Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Were It Not That I Have Bad Dreams Grimm S2E04 Quill

This was a very... odd ep. In contrast with a lot of the comments we've seen so far, we liked it BUT. Mostly it felt like it was about 1.5 episodes worth of plot, and while we've had eps like that before they felt better put together and more connected. This was a Wesen of the week episode with no obvious connection (though I won't be surprised if there is one eventually) to the metaplot bits. Even in S1 with, for example, Love Sick, the pacing felt at least considered. This felt in large part like Simkins brought in a full 43 minutes of script and they had to slide some metaplot in for season arc pacing. And maybe they did and maybe that's just a new writer to the show; we don't know. Regardless, I think we're going to take the metaplot bits of this as a standalone, because the two just don't mesh well.

(We hope it's a new writer thing! And that Simkins sticks around, because we've liked his work on Warehouse 13 and on one of the few good eps of S2 Human Target.)

On to the Renard analysis! We start after the setup with a report to the captain in his office. And we see, now that we have Nick and Renard in the same room, that enough time has passed between Bad Moon Rising (where they were still a little beat up) that both men have entirely healed from their injuries. I wonder about that, mostly because I don't think we have a clear indication on if Grimms heal faster than normal humans, and that would be another of those things Nick should be wondering about Renard if so.

The report is fairly normal; Renard is very much the Captain here and if he suspects that Hank knows more than he used to about the Wesen world, he's not showing any signs of it. Calm, easy authority, taking care of his men. He knows how hard they've all been pushing lately. Renard, would you get some sleep too? One of these years? He doesn't even react to Nick's sigh and eyeroll at Hank's choice of words there, though admittedly Hank has a tendency to colorful phrasing anyway.

And then the phone rings. I wonder how often that landline on his desk sees use; I don't think we've seen Renard use anything but his cell in quite awhile. (It does seem like the desk phone is mostly for interdepartmental business.) Then again, he's been getting a lot of Princely phone calls on that. We can see him prepare to make the switch from Captain to Prince, but it's not until he hears the voice on the other end, gets a sense of how frightened his canary in what appears to be Eric's castle, that he tenses and turns to the window. His hand slides down his tie again, one of those little self-soothing gestures. He's now hiding his face from anyone walking past the office on either side, and not coincidentally framing himself in a window covered with iron bars. Ow, my toes, directors, I was using those. In case we hadn't realized the extent to which Renard is a Prince under siege in his own canton, this image would make it crystal clear.

His shoulders are tense, his face is tense, but it's not the kind of tension your average observer would pick up on, especially from behind. Which is why he's facing outside. Though one hand is in his pocket, but that's maybe not a tell even the cops have picked up on yet. Sigh, Nick. And now we have an answer on the Jean/Sean thing that we heard back in Love Sick, ps to Cousin Menton: get more consistent pronunciation, dammit. It irks us. It's irksome. (Spot that reference!) Renard doesn't say anything for a good stretch, both because it lets his royal canary (did you see the ring? there's a ring!) get everything out quickly and because he doesn't want to say anything that would be a potential giveaway. Since shutting his office door would, presumably, be an even bigger tell - he'd have to cross the room to do it, it would make a distinctive noise, and we've seen that he has a pretty generous open door policy for his office.

It's also worth noting that letting the ally talk without interruption is a sign of trust, not just in his ability to tell Renard the important information upfront but also in knowing what that information is. Renard doesn't trust very many people to be intelligent at him and on his side, so this is definitely news.

His French is very quick, very brief. I should also note that "qu'est-ce que c'est" can be translated in the colloquial as "what's wrong," which, well. LOTS of things are wrong in Renard-land. And Roiz is a nearly-fluent French speaker; he knows damn well what he's saying. In this instance when he drops into English I think it's more because he's aware of where he is and wants to decrease the possibility of someone wandering past his office and hearing him speaking French than because he's pissed off at royal machinations. Probably a bit of both, but mostly for cloak-and-dagger reasons. Although he is furious and exasperated and tired. The lighting puts deep shadows around his eyes, emphasizing that last.  

Whoever this royal is, he's not as fluent in English as he is in French. (I think that might also be the actor, in this case, but I'd bet that's a conscious choice on the casting director's part.) There's a slight lip-pop before he slips into English, which might be nerves compounding the difficulty of switching languages. He's also hurried, jittery, and in general acts like he's at least as low-status as Cousin Anton if not lower. (Anton was also an arrogant fuck, so hard to say for sure what his true status was without further context than we got.) Going back to the Sean thing for a second, I suspect that the Families are making a very pointed point like a pointy thing by sending a Nuckelavee to Renard's city. Which is a Scottish demon faery horse thingummy. Like a Nixie on PCP. And, of course, Sean is a Scottish/British Isles name, which gives us some hints about his potential heritage on... some side of the family. This is also the first time they've used a real-world name for a Wesen, as opposed to some made-up mash of German and/or Latin and/or Greek. Which is... interesting, but without further data and other departures from the pattern we can't be certain what it means.

Renard gets more and more pissed off as the conversation goes on, not, I think, that he expected his pet royal to have all the answers but that he's fucking sick and tired of the assassins. Not that we blame him, really. All those bodies do stink up the city if they don't make it to the morgue. It's probably good for the royal's continued well-being that he gets off the phone when he does, though.

We begin with Renard in his office, at his fax machine. A somewhat unusual place and angle for him to be at, compared to all his other office scenes; this sets us up for the unusual request he's about to make. And a closeup of his badge on his belt, which serves as a nice visual reminder of who he's supposed to be in this setting. Unlike in all the other Renard scenes this ep (and most other scenes in his office throughout the series), his door is closed - presumably he's waiting for Franco to turn up and doesn't want to be disturbed until then. I would guess, and this is only a guess, that it didn't take long from Franco getting the message to him turning up at Renard's office - it's probably fairly unusual for him to pull people in like that. Renard's usual authority as a captain is much more paternal than that of the Prince, and this is the Prince using his police resources (misusing, really) to deal with a problem in his canton.

That said, given the sheer folly of sending a Nuckelavee in somewhere the masquerade is still up, I can't wholly blame Renard for taking it as a threat to the security and calm of all the people he's looking out for.

Franco obeys his captain with alacrity. "Come in, close the door." Though he also looks a little confused/concerned, because no, Renard doesn't close his door often, so it's a tossup between yes, his captain wants to see him and no, his captain doesn't want to be disturbed. (Both, sergeant. Both.) And then Renard goes on to explain that he's had a warning about a dangerous fugitive. "Via JFK, from Rome." That is also interesting, come to that, the Nuckelavee's itinerary. Is Eric's castle in Rome? Is the Renard family based in Rome, or is that the power seat for the Families in general? That would fit with the various Catholic indications we've been getting out of the show so far - and the Vatican would be a great place to hide royals jockeying for power in an esoteric, occult world. (Though if they've stolen from Dan Brown without improving the source material drastically I will smack them with a wet trout. I'm just saying.)

Renard, Renard, you're really misusing police resources here. He's getting desperate; we've seen him take a caged/cornered attitude in his office several times already this season. As the Families increase the pressure on him, I assume his ability to keep who and what he is from Nick will be stretched to the breaking point. (We're going to ignore the part where if Nick were a little less of a goober he would've noticed that something was up a LONG time ago. Hey, Nick, your aunt said trust NOBODY. So instead you trust the shady captain the way you have been since forever and you don't trust the people you know care about you? AUGH.) This is shot to make Renard loom even more than he usually does, at a slight upward angle and through the blinds in his office, that second one for slightly longer than in the second scene with Franco. He's very much the troubled prince here, though his body language is still just fractionally looser than when he's in a cold royal rage. He's not upset with his sergeant, after all, just with the situation.

That said, all of this clearly impresses the gravity of the situation onto Franco. He looks openly worried, and taking in every single word Renard says. That kind of wide-eyed look of "oh shit the captain's given me something major to track down I'm memorizing everything and hoping I don't screw it up." And also hoping that he'll actually have something for Renard, because he knows that even with this information there's a good chance the "fugitive" will be in the wind already. As, it turns out, the Nuckelhead is.

Also, really, Renard? Homeland Security? I know that's TV shorthand for "look how serious Serious Problem is," but in this case it speaks more to how thoroughly he's willing to cross the lines between Captain and Prince. You can read the entry on the Nuckelavee at the bottom of this post, and be glad that we didn't find anything useful in Google images. Our dear Captain has good reason to be freaking out over this assassin, if it's even half that terrifying.

Franco (I have had to keep myself from typing Bonanno about five different times in this post, if one slips through I'm sorry) just nods after "let me know what you find." "Will do." And he turns to go and, presumably, put this at the top of his priority list. Because when the captain asks you to see to something like this personally, you damn well do it. Renard stares after him, looking worried and somber. There's a slight nostril-flare as he lifts his head; perhaps that's meant to indicate the Prince (and perhaps the half-hexen) on the hunt for a predator coming to his canton. I wouldn't put the Nuckelavee's chances as very good even if Nick and Hank manage to arrest it rather than killing it.

(Things I would not mind seeing: Renard taking on the Nuckelavee with a Reaper scythe.)

Renard is working on his laptop, as we see from the pan up from the surface of his desk. We also get a good view of his work laptop desktop screen, which is actually very empty. On the left side we have something that starts with an A (it has a badge icon, which probably means it's the internal police search engine - it looks sort of like "Admios"?), Internet, Calendar, Mail, and Recycle Bin at the bottom. On the right side we have Personnel, Accounting, Active Assignments, Closed Cases, Open Cases A-N, Open Cases O-Z, and Search. Not a lot of personal detail there, thanks, Renard. The search page is clearly meant to establish an approximate timeline for us - a matter of a few weeks before the air date, at a rough guess, given the one about "cycling doping probe continues."

He digs up the obituary for Kelly Burkhardt, which also contains not a lot of detail. Clearly he's not letting that go. It's also worth noting that both of these searches for the news archives on Nick's parents have taken place on his laptop, which might be indicative of something or just that he happened to be on that computer at the time. Two times is coincidence, three times makes a pattern! We also see that Reid Burkhardt is actually spelled Reed, oops. (Note to selves: check that against other printed material later.) His face is tense, though not as tense as it was earlier with the conversation with his French-speaking canary, and his eyes narrow as he reads. He's looking for something, but as brief as that obituary is he probably isn't finding it. Which might also be what he's looking for.

(Can we take a moment to laugh and/or facepalm at the sidebar ads for sympathy flowers and meeting singles over 50? I knew we could!)

Sergeant Franco knocks on the door frame and pokes his head in, remember that open door policy? And Renard crooks a finger for him to come in. He has the deets on those passengers that matched the description of the not!fugitive from Rome. We can see by Renard's tie and shirt that this is the following day. Of note, Renard doesn't appear to tab out of or close the window, although since he did have his hand over the touchpad and we switch views so that his hands are out of the shot for a moment it's possible he uses the touchpad to close the window. As Franco's giving him the rundown on the arrivals from Rome we switch briefly to one of those outside views of the Captain's office, through the narrow lines of the open blinds. Again we have some caged imagery here, but not just caged imagery, people talking through blinds is also old cinematic shorthand for There Is A Conspiracy Going On Here. The fact that we get to hear the conversation taking place makes it only slightly less suspicious.

I'm also intrigued by the two priests coming back after "some [Vatican] shindig." Mostly just because there are so damn many Catholic influences in this show already, and I'm not at all certain this won't prove to be relevant later. Especially given that we know the next episode involves a priest of some denomination. 

Franco passes the sheet of paper presumably with the salient facts and figures printed on it, and Renard's jaw clenches as he reads it over. We get the information that the mystery man landed, vanished, and within 30 minutes of him landing and clearing customs a cab and its driver went missing. And we can presume what happened to said driver. So, too, can our clever police officers.  Renard nods, tells him to stay on it, Franco acknowledges, and cut scene on a phone ringing as Renard looks pensive and tense at the information in front of him. 

Cut to Nick and Hank for a moment, it seems like Renard's done for the time being. But then we hear a cheery and somewhat bizarre 'morning!' and Hank responds with "Hey, Captain." Renard stops by Nick's shoulder and asks about Juliette, and I cannot for the life of me tell if this is more of Renard's concern for the mental and emotional well-being of his detective (remember he also asked about Juliette before he took the potion and attended to Juliette by Nick's bedside in the hospital) or if this is Renard under a spell that made him fall in love with her. Nick gripes about Juliette's memory issues, so we can't tell from his behavior if this is something he would be paying attention to despite his history of cluelessness or if he's too buried in his worries over Juliette to notice his captain being unusually interested. Renard is, of course, sure it's just temporary and anything he can do, etc. Whatever the police captain is supposed to do about the health and memory concerns of a woman he barely knows, well, no one seems to question that. Again, it could just be them taking it as the polite appropriate noises.

And now to the business Renard (supposedly) actually came to talk about, the cab and driver and missing "fugitive" from the airport. He gives the description as 'Caucasian male' which is probably about as much as he feels comfortable assuming about a Nuckelavee. The fairy legend (reprinted below from a folklore source) is Scottish, so Caucasian is a safe descriptor, and traditionally male. And he adds that they're still in the process of trying to get airport surveillance, which, it will be interesting to see if we get a look at that. He gives them the information about the cab and driver, so they at least have a place to start, and warns them to be careful because the "fugitive" might "have an issue with cops." Which is a handy excuse for why the Nuckelavee might come after Nick, some good prep work there if Hank happens to be around when Nick finds him, or vice versa. And then he leaves, and Hank rightfully snarks about the search parameters of "Caucasian male." All of it very calm, very Captainly, what one might expect if the real NYPD had given Renard a real fugitive alert.

From Katharine Briggs' An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Pantheon Books: New York, first published 1977

Nuckelavee: One of the most repulsive creatures which the Scottish imagination has conceived; and the Scots are experts in horrors. He was an Orcadian sea-monster, a kind of hideous centaur, for like a centaur he rose out of a horse's back and had no human legs. He came out of the sea and spread evil wherever he went, blighting crops, destroying livestock, and killing every man whom he could encounter. Though he was a sea spirit he could not endure fresh water, and the only escape from him was to cross a running stream. In Douglas's Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales an article contributed by Traill Dennison to the Scottish Antiquary is reproduced. Mr. Dennison met an old man, Tamas, who claimed to have met Nuckelavee, and after much persuasion, he described the encounter.

He was walking late one clear, starlight night along a narrow strip of land between a fresh-water loch and the sea, when he saw something moving along towards him. It seemed to him some monster, but he could go neither to the right nor the left and he had always been told that the worst thing to do was to run from supernatural creatures, so he took his courage in both hands, and went steadily, if slowly, forward. As the thing came nearer he recognized it as Nuckelavee. Traill Dennison gives the gist of his description:

The lower part of this terrible monster, as seen by Tammie, was like a great horse with flappers like fins about his legs, with a mouth as wide as a whale's, from whence came breath like steam from a brewing kettle. He had but one eye, and that as red as fire. On him sat, or rather seemed to grow from his back, a huge man with no legs, and arms that reached nearly to the ground. His head was as big as a clue of simmons (a clue of straw ropes, generally about three feet in diameter), and this huge head kept rolling from one shoulder to the other as if it meant to tumble off. But what to Tammie appeared most horrible of all, was that the monster was skinless; this utter want of skin adding much to the terrific appearance of the creature's naked body,  - the whole surface of it showing only red raw flesh, in which Tammie saw blood, black as tar, running through yellow veins, and great white sinews, thick as horse tethers, twisting, stretching, and contracting as the monster moved. Tammie went slowly on in mortal terror, his hair on end, a cold sensation like a film of ice between his scalp and his skull, and a cold sweat bursting from every pore. But he knew it was useless to flee, and he said, if he had to die, he would rather see who killed him than die with his back to the foe. In all his terror Tammie remembered what he had heard of Nuckelavee's dislike of fresh water, and, therefore, took that side of the road nearest to the loch. The awful moment came when the lower part of the head of the monster got abreast of Tammie. The mouth of the monster yawned like a bottomless pit. Tammie found its hot breath like fire on his face: the long arms were stretched out to seize the unhappy man. To avoid, if possible, the monster's clutch, Tammie swerved as near as he could to the loch; in doing so one of his feet went into the loch, splashing up some water on the foreleg of the monster, whereat the horse gave a snort like thunder and shied over to the other side of the road, and Tammie felt the wind of Nuckelavee's clutches as he narrowly escaped the monster's grip. Tammie saw his opportunity, and ran with all his might; and sore need had he to run, for Nuckelavee had turned and was galloping after him, and bellowing with a sound like the roaring of the sea. In front of Tammie lay a rivulet, through which the surplus water of the loch found its way to the sea, and Tammie knew, if he could only cross the running water, he was safe; so he strained every nerve. As he reached the near bank another clutch was made at him by the long arms. Tammie made a desperate spring and reached the other side, leaving his bonnet in the monster's clutches. Nuckelavee gave a wild unearthly yell of disappointed rage as Tammie fell senseless on the other side of the water.

Motifs: Spirits appear horrible (F401.5), Water spirits in abnormal form (F420.1.4), Malevolent water spirits (F420.5.2), Devil cannot cross running water (G303.16.19.13), Sea Monster (G308)

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