Following the introduction of the "Wesen resistance" in the previous episode, this installment of Grimm opens with Nick finally (FINALLY!) putting in some training time as a Grimm (instead of, you know, just winging it with his police officer skills). Nick (David Giuntoli) takes several menacing weapons from the stash in Aunt Marie's closet (just typing that cracks me up) into the woods to meet Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) for an informal training session. Two things: 1) how much fun is it to see Monroe geeking out over the whole experience? Loved how he takes it so seriously he ambushes Nick in wolf form. And 2) on a slightly more serious note, I thought Giuntoli played Nick's whole attitude towards the experience rather well. It was a nice balance of "I can't believe I'm doing this, this is ridiculous!" balanced with a growing acceptance of his position (and everything that implies) in the Wesen world as a Grimm. The fact that he's so unexpectedly adept with weapons like the crossbow seems to hint that in accepting his calling/identity as a Grimm that opens the door to a flood of hereditary (?) and previously unimagined talents.
Cut to a construction site, where a business owner (who just happens to be a familiar beaver-like creature known as an Eisbiber) owes protection money to a hood named Sal (David Zayas), who is clearly a wannabe member of the mafia, also known as a troll (if the shoe fits...ha!). Very uncharacteristically for beavers, the business owner refuses to pay, and Sal the troll kills him by drowning him rather horrifically in a vat of wet cement. The attack is witnessed by a construction worker named Arnold who also happens to be an Eisbiber. He calls 911 and then makes for the hills, figuratively speaking, since Eisbibers (not sure about the plural) don't have a great history of bravery. When Nick and Hank (Russell Hornsby) arrive the next morning to investigate the mob-like hit, they discover the victim had a meeting scheduled with an "S.B." in his calendar appointments. They also get more info about the anonymous 911 caller, and identify him as Arnold -- but when they arrive at his home, they discover he's not home (unsurprising considering he witnessed a MOB HIT). When looking at photos, Nick realizes he knows some of Arnold's friends, among them Bud (Danny Bruno) the refrigerator repairman first introduced in "Danse Macabre."
Now, while I'm not all that crazy about beavers per se, I LOVE the fact that this show has been building its world through little recurring glimpses of supporting players like Bud. It helps flesh out the fantastical world of the show, building a sense of community, reminding viewers that the Wesen world is much bigger than Nick's regular interactions with Monroe. Also, how brilliant is it having beaver creatures gravitate towards construction work in the regular, human world? I love little touches like that.
The murder investigation leads Nick and Hank to Sal, who happens to be a member of the local planning commission. Sal's Wesen identity is that of a Hasslich, which are trolls with a predisposition for violence and an affinity for bridges where they collect tolls/protection money (interesting that the bridge in Once Upon a Time is named "Troll Bridge"). After Nick leaves Sal's office, the latter decides he wants Nick eliminated ASAP, and against the advice of his cronies decides to call in the Reapers, since he figures he has an "in" with them since his great-uncle was a Reaper -- clearly the guy is enamored with the idea of making such a ham-fisted power play. I didn't realize until this episode (did I miss a clue earlier in the season?) that Reapers are primarily Hasslichen. Sal does not seem like the brightest troll to ever grace a fairy tale, which is why I think it is so interesting that the Reaper ranks are filled by his kin, since they've seemed fairly intelligent (at least thus far in the show's run).
In an attempt to ferret out his lone witness, Nick visits Bud -- and this is where we get to see how much just talking with Nick has done for Bud's self-image. Associating with a Grimm flies in the face of everything Eisbibers are conditioned to believe about life and their place in the world, so Bud's willingness -- no, eagerness to help Nick and set up a meeting with his people is really quite extraordinarily brave (even though Bud still -- hilariously -- favors undercover contact methods and Nick is all "just call me"). Bud follows a hunch and discovers Arnold hiding in a mutual friend's basement, determined to live there for all time if that's what it takes to avoid the trolls. At the beaver lodge meeting (LOVE THAT), after Bud's impassioned plea to listen to Nick's proposal the rest of the lodge members overwhelmingly vote to maintain the status quo -- allying themselves with a Grimm and risking Hasslichen wrath is just too much to expect -- or so they think, much to Nick's disappointment. This exchange is a prime example of how Nick's passion for justice, born from his calling as a police officer, can change the balance of power in the Wesen world. Yes, he's a Grimm but he's also a cop -- and as such he's perhaps more willing than most (?) Grimms to cross cultural barriers and historic norms to get things accomplished. I can't wait to see how this dynamic plays out in season two!
Crime aside the absolute BEST ASPECT of this episode occurs when Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) informs Nick that she'd like to have Monroe over for dinner, sort of a belated "thank you helping to save my life" gesture. I'd even go so far as to say that this sequence of events ranks among my favorite this season -- the whole thing from start to finish is PURE COMIC GOLD. For much of the season the Nick/Monroe friendship came across as rather one-sided -- Nick has always been nice to Monroe, but it was usually shaded more towards needing the Blutbad's knowledge vs. really connecting with him as a friend (make sense?). Nick's reluctance to agree to the dinner is understandable, considering he and Monroe would have to lie about pretty much every aspect of their friendship, but as much as he might want to he can't keep Juliette insulated from Grimm life forever. And really, you can't ask for a better "intro" to Wesen living than Monroe, I'm just sayin'! Love how adorably excited he is at the prospect of dinner and how he's TOTALLY into working out a game plan -- which obviously is going to blow up in their faces, but aren't he & Nick cute for trying? HA! Favorite moments -- the "fist bump" of victory when they "survive the initial introduction, followed by this hilariously awkward scramble to talk about how they work together without revealing Monroe's very unorthodox role in the success of Nick's investigations, culminating in Monroe basically giving up and demanding Juliette's vegan salmon recipe. And the icing on the cake? Juliette telling Nick that yes Monroe is weird but she just might love him so yes, yes he should be worried (AMEN SISTER!).
Sal's call to "the family" in Germany is answered with not one but two Reapers, one of whom is Slivitch (Henri Lubatti), who lost an ear to Renard (Sasha Roiz) in "Lonelyhearts." I find it hilarious that Sal's pipedream of playing buddy-buddy with Reapers blows up in his face as they promptly set to torturing him for information about Nick (oh the irony). While he's getting the crap beaten out of him, Arnold's decided -- with the support of Bud -- to come forward and trust Nick to do his job and protect him from troll-related reprisals -- just in time, too, since Renard is going on and on about how the witness needs to do his civic duty. Renard talking about civic responsibility is really hot, I'm just sayin'! I loved the moment when Arnold steps up, and the three beavers are so proud to receive his approval in spite of their fears. YES, NICK, YOU'RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!!!!! :) Handily for Sal, Nick's request for a meet so he can turn himself in for an identification line-up is a timely reprieve from the Reapers' beating. Once Arnold identifies Sal, Nick takes Arnold to the lodge so he can lie low, little realizing they're being followed by the Reapers.
This leads to the second unbelievably awesome fight of the season (the first being Nick's showdown with Adalind). Nick apparently made the very intelligent call of keeping select Grimm weapons stashed in his car, which is his only prayer of surviving a face-off against two Reapers. People, THIS FIGHT WAS AMAZING. You know how I rave about the sword fights in Once Upon a Time? This is the Grimm version and it was GRAND. Nick, I didn't know you had THIS level of awesome in you. :) The Reapers are of course not prepared for Nick's level of awesomeness. In fact, he throws them off their game so badly one ends up beheading his partner and is them promptly dispatched by Nick's mad crossbow skills. Cut to Monroe playing the cello (always a win), when he gets a call from Nick. I can barely put into words how much I love how Monroe doesn't ask any questions, he's just there for Nick no matter what, even when he tells him to bring a shovel. :) Monroe is adorably, wildly impressed with the aftermath of Nick's epic fight, and the two decide to send an unforgettable message to the head of the Reapers, airmailing the two assassins' heads back to Germany on dry ice. I've watched this episode twice now and each time laughed so hard with the sheer awesomeness of the final ten minutes. Nick is becoming quite a badass, who knew Giuntoli had it in him?!
The fairy tale inspiration for this episode comes from the tale "Three Billy Goats Gruff." The original story involves three goats trying to cross a bridge guarded by a troll. This episode substitutes three key beavers, led by Bud, for the goats. Inspired by Nick they step wildly outside their comfort zone to help Nick stop a bullying, murdering troll. (How much fun was it to see the beaver community's overwhelming gratitude towards Nick, showering him and Juliette with scores of homemade goods and gifts? Loved it!) This was yet another extremely solid episode, stacked from start to finish with hilarious Monroe quips and Nick being extraordinarily awesome. Keep bringing it, show, I'm loving every second! :)