First Thoughts on 'Grimm'
As another follow-up to my previous article on the new shows of Fall 2011, I’ve decided to catch up on NBC’s new cop procedural/ode to fairy tales, Grimm. Back in May, I decided that Grimm’s premise might cause it some problems if its main character Nick Burkhardt had to chase down a new supernatural creature each week.
Two episodes in, and I can’t say my worries about Grimm have disappeared, but I’m impressed with the show as a whole. The writers behind Grimm have made a few important choices which could mean the show will stick around.
First, a primer for those unfamiliar with the series. Grimm airs on NBC on Fridays (9/8C), and follows Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a homicide detective working in Portland, Oregon. Burkhardt is informed by his aunt Marie that he is a Grimm, a member of an ancient line of monster hunters who have the ability to see creatures hiding as humans. Armed with this knowledge, Burkhardt begins to notice that many of the crimes he encounters in the Portland area are tied to people who aren’t actually human.
There’s nothing too groundbreaking about the idea, because as followers of Professionally Incoherent may know, the “cop show with a gimmick” structure is something we’re all familiar with. It wasn’t enough to turn me off the show, though, probably because I’ve never regularly watched series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, True Blood or Supernatural before. I’m a newcomer to the genre, and maybe that’s the kind of audience NBC is aiming for.
That’s why I’m anticipating a lukewarm reception from established fans of the supernatural-horror TV genre. Grimm is packaged as a cop show, perhaps to better capture that untapped audience, and so it may not fully embrace its monster-hunting premise or have the bite of Buffy or Supernatural.
Enough with the speculation, though; what did Grimm do right? I liked the references to German folklore, especially the official names of the monsters: werewolves are “Blutbaden” and the man-bears in Episode 2 are “Jagerbars”. It shows the writers have done some research, and are at least nominally interested in bringing a deeper mythology to the show.
I can only assume it was director Mark Buckland who decided that the trailer containing Aunt Marie’s monster hunting gear should be a “silver bullet” Airstream. It’s a visual touch that’s a nice reward for observant viewers. It will be interesting to find out what other monster-repellent attributes the trailer has.
I appreciated that the series is set in Portland. Granted, it makes sense from a technical standpoint that Grimm be based in a city with huge, spooky forests all about. It’s just that we see too many TV shows and movies (especially police-themed ones) that take place in New York or Los Angeles, so a program set in the American Northwest is refreshing.
David Giuntoli is likable in the lead role. At the moment, he’s a stock “Mr. Perfection” - I hope the writers can introduce some interesting internal conflict, beyond his struggle to understand the life of a Grimm. Meanwhile, Giuntoli’s back-and-forth with Russell Hornsby, who plays Burkhardt’s partner Hank Griffin, felt genuine. I wonder how long it will take to bring Griffin into the supernatural side of things – will he and Burkhardt eventually fight monsters side-by-side?
There’s nothing remarkable yet about Burkhardt’s girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch). Ideally, she’ll get to do more than just sit at home and fill the typical girlfriend role. The best character so far is definitely Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), the reformed Blutbad who provides some fun outside commentary on the events of the show. Mitchell has been a go-to character actor for a while, so I’m curious how he’ll handle a recurring role like Monroe.
I think the main issue that needs addressing with Grimm is the way the writers are choosing antagonists for each episode. Going into the series, I hoped that the suspect in each installment wouldn’t be a monster – that some stories would have Burkhardt chasing down regular humans, perhaps with the help of his new Blutbad buddy Monroe.
I’m worried that if every installment of Grimm focuses on another monster, the show will fall into a formula. An episode will open with the discovery of a crime. Then Burkhardt has an encounter with the creature, later pumps Monroe for insider info and eventually returns everything to the status quo by defeating/killing the threat. It’s the classic “villain of the week” syndrome that would only make Grimm as good as run-of-the-mill episodes from past genre shows like Buffy. (EDIT: Commenter Nikki B. tells me Supernatural is a better comparison here, as Buffy stuck to formula early on)
If Grimm does stay on this course, there is still an opportunity for the show to shine. Remember, Grimm is tying itself to the original collected tales by the German academics Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I’d suggest Grimm’s writers dig through the original Children’s and Household Tales (Grimms’ Fairy Tales) for the more obscure stories, for characters and scenarios that aren’t immediately familiar.
Enough of Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks; let’s see episodes devoted to stories like The Seven Ravens or The White Snake. It would be cool to have a show that didn’t rely on the same tales we’ve all heard before.
As it is, Grimm is solid entertainment, especially for those who aren’t already watching Supernatural or who have been missing David Greenwalt's and Jim Kouf’s writing on Buffy. Now to see what Grimm can do with the rich folktale material behind its name.
Have you been watching Grimm? What do you think? Does it have potential? Or is it a lame Buffy wannabe? Join the conversation in the comments section. If you liked this article, click the link below to check out the archive of my TV commentary!