Friday, February 24, 2012

Grimm "Last Grimm Standing" Review

Nearly 12 years ago, on February 29, The WB broadcasted ANGEL's sixteenth episode titled "The Ring." It's a Spartacus-inspired story in which Angel's enslaved by two bad brothers, forced to fight for his freedom, and then accepts the role to free every enslaved demon. I watched the preview for "Last Grimm Standing" and immediately re-watched "The Ring," anticipating writing about the similarities between both episodes, connected through the show runner David Greenwalt; perhaps it'd be an hour in which Nick and the creatures of Grimm see one another as allies instead of foes. Of course, the gladiatorial ring and the bad guy at the center of the blood sport were the lone things in common with the 12 year old ANGEL episode. "Last Grimm Standing" did tease a piece of Grimm mythology though.

As per usual, the teaser of Grimm showed innocent people being murdered by one of the creatures from the Grimm fairy tales. This week's creature was a Luwen (forgive the spelling). The episode opened in the Portland forests on a misty, chilly night. A horseman knelt in the ground, letting the dirt and bits of grass run through his fingers, sniffing the odors, evidently tracking someone. Meanwhile, an elderly couple wanted their dogs to return from the wilderness. The couple were killed by a beastly luwen who ran away once the sounds of horseshoes echoed through the wood. The horsemen captured the luwen and took him to an abandoned warehouse where gladiatorial fights to death are staged for death, but we don't learn about that until halfway through the episode.

Indeed, Nick and Hank spend the first half of the episode in a typical procedural drama where the clues are baffling, the friends of the suspect unreliable, the leads mystifying. If I hadn't seen the previews, the set-up would've been intriguing. A killer who's been missing for weeks is a nice twist from the usual killers introduced in other Grimm episodes. The clues and leads about the killer's locale, who is Dmitri by the way, eventually lead them to an abandoned warehouse. The floors are covered with dry blood, circles, and Latin inscriptions about the honor of death and the honor in accepting death. Nick consults the trailer for any information about gladiatorial history in the pasts of luwens or vessens. Monroe arrives with expository lines about the gladiatorial history of luwens. From there, Monroe volunteers to investigate the matter from the creature side of things. His meeting with a bookie gets him an address, but then he's kidnapped once he arrives at the address. The tone and focus of the episode switches from procedural to search-and-rescue for Monroe, with an explosion of gladiatorial fighting.

The case takes its first interesting turn when Capt. Renard approaches Lee Taymor, the parole officer for two of the 'slaves' in the ring, and orders him to follow the 'rules.' Renard's involvement was a genuine surprise, though his role didn’t' reveal much about his grand role in everything, or any insight into his motivations. At least, Renard's been defined as a strict distributor of justice, and a firm adherer of the 'rules.' So when Renard basically tells Nick and Hank that Lee's worth questioning a second time, it's not because of police justice, but because of some other justice for a world we're not quite sure about yet. Yes, I'd like to learn more about Renard. Next week should be the week for that.

The second half of the episode had the energy and pacing that the first half did not. Perhaps, like the viewer, the writers were eager to write about the gladiatorial ring business. The reasons for the blood sport aren't complex. The Luwens have a gladiatorial history, as well as a love for money. Thus, Lee took miscreants and drug addicts who could die and disappear as if they didn't exist. Unlike in ANGEL, where Angel's motivated to free every demon from enslavement, Nick just wants to save his friend and find Dmitri. The takedown of the ring is a bonus; it's also a triumphant character moment for Nick, who's progressively stronger and more bad-ass as the series evolves. Not only does he take down Lee's blood sport business, he does so by beating the baddest creature in the ring who'd already won six fights. The creatures will be more evil in the future. Nick needs the strength of his ancestry to defeat whatever's coming to him. Monroe's advice about tapping into his family's ancestry to beat Dmitri definitely extends beyond the ring. Nick's progression has been great because it's methodical and natural. His awareness of his past didn't suddenly grant him unlimited strength and power to defeat the evil creatures in those childhood fairytales; it's all about trial by fire; the fire will get hotter, the trials will get more dire and trying.

The transition from procedural drama to ancient gladiatorial battles wasn't smooth; it was not a drastic transition though. I mean, the discovery of the ring solved the case introduced in the beginning. Dmitri physically killed the couple, but Leo's blood sport drove Dmitri insane. Leo and his bearded cronies used torture tactics to rile the creatures up into a mentality in which they could only kill or be killed with no thought given to their actions: a chain of cruelty led to the gruesome murders in the Portland forests. Elsewhere, Juliette found an engagement ring in Nick's sock drawer. Juliette and Nick shared a cute conversation about their romantic dinner later in the evening, full of double entendres and sweet sentiments about their respective regard for one another. Juliette's next scene was of her alone, at the dinner table, waiting for Nick to return home, eat dinner, and propose. But he ran late because of his bout with death, and she sat sadly on her bed, looking at the ring. The Juliette stuff was definitely separate from the tone of the rest of the episode; hell, the rest of the episode was full of testosterone and bravado, whereas this was fluffy and romantic. But, you know, it still worked.

I think Grimm's a niche show. Alan Sepinwall recently revisited the show to see if it was worth his time going forward, but he felt that the series had the same problems as the Pilot. I disagree. Grimm is finding its niche. I really think the essence of the show has been figured out by Greenwalt, Kouf and the room. Grimm isn't for everyone. But it's for me, a guy who misses ANGEL, and loves cool genre stuff.

Michael Watkins directed "Last Grimm Standing." Cameron Litvack and Thania St. John got the story credit. Sarah Goldfinger and Noren Shankar wrote the teleplay.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I felt like this episode actually did a good job on showing Renard's motivations. He's some kind of wesen royalty and Portland is the city he is in charge of. He's trying to keep a balance between the humans, the wesen who would prefer to live by their animal instinct and the good wesen. With the gladiator thing, it was an ancient tradition and there was no way they would stop, just do it under Renard's radar. Only they would have gone after good wesen and probably humans too. What Renard did was create a situation where he kept the wesen on side, whilst protecting innocent people. I think it said a lot about who he is. He's got a really difficult balancing act but it seems very much like he's on the side of good, but having to make hard decisions.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.