Created by Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf
Not only is Nick Burkhardt a gifted profiler, he is also able to see supernatural creatures disguised as humans that have appeared in the writings of The Brothers Grimm that are not fairy tails but diverse races of creatures that the Grimm line has been hunting for centuries.
“I couldn’t sleep the last two nights thinking old Aunt Marie was gonna cut off my head and stick it on a lamppost…That’s how my great Grandma ended up you know.”
A second fairy tale-based offering from the major American networks, Grimm is a play on the “monster-of-the-week” format in the tradition of The X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The comparison is apt as the creators have worked on either one show or the other. The show may not be breaking any new ground conceptually, but what matter is the story telling, and from that perspective, Grimm shows some promise. The characters are largely likeable, and Nick is a wonderful fish-out-of-water as he finds himself awakened to a new way of viewing his family and the world.
The basic format, from the first two episodes, has been putting a modern spin on classic fairytales. The pilot involved young women dressed in red being abducted and murdered by a wolf creature. The second episode was a play on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where the mother and son engaged in a centuries-old coming of age ritual that involved hunting humans. This show almost has more in common with The X-Files and Millennium than it does Once Upon a Time, and as I liked both of those shows, I’m certainly eager to see how Grimm unfolds.
The only problem I see at this point is the meta-narrative. This early in the show, while a meta-narrative is present, it isn’t clearly defined. I certainly want to see a successful monster-of-the-week format as Grimm could do this very well and provide some good scares along the way (something that has been lacking lately on American network television), but I think the show will need a strong arc to keep the format fresh. My concern is that it will either be too-arc driven (going the route of Lost or the most-recent series of Doctor Who) or that the arc will be similar to The X-Files where we have an overall mythology that gets revisited for about six episodes per season but very little progresses in those six episodes. Ideally, and I feel the same way toward Once Upon a Time, the show should take its time introducing the world and concepts, then have arcs that are smaller, resolving quickly but the consequences may bring about future arcs. This was something Babylon 5 did quite well. Already Grimm seems to be setting up Nick as a character who might shake up the old us vs. them mentality of the Grimms and creatures. He has enlisted the occasional help of Eddie Monroe, something that is unheard of in this ancient conflict. I enjoy that the show isn’t painting this conflict as black and white, but adding nuance. Some of the creatures just want to be left alone to live their lives. They are aware of the history of their people and The Grimms, but would just as well want to leave this behind. Unfortunately, not all the creatures feel this way, and wish to embrace the ancient battle. I can almost see this being an allegory of the conflict between The West and Islam, albeit an unconscious one.
It is tempting to try to determine which show is better, Grimm or Once Upon a Time. However, both shows are telling very different stories, existing is similar but distinct genres. Once Upon a Time is, at the moment, a quest to break a curse. Grimm is a police procedural with fairy tales. All comparisons are primarily either superficial or must deal with technical aspects, but one is not inherently better than the other. It all comes down to preference. As it stands, I’m not sure which I prefer. I like the ambition of Once Upon a Time, but I distrust the way American networks handle ambitions meta-narratives. Grimm may find an easier run as it is more episodic in nature. I like the X-Files feel, but have yet to be amazed by the show, despite it being a fun watch. But both shows have enough to keep me coming back.
View the pilot episode at NBC’s Grimm website.