My biggest problem with Grimm has always been how formulaic it is. But the excellent "Red Menace" managed to shake things up without actually shaking things up, and is my new vote for best episode of the season.
Let me explain. In another world, this could have been an easy Wesen-o'-the-Week installment. Wesen shows up in the cold open, does something weird, someone dies. Nick and Hank show up and Wu describes exactly what the viewers saw in the cold open, in detail, although not everything so that Nick and Hank have stuff to do to eventually catch up. Nick and Hank are baffled until a second victim appears and they finally believe a Wesen might be responsible. They confer with Munroe and/or Rosalee, there's some padding, Nick fights the Wesen, the end.
But "Red Menace" starts with Nick, doing his best Barry Allen impression in the park, but not sweating thanks to his new undead Grimm powers. It's a small, simple change, but it sets the tone for the rest of this unique episode. Then the Wesen appears — but he's healing someone. The Russians (there's a big Russian population in Portland in reality, so good on Grimm for bringing some of the city's personality to the show) have a big-ass party to celebrate their healer Boris, Boris flirts with the young ladies ostentatiously in front of his wife, and when he heads to the bathroom a waiter tries to kill him. Except Boris grabs the dude and throws him out the window instead.
Nick and Hank are called to the scene… because a body has been found. But not the dude's! It's the waiter the dude killed and stuffed in the freezer so he could get close enough to try to assassinate Boris! Thanks to the restaurant's eerily comprehensive security footage, Nick et. al realize the dude killed the waiter, put on his uniform, and then attacked Boris. So the initial murder — which didn't even happen onscreen — and was actually a human killed by another human — is solved instantly.
But the PPB are curious about Boris tossing a dude who tried to murder him out a window, and then immediately returning to the party like nothing happened. Nick, Hank and Renard (who speaks Russian, because Renard is boss) find Boris, and Nick sees the healer's magical healing powers in action and the green glow they emit (no one else can). Nick tells Renard, and Renard instantly knows it's a Koschei. Wesen solved! No 10 minutes of playing "Guess the Wesen" with Munroe! Now, Nick still needs to do research, so he and Munroe head to the trailer, but since Grimm has gotten the Wesen out of the way so quickly, we can actually get some Grimm history — specifically that Rasputin was a Koschei, and the British government coincidentally hired a Grimm to assassinate the mad monk (why the British ordered Rasputin's death is best left a mystery). But this is infinitely cooler and more fun than Grimm's normal m.o., which is taking five minutes for Munroe to find and then list the characteristics of a Wesen that we, the audience, have already seen for ourselves.
Only now does the mysterious Wesen-caused murder victim appear! As it turns out, the Koschei can harm people as well as heal them, and by harm I mean "pump full of horrible radiation." They find the faux-waiter-turned-assassin dude in a hotel tub, basically looking like a plague victim (lots of pus-filled boils. The yellow tinged bathwater he's been soaking in is a nice/horrible touch). But then this guy pops up and hugs Hank! He's not even dead! So the dude gets sent to the hospital while Nick, Hank and Wu take a group shower and get decontaminated. It's a weird but completely welcome non-sequitur, and gives this episode even more personality.
Again, instead of slowly uncovering clues about what's going, Renard calls a buddy in Russia and figures out the deal — Boris the Koschei used to be a freelance assassin who killed a lot of people, and thus likely had a lot of enemies. When questioned, Boris says he's become a healer to make up for his past, although he still knows he's going to hell — it's the first Wesen-o'-the-week I think I've ever seen that's not painted as completely good or evil. Since every time Boris heals someone he hurts himself, and is near death anyways, he's accepted all of this.
The plague dude had a phone on him with one number on it; Hank calls it only to find it's disconnected. "Looks like his partner isn't an idiot," Hank announces, and I swear to god I almost cheered. When plague dude awakes, he whispers something about a "her" to Renard, who deduces (deduces!) that the dude's accomplice is very possibly in the house with Boris.
Indeed she is, and, despite the show trying to make you think that Boris' wife Olga wants her husband dead (see below) it's really the sexy Russian maid he's been banging on the side. See, this is the sister of the waiter/assassin dude, and Boris killed their dad back in the day. With her brother dead, she has nothing to lose, so she poisons a bottle of vodka, makes Boris drink all of it, and then freaks out when he doesn't die (Koschei can heal themselves, making them difficult to kill, a la Rasputin). This is when Nick and Renard burst in.
Boris is poisoned, the Russian maid is freaked, Nick and Renard wave their guns about confusedly, and Boris' wife Olga pops and in turns into what is basically a saber-toothed tiger Wesen (called a Malin Fatal) and tears the maid's throat out. But Boris, poisoned, crawls to her and uses the last of his lifeforce to heal the sexy maid. Maybe he'll go to heaven after all.
See, this episode wasn't flashy, it didn't have a ton of mythology, but by changing up the infinitely overused formula, this is definitely my favorite episode of the season. I don't know who was willing to shake Grimm out of its normal routine or why, but it was most welcome, sir or madam.
- One more thing: There was a B-story, involving Juliette… that looks like it's going to be the main plot of next week's episode. I can't tell you how excited I am about this. Grimm almost exclusively sticks to 1) single episode stories or 2) stories that stretch over half or an entire season, so this thing about Juliette's friend Ali — who is a Wesen, because of course she is — running away from her abusive husband is a small enough part of this episode that I'll actually be kind of interesting if it becomes the major story next week. It's simple but effective! Admittedly, watching Juliette kick the shit out of the abusive husband/Wesen in the "On next week's episode" clip didn't hurt.
- There was still some bullshit that didn't really matter: Hank hitting on his physical therapist Zuri; Renard finally confronting Adalind in Austria and saying the same vague/portentous crap about the Royal Family and "shifting allegiances" he always does.
- Seriously, at one point Renard is actually going to explain what the fuck is happening with the royal family, what they're trying to do, what these allegiances are actually all about, and how Adalind's half (or quarter)-royal baby will figure into all this shit specifically, and Grimm will instantly become twice as good.
- So was anyone else confused about the plague guy calling someone to say he failed to kill Boris, and then the hard cut to Boris' wife Olga? Was this an actual feint on Grimm's part? Because there are literally no clues that indicate Olga isn't part of the plot until the show ends and she just isn't.
- Renard holding the maid's gushing throat was ridiculous. "I don't think she's going to make it!" he yells, as five gallons of blood spray from her neck-hole like a garden hose attachment.