The NBC Television series Grimm entered my life quite by chance, when our esteemed publisher e-mailed me asking whether I wanted to review it. Knowing absolutely nothing about it, but having a newly acquired TV and DVD player, of course I said “Yes.”
If I had to place the series in a genre, it would come out as dark fantasy/supernatural police procedural, which at one point would have sounded weird, but given the direction television has taken since Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the screen, maybe not so much these days.
Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) is a police detective in Portland, Oregon. Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) is his partner. Somehow, they wind up investigating a series of rather bizarre homicides. It seems that Nick is also a Grimm, one of a lineage of Wesen hunters. The Wesen are, basically, all the monsters your parents used to scare you with from fairy and folk tales: witches, trolls, ogres, and were-everything – werewolves, werebears, werebats, weremice, and on down the line, including some you would never guess. They all assume human form in daily life, and only change under emotional stress. Nick’s gift, if you want to call it that, is that he can see them when no one else can. Their reactions when they realize that Nick is a Grimm range from stark terror – the Grimms are much feared among Wesen, since they have a tendency to remove heads first and ask questions later – to attempted murder, before they realize that Nick is a different sort of Grimm: he’s not necessarily after their heads, and he’s a cop – a good cop, one with a conscience and a strong sense of right and wrong.
Add into the mix the precinct captain, Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz), who is not entirely what he seems; Nick’s live-in girlfriend (it’s actually her house); Juliette Silverton (Bitsie Tulloch), who is a veterinarian, which comes in handy from time to time; Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a Blutbad (basically, werewolf) who starts off as a suspect (he’s innocent) and becomes a friend and valuable resource to Nick; Sgt. Wu (Reggie Lee), who winds up being more involved in some of these cases than he likes; Rosalee Calvert (Bree Turner), a Fuchsbau (werefox), sister of a murder victim and gradually another resource for Nick (and Monroe’s eventual love interest); and Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee), a Hexenbiest (witch), a potential victim early in the series who becomes an ongoing villain.
The series begins with the arrival of Nick’s Aunt Marie (Kate Burton), herself a Grimm, dying of cancer and pursued by agents of the Verrat, which works to preserve the privileges and power – and anonymity – of the seven royal families of the Wesen. Nick has been seeing strange things, like people turning into fantastical creatures, and Marie is able to fill him in on the bare bones of his heritage, as well as providing him with a trailer full of the resources a Grimm needs to set up shop, before she is killed.
If this sounds complicated, that’s only the tip of the iceberg: after all, it’s the basis of an ongoing series, and as the series progresses we – and Nick – learn more and more about the Grimms, the Wesen, and their histories.
The first season is, to a certain extent, set-up. There are a couple of ongoing story arcs, but they don’t really have that much presence, with the result that the season is strongly episodic, with the individual episodes pretty much self-contained and paying lip service, if that, to the ongoing plot lines.
In the second season, the balance is reversed, with the ongoing arcs becoming much stronger elements in each episode, while still providing room for the individual stories. As a result, Season Two feels much more coherent and provides good ongoing momentum from episode to episode. It also becomes much more of ensemble piece, with the supporting cast moving into key roles in both the ongoing arcs and each individual episode.
Characterizations, as might be expected, grow richer and stronger as the series progresses. Giuntoli, in particular, develops quite a range for Nick (he does angry and dangerous exceptionally well), and Tulloch has her own moment to shine during an ongoing arc in which she first loses her memory – or a key part of it – and thinks she’s losing her mind, thanks to Adalind. And thanks to Mitchell and Lee, the series doesn’t buckle under its own weight – they add an element of lightness to the whole thing that saves it from tedium.
There are a few things I think could have been handled better, but then, there always are. It has its own element of magic, quite aside from the basic premise (and kudos to the make-up team and the special effects people on that score), and is well worth catching up on.
(NBC/GK Productions/Hazy Mills Productions/Universal Television, 2011-2014 [ongoing])