Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for the two-part season 3 premiere of NBC’s Grimm,“The Ungrateful Dead” and “PTZD.”
When we last left our Merry Band of monster fighters in their mission to Keep Portland Weird, Det. Nick Burkhardt had been hit with a dose of a toxin that produced a zombie-like state and was locked into a steel coffin to be spirited away to Europe.
The first part of the season 3 premiere picked up immediately where the finale left off, with Nick’s friends Monroe, Rosalee Calvert and Juliette Silverton facing off against a veritable zombie hoard in a shipping yard at night. Meanwhile, Nick is out for the count and en route to a plane that would take him to Vienna, where he would be killed or used as a mercenary by Capt. Renard’s half-brother, Eric, and the other European ‘Royals.’ Nick’s partner, Hank Griffin, and Sgt. Wu show up with other cops in riot gear to provide backup so Rosalee, Juliette and Monroe can high-tail it back to Rosalee’s herb shop to brew more of the cure they discovered at the end of last season.
In the meantime, Capt. Renard arrives at the shipping yard and searches for signs of where his brother is headed and what the end-game is for kidnapping Nick. He meets up with Hank and the others, who have returned with an aerosolized version of the cure to use on the hoard, who have been herded into an empty shipping container.
Upon discovering the captain’s brother manufactured a false identity for Nick and intends to take the Grimm to Vienna, those in the know (Read: Not Wu and the majority of the Portland PD.) take off for a local airfield to stop the plane from leaving. They reach the airfield minutes too late, but they decide to follow Nick to Vienna, if necessary.
As it happens, they don’t need to look for their passports as Nick awakens and disarms both the creature that zombified him and the pilots. Of course, the problem with rendering your flight crew unconscious is increasing the likelihood of a plane crash.
Nick survives, and heads toward civilization, where he winds up in a bar fight, as Monroe, Renard and Hank approach from the outside. At which point, Grimm decided to troll its viewers again in its growing tradition of snark camouflaged in Papyrus font.
In the second half of the season opener, Zombie Nick led his friends on cross-country chase that included playing in traffic; breaking and entering; and a demonstration of Nick’s heightened Grimm powers.
Once they found and secured Zombie Nick, they removed him to Rosalee’s herb shop, where they administered the cure. Over the course of the second half-hour of the episode, Nick continued to experience strange aftereffects of his exposure to the toxin: Increased strength and reflexes, improved hearing and, perhaps most concerning, sleep apnea bordering on death.
Nick also discovered his erstwhile fiancée, friends and superior officer not only neglected to tell him how much damage he caused in his zombie state, but they also conspired to keep both him and the investigating officers from discovering he killed a man in his zombie state.
He’s outraged by his discovery and intends to turn himself in, but Hank confronts him and explains how much the truth will put their ragtag band of crime fighters at risk.
As action- and plot-packed as both episodes were, the A-plot gave the entire cast moments to shine. David Giuntoli’s turn as a zombie mainly consisted of staggering and grunting, but the scenes where he faced off against his friends included moments where the real Nick was present but stripped of all conscience and moral judgment.
These scenes were particularly interesting as they demonstrated Giuntoli’s ability to embody a much darker and malevolent version of a Grimm, striking in its dissimilarity to his normal Disney prince charm and good humor.
The scenes where Zombie Nick faced off against Monroe and Hank also revealed a lovely chemistry between Silas Mitchell and Russell Hornsby, who’ve had perhaps a handful of scenes together over the last two seasons.
They managed to find a sweet spot of shared gallows humor, with Mitchell’s Monroe bringing his typical engaging optimism in opposition to Hornsby’s goofy pragmatism.
Bree Turner and Bitsie Tulloch each brought their A-game as Rosalee and Juliette, respectively, especially as they were finally given an opportunity to show their characters are more than simply love interests and sounding boards for their respective mates.
In particular, the scene in “The Ungrateful Dead” in which Juliette and Rosalee devise a practical way to deliver the cure to the zombie hoard without putting themselves or the Portland PD riot response squad in danger was especially gratifying when their characters haven’t been given much to do previously. (Or perhaps I’m simply a sucker for Ladies Doing SCIENCE.)
Sasha Roiz tread a fine line between menace and subterfuge, showing Renard may be ready to show his true face to Nick and the others, but, between covering for Nick and arranging a hit on his brother, he’s not ready to show his hand yet.
Of all the characters in Portland, I found myself watching the scenes with Roiz’s most closely, waiting for a sign as to the half-Royal’s real agenda. At least, when I wasn’t wondering if this will finally be the season Sgt. Wu gets a first name.
Finally, Claire Coffee’s turn as Adalind in the B-plot was as engaging as ever. While Adalind had a vague connection to Renard, which gave Coffee little to do other than alternately glare and pout; and an aborted romance with Hank that cast her in a largely unflattering light, the pregnancy arc that began last season and continues into this season is a better showcase for her range. As an embittered Adalind, bartering her baby with a Roma matriarch in exchange for the return of her witchy powers, Coffee is by turns delightfully snarky, terrifyingly smug and almost, dare I say, sympathetic. She reminds me of nothing so much as the most popular girl in high school who’s willing to use murder and blood magic to maintain her position.
In fact, I think it’s Adalind’s immaturity and pout of disgust as she dismembers another witch in the course of an elaborate ritual that make her more likable than in previous seasons: She may be unpleasant and utterly lacking forethought, but she is a creature of habit, in over her head, who clearly never thought to question her orders before she acted upon them.
In short, Grimm‘s showrunners deciding to explore the politics and machinations of the creature world, rather than following a strict procedural format with a monster-of-the-week, makes for a far more engaging show that got off to one hell of a start this season. I for one am looking forward to next week’s Wolf v. Pig rematch, but then I’ve always known the Three Little Pigs were a bunch of liars.