Grimm bounces back from last week’s mess with a solid tale of Rumpelstiltskin, odd MMO video games, and a deadly game of… Sudoku?
Let me completely honest — as soon as I saw the video game aspect of this episode, I was worried. Traditionally, primetime TV network dramas do not understand video games, gamers or nerds, exploiting them for cheap laughs (you can see the worst offenders here). So I was pleased to Spinner, the video game company celebrating the upcoming release of their MMO Black Forest 2: Lost in the Woods, was staffed by a wide variety of people — both age and gender — and they were all able to function in basic human society, too.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games at Spinner — two programmers named Brody and Jenna try to have fun, almost having sex in an office before Jenna gets cold feet and leaves. Then Brody is cut in half by a goblin-like Wesen with two big, acid-spewing bone claws coming out his hands. Although this Wesen does write “PLAY MY GAME” in Brody’s blood on the walls, so there is a find of game... just a deadly one.
So the Wesen-o’the-week case ends up being a good time. Nick investigates Jenna’s ex-boyfriend (and his sister, both of whom fulfill the nerd trope but still act like reasonable humans without mental disorders). He’s innocent — he was play-testing the game — but he reveals that Brody’s avatar was killed — sliced in half — three hours before his real body was sliced in half by a player called NAMELESS.
Meanwhile, the killer is leaving clues — the three title pages from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Rage by Richard Bachmann, with “What’s My Name” scrawled on them. Then he leaves a Sudoku puzzle with some numbers highlighted on at the scene of his next murder, another of Black Forest 2’s main programmers — hilariously, only Wu recognizes what it is, because he’s the only person who has looked at a newspaper or an in-flight magazine, apparently.
Actually, Wu is the person who figures all of it out: the Sudoku number is a date, the thing the books have in common are that the authors use pseudonyms a.k.a. a “no de plume,” and, after Jenna suddenly remembers an IT guy she called late one night to fix her computer, who made her promise to go out with a date with him in exchange at a restaurant called Nom de Plume on that date, but she stood him up. And, when everyone realizes it’s a little extreme to go on a murder spree just because a girl you coerced into going on a date didn’t show up, it’s Wu who figures out the IT guy must have helped write the special code that makes Black Forest 2 so special that Jenna’s been taking credit for (this code allows “hundreds of players” to player in the same location, which sounds like a server, which in real-life can host thousands of players at a time, so I have no idea what the fuck is happening here).
Unfortunately, Jenna can’t remember this guy’s name, the computer company doesn’t have any information on Nameless (although they have all the real names of the players, they just can’t match them to their game characters, somehow, and the IT company that employs him also somehow doesn’t know his name (it’s… a little goofy). Nick and Hank are forced to go to the trailer to do some research where they discover the killer is in fact a Fuchsteufelwild, which is a goblin-looking Wesen with two big, acid-spewing bone claws coming out his hands, as previously noted.
The trailer treasure trove also gives a list of names of Fuchsteufelwild, whose names all seem to be anagrams of each other. Then, all it takes is a little server searching to find a Black Forest player’s name that uses all the same letters. Meanwhile, Jenna has used her game avatar to hunt down Nameless, and kills his character dead. The Fuchsteufelwild is not a polite loser; He runs off to kill Jenna, but Nick and crew are already there (his name, it turns out, was Trinket Lipslums). The Fuchsteufelwild still manages to escape to the roof, where he then jumps off to his death rather than be caught.
The stand-alone story had some goofy moments, but it wasn’t nearly as ludicrous as last week’s episode, and it was well paced, too. But even better, we got some more movement on the overarching stories that also happened to be much better integrated into the main story than last week, too.
Juliette is still seeing ghosts — who are definitely Nick — and asks for Monroe and Rosalee’s help in figuring out what is going on. It doesn’t take Monroe’s long to realize these are indeed Juliette’s memories, with one particular being at the trailer, where Nick tried to tell her about his Grimm business in the first season finale. She wants to go back to the trailer, in hopes of getting her memory back. Monroe, obviously, is concerned and wants to talk to Nick first, but Juliette says if she doesn’t get to go the trailer she’ll forget Nick completely. I completely assumed this was just a Grimm/magic/consequence, that Juliette felt that she needed to get all her memory back because she feared she might forget Nick again — but no, it’s that Juliette can’t get all her memory, she’s going to leave Portland and this mess behind her, as Monroe reveals to Nick at the very end.
This is great, for several reasons (it’s also very problematic, which I discuss in the Assorted Musings” below): 1) it makes Juliette an incredibly strong character, one who is tired of this bullshit and is willing to just walk away — it strengthens the character and provides drama. 2) it provides some serious conflict for Nick, who has seemed adamant about not revealing his Grimm-ness to Juliette, since it worked out so poorly the first time. 3) It shows that Grimm does have actual layers, because what seemed for all the world like another weird problem conveniently caused by magic/spells/whatever is, it’s Juliette laying down the fucking law.
If that were all, I’d still give this episode of Grimm high marks, but it also reveals something on the Renard/Royal/seriously overarching plot of the Royal families trying to destroy the Wesen democracy and bring back imperial rule. He secretly meets with an associate from Vienna, who tells him no one knows who’s in charge, no one trusts some guy called Meisner(?), and gives him a USB drive with the names of everyone involved in the recent coup (was this part of the first season, or is this the first time it’s been mentioned? Sorry, I really will try to catch up on the first season soon). And someone — very likely sent by Renard’s brother — tries to blow up Renard and his associate up with a briefcase bomb, which Renard spots and tosses into the street before shooting the culprit. It’s pretty badass.
So I say Grimm was firing on all cylinders this episode. A solid A-story, movement on the overarching plots, not too much nonsense, very well-edited together, excellent pacing, some real movement for a few characters and some serious consequences — hell, now I know the more stand-alone Grimm episodes can be this solid, I’m going to have to start grading tougher.
• Anyone who didn’t figure out that “Trinket Lipslums” is also an anagram for Rumpelstiltskin within 60 seconds of the Fuchsteufelwild’s appearing in the book, please sit in the corner for 10 minutes as punishment. NO TALKING.
• You all can have your Monroe, because I’m 100% Team Wu. Dude is awesome. Totally confident in himself, cool with whatever his partners do, solves the tough puzzles Nick can’t wrap his pretty little head around, and has a cat. I hope he joins the crew, if only so I can watch him be completely lackadaisical about fairy tale monsters murdering people.
• I love how hopeful Nick, Hank and Renard were about the murderer being a regular psychotic human and not a Wesen, and yet how completely pessimistic they were.
• If there’s a point to Blood Forest 2 other than killing your fellow players, I have no idea what it is.
• Although Wu does figure out the guy must be angrier about getting screwed out of the Black Forest 2 money, the Fuchsteufelwild actually seems far more upset about the date, since he screams “She broke her promise!” when tossing himself off the roof.
• The most ridiculous part of this episode was, without any doubt, how the Fuchsteufelwild somehow was an independent contractor for an IT company, where no one actually knew his name. How is that even possible? Who the hell did they sign his checks to? You still need a name for direct deposit.
• My favorite anagram of “Trinket Lipslums,” as per Wu’s anagram search screen: “Tinkle Slim Spurt.”
• Even better, when the computer company is running the search for players names, it shows they have like two dozen players whose names start with “Tinkle,” which is hilarious even before you remember the game still hasn’t been released yet.
• I typed the name “Fuchsteufelwild” once and then copied and pasted it throughout this recap, because I do not hate myself.
• So one real note: the thing I realized about Grimm tonight is that it might be too clever for its own good. It’s on NBC, so it’s — I don’t want to say dumbing itself down — but it’s trying to keep itself basic in order to appeal to as mainstream an audience as possible, which means we get things like “What is a Sudoku?” for those farmers in Nebraska who only turn on the TV after the harvest is in or something. But we — or at least I — start to assume the show is trying to work entirely on this level, so when Juliette says things like “I’ll totally forget Nick if I don’t go to the trailer!” I assume that this is a pure statement of fact… and not an actual threat. The show clarified this at the end, but I was 100% sure it was just a silly contrivance before that. Do you see the problem? When the show works so hard to be so completely accessible, these moments where it tries to do something really smart and cool end up being confusing, because it seems impossible that a show that assumes people don’t know what a Sudoku puzzle is could possibly have the trust in its audience to know that there’s layers in Juliette’s ultimatum.
• I think there are a lot more scenes like this, where the writers are doing something subtle and smart, and they either fly over our heads because we can’t imagine the show being that clever, and, unlike Juliette’s thing, never get clarified. Just a thought.