'Grimm' Review: Red Menace
Grimm started the New Year in style with that nifty opening scene. A rock song about Red Riding Hood played as a woman dressed in a red hoodie ran through a Portland forest, followed by a man wearing a dark hoodie. The camera followed the two from a distance, creating the sense that something horrible would happen to the woman that Nick and Hank would investigate. The man running behind the woman is the hero, Nick, and he passes by with a polite, “Good morning.” The scene’s cool because it subverts the viewers’ expectations and it also serves as a reminder of what’s changed in Portland with Nick around. Nick is the guardian for women and men from the various threats humans don’t know about when living their lives in Portland.
Nick’s run also adds to ever-growing mystery of what’s changed about him and what it means since his feral state in the first two episodes: he doesn’t sweat after long runs. Nothing more is discussed after Juliette points that out. The case-of-the-week involves no jogging and no sweating. Renard returns from his tedious adventure in Austria to help Nick and Hank investigate a death, which leads to a Russian healer, his wife, and his extra-marital relations. It is a story that subverts the viewers’ expectations like in the opening scene. Alan DiFiore’s script played with what viewers know and flipped it just a little bit. One may follow the scent, but the nose doesn’t quite find the object—it’s a bit over there. One assumes the wife is responsible for the attempt on her husband’s life, but it’s the sexy maid the husband’s fooled around with under the wife’s jealous eye. The subversion of expectations isn’t massive, but it’s worth noting since Grimm will lounge in predictability some weeks.
What engaged me about “Red Menace” was the story of the Russian healer, a former assassin turned healer, in an attempt to make up for the wrongs he committed during his assassin years. The writing is committed to the ‘twist’ in the final act, which isn’t really a twist actually but misdirection, and it affects what could’ve been a totally substantive story about reformation, redemption, mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice. The Russian healer is part of a Wesen group with a difficult name-the roots are historical (Rasputin was one). Boris, the healer, chose to cheat out of self-preservation. The act of healing, which can be fatal depending on the healer’s intentions, increases sex drive. Boris had sex out of wedlock, drawing the ire of his wife. His wife lived with it—her own sacrifice for a greater good, one supposes.
An assassin can’t move on his life without experiencing violent reminders of his past. Boris poisons a man with the radiation that runs through his body at a party, after the man attacks him. The man was the son of a man Boris killed in his former life. His partner us unknown for most of the episode, but she’s revealed as the same maid Boris has enjoyed intimate moments with, and she attempts to poison him with vodka before a romp. Throughout her attack on him, he begs for forgiveness, insisting he’s not the same man. In previous scenes, Boris healed a boy and a girl of incurable wounds. Afterwards, he stumbled around, coughing, weakened each time he healed someone. During the climatic fight scene between Boris and the maid, he’s stabbed, and his wife cuts the throat of the woman. Near death, Boris sacrifices his life to save hers as Nick and Hank, and Renard, watch, as Boris’ wife wonders why he’d die to save hers. Boris’ last words offer an answer, “Forgive me.” Nick, Hank, and Renard, barely figure into the story. Regardless, Boris’ redemptive story was well-told and well-acted.
Nick and Juliette, meanwhile, help Juliette’s friend involved in a domestic abuse situation. The story starts but then sits, which is also what happens when Hank hits on his physical therapist and fails, and also when Renard sits down with Adalind before returning to Portland. Grimm continues to struggle with macro-storytelling. The series is best on a micro procedural case-of-the-week level. Overarching stories half-start. Weeks later the half-started stories may progress. The writers seem secure in the structure of the show. I don’t think the structural identity of the series changes going forward, but I’ll deal with it as long as the case-of-the-week stories remain as engaging as tonight’s "Red Menace."