It could be a delayed effect from the popularity of Guillermo Del Toro and Tim Burton or it could be the collective yearning for a simpler time. So we have more literal adaptations (Mirror,Mirror and Tangled) and we have the darker revisionist takes (Snow White and the Huntsman, the forthcoming Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters). The craze hasn’t been limited to films either, on TV this past season we have had competing revisionist fairy tale shows with Once Upon a Time and Grimm.
The first season of Grimm sets the scene perfectly for possible greatness to come but in its current form the first season is merely a stepping stone rather than great must-see TV.
The set-up is fairly simple; fairytale, myths and folklore are actually all documents and warnings about the creatures that live in secret all around us. ‘Grimms’ are the people who are gifted with the ability to see these beings and must stop them from running amok and acting on some of their darker impulses. In Portland, Oregon Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) has started to see these creatures and thinks he is going insane until his dying aunt shows up and informs him of his destiny and that he must take over from her when she dies. Armed only with a trailer full of cumulative Grimm knowledge and weapons over the centuries, Nick must somehow hide the truth from his partner Hank (Russell Hornsby) and his long-term girlfriend Juliet (of course) and rely on reformed werewolf Monroe (Silas Weir-Mitchell) for input whilst avoiding the murderous intentions of The Reapers; an ancient society dedicated to killing the Grimm.
First thing to realise is that Grimm is a network show so it’s not concerned with taking time and using subtlety to tell its story because it has to fill that 45 minute time frame to allow 15 minutes of revenue generating advertising that won’t distract from the plot too much. As a result Grimm shares the problem that Fringe is sometimes guilty of, it moves so damn fast that it’s often hard to keep up and allows only the bare minimum of character building if it doesn’t propel the plot forward.
The good thing is that Grimm is super entertaining; the first few episodes throw a hell of a lot of mythology and information at you but then calm down over the initial ten stories so that the brilliant Silas Weir Mitchell as reformed werewolf (or Blutbad here) can fill in the gaps. Grimm soon sets into a formula that involves a weekly monster of the week which is often well thought out and clever so that it ties into established fairy tale tropes and stories. There may be a few too many werewolves and variations of werewolves (were-bear,were-fox and were….Rapunzel) in the initial stories but around the mid-point it starts to get more interesting with stories about supernatural Greek coins that were apparently controlling Hitler and a take on George and the Dragon that really works and is a pivotal point in the show.
The burgeoning friendship between Monroe and Nick is the emotional core of the story with the two of them becoming reluctant friends and it’s a little bit puzzling how Nick’s partner Hank doesn’t cotton on that something isn’t right and just assumes his partner suddenly ‘has really good instincts’. David Giuntoli is a great lead, looking like a mini Brandon Routh, he doesn’t do any especially hefty thesping but is solid and good-looking enough to hang a network show on.
Towards the end of the first season the shows overarching mythology becomes more and more prominent with characters revealing their true natures and their shadowy motives becoming clearer. A centuries old struggle between warring factions comes to the fore and will likely play a major part in seasons to come. The support characters that seemed superfluous are suddenly touched by Nick’s new world and the stakes are raised. One of the creators of the show is David Greenwalt who was a major force on Joss Whedon’s Angel over its five-year run. The set up and weekly format are almost identical to Angel even including things like monster fight clubs and monster drug dealers which seem to be directly from Angel. The good news is that Grimm seems to have an intention to focus on story and character arcs the way the Angel did which made it must see TV for a whole legion of fans.
The first season of Grimm won’t change the way you see television and some of its darker aspects would have been better served elsewhere but it’s a solid start to a show that could become essential viewing for new genre fans as well all those that miss the heyday of Buffy, Angel and The X-Files.