Now that’s more like it. Grimm’s final season has gotten off to something of a shaky start—not a bad one necessarily, but one that’s been burdened under all of the stuff that the show’s collected over the past few years. The show’s more imaginative side has been crushed under overly vague conspiracies, its sense of humor has suffered when confronted with the heightened stakes of events, and there’s a questionable character choice in the Julievette regression. True, all of those are part and parcel of Grimm, but they’re also the things that get in the way of Grimm’s better side: its sense of humor, its inventiveness, and the enjoyment of watching its characters get out of the binds their in.
“Oh Captain, My Captain” is an episode that clears up the vast majority of those concerns, because all of that’s present. It’s easily the best episode of season six and a contender for one of the show’s top ten, finding a way to both get our characters out of the hole they’re in and break up the bleakness with some body-swap levity. It’s an encouraging step for the show’s final act, one that proves even after 112 episodes it still has a way to surprise us.
Right at the top, it’s to be commended for what may be one of the cleverest ways ever to lighten the load on an actor when they decide to direct an episode. Normally when said actor steps behind the camera their character’s screen time is minimized so as not to exhaust them entirely, but “Oh Captain, My Captain” finds a way to get both David Giuntoli as director and Nick Burkhardt as main character without minimizing either. It does so by going to one of the Hexenbiest’s more potent spells, the Verfluchte Zwillingsschwester (a term it will never get old to see actors say) to put Nick inside Renard’s body in an effort to subvert the latter’s control of the city from the inside.
Grimm’s pulled this trick a few times to notable effect in recent years, with such events as Adaldind as Juliette in “Blond Ambition” and Eve as Renard in “The Believer.” What makes it feel fresh here is the way it’s presented, less a supremely clever tactic than a dangerous last resort. All the tricks legal and magical from last week didn’t do a thing to stop Renard, and he’s poised to take power and enforce his vision on the city. It also helps their choice that Renard is at full dickish levels this week, telling Adalind the burden of playing house is all on her and smugly kicking Hank and Wu out of the precinct. (Plus that whole ordering the death of his former campaign advisor incident, a character whose reintroduction and exsanguination are laughably quick.) Renard needs to be taken down by whatever means at this point, and that requires dipping into their last resorts.
In this choice, it also manages to find a pleasant surprise late in the show’s life. For five seasons, Sasha Roiz has had to play a lot of different nuances in Sean Renard—his ambitions for power, his resentment of the royals, his paternal concern for Diana, that time he was possessed by Jack the Ripper—but he’s never been asked to be simply funny. And it’s a shame it took as long as season six for them to do so, because he’s great at it. “The Believer” hinted at that potential and “Oh Captain” fully realizes it as Nick’s portrayal strips away all the grace and restraint of Renard to a goofy extent. “Nickard” bumbles around in his taller form, pieces his persona together from scratch, and fumbles his way through high-stakes bluffs. The moment where he demands Hank’s resignation and breaks into a broad smile alone is worth the gag and in the running for Grimm’s funniest non-Monroe moments.
In fact, a lot of “Oh Captain, My Captain” is funny in a welcome way. The efforts to get a Renard costume and keep Renard in one place to see the fake news cast are reminiscent of season two’s “One Angry Fuschbau” caper vibe, right down to Monroe being trapped in a room as someone makes excuses. There’s a few awkward Julievette moments—Monroe inadvertently mentioning her breaking bad, the way she averts her eyes from Nick stripping to his briefs—that take a couple steps toward making this new version feel less of a blank slate. Wu’s back to peak witticism as he finds a method even more effective than the were-Wu to stop Renard in his tracks: “You don’t want to go in there, because you’re already in there. Might get a little awkward. Just saying.” And somehow, after missing it in two previous body-swap episodes, we finally get a moment of identity confusion: Nickard returns to the spice shop, Monroe suggests it could be the captain, and everyone backs away in perfect unison.
The comedy doesn’t entirely eclipse the darkness though, as Nickard’s transformation doesn’t reverse as easily as it should and Renard’s on the warpath after being seen to step down from office. If it was fun to watch Roiz play off the rest of the full cast after so long being on the other side, it’s just as much fun to watch him play off himself. The two versions exchange threats, get to brawling, break out the woges, and unsurprisingly battle to a standstill. Giuntoli handles the scenes with surprising ease, as aside from one of the stuntmen not appearing as tall as Roiz—not that many people are—the scenes are convincing and the fight has some decent choreography.
Given that the two are unable to defeat their mirror image, it finally leads to verbal negotiation. What made the action of the last season’s finale so compelling was the sheer scope of the stakes facing Team Grimm, and writer Thomas Ian Griffith manages to come up with a surprisingly neat solution to those problems. Bonaparte and his army of wesen cops can’t be waved away, so Nick proposes canceling them out, introducing a fake conspiracy that was powerful enough Renard would feasibly step away to handle it. In Grimm’s marvelously self-deluded version of Portland, this is a story that enough of a glimmer of truth that it could be sold.
If there’s an off note to any of this, there’s the feeling that it might go too far in returning the show to square one. True, Renard becoming a civic dictator and forcing Team Grimm into a guerilla resistance wasn’t a sustainable mode of life for the show, but this seems to swing the pendulum back into full procedural territory. Nick, Hank, and Wu are all back at the precinct, Renard remains captain, and with their respective international organizations decapitated in Portland everyone seems free to go about their lives again. It’s a move that makes the events of the past season come across as largely irrelevant, raising some uncertainty about how the final chapters of the story will play out.
There’s one moment though that goes a long way towards assuaging those concerns. If Diana knocking the Renard out of Nick is an overly neat way to solve the Renard dilemma, the stare she gives Nick and the way it colors his relief goes a long way towards complicating it. Renard called it when he pointed out that Diana’s love for her father remains one of the only things we understand about this incredibly powerful child—a power underlined by an earlier flashback to Nick’s mother’s warning—and impersonating her father feels like a major no-no. Being Kelly’s father and the man her mother loves buys him some leeway, but how long does that last? Is she capable of forgiving and forgetting, or is this his first step to being issued a one-way ticket to the cornfield?
It’s unclear if Grimm has the nerve to make its final Big Bad a prepubescent young girl, even this late in the game. However, after an episode as enjoyable and ambitious as “Oh Captain, My Captain,” it’s easier to give the writers the benefit of the doubt.
- This Week In Portland: The roof of Nick’s loft once again proves that it’s supposed to be set in inner Southeast Portland, contrary to the map in the season premiere that set it in Northwest Industrial. I’m sure I’m the only person who’s annoyed by this.
- This Week’s Epigram: “You will face yourself again in a moment of terror.” Grimm’s casting a wide net this final season for quotes, having evidently exhausted all fairy tales and now moving into obscurities like Bulgarian author Mihail Sebastian.
- Know Your Wesen: Renard’s henchman Lieutenant Grossante is some form of bestial wesen, potentially a Lowen or Blutbad or creature heretofore unestablished—the woge was too brief and too shadowed to be certain. Given his threats to Nickard and that Renard is completely unaware of said threats, it’s a safe bet we’ll get some clarification in upcoming episodes.
- Plenty of other plot details thrown out this episode as well: Renard’s hallucinations of Meisner not subsiding, the Splinter of Destiny continuing its hold on Nick, the reemergence of the were-Wu. Things will be plenty busy even without Renard holding the mayor’s office.
- As far as direction, Giuntoli does a solid job with this episode. It’s not a broad departure from Grimm’s visual norms, but that’s meant as a compliment as it shows his long familiarity with the house style. The opening scene of Monroe ducking the police flashlights in the spice shop sets an unsettled tone early, and transitions between that tone and the comedic elements are pleasantly smooth.
- One more great Sasha Roiz moment: the nasty dismissal in his voice when Renard says “Ah, take her” to Nick’s demand that Adalind comes home with him.
- Also in great moments, Monroe thinking too hard about which of Renard’s ties to take with him. Red’s a power color, but Nick’s not really a tie guy, so…
- There are so many readings into Julievette’s “Renard is bigger than you” comment to Nick. She’s been with Nick and Renard, and she’s been Renard, so she’d know better than anyone.
- Also worth reading into: the moment where they suggest to ask a question only Nick would know, and Julievette inches forward before Adalind takes over.
- “I wanna hug you, but I can’t hug… this.”