Grimm, Ep. 1.14, “Plumed Serpent”: Grimm grows up
Nick’s loyalty to his girlfriend Juliette is tested when a firedancer takes a shine to him.
Grimm Review, Season 1, Episode 14: “Plumed Serpent”
Written by Alan DiFiore and Dan E. Fesman
Directed by Stephen de Paul
This week on Grimm,the darker tone continues- the cop banter is a thing of the past and even the color palette has been toned down to match. Grimm is going for grunge, territory where the Wesen should feel right at home. The Unterwelt of strip clubs, tattoo parlors, and scrap yards is exactly where they work and play; it would be no surprise to discover large concentrations of them making a solid living on the Vegas strip (and where else does Cirque de Soleil find its star performers?).
With the atmosphere darkening and becoming more complex, the characters have to move with it. This isn’t a problem for the Wesens with recurrent roles, Monroe and Renard- their conflicts are set up for them, ready-made. Monroe badly wants to eat people, but sticks to his vegan diet and Pilates, while Renard has mysterious Wesen responsibilities to pursue. But what about the humans? Hank, serial charmer and slightly thick sidekick, is bound to blunder into some Wesen trap from which he’ll have to be extricated. That’s his angle sorted. Juliette – well she’s likeable, and Bitsie Tulloch’s wry underplaying allows us to believe that under her mild, fey exterior lies something tougher and more practical. So far, all the writers have allowed her to do is be in peril, look annoyed when Nick phones in to postpone dinner, and help out a bit around the fringes of the action. She’s more of a plot device than Hank, who at least gets to figure things out now and then, but Juliette’s appealing enough to give Nick a very good reason to want to hang onto her.
Which is necessary for the plot this week. Nick’s conflicts have so far centered on not getting caught planting a stake through a Wesen’s heart when, as a cop, he should be escorting the perp to the station to be processed. This episode, everything gets hotter. Firedancer Ariel Eberhart decides seduction is the right way to manipulate Nick into playing his role in her plan to restore her firebreathing Daemonfeuer of a father to mental health. Ariel is played by Danielle Panabaker, who, all smoky eyes and oil blob mouth, would be hard for most redblooded males to resist. Though not, of course, Nick. When she takes off her top, he looks at her as if she’d just tried to sell him insurance. Ripping his shirt open later in the story has much the same effect as does turning up in his bed naked. You have to sympathize when she loses patience and attempts to burn him to a crisp.
What a wasted opportunity on the writers’ part (and on Nick’s too, but enough of that). Yes, we get that Nick, as a Grimm, has to have a deeply incorruptible nature, but making him a fantasy version of Dudley Do-Right risks making him dull. He needs at least a moment of struggle before turning Ariel down, to make us feel he is human. Denial is a big part of the Grimm psychology – Aunt Marie had to sacrifice a life of happiness with Titus Welliver after all, and her dying words to Nick were all about letting Juliette go before his new life got too dangerous. Making Nick a knight in shining armor this episode – fighting the dragon to release his fair maid – fits that noble, self-sacrificial aspect of the character, but pure, noble characters lack complexity. Nick has to have a dark side too, and something to drive him apart from wanting to keep his girlfriend safe. Unfortunately, any hopes that he might pick up on the previous episode’s strand about the death of his parents and begin his own investigation into what really happened are squashed, and that piece of backstory goes undeveloped too.
However, for a story in the straight ‘Wesen hunt’ category, this is an improvement over many of the others. Apart from some deadfooted choreography in the fight sequences, the visuals are strong and the plotting keeps a wafer of suspense going until the end. The next episode, “Island of Dreams”,sounds very similar to “Let Your Hair Down”. Let’s see if the Grimm team can surprise us.