump, to trust an audience to follow along and to let the actors establish the amount of time that has passed with character changes. Last season brought the Portland Scoobies closer together, an actual team working together between the spice shop, the police station, and the Magic Airstream. That gave them relative autonomy within the police system—with the occasional comedic barb for Sgt. Wu to deliver—and the opportunity to share more and more about the Wesen world. Even Juliette’s character resuscitated to the point where it makes sense for her to accept Nick’s new burden and team up with Rosalee as a veterinarian and a homeopathic cure-providing Wesen.

This is all to say that while I didn’t find this premiere as much of a resounding thud as last year’s, it still took a promising finale and threw a bunch of cold water on the dramatic possibilities presented. Even when Renard tracks the shipment to a private plane and it manages to take off before anyone can stop it, there’s still a chance for the story to take a much stronger turn, either for the group to head to Europe to save Nick, or perhaps more intriguingly, for Adalind to see Nick again and prove mischievous by somehow taking him with her.

Adalind’s entire subplot rests outside everything with the rest of the characters right now. She performs a ritual with the old Hexenbiest’s heart and limbs—that has some decent effects work in the field—and seems to earn her powers back. Only, she hasn’t really earned them back yet, since there are some more steps to be taken. This has the potential to be incredibly boring and drawn out for no other reason than stringing out very little plot across a great many episodes. Nothing from the past two seasons of Grimm tells me that there’s any urgency in moving to a particular end point, which is why plots linger on far beyond when they should arrive at a definitive conclusion.

But this still leaves the most exciting development of the episode: Nick can resist Samedi’s zombie creation to a certain extent. It leads to the most exciting scene in the premiere, as Nick repeatedly punches his way out of the metal coffin he’s trapped in—very Kill Bill-esque escape technique—and goes into a frenzy. He’s not totally in control of what he’s doing, but he’s not exactly a mindless zombie heeding Samedi’s every command either. Nick brings down the plane in a fiery crash and somehow survives. I think we’re supposed to assume that’s just because he’s a Grimm, and I’m willing to go along with it. But then he wanders into a bar and starts an epic brawl, because he’s not completely himself.


Meanwhile the Portland Scoobies develop an antidote in vapor form, something that returns the zombies back to normal, so that the police no longer need to monitor a shipping container full of something they can’t explain. (It’s going to be really hard to cover this whole thing up, except for not because Grimm always sweeps this stuff under the rug.) But as much as I appreciate a darker, action-oriented Grimm, I feel like it shortchanges my favorite part of the show: Silas Weir Mitchell. He gets barely enough time to quip witty phrases at anyone, and even as he and Hank search for Nick in the woods—as Nick approaches a mother and child, which foreshadows a near-violent experience in next week’s show—I felt disappointed that the show is still dealing with the same Wesen villain after three episodes without getting to something bigger about the Wesen world. Reg. E Cathy hasn’t even been given that much to do, but here he is in his third episode, still cackling and looking evil.

Grimm has built some disparate, necessary pieces while staying alive over the past two years, to the point where the show has a surprisingly fervent niche fan base and actual anticipation heading into this season. But the first season teased out scruples about Captain Renard’s past, and the second season made him a tenuous ally while introducing Eric and the royal family, and re-establishing Adalind and the keys. That makes a lot of parts and no clear direction. (And that’s leaving out the damn Fuchsbau coins, which have been absent, along with Nick’s mother, since the beginning of season two.) The show needs to pick a Big Bad (Adalind assisting Eric would be rather easy, with the child she gave up as a potential quick-aging villain for a later arc) and a narrative point in the distance to build to. That would make my half-hearted recommendations of a strong but aimless show to coalesce into stronger assent. I want this show to figure out how to make all the improvements fit together.


And there need to be actual stakes, meaning some characters that have grown much more likeable should probably be used for consequential deaths (provided they aren’t Bud). I know this sounds prescriptive, but after 45 episodes, aside from a few highlight episodic interpretations of certain fairy tales, not much progress has been made beyond Nick knowing a few big details and becoming more comfortable with his dominant physical abilities. Everyone who gets hurt gets better. Nick and Hank always catch the bad guy, or Nick and Monroe kill the evil Wesen that needs to be stopped—unless there’s a cliffhanger with a terribly worded title card at the end. Grimm hasn’t been billed as a slow-moving episodic procedural, nor as a dead-ahead serialized fairy tale. It’s a genre show that can bounce between those two extremes, but to improve it has to choose one of the many paths available and tell a progressive story instead of dawdling for another year.

Stray observations:

  • The epigraph is taken from “Godfather Death,” one of my favorites from the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales. If you’ve never read it, take a few minutes and give it a shot.
  • The Portland Scoobies, or P.S.’s, shall henceforth be the name of the group in these reviews. Feel free to use that name for your intramural teams.
  • The bar where Nick ends up? That would be Shirley’s Tippy Canoe, about a half hour east of central Portland.
  • I have the second part of this on a screener, but purposely didn’t watch it so I could review the premiere unspoiled by the second half. Like the two-parter that opened last season, I’m hoping it improves in the latter installment.
  • The eighth episode of the season is titled “Twelve Days Of Krampus.” I cannot wait.
  • The only halfway decent Monroe quip of the night: “Lost him…found him. This way.”