Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks Walk into a Bar: Reviews of Grimm ("Pilot" and "Bears Will Be Bears")

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

Contrary to what you might believe given the post I wrote back in March about some of my favorite shows, I don't actually watch television much. Or, really, at all. There are some shows that I got into while they were on television (the now-gone Alias, Jericho, and Stargate Universe and the still-running Big Bang Theory), but normally the shows that I get into are already cancelled and I just watch them on DVD (Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, The 4400). It saves me the trouble of having to wait a full week to see the next episode and, more importantly, it ensures that I don't have to be bombarded by mind-numbing and increasingly idiotic advertisements. I'm really picky when it comes to which shows I'll even give half a chance to and, as you can probably tell, the ones I end up liking tend to be sci-fi related.

When I heard that Robert Carlyle (The Fully Monty, Trainspotting, Stargate Universe) was going to be in a new television show I was curious to see what it would be like. I'm a huge fan of his work and I had heard that it was a fairy-tale related show, which piqued my interest. So, when someone mentioned that the show Grimm was going to be debuting the Friday before Halloween, I thought, "Hey, that must be the show, right?" It wasn't. Turns out that he's on ABC's Once Upon A Time, which I didn't realize until after I watched the second episode of Grimm. While I haven't seen the ABC take on fairy tales yet, I got hooked on NBC's within the first half of Grimm's pilot episode.

Given that this is a book blog and Grimm is a bookish television show, I've decided that I'll be reviewing the show on a weekly basis. It may not get posted the next day but it'll generally be sometime before the next episode airs. Today, you get a two-for-one deal because I didn't think about it until I was rewatching the episodes on Sunday night (thank you,!).

Without further ado, here's my thoughts on the first two episodes of Grimm.

Warning: possible spoilers ahead.

"Pilot" (first aired October 28, 2011)

Plot: On the same day that his Aunt Marie (Kate Burton) comes for an unexpected visit, Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) starts seeing people in a whole new light--literally. He's one of the last of the Grimm family and it's his gift (or curse) to see the creatures that haunt the folk tales and fairy stories of old. The brutal murder of a college student and the disappearance of a little girl (both wearing red hoodies) lead him to Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a big bad wolf who's not so big and bad. Nick and Eddie work together to try and find the killer before he claims his next victim.

Review: I had gotten sick of police shows a long time ago. It doesn't matter if they get dressed up with fancy lighting or glitzy locales, they're all basically the same show rehashed over and over again. Grimm is nothing like these shows. It's not just that the criminals are supernatural beings; Grimm is a serial rather than a procedural and it has interesting characters and a good sense of humor in addition to its creepy atmosphere and fun twists on old stories.

This retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" used its material well while still doing something new and fun. The juxtaposition of an age-old tale in a modern world reminds me a lot of The 10th Kingdom (a mini-series that was on NBC over a decade ago) but it's a lot scarier and a lot grittier. The episode started with a murder and continued to get more intense from there. The pace was good, with no real lulls in the action, and with an interesting way of using exposition. In the scene where Marie first starts to tell Nick about his family they get attacked by a creature called a Reaper. Definitely preferable to people just sitting around talking.

The characters, though, were what brought me back in front of the TV the next week, especially Mitchell's character, Eddie. Afterward, I had a short discussion on Twitter with someone who had said that the humor was a bit much for a show like Grimm and could be toned down, but I disagree. I think the humor, especially Eddie's, is what really sets this show apart from other cop shows, where everyone's so depressed and no one smiles. The partnership between Nick and Hank (Hornsby) is also fun to watch, although it's pretty similar to other cop partnerships out there. I much prefer the begrudging friendship that develops between Nick and Eddie. Eddie's reluctance to help Nick stems from the fact that his parents used to tell him stories about the Grimms and they "scared the hell" out of him and because (as we find out in the second episode) his family has a history of run-ins with the Grimms that never ended well. They're both fish out of water, really, and I like the idea of watching these characters develop as the season goes on.

I can't really find anything major to complain about for this episode. While the special effects aren't spectacular, they aren't horribly bad either, and everything else worked really well. The writing was good, the acting was good, and the story was engaging. I don't have a rating system for films or television shows worked out just yet, but the pilot episode of Grimm would most likely get the top grade.


"Bears Will Be Bears" (first aired November 4, 2011)

Plot: A young couple, Gilda and Rocky, break into the home of an affluent family only to get more than they bargained for when Rocky gets attacked and Gilda barely gets away. Nick and Hank search for him while Eddie gets stuck standing guard over Nick's dying aunt--a woman whose family has a history of killing Eddie's  ancestors.

Review: Each episode of Grimm starts out with a quote that helps the audience guess which story will be incorporated into the plot that evening. This time it was "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and it was just as interesting a retelling as the first episode's version of "Red Riding Hood" had been. The regular characters from last week were back but they were joined by not only Gilda and Rocky but by the Rabe family...who aren't all that they seem.

This episode was great but I liked it better the second time around than I did the first. A lot of people who were talking about it on Twitter afterwards said that it was even better than the pilot, but I needed a rewatch to fully appreciate it, I think. There was a lot that went into "Bears Will Be Bears," which continued the thread of last week's episode while introducing a new case into the mix. Much like a lot of the other shows that I've loved, Grimm isn't episodic, which I like because I feel serialized shows are able to get more in-depth and are more likely to draw you in the following week because of a cliff-hanger or some other hook. This episode ended with one just like the first did and I'm already anxious to see Friday's episode.

I like Nick's character, but he's sort of a blank slate. We don't know a whole lot about him just yet (or his, to me, suspicious girlfriend), so I'm looking forward to being able to fill in the gaps. We find out a little more about Eddie and a little more about Hank, both of whom have become my two favorite characters (in that order). If they'd just build Nick up a bit more than these two he could be a really strong character but so far I think he pales in comparison to them...even though the show is about him.

Again, the special effects aren't fantastic, but I'm okay with that. I don't need the best CGI to enjoy something. If you compare, say, the original Star Wars trilogy to the crappy new Star Wars films, the originals were so much better because they focused more on creating amazing characters and exciting plots than they did creating a bunch of awe-inspiring special effects. I would take compelling show over technologically-advanced show any day.

And Grimm is compelling. You're always wondering what will happen next and very often you're surprised by what you find. Even though I swore I would never get addicted to a TV show again, Grimm has become my once-a-week fix. All it really needs is to develop the main character more and to keep Eddie's humor at its current level. I could tell that the second episode had toned him down a bit and, while I'm okay with that, any more toned down and he won't be the character I've already grown attached to.

Again, I don't have a rating system figured out yet (it's coming), but if I did, "Bears Will Be Bears" would be pretty high up the scale.

For those who haven't watched the show but are curious about it, you can watch the first two episodes on NBC's Grimm site. It's enough of a miracle that I'm watching a television show, but that I'm this enthralled with it means they've gotta be doing something right.



  1. I would love to watch it but my children and now my husband all call me the "Kiss of Death." If I watch a show during the first or second season you can pretty much bet it will be canceled. If I can, however, wait until the third season, it has a chance. Unfortunately, I rarely start watching a show in its first season.

    For some reason, however, this does not have an effect on spin offs so, if I do watch a show after the first two seasons and the network decides to option a spin off and I start watching that spin off from its pilot, the spin off will survive longer than one season.

    This is why I wait until a show is over. Then I typically marathon my way through it from first to last episode. It's just easier that way and less painful for one and all.

  2. Satia: I've had a few shows like that. Jericho, for one. I also tend to really like characters that end up dying. Doesn't matter if it's a book or a movie or whatever. If I make a connection with a character, they're probably going to croak.