Saturday, October 20, 2012

"The Good Shepherd" & "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"

Dressed in the skin, the wolf strolled into the pasture with the sheep. Soon a little lamb was following him about and was quickly led away to slaughter. Episode five (season two) opens with a quote from The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, an archetype with both ancient Greek and biblical ties. Although there are numerous variations of stories involving wolves among sheep, the most widely read version can be found in Aesop's Fables (451 in the Perry Index). Read Aesop's The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing  HERE (not to be confused with the tale of The Wolf and the Lamb, another fable). Others may be familiar with the biblical passage in the Christian New Testament: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Gospel of Matthew 7:15, King James Version).

Episode summary (from TV links): When a local Reverend reports that his church has been robbed, Nick quickly learns that it's a Wesen church, and enlists Monroe to check for any suspicious activity regarding the shepherd's flock. Meanwhile, Nick and Juliette continue to figure out the rules of their relationship as a dangerous opponent lurks in the shadows with his sights on Nick.

The Good Shepherd
Grimm on Grimm: While episode five is rather formulaic compared to recent episodes that draw on season two's new and improved story line, it's not just the old throwback to the typical "wolf in sheep's clothing" scenario either. Instead, this fable, which is traditionally recounted in black and white terms-- clear distinctions between good (sheep = innocence and virtuous) and bad (wolf = reprobate and wicked)--moves into shades of gray this time around. The Reverend Calvin, masquerading as a reformed blutbad is the closest to the traditional wolf archetype: he is using his meek congregation of seelengut (sheep creatures) for financial gain and personal pleasure. Worse, he doesn't hesitate to kill anyone who stands in his way. However, one member of his flock, the church secretary, proves to be not so vulnerable after all.  Although she is a different species than the Reverend, she finds no moral dilemma in being his partner in crime (until the day she learns that he has cheated on her--but that doesn't really lead to any sort of moral reform--just a break in their partnership, at which point she leaves him to take the fall).

Calvin's false guise as a transformed blutbad  is juxtaposed with Monroe's sincere and authentic commitment to leading a non-violent lifestyle, contrasting good and evil as it is illustrated in the traditional fable, but this time, within the same wolf species.

The not so virtuous sheep
The episode can also be read as a commentary on group versus individual behavior by using the traditional characteristics of the story's animals, i.e. herd mentality of sheep and the lone wolf. Monroe is the true lone wolf (I was tempted to say "black sheep" ha ha), having struck out on his own after abandoning his inherent hunting instincts as a blutbad. Through his own initiative, he has embodied exemplary behavior, while the seelengut are nervous nellies who never think for themselves and are punished as a result. The secretary, as the only sheep who acts of her own accord, is rewarded in the end by accessing Calvin's stolen money and escaping arrest by fleeing to a tropical island. As the episode ends, she is shown sipping cocktails on a beach alongside the young woman that Calvin has impregnated. Even if her behavior is dubious, the secretary didn't advocate killing, illustrating less violent behavior than her lover Calvin. In short, the role of the individual is elevated over community here (leaving aside the Reverend for a moment, who, as a murderer, figures more prominently in the morality message of the script than its contrasting of individual versus group), which has much more to do with American ideals (the self-made man, individual freedoms and choice) than it does traditional European storytelling. Nevertheless, these animals and their characteristics, so well known to us through their prominence in folklore, serve as an important backdrop for an exploration of the group versus the individual.

Finally, the choice of the episode's setting within a church congregation references the biblical importance of the wolf and sheep archetypes found in the Bible. Even this however, true to American fashion (and given what happens in the episode), carries a message of "dance to the beat of your own drum". The entire congregation appears ridiculous, whereas the individual Monroe appears almost Buddha or Christ-like in his freethinking and solitary non-violence. 

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