Recap and review of Grimm – Season 2 Episode 21 – The Waking Dead:
This has to be one of the more difficult episode of Grimm to review this season. Not because it was bad (quite the opposite, as I enjoyed this a ton), but because it’s merely one half of a whole. As part one of the two-part season finale, “The Waking Dead” has a lot of ground to cover, and not nearly enough time to cover it. There’s the entire business with Adalind (Claire Coffee) and her quest to regain her powers, the ongoing story with Prince Eric (James Frain) and his sinister intentions, and Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) learning the truth about Nick (David Giuntoli), Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner), and the world of Wesen and Grimms; and, to top it all off, there’s even a “case of the week,” as the dead appear to be rising again. Thankfully, this latter plot line ties into the grander story that the two-parter is trying to tell, and it makes for an interesting reveal, especially since I found myself spending 3/4ths of the episode wondering what this Cracher-Mortel had to do with anything, especially on this last episode before the season finale. However, as the one storyline blended into the other, I was reminded of just how good Grimm has gotten at telling these types of interconnected stories over the course of this largely excellent second season.
The case this week involves the dead turning out not to be quite so dead after all. I know the season already tried its hand at zombies earlier this season during Monroe and Rosalee’s picnic, but here, it’s a more straightforward take on the undead genre, though still not entirely literal: it turns out that these zombies, who lose control not long after being resurrected, prompting frighteningly violent outbursts, aren’t dead in the traditional sense. They’ve been poisoned by a venom that creates the appearance of death, though the victims are very much alive — the venom places its victims in a death-like trance during which they become zombified slaves to their master, in this case Baron Samedi (Reg E. Cathey), a wesen known as a Cracher-Mortel. The venom of this wesen, which looks like a puffer fish, induces the trance and binds victims to its will. Baron Samedi essentially spends the episode building an army of zombie wesen, though we aren’t made aware, exactly, to what end — at least not until the end of the episode, when it’s revealed that Samedi is under the employ of Eric, who’s got sinister plans for the city of Portland. Nick and Hank (Russell Hornsby) are on the case, but even though they’re able to piece together the true nature of the top-hatted Baron Samedi, they’re unable to discover what his plans are, nor can they ascertain the location of his wesen army, being stored in shipping containers at a nearby port. Looks like war is on the horizon. Sounds like a season finale to me.
Meanwhile, Adalind is still caught in the middle of the feud between Frau Pech (Mary McDonald-Lewis) and the gypsy Stefania (Shohreh Aghdashloo). The gypsy offers Adalind a contract; however, the former hexenbiest refuses to sign it, since she can’t read the contract’s terms (as it’s written in Vlax Romani). However, this doesn’t stop Stefania from getting what she wants, as she forcefully places Adalind’s hand on the document, burning her handprint onto the parchment and securing the binding agreement. Frau Pech later approaches Adalind and warns her that she might be worth more dead than alive if the wrong people were to find out that she’s carrying a child of royal blood. Hence, she instructs Adalind not to trust Stefania, as the restoration of one’s powers isn’t exactly an easy (or pleasant) process. Yet unbeknownst to Adalind, Pech is doing some politicking of her own, revealing (in vague terms) that an outsider is carrying royal blood in her womb. She gives Eric’s henchman an ultimatum: grant her an audience with the prince, or she’ll make certain the child is sold on the black market to the highest bidder. The henchman launches an investigation of his own, and contacts Renard (Sasha Roiz) when he discovers pictureless passports and a death certificate in the prince’s desk. With Eric’s plans already in motion via Baron Samedi, it may be too late to stop whatever is underway.
But hey, at least Juliette is now among the learned. After recalling that Nick asked Monroe to show her something (before she suffered the scratch that would rob her of her memory), Juliette approaches Monroe and demands to know the secret. This leads to an amusing arc in which Monroe takes Juliette to Rosalee’s shop to finally reveal their true wesen forms, while Bud the Eisbiber (Danny Bruno) freaks out the entire way, convinced that Juliette is going to faint or go into shock. He pleads with Monroe and Rosalee not to reveal their true forms to Juliette, but he’s outvoted and, after a quick lesson in wesen (didn’t mean for that to rhyme, I swear), Rosalee shows Juliette just what a Fuchsbau looks like. Juliette is stunned and has to excuse herself, leaving the store and walking out into the street, before returning after collecting her thoughts. From there, Bud accidentally woges, and if Juliette isn’t exactly freaked out it’s probably because Bud is adorable in wesen form. However, the same can’t be said for Monroe, whose Blutbad form freaks Juliette right the hell out, and with good reason (as he shouts “It’s just me, Juliette!” in the most horrifying cadence possible after changing). Nick is nervous to discover that Juliette has learned the truth and fears that she might not be able to handle it, though Rosalee assures Nick that she took it about as well as any person reasonably could have. Either she’ll accept him (and the rest of them) for who they are, or she won’t. But they’ve done all they can do to initiate her into this world.
And so Nick goes to meet up with Juliette for dinner, and she’s every bit as nervous as he is. They’re taking it slow, and though we don’t get to see them discuss, at length, the fallout of Juliette learning the truth, it feels like a step in the right direction for the couple. This was a long time in coming, and though I’m somewhat miffed that it took us an entire season to get to this point, I absolutely understand, in narrative terms, why it did. Juliette’s growth has been key in getting us to care about her character, and it had to be a gradual, incremental process (by necessity), or else it wouldn’t have been effective. Instantaneous change/growth never works on a show like this, which is why Juliette’s development has been so rewarding. An added bonus is that this storyline has allowed audiences to get invested in Nick and Juliette’s relationship in a way they never had the chance to in the first season. Because Nick and Juliette were already together when the series started, audiences were robbed of the opportunity to see their courtship, a process that often invests viewers in a relationship, as it allows us to see the romance blossom and develop. People are more inclined to root for something if they were there when it all started. And though this isn’t the start of their relationship, it’s the beginning of an entirely new chapter, which has the potential to be just as good.
“The Waking Dead” is still just one part of a larger story though, so I’m hesitant to say whether the entire narrative works or not, since I’d really need to see next week’s finale to see how this comes together. This isn’t really an episode that can stand on its own, solid as it is. But from a sheer entertainment standpoint, I genuinely enjoyed this, and have every confidence that next week’s finale will be able to at least match this level of value. But then, I’m an unrepentant fan of the series, so my bias is long-standing. Let me know what you thought about this week’s episode in the comments (or shoot me an email or Tweet!). Next week is our last chance to talk Grimm this season, and I’m psyched to see how the series plans to cap off what’s been a pretty terrific second season.