Hope you didn’t miss me too much last Monday! The Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows continues with this Grimm Special reviewing Episode 5 in its test time slot of Thursday at 10 PM. Episode 6 of Once Upon a Time and Grimm will be reviewed together later today, and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Unfortunately, the interview I hoped to have for you today fell through. It’s still happening, just not today. With whom is the interview? Well, I’m not going to say. What I will say is that it has something to do with that rat-eaten corpse we saw in Thursday night’s episode.
And with that image firmly lodged in your skull, let’s move on to today’s review, shall we?
Grimm, Episode 5: “Danse Macabre”
A beloved high school music teacher is killed, and Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) follow evidence to a teenage boy who is not only a musical prodigy, but a reinigen, a rat-like creature who has the ability to mesmerize and control rats with music. Nick, learning what he does about reinigen, doesn’t believe that the boy, Roddy, committed the murder, but he does believe he has something to do with it. Roddy is an outcast, both in the regular world and in the creature world for being lower-class, and when other children go to extreme lengths to have him removed from their prestigious orchestra program, he decides to use his reinigen powers to retaliate. Meanwhile, another reinigen who is a refrigerator repairman is at Nick and Juliette’s fixing theirs, and his fear of Nick causes Juliette to be tipped off that something is up with Nick. Also, Hank has a dinner date with a hexenbeist, and Monroe becomes a teen counselor.
Script: Grimm found its footing in the previous episode, “Lonelyhearts,” and continues its upward momentum with “Danse Macabre.” The script, written by show creators David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf is a wonderful take on “The Pied Piper.” It gives us the sad tale of a boy whose talent is overshadowed by his station in life, and the episode’s anti-classist message, highlighted in two scenes in which the line “nice house, nice car” is used in two different ways to juxtapose the wealthy family and the family of rat-catchers, resonates at a time when the 99% are out occupying the streets. There was some great character work in this episode, and the script managed to give careful focus to each of the regular characters as well as the guest stars.
A common complaint of the character of Nick Burckhardt is that he’s not “edgy” enough, as if edginess means a well-defined, complex character. However, in “Danse Macabre” we see how his lack of “edginess” is a strength and not a weakness. Nick is the kind of person who, when other grimms might put a creature in their place purely based on their station, would rather try and help the creature if he can. He is a guy with a sense of humor, who is willing to play a great practical joke on his partner. He is an upstanding guy who loves his girlfriend. He’s a hero, not an anti-hero, and that’s okay, especially on a show that deals in fairy tales. I see no reason to make him dark or troubled or given “edge,” when the plots of each episode will will give him all the darkness and trouble and edginess he needs. Maybe it’s Giuntoli’s Clark Kent hair, but I always think of Superman when I look at Nick and I think, “Superman’s allowed to be heroic and uncomplicated in his pursuit of doing good. Why don’t we accept that kind of unburdened heroism from anyone else?” Well, I think we should. Plenty of conflict will arise for Nick over the course of the series, and already has. We don’t need the conflict starting from within. Not every character has to be a Wolverine in order to be interesting. Now, there’s a journey on which Nick can go, as opposed to getting mired down in angst from the get-go.
The rest of the regular cast of characters is given more depth in this episode as well. It sheds a light not only on Hank’s hatred of rats, but on the fact that, despite his cynical jokes about his ex-wives, he’s actually lonely, So when Adalind Schade asks him to have dinner with her, he gratefully accepts. We also see his admiration for his young partner as he tells Sargent Wu about how Nick’s “ability to read people” has always been right. It was nice to see Sargent Wu out of uniform for once, and he and Hank seem to be better friends than their professional interaction indicates. Monroe’s lack of ease with teenagers led to a wonderful scene between him and Roddy, and even Juliette got a bit more to do. Grimm, as well as procedurals in general, are best when the guest stars are as compelling (or sometimes more) than the main cast, and Grimm’s least successful episode—”Bears Will Be Bears”—was the one in which we weren’t made to care about Gilda or her boyfriend. However, “Danse Macabre,” gives us a great character to care about in Roddy.
And lastly, many of these well-defined character moments also foreshadow future problems for Nick. Sargent Wu, in reference to Nick’s ability to “read people,” says to Hank, “If only Nick had been around when you were married to your ex wife!” Hank then ends up going out for dinner with a hexenbeist. It looks like Nick is going to have to come clean to his partner sooner rather than later. He may have to spill the beans to Juliette, too, who at the end of “Danse Macabre” looks like she knows there’s something fishy going on.
Performances: The main cast was rock-solid across the board, and Giuntoli and Hornsby shone in this episode that allowed them each to be a bit more vulnerable. Giuntoli in particular was the best he’s ever been, and even as he’s hiding his Grimm secret from Juliette, as the reinigen repairman is terrified, Nick seems a bit amused and happy about it. Not that he’d ever take advantage of his position (yet), but I don’t think anyone’s ever been scared of him before, and he smiled just enough to seem like he liked it. Perhaps the edginess some viewers think is missing is yet to be found as he comes into his full grimm power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, after all. Silas Weir Mitchell continues to be a highlight as he navigates Monroe’s conflict between his natural blutbad nature and his desire to be a more upstanding citizen with the perfect balance of humor and seriousness. Nick Thurston, the actor who played Roddy, was a highlight of the episode, too. I thought he was great.
Production: Oh my god, that rat-eaten corpse. Awesome, but also disturbing. Also, the warehouse rave location decked out in candles looked pretty amazing.
Representation: This is the best episode we’ve had on this score! Not only was there much more Sargent Wu—and I think we’re going to be delving more into his personal life from here on in—but we have a black woman reporting the music teacher’s death. Each of the women in the episode felt like a person. Yes, even Juliette! We see Nick actually listening to and conversing with her in this episode, and he only kisses her once! And she actually has a scene with someone other than Nick for a change, which is also a pretty big deal. Adalind Schade, whom I already loved, is back and showing a more vulnerable side as she asks Hank out. Granted, I’m sure she’s up to something, but this time there’s no Captain Renard telling her what to do. It’s all her. Still have the same fabulous Dr. Harper at the morgue, and the mother of the teenage girl was a wonderfully antagonizing presence.
However, I’m still waiting for a crime to be committed by a female. Here we had yet another crime committed to control a woman (in this case, a high school girl the killer wanted to steal from Roddy). Thankfully, the victim wasn’t a woman, so I guess that’s something.
Audience Engagement: This story was carefully balanced between all the main characters and consistently entertaining. Well-paced and delving a bit into greater social issues apart from the murder at hand, both fans and a casual audience can enjoy this episode of Grimm. However, I don’t think audiences would engage with it more on Thursday nights. In fact, the ratings were about the same as it gets on Fridays, and I think if the show wants to find a new audience, they need to stay in the same time slot and become associated with that time slot so that people can always find it. So please, Grimm, stick to Friday nights.
Now, do people still go to raves? Really? I guess the dream of the 90s IS still alive in Portland.
If Teresa Jusino could control rats by making music, she would totally have them run errands for her. Rats can carry groceries, right? She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. 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.