Welcome back to the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows! Hopefully you’ve had a chance to recover from the void left behind on Sunday by no new episode of Once Upon a Time that was coupled with a painfully unfunny Oscars broadcast. (I think it’s official — Billy Crystal can stop now.) This week, I’ve got a Grimm special for you about an episode that brings us into the depths of Wessen Fight Club while giving us even more insight into the mysterious Captain Sean Renard.
Grimm, Ep 12: “Last Grimm Standing”
The grisly (and I do mean grisly! There was a victim wearing his innards on the outside!) murder of an elderly couple prompts Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) to investigate what turns out to be a wessen fight club where wessen called Gladiator Lowen force other wessen to fight each other to the death for sport. Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), in an attempt to help the case, ends up getting captured by the lowen and locked up in preparation for the ring. Luckily, Nick tracks him down, and his offer of fighting in the blutbad’s place is too awesome for Leo, the head lowen (Nick Chinlund), to pass up. Of course, as Nick is fighting wessen in a deadly blood sport, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) is waiting at home and being stood up for their three-year anniversary dinner and mulling over the fact that Nick has an engagement ring hidden in his sock drawer. And throughout all of this, Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz), who is royalty by the way, was struggling to maintain control of a wessen world gone awry and is forced to make a bloody example of Leo, who clearly wasn’t operating his arena within Renard’s strict parameters. Royalty may not be what it used to be, but that doesn’t mean that royalty still can’t call upon others to bite somebody’s face off.
Script: Naren Shankar and Sarah Goldfinger’s script for “Last Grimm Standing” manages to be simultaneously entertaining and boring, which is a strange thing to say, I know, so let me explain. Boring, because the case itself wasn’t really all that challenging. Nick and Hank’s discovery of the arena seemed too easy. In fact, Hank says something to the effect of “this looks like some kind of arena,” and I remember thinking “Really? Because to me it looks like a big circle on the ground.” It seemed strange that they went right to the arena place, where blood on the ground and circles and strange symbols could have also been the remnants of some kind of occult ceremony or human/animal sacrifice. The pacing of the episode was a bit slow, especially in the beginning, because it was so obvious where the case was gonna go that there wasn’t much to do.
What redeemed the episode was the fun, humorous dialogue and the focus on the wessen world and mythology. From Nick going in to save Monroe, knowing his worth as a Grimm; to Captain Renard’s dealings with the wessen underworld, most of the story of the episode dealt with the show’s mythology and Nick, Monroe, and Renard’s places in it, and these are elements of the show that have been long time coming. Interesting, too, that we got to see all of this on the occasion of Nick and Juliette’s 3rd anniversary. Juxtaposing the wessen world with the most important thing in Nick’s personal life effectively lays out the direction for the rest of the show. Most interesting was the fact that Renard really does seem to wants to run an ethical ship, or at least as ethical a ship as can be supported by the way wessen live.
I just wish that Juliette had left the dang ring alone! I was half expecting her to put it on her finger and not be able to take it off causing oodles of I Love Lucy-style hijinks. Alas, all the ring did was make her really sad. More about that in Representation.
Performances: Giuntoli continues to grow along with his character, and I love watching him become more and more comfortable with being a Grimm, incorporating both humor and gravitas into his performance. I noticed something in Russell Hornsby’s performance this week that has always been there, but I’d never noticed before. There’s a difference between the way he interacts with Nick and the way he is when he turns away from Nick. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s as if he’s trying to put on a “brave, worldly, knowledgeable” face for Nick, but walks around with a bit of insecurity and sadness the rest of the time. It’s lovely to watch. Bitsie Tulloch sparkled with humor at the top of the episode, then later spoke volumes with a look. Silas Weir Mitchell continues to impress as Monroe, and it’s a testament to him that the character of Monroe has become so beloved that I actually got angry at my television when Monroe was being hurt in the cage. Ever the scene-stealer, Sasha Roiz got to shine as Renard this week as we got to see both the character’s fierceness and his uncertainty. He is a monarch grasping at straws, and Roiz is such a nuanced performer that even as Renard is threatening someone at gunpoint or setting a monster on them, flickers of insecurity are never far behind.
Lastly, I need to give special mention to Robert Blanche as Sargent Franco, who in only a couple of episodes has managed to be a really comforting, knowledgeable, and helpful presence on the team. I was impressed by Blanche’s ability to convey a long history and a trust with these detectives despite only having been in the past two episodes. I hope he sticks around. He can be the Costello to Sargent Wu’s Abbott.
Production: Oh, my GOD, the viscera. You know a TV show is being gross when you can’t help but express your disgust audibly. Well, when that old guy walks back into the house with his intestines spilling out, I sounded like THIS.
The wessen morphing was seamless, as usual, and they employed a really well-designed set and location for the arena that added a new, grungy feel to the show, conveying that the world of the wessen isn’t either Monroe-cutesey or lush forest Gothic. Sometimes it’s modern, dirty and grimy.
Representation: One of the other reasons why I noticed Sargent Franco in this episode, in addition to Blanche’s performance, is the fact that, when Hank asks him if they’ve started a certain part of the investigation, Franco responds by saying something like, “We were just waiting for your blessing, Sir.” It was a small thing, but it made my ears perk up, because it was wholly addressed to Hank. Not to Hank and Nick, but to Hank. In fact, Franco is generally more deferential to Hank as the senior detective, and it’s great to see a Black character be treated with that level of deference. Also, there’s the fact that another one of the supporting characters this week was a Black male (played by BJ Britt), and he wasn’t a criminal (shocker of shockers!). He was actually a nice guy who jogged and ended up a victim of the larger crime being committed.
The way Juliette is written has come a long way since the first few episodes, and while she still isn’t perfect, Grimm’s only lead female character has been consistently getting more detailed. I just hope this is a trend that continues throughout the rest of the season. Interesting, too, was her reaction to the ring. She looked at it with such sadness after Nick was late. But it wasn’t just about being stood up for their anniversary dinner. It was a deeper sadness and a look that said “This is what the rest of our lives are going to be like if he’s a detective and we get married,” and she looked as though she were reconsidering the whole thing. The show can only benefit from continuing to give Juliette her own needs and motivations, setting up quality conflict in the story rather than have her simply be a support for Nick.
Audience Engagement: Viscera, gun play, and a fight club. Any viewer, casual or fan, would be sucked in by these elements of this episode, though the script might not be strong enough to keep them there. If someone tuned in right at the beginning, and weren’t already a fan of the show, they would probably change the channel. But if they stumbled in in the middle, they’d watch the rest, then look it up online to watch the beginning. “Last Grimm Standing” gave fans a deeper insight into the show’s mythology, but it failed to deliver on the police procedural front.
In the next episode of Grimm, we’re getting more Captain Renard, as well as insight into the death of Nick’s parents! That episode, “Three Coins in a Fuchsbau,” airs Friday at 9PM ET on NBC. Once Upon a Time returns with a new episode on Sunday at 8PM ET on ABC.
Teresa Jusino would rock being a Grimm SO HARD. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1, and at the end of last year she was selected as one of the Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011 at the Geek To Me blog at Chicago Redeye. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.