The Mexican legend of La Llorona rears its head in Portland in a special Halloween episode

By Emily Rome
October 27, 2012 at 02:00 AM EDT
Scott Green/NBC
S2 E9
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In last week’s recap, I put forth the question of whether Grimm’s monsters/cases-of-the-week hold your interest. I also supplied the theory that any disinterest for these cases may stem from the fact that they’re not linked to the starring characters by theme, that Nick never sees himself and his own experiences in the criminals or victims. And you guys supplied a bunch of great responses to this theory in the comments.

Well, lo and behold, Grimm delivered a compelling case-of-the-week in tonight’s episode, though it may have not been compelling for the reasons we were hoping for (more on that later).

This week, Hank and Nick found themselves on the trail of a kid-killer – a woman with an M.O. of kidnapping three kids and drowning them every Halloween or, depending on whether or not you believe in ghosts, a ghost eerily similar to the Mexican tale of La Llorona.

Whaaaaaat? Grimm has ghosts now?! I’m sure plenty of you had the same reaction to this I did and are eager to talk about the ghostness, but I promise I’ll get to that later too.

Before Nick starts ghostbusting, he grabs a flail (for those not well-versed in medieval weaponry, that’s a spiked ball on a chain) from the weapons closet in Aunt Marie’s trailer. Is he on an important Wesen-hunting mission? Is he going to go crush someone’s skull in? No! His pal Monroe just needs the weapon to be the final touch on his outlandish Halloween decorations. Monroe is even more giddy about the holiday than he was about Christmas last season. His yard and house are full of fake skeletons, tombstones, fog machines, cotton spread into spider webs, jack-o-lanterns, and orange and purple lights. “Whoa. Intense” is about all the response Nick has to these all-out (and I mean all-all-all-out) decorations. That and what any good cop would say: “Now promise me no one’s gonna get hurt.”

Once on the case of the kidnapped children, Nick and Hank recruit the help of Juliette to translate for Spanish-speaking father of missing 8-year-old Rafael. Also flying into Portland to help with the case is Albuquerque cop Valentina Espinosa (guest star Kate del Castillo), who has been tracking this kid-snatching woman for years. Well, Espinosa turns out to indeed be an expert on this weeping woman in white, but what she doesn’t turn out to be is a) a cop and b) human. She was fired from her job as a police officer when she became too obsessed with this case, and she’s a Balam, a purplish, yellow-eyed, big cat-like Wesen, though the fact that she’s a Wesen doesn’t end up being all that integral to the plot of the episode.

Late on Halloween night, there’s a showdown at the river, right at the spot where Espinosa predicted the weeping woman would drown the three kids. The woman in white hums her creepy song to the kids. Nick, Hank and Espinosa make a mad dash to the riverbank. The woman begs her children to come back to her. (Come here dead kiddies! I’ve got three live ones to take your place!) Nick pins down the woman and wrestles with her in the water. Hank and Espinosa grab the kids (the live ones). Nick gets wet. The woman flashes her decaying dead face at Nick. Nick gets scarewud and swims back to the surface. The woman in white disappears. The ghostie is gone.

NEXT: Monroe’s antics, Juliette’s stubbornness

Meanwhile, Monroe has his own slew of ghosts, reapers, witches and vampires to deal with. It’s the trick-or-treaters in costume variety of ghosts, reapers, witches and vampires, but they still cause plenty of trouble for Monroe. We get a peek at Monroe’s relationship with his neighbors (which actor Silas Weir Mitchell also talked about in an EW interview), and we see one of the instances when Monroe feels it’s acceptable to reveal his Blutbad side to humans. Those meddling kids! They deserved it!

While Juliette’s acting as translator in this episode, she meets a friend (guest star Bertila Damas) of Luis, Rafael’s father, who knows a lot about La Llorona. She also seems to know a lot about what’s going on in Juliette’s life. She says that Juliette was brought a cat that was sick to get her sick. Juliette doesn’t want to talk about it, but the woman presses on, in Spanish, “You do not believe in what you can’t explain, but you must believe what I am telling you: Someone did this to you. If you believe what I tell you, it will help save his life!” Hmm. Whose life? Nick’s? Renard’s? And how does she know all this? The mysterious woman later tells Juliette, “Your world is coming apart, and you will have to choose between the two you feel for.” Juliette firmly snaps back, in English, “I’m not choosing between anybody!” Which doesn’t really make sense. She’s not going to make the choice between Renard and Nick? Or there is no one to choose between – she only has eyes for Nick… or Renard?

After all my talk last week of Grimm’s monsters-of-the-week being dull and missing something, Grimm delivered us an intriguing case in this episode. The mystery hooked me, and it was entertaining to watch all the pieces come together. The suspect had a specific, intricate M.O. and a creepy motive. It was Grimm‘s own spin on a Mexican story that many are familiar with, or at least familiar with some iteration of it (it was a walk down memory lane to the very beginning, Supernatural fans!) And I loved that some Latina actresses filled out the ranks of the guest roles this episode.

That all being said, it wasn’t a more captivating case-of-the-week because any of the monster-of-the-week issues we discussed last week were fixed. And maybe they don’t need to be if Grimm can give us more episodes like this. But if Grimm reverts back to cases that are predictable and thematically insignificant, then I’d still like to see the show shoot for better connecting its cases to its protagonists.

NEXT: There’s something strange in your neighborhood

Now, about this ghost business. The Grimm peeps have been adamantly pushing the message of how well this La Llorona story fits into the Grimm world. David Giuntoli says in this featurette video, “We’re not limited solely to the Grimms’ fairy tales, so even though it’s a ghost story, it very much fits into the world of Grimm.” Silas Weir Mitchell told me earlier this week, “The idea of using a Mexican folktale is completely consistent with the concept of the show from the beginning, which is that fairy tales are myths and myth is universal.”

OK, I get that – it’s worked well for Grimm to bring in non-Grimm Brothers stories just as it’s worked for Once Upon a Time to incorporate non-fairy tale characters like Midas and Captain Hook – and I agree that the tale of La Llorona did fit well tonally into Grimm. But this isn’t just about bringing another folktale into this world. This is changing the rules of this world, or at least introducing a whole new rule. Ghosts exist now? That’s not something Grimm can brush off lightly. Suddenly it’s not just monsters among us but the dead among us too. The show has now stepped into the territory of what happens in the afterlife.

Pardon me while I compare this show to Supernatural yet again. Within the first four episodes of Supernatural, we knew which types of creatures inhabited this world, as far as major categories go: monsters, ghosts and demons. Bam. You have all of them there. But in its fourth season, the show managed to throw in another creature Sam and Dean didn’t believe existed: angels. And that worked because it tonally fit into that world and enhanced the story and characters’ relationships (there it is again – Dean could relate to what Cas was going through with his father, a.k.a. God) but also because the show committed to it. So I hope Grimm doesn’t get wishy-washy with the potential for ghosts to exist. Maybe it’s an X-Files-eqsue “I want to believe” thing where it’s unclear for a while whether visitors from the spirit world are among us. And I’d be cool with that. It is left a little open-ended by the conclusion of this episode – we see the ghost children in the river, but I’m not sure whether Hank, Nick and Espinosa saw them or what that even meant (maybe it was just through the point of view of La Llorona). The main thing is that I hope Grimm doesn’t leave ghosts unmentioned for a while. Wouldn’t you think Hank and Nick are shaken by this sudden revelation about ghosts? I want to see them grappling with that. And I want to see whether Monroe knows ghosts exist and, if not, how he reacts to the news.

Time for your two cents, Grimmsters. Am I making too big of a deal out of this ghost thing? Or are you freaking out too? For any Spanish speakers out there, what did you think of the episode? Are you planning to watch it when it airs in Spanish at 12 a.m. tonight? (Yes, that’s happening – step on up to Telemundo if hearing just Juliette speak Spanish wasn’t enough for you.) What did you think of Monroe’s decorations? Why in the world did those kids say “trick or treat” before he opened the door? Who wants to know more about Juliette’s childhood in Spain? What did you think of the small developments in the Juliette/Renard storyline? And who watched the Grimm-themed episode of Face Off earlier this week?

Aaaaaaaaand quotables:

Monroe: There’s a long Wesen tradition of the All Hallow’s Eve midnight Woge. Runnin’ through the woods scaring the crap out of villagers. Literally sometimes.

Nick: And you continue this fair tradition in Portland?

Monroe: Oh, no, no. I mean, I would if I could find some villagers.

“What a bevy of great costumes! Love the wolfman. Looks like my Uncle Herman before they chopped his head off.” — Monroe, to trick-or-treating kids

Hank: Do we believe in ghosts now?

Nick: Not that I know of.

Hank: If this is real, how do you ever sleep?

Nick: Well, you got my back.

Hank: Yeah, but who’s got mine?

Espinosa: This woman is not a ghost. I saw her. She’s real.

Hank: Real is sort of a relative term around here.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome

Read more:

‘Face Off’ exit interview: The ‘Grimm’-inspired episode

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