“She'll sting you one day. Oh, ever so gently, so you hardly even feel it. Til you fall dead.” — Betsy Palmer, Queen Bee (1955)
“No, not the bees! Not the bees!! Ahhhhhhhghhhhharghhh!!! My eyes! MY EYES!! Ahhhhghhharaghhhh!” — Nicholas Cage, The Wicker Man (2006)
At the end of last week's Grimm, which interpolated “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (and something about the dangers of Jagerbombs), I wondered how long it would take for the show to start pulling from the more obscure end of the Brothers Grimmiverse. I figured they'd blow through all the well-known fairy tales by the end of this season, then, if the unexpected ratings success continues and the series is renewed, they'd just start making shit up. As it turns out, the writers are already dipping into the Grimms' album tracks—in the case of this episode, they're grabbing at “The Queen Bee,” which is the same title of the little-remembered Joan Crawford film quoted at the top of the show.
In more recent popular culture, bees are often used as portents of doom (see: The Wicker Man, Candyman, Wu-Tang Clan iconography, the impending apocalypse). In the story referenced in “Beeware” (sigh), however, the insect is actually helpful, at least to those who help them. Thus, in this episode, Detective Nick Burckhardt is forced to confront the confusing notion that not all supernatural beasts are out to eviscerate him.
If there's a true villain in “Beeware” (ugh, someone really signed off on that episode title), it's flash mobs. The episode opens on the Portland Streetcar, building tension as the camera focuses on a pretty woman on her way to work and a man carrying something in a large sack. It turns out the guy is hiding a boombox, which he proceeds to use as a signal for everyone else on the street car to start singing and dancing to “YMCA.” This is Grimm's first truly Portlandian moment—at least, it's something that might've happened in Portland a year ago. Flash mobs are so 2010, exemplifying why it's never a good idea to base a show around a meme (unless you're South Park and can get the episode to TV in two days). After the streetcar is emptied, the driver notices a woman collapsed on the floor. It's the same woman we saw getting on earlier, except now she looks like post-plastic surgery Melanie Griffith. Cue Nick and Hank, who find a puncture wound on the back of the victim's neck.
At the autopsy, the detectives learn the dead woman—identified as a lawyer who lives in the Pearl—had 50 milligrams of bee toxin in her system, something like a billion times the amount that comes from a single bee sting. Hank quips she must've gotten strung by “a bee the size of LeBron James.” “Make that the size of the Big Three combined,” the pathologist responds. (I must really miss the NBA, because any talk of basketball outside of labor negotiations makes my ears perk up.) The cops visit a beekeeper, who recites a bunch of science-y dialogue about bee venom. The major point of the scene is foreshadowing: A bee lands on Nick's hand, and the beekeeper remarks, “She likes you.”
Back at the station, the flash mob participants have been dragged in for interrogation. No one saw anything, but then Nick sees two guys' faces turn into Buzz Off from He-Man. (Also suspicious: One dude has a black-and-yellow iPod case. In fact, all the bee people in this episode seem to wear subtle variations of that color combination. You'd think homicidal bee-folk would try to be less conspicuous.) Tipped off, Nick and Hank track the flash mobbers to an abandoned paper factory, where they're spied conspiring with another woman. Nick and Hank are then attacked by a swarm of guard-bees, forcing them to retreat. “Maybe Wu was right about our giant killer bee,” Hank says after being stung about a dozen times. (I was hoping that comment would lead to a cameo from Inspectah Deck, but no such luck.)
From there, Nick goes back to his Magic Trailer of Wonderment to flip through his now-dead aunt's creature book, where he learns that mellifers—that's the not-at-all intimidating name for these supernatural bee-people—are the natural enemies of the goblin-like hexenbiests. Cue our Eddie Monroe scene of the week. Nick drags Monroe back to the paper mill to help him sniff around, leading to a bunch of “I'm not your Lassie” jokes. Like everyone else who's watched the first three episodes of Grimm, Silas Weir Mitchell's weekly appearance is always my personal highlight. He's not given much to do here, but he delivers the hammy dialogue with such verve it elevates the show whenever he's on screen. On a show full of actors with generic network TV personas, he's got basic cable charisma, baby! Some sleuthing uncovers the address for the woman who once owned the defunct paper mill. Nick and Eddie go out to the mansion, which is abandoned and littered with bee carcasses. Upstairs, they find a huge beehive growing in the attic, which for someone who's a bit of a bee-phobic is a fairly disturbing image.
After an act break, we learn another woman has been Melanie Griffith'd in the South Park Blocks post-flash mob, or “death by hokey-pokey,” as Sgt. Wu refers to it. She and the previous victim both worked at the same law firm. A conspiracy, it is! As a precaution, the third lawyer associated with a case that brought down the paper mill is placed under police protection. And wouldn't you know it, it's the hot blonde from the pilot episode, the one who tried to kill Auntie Marie. Her name is Adalind Shade. Putting the pieces together—and by that I mean checking the dead lawyers' tongues for the mark of the hexenbiest—Nick determines this is a metaphysical grudge match between the mellifers and hexenbiests. A sting—heh—is set up to catch the Queen Bee, putting Nick in the awkward position of choosing between either protecting Adalind and allowing her to continue threatening him and his family or allowing her to get killed and end up looking like a lousy cop. The climax involves Adalind and the Queen Bee fighting in the basement of a hotel, literalizing Nick's moral quandary. In the end, he chooses to do his human duty and finally shoots the bee-person, whose dying words are a warning: “He's coming for you...bee-ware.” (Ugh.) The last scene is Nick closing his bedroom window, where a bee lands on his hand...and stings him. Hell hath no fury like a mellifer scorned.
Horrible puns aside, "Beeware" (ugh) was probably Grimm's best episode yet, one that further expanded the show's mythology and the narrative arc of the first season. If they can find a way to incorporate Monroe in more than a one-scene-per-week capacity, and embrace the inherent camp of a fairy tale crime-drama a bit more, this show could possibly, maybe transcend its questionable beginnings and become something worthwhile. Otherwise, it's going to continue being little more than a Bee-grade supernatural cop show. Sorry, had to.