Friday, November 18, 2011

Bookish TV: Babies and Bees - Reviews of Grimm and Once Upon a Time

Title: Grimm
Airs: Fridays at 9 on NBC
Stars: David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby, Silas Weir Mitchell

"Beeware" (first aired November 11, 2011)

Plot: After a flash mob results in the gruesome death of a Portland lawyer, Nick and Hank find themselves engaged in an investigation involving bees, corporate intrigue, and an old enemy. Soon, Nick discovers that he may be in more danger than he realized.

Review: I'm not quite sure how NBC decides on which scenes to show in the previews for the next episode of Grimm, but there were several scenes in Friday's episode that had been used as previews for episode two, which makes me insanely confused. But this is supposed to be a review of an episode, not of NBC's practices, so whatever.

"Beeware," the latest episode of NBC's new series, is loosely inspired by "The Queen Bee," a Brothers Grimm tale that I had no idea existed until I was writing this review and was trying to figure out what was up with all the bees. I have an irrational fear of bugs in general, but bees are up at the top of the list of bugs that make me cringe. Anyway, a woman ends up dead after a flash mob does the "YMCA" on a city bus and the cause of death is an overdose of bee venom. Nick and Hank are sent to investigate and find a connection between the woman's law firm and an abandoned paper mill. Nick also discovers that two members of the flash mob aren't what they seem to be; they are, in fact, melafers, or bee-people. I won't give the rest of the episode away, but basically they're involved in a plot that Nick uncovers and that involves the hexenbeast that tried to kill his aunt in the first episode.

All in all, I'd say that this wasn't a bad episode. It was suspenseful and had some great Eddie Monroe moments (I'm not ashamed to admit that he's one of the main reasons why I watch the show) and the hints at a dark and dangerous future for Nick had me dying to see the next episode. There was some great tension between Nick and his boss, the nefarious Captain Renard (which means "fox" in French and will probably have some significance later on in the series), that made me wonder how Nick can't see that his boss is part of some sort of shadowy organization, but Nick's still kind of wet behind the ears in the Grimm-ing department, so I'll forgive him for that.

One thing that I'm still finding hard to believe is that three episodes in there still hasn't been much character development where Nick is concerned. I think that it's great that they've combined fantasy with a cop drama and created something new, but I want to care about the main character. His thinly-veiled anger at the hexenbeast was a good step in the right direction, but he could use more of a personality. I also hope that the show starts giving Hank and Eddie more to do than just whatever Nick asks of them. It's like he has two sidekicks (both of whom are more interesting than he is) and he just interchanges them when he has need of their skills.

I feel like the first two episodes were better, but "Beeware" wasn't terrible and it helped to introduce whatever's lurking around the corner for Nick in the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to more of this show, but I'm hoping that eventually I come to see Nick as more than just a pretty-boy cop.

Title: Once Upon a Time
Airs: Sundays at 8 on ABC
Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla

"The Price of Gold" (first aired November 13, 2011)

Plot: When a young pregnant girl assaults Mr. Gold and tries to flee town, he comes to Emma for help in locating her in order to make sure that she keeps up her end of a deal the two of them made. But when Emma discovers the truth about their deal, she cares more about finding and helping the girl than about anything else. In fairy land, Cinderella makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that she'll come to regret and we find out just how he ended up in that prison in the first place.

Review: I wanted to like Grimm more than Once Upon a Time (although I have no idea why), but this show has far surpassed it in my mind. The characters are multi-faceted and interesting, the plots are well-paced and relevant, and the structure of the show (the switching between stories and the playing around with time) is unique and fun. This has quickly become my new favorite show and "The Price of Gold" is a good example of why.

Introducing the new character of Cinderella, "The Price of Gold" also delves more deeply into Rumpelstiltskin's past and Mr. Gold's present. I've gushed about Robert Carlyle on here enough that it won't come as a surprise that these two have become my favorite characters on the show, but even without them, this would have been a great episode.

Changing the story of the girl who wore glass slippers and modernizing it to deal with the difficult and often controversial issues of teen pregnancy and single motherhood, Once Upon a Time has given new life to a tale that I always felt taught the regrettable lesson that all a girl needs to be happy is be pretty and find a man to marry. It builds on the show's already strong female cast and allows Emma's character a chance to grow (something Grimm hasn't yet managed to do with it's main character).

The show is visually beautiful and "The Price of Gold" was no exception. The costumes, sets, and scenery are so well-chosen and they're used to enhance an already great show. All the pretty sets and fun lighting in the world couldn't save a bad show, but Once Upon a Time has a great writing staff and a great cast that has really grown into their characters over the last few episodes. Gone is the poor acting from the first episode as well as the poor dialogue. Everything about the show has improved tenfold in the last few weeks and I can only assume it will get better as time goes on.

I loved how they combined the stories of Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin and I also really liked her friendship with Snow White. In the real world (Storybrooke), Cinderella becomes just another statistic, a marked difference from her life as a princess and a stark reminder of the dangers of glamorizing the life of privilege portrayed in the stories of our youth. Emma's strength, which is derived from her past as an orphan and a teen mother, as well as from her life as a bail-bondsperson, makes her reaction to Ashley's predicament more genuine and poignant and, ultimately, more satisfying to watch.

This was such a good episode, perhaps their best yet, and it has given me even more incentive to continue watching.


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