Friday, September 14, 2012

Love Potion No. 9 Grimm S1E15, 16: Island of Dreams, The Thing With Feathers

We only get a couple of scenes from Renard in each of 1x15 Island of Dreams and 1x16 The Thing With Feathers, so we'll conflate the two into one post since it's all primarily concerned with the same subplot. To recap: Hank is under the control of a blood magic love spell directing his affections to Adalind, and it's making him lose focus to the point where it's affecting his work. She is playing hard to get, under orders from Renard. We don't yet know what the motivations for or outcome of this are.

We start off with the Captain standing in an art gallery of some kind in 1x15 (and if an art historian would like to speak up as to the period and provenance of the works in the gallery that would be helpful? puppy eyes?). Adalind asks him if he thinks the woman in the painting is prettier than she is, which is a bit of an awkward question considering the painting isn't an exact likeness and possibly isn't even meant to be. It also shows where her focus is, she wants the Captain to be physically attracted to her, and her prettiness is an important trait to her where he's concerned. Which is particularly interesting in light of the fact that, twice, we get him referring to her simply as "a pretty girl." So she got what she wished for, if not particularly in the way that she wished. She is Renard's pretty girl, and that's all she is.

"Do you think she's prettier than me?" "I do." I have no idea if this is a scriptwriter choice or something that Sasha Roiz does, but here's a bit of linguistic trivia for you: while English is big on answering certain kinds of questions with yes or no, other languages repeat the verb back in the affirmative or negative. It's a linguistic pattern indicative of either age or a non-English language being Renard's first language, or both.

She gives him a look, because clearly that was the wrong answer and he should know that, but he doesn't seem bothered. We get a tidbit of history when he says that it may be a family bias, the bit about the 17th century and the revolution, which gives us just enough to chew our desks and wonder which damned revolution. He could mean, in very rough historical order, the Thirty Years' War (unlikely),  the English Revolution which ended in the execution of King Charles I, the Glorious Revolution which is indeed a completely different goddamned civil war that also involved the Jacobite uprisings and probably several executions, the American Revolution which isn't as likely because it wasn't famous for its beheadings, the French revolution which was famous for its beheadings and while we're at it those decades were pretty goddamn full of revolutions because there were more in Germany and Italy as well, and we'll stop there but you get the idea. It's a bit more specific because of the comment about losing heads, but not fucking very. Beheading was a good way to make a point when all you had for information dissemination was word of mouth, royal decree, and rumor, and heads on spikes outside of cities make very convincing arguments.

While we're complaining, the fact that Renard speaks at least five languages readily that we know of does not help narrow down the fucking countries. Probably he's not meaning any of the Spanish revolutions? Anyway. Digression over.

He asks her how things are going with our detective, entertaining phrasing there, and she pouts more when she says Hank's not interested in her. Renard also doesn't sound very concerned about the fact that her life was in danger when he points out that Hank saved her life, and therefore should feel ... licensed? permitted? to date her. He suggests she try harder, which isn't exactly the most politic of things to say to a woman being rejected. He definitely isn't concerned either for her life or for her feelings. She tells him Hank doesn't feel right taking advantage of that, and he tells her to make herself irresistible. Somehow, the impression here is not one of redoing her makeup and changing her approach. She pouts about the effort.

And now he pets her, over her hair and down her shoulder, which as we change camera angles we see is a concealing movement for slipping her a vial of blood. She smiles at that, hard to say whether it's because of the touch or the assist and opportunity to cast a little magic on her Prince/Captain's behalf. Then she asks why it's so important to him, which is maybe the first clever thing she's done all scene. He deflects her by pointing out that a Grimm on the other side (which other side? The other side from him? how are we defining sides here?) isn't good for either one of them. I'm not sure if that's phrased on purpose, but those specific words in that order at least imply that there's a separation between him and Adalind, that they're not on the same side either.

She asks why she's not going after him, and with a certain amount of vicious enthusiasm. Renard turns and gives her a look and the camera a good profile shot, and there's a full second of silence while he contemplates her enthusiasm or his answer or simply her lack of questions. I suspect it's a bit of the first and the third, as she proves to be in the next couple of episodes very easy to manipulate. And after that significant pause he pets her hair again and tells her that the way to a man's soul is through his friends. There's a heavy dose of irony? here, as well, considering Renard doesn't seem to have any friends. He dismisses her with a tilt of his head and a "Now go fall in love." Which isn't the way the spell works, from what we later know, but then he's sending her to entrap someone by pretending to fall in love, so it's not out of place.

Adalind leaves with a parting shot of "I think she's fat," which is another sign of where her priorities are. Entertainingly, Renard doesn't even look bothered, just has a slight expression of "Hmm? What?" as though she barely did something interesting.

The second scene with our dear Captain is somewhat less informative and separated over a couple of segments. He comes in, pair of blue latex gloves in his hands, and I still wonder why this scene is so saturated with color. Both the blue gloves and his shirt and tie almost glow. He gets the rundown from his detectives, full-on cop body language, nothing unusual here. The most interesting part of this appearance isn't even in a scene where he has any dialogue at all. It's when Hank gets off the phone with Adalind and turns away from the camera, which then switches focus to reveal Renard behind him, watching him.

In 1x16 our first sign of the Captain (or in this case, the Prince) is from the backseat of his battlewagon, but from then on we get a side camera view as the dialogue progresses between him and Adalind's purported lover, who we later learn is called Peter. The Prince asks for a progress report. "How'd it go?" Only it's less of a question and more of a statement. "Well, he threatened me. If I'd stayed longer I don't know what he would have done." "Then it's going well." As Renard fidgets with his hands, up almost in front of his chest which is most likely necessitated by the fact that he's a large man in a car. You have a funny definition of 'going well,' Renard. "Is there anything else I can do, sir?" "I'll let you know." Hands down/off camera. "Thank you for giving me this opportunity." More fidgeting. "You're welcome. Good night." And Peter leaves.

The whole sequence takes a little less than thirty seconds. And yet we learn so much, which is a good sign of tight writing, tight acting, and good directing.

For one thing we learn that this mysterious lover type person is a fake, planted to incite Hank's possessiveness. We also learn that he is devoted to his role and the person who gave it to him, who is implied to be Renard. Peter doesn't sound the least bit troubled by the fact that he narrowly escaped being shot, nor does he even mention that fact to Renard. He uses the milder phrase 'threatened' substituting for 'pointed a gun at my face'. Granted, Renard might not have done anything differently had Peter conveyed what happened in more detail, but it's interesting that this minor lackey leaves that out. We also learn that Renard places at least a high personal value on civility and politeness; he doesn't have to include that little 'you're welcome' at the end but he does anyway.

Some things we know less for certain and more because we can extrapolate them from what is given by tone and body language: Renard is confident in his superiority, in just about every sense of the word we can think of. He doesn't look at Peter at all in the car, only tilts his head a bit to the side by way of indicating that Peter has his attention. Although he fidgets with his hands it's not a sign of nervousness, there's none of the usual dry-washing or rapid tapping typical of upset nerves. His fingers are slower and contemplative, and the fidgeting goes off camera and is implied to pause for several seconds at times. His facial expressions range from impassive to impassive with a chance of smirking in the last second and a half, and we get a lovely demonstration of Sasha Roiz's voice control with the last line when his 'good night' sounds like nothing so much as 'get out.' He doesn't say get out in the sense that those are the shapes his mouth makes, but it's implied with a hammer.

Peter, on the other hand, looks at nothing but Renard. His head is constantly moving in an affirmative, nodding motion, and he gives a little bow at the end as he's ordered out of the car. His expression ranges from serious, giving due weight to his task, to almost smiling with pleasure at being able to be of use. If he were a dog he'd be bellying the floor and whining as his tail wags itself off. Out of all the Renard-in-authority scenes, I'd say this one for me at least rates up there with the de-earing for intimidation value.

The second scene rates somewhere above the scene with Peter and right by the de-earing. A Wild Renard Appears! In Adalind's bathroom. Let me just say that if Renard appeared in my bathroom like that, attraction or no attraction, I would be sorely tempted to strangle him with his own tie.

We look over her head as she's blow-drying her hair and see a shadow that fills the damn doorway cross in front of her bathroom door. And I know that shadows are one of the biggest perpetrators of optical illusions, but when we see a shadow that big in Adalind's house we can have a pretty good guess who it is. The door swings open, and we get a standard horror movie sequence as she creeps towards the door, sees no one, turns around and LOOM! Renard in her bathroom doorway.

Re-watching this scene I'm reminded that this is the moment when we decided that Renard couldn't be vanilla human, no matter what Sasha Roiz said. Maybe he didn't have a Wesen morph form (we later found out they hadn't told him at the time) and maybe he was just human with a few extras, but that doorway was too narrow and we'd already followed Adalind through it while she looked for her mysterious intruder. There was a period of a few seconds where he could have slipped by her, and as big as he is that should have left some kind of indication. But no. She turns around and Renard is right there, close enough that she almost runs into him. Apart from jumping in our seats and swearing, both of us concluded he had to have some sort of other ability to sneak his tree-sized self in there without her noticing.

"You scared me," she says, and she does look scared. As she comes back to the mirror her body language is a little hunched and, most tellingly, her hands are crossed in front of where her towel laps over her chest, protective. It takes her a moment to compose herself enough to be coy and seductive at him. As she comes back to the mirror she is well lit, but he is in shadow. The lighting and filming doesn't make him any less unnerving, though I wouldn't call it menacing at any one point.

"That's a compliment, coming from you." Interesting here that his voice is mild and soft. Not that I think he didn't mean to scare her, I'm sure he did, but he's not interested in keeping her scared. In fact I would almost go so far as to say he popped up the way he did to scare her and remind her of what he is (in terms of power and potential danger) and then soothe her down from her fear, rewarding her for being frightened with affection, almost. It's a sign of what could very likely be an abusive relationship if she doesn't call him on it or smack him for it, and of course she doesn't.

She asks him what he's doing there and he tells her that "It appears Detective Griffin is taking favorably to your cookies." You have an interesting turn of phrase there, Renard. And now she's composed herself enough to be coy and downplay Hank's reaction in a very oh-it's-nothing way. "He's left a dozen voice mail messages as of this morning if you call that a response." Playing with her hair, tilting her head towards him without looking at him. Renard comes out of the shadow and perches on her sink, here, again probably at least partially to get Sasha Roiz and Claire Coffee in the same shot. The interesting thing is how it puts him between her and the mirror, which implies at least a couple of things given what we're about to know about her mother. Protectiveness or possessiveness, or both. The other thing it does is it puts her face in the light for most of this conversation, while his is always at least partially obscured. Like his motives. Renard, what the fuck are you up to.

The closest we get to an unobscured view of his face is when he says "He threatened your visitor last night." To which Adalind pouts and waves around her purity and virtue (refusing to sleep with Peter and being disgusted by it) like a flag that practically shrieks how she's saving herself for Renard.

It just amuses Renard, of course, who proceeds to give further instructions to her collarbone. Despite the intimacy of the posture his body language is closed, his shoulders dropped, his hands don't touch her. He's teasing her with his proximity while she doesn't notice that, if he truly intended to be affectionate, his body and hands would be more oriented towards her. It's a subtle form of withholding affection to lead her to do what he wants, and it works. She turns her head towards him, and when she replies to point out how dangerous it is and highlight what a service she's doing for him, her eyes flicker back and forth from focusing on his face to focusing on his mouth. She, like the rest of us, can't quite keep her eyes off his lips. Only in her case it's a lot more dangerous.

He tells her she can handle it. His expression doesn't flicker here so much although his eyes do seem more unfocused on any part of her, specifically, presumably because by now there's maybe an inch of space between their foreheads if we're feeling generous. "Let's hope so." She smirks. "Just be who you aren't," he tells her, and by now their mouths are so close they can probably tell what each other had for dinner (or breakfast, whenever this was shot.) He gives her another minute to lean in with her lips parted as she's fully expecting a kiss by now, despite the fact that his facial language hasn't changed from when he was whispering in her ear. And he lets her lean, then turns away and gets up and leaves. We catch a glimpse of his expression as he does so, and it's one of the more vicious expressions I've seen on him all season. Somewhere between a toothy smirk and an eyeroll, and we can just about hear him thinking how stupid she is for following him down the garden path.

This, more than anything, should tell us that Renard is not the man with whom to fuck. Every surface aspect of this scene is played for sensuality, the angle of their heads and the lighting, the sounds of their voices. But under that is the fact of what's going on, Renard using his body language and her attraction to him to get her to do what he wants for his own purposes. Someone mentioned in a recap, and it's still true, that he's playing her the way she's playing Hank, but he doesn't need a potion to do it. And he's very much aware of what he's doing, too. The expression on his face as he leaves her and the timing of when he does should tell us that.

It is, in miniature, a good reflection of what he does in the next episode. The moment his purpose with her is served, he cuts her off and leaves her. She looks disturbed by his abrupt exit, as well she should be. He's drawn her out and directed her to agree to do what he wants her to do and given her exactly nothing.


  1. Not an Art Historian:

    Hello from Portugal!

    In an attempt to confirm that the main painting, Renard and Adalind are looking at, was indeed from the renaissance period, I came across the actual painting.
    The painting is called "La Bella" by Titian and was on display at the Portland Art museum from Nov 25, 2011 – Jan 29, 2012. They used a reproduction or a poster, that is neither the original frame of the painting nor the actual display where it stood. Also it wouldn't make musch sense for a painting on loan to feature in a TV show, the people in charge of that sort of thing are probably fussy about it, understandably. Don't know about the rest of the art in the room, supposing the scene takes place at the "museum", that should be the European art wing(s).

    Keep up the dissecting of all things Renard, I have enjoyed those very much.


    1. Thank you! That's very useful knowledge, and certainly puts things in a new perspective. Gives us further links to Italy, too, though notably not to Florence this time. Hmmmm.

    2. Hi again!
      There actually is a Florence connection; I went a bit mad and researched the history of the painting and its owners.
      La Bella was painted ca.1536, the first owner was Francesco Maria I della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, and the painting remained in the Rovere family until Francesco Maria II della Rovere died. His only son, Federico Ubaldo della Rovere, had died before him without any male heirs, so his granddaughter inherited La Bella along with other assets, minus the Duchy of Urbino which was given to the papacy. Vittoria della Rovere (the granddaughter) married her cousin Ferdinando II de' Medici and her inheritance was moved to the Palazzo Pitti in Florence (principal residency of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany). When she died the painting first went to Francesco Maria de' Medici, her youngest, after his death the painting belonged to his brother Cosimo III de' Medici. As a side note, Cosimo III was married to Marguerite Louise d' Orléans, a cousin of Louis XIV. They had 3 children: Ferdinando, Anna Maria Luisa and Gian Gastone. As Ferdinando died before his father, Gian Gastone became the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He in turn decided to die without any heirs, officially ending the Medici Grand Ducal line of Tuscany. All the allodial possessions of the Medici were transferred to his sister, but according to the wishes of the European powers, the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany went to Francis of Lorraine. Anna Maria Luisa bequeathed the contents of the Medici properties to the state of Tuscany in an act called the Family Pact, ensuring that the Medicean art and treasures remained in Florence.
      Her death ended the royal line of the House of Medici, and the Palazzo Pitti was transferred to the Austrian House of Lorraine in the person of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. Francis married Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg, thus forming the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. They had a boatload of children (16), among which Queen Marie Antoinette (she of the lost head) and Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor. Leopold was the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 until 1790, when he became the Holy Roman Emperor upon the death of his elder brother Joseph II. His son Ferdinand III was then Grand Duke of Tuscany until 1801 and then again from 1814 to 1824; the Austrian rule was interrupted by Napoleon during his period of control over Italy. Around that time (ca. 1799/1800) the Titian painting was taken to the Louvre by Napoleon, documents confirm that it was in Paris in 1804 when it underwent some intervention. The Congress of Vienna (1914-1915) determined the return of the painting to the Palatine Gallery in the Palazzo Pitti, where it has been ever since.

      it continues...

    3. ... continuation

      Leopold II of Tuscany was the last reigning Gran Duke of Tuscany, his son Ferdinand IV inherited the Grand Duchy as the family was already in exile in Austria, and he never managed to return to Florence. An elected Tuscan National Assembly deposed the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, though the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany has remained in use in the male line of succession (current Gran Duke: Archduke Sigismund of Austria). In 1860, Tuscany, along with the Pitti passed to the House of Savoy during the unification of Italy, and in 1919 Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy, presented the Palazzo to the nation.

      The captain says “we owned this in 17th century and lost it along with a lot of heads during the revolution”, in the 17th century the painting was in the hands of the Medici for more than half the century and it wasn’t until almost the middle of the 18th century that it passed to the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. The second part of that sentence is more problematic, the only revolution that I can think of with a loss of “a lot of heads” is the French Revolution, which occurred from 1789–1799, so basically late 18th century. And it’s only if you consider family in a more comprehensive way that the captain’s sentence can make sense, unless of course the writers decided to change the story of the painting a bit*. If you consider cousins and uncles/aunts (and other family) more than once removed, it might work, after all the Medici did marry into the French monarchy more than once, as well as into other monarchies. And since they liked marrying cousins it would not be hard to find both spouses bringing Medici blood into the union, and somehow all that comes together so that the captain’s sentence is logic?!!
      * The thing is, this painting is fairly famous and the writers/producers (whoever is in charge of that) could just have used a less famous painting, also less easy to research, I mean it was fairly easy to obtain information about it online. My point being, I’ll be a bit disappointed if it turns out they used such a famous painting while substantially changing its history. It could very well be they never mention it again and we don’t even get to go that far back with the whole seven royal houses topic
      Ok, better stop I already rambled too much.

    4. That is a fascinating bit of provenance there, thank you! We've been working our asses off on Haven 301 and Grimm backlog eps, so haven't had a chance to track down history; this is incredibly helpful. One of my in-person friends has been saying she would bet any sum of money that the Medicis were involved with the Families up to their eyeballs, and now we have what looks like confirmation of that. Because, as you say, the showrunners could easily have picked something less recognizable. That they didn't, given how careful they've been with all the other props and costuming pieces, indicates to me that it was damn well deliberate.

      Kitty in particular is a little surprised; we both kind of expected Renard to have Merovingian/Carolinian ancestry, but it's always possible that he meant the Families as a whole rather than his family in particular. Or one of the allied families, since if there's not infighting with seven royal houses I will BUY A HAT just to eat it.