NBC’s Grimm is the better of the two fairy-tale new fall shows. For now, anyway.
Spookier and more accommodating of genre fans than Once Upon A Time, the clunky new offering from ABC, Grimm cashes in on its late October premiere date with a fun if unremarkable tale of heroes and monsters, modernized. It has taken DNA from all its other Friday night timeslot rivals—Supernatural, Fringe, and CSI—and melded them with classic fairy-tale vignettes. It is good enough you will be willing to follow this bread-crumb trail a bit further into the woods.
The world of Grimm is very similar to any number of graphic novels or horror movies, with a homicide cop, Nick Grimm (David Giuntoli), suddenly seeing visions of monsters hiding under the veneer of human civilization. The way the hallucinations manifest reminds of Jacobs Ladder or the power Keanu Reeves was cursed with in Constantine, with wolfish snouts and reptilian eyes peeking from underneath random pedestrians and jailed perps. When Nick and his partner Hank (Russell Hornsby) take a case centered on a red-hooded girl torn apart in the forest, the visions amp up. The collision point is Nick’s aunt (Kate Burton) showing up at the house and revealing to him the truth of his lineage; as a Grimm, he’s the last in a long line of hunters who battle the creatures who have inspired fairy tale lore. When one Grimm shuffles off this mortal coil, the remaining inherit the sight used to unmask the beasts, and Burton is dying of cancer.
The pacing and writing of the show has a quick, messy energy that makes it go down easy. Giuntoli looks awfully like Superman Return’s Brandon Routh, which may work in his favor since Grimm comes out looking leagues better than Routh’s last opus, the similarly themed Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. He has good chemistry too with Prison Break’s Silas Weir Mitchell, as Eddie Monroe, one of the civilized, well-behaved ‘big bad wolves’ that can help Nick track the naughty ones. Mitchell’s Eddie has the potential for an interesting character, and his reformed monster is the detail most reminiscent of producer David Greenwalt’s best known credit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don’t know long Burton’s character gets to be around, but she’s got a knack for delivering stale, portentous lines with a B-movie zest that makes me smile.
Right now, it’s the visual look of the show that stands out as its most beguiling detail. It’s not as dark and gritty as Supernatural, or as bright and bland as Once Upon a Time, but finds a strange dream-like atmosphere full of real but creepy wilderness and misty, candle lit cottages nestled in forested groves. The opening scene, setting the red riding hood tale to the Eurythmics Sweet Dreams, is a clever touch on an obvious joke. What doesn’t convince right now is the layering of cop procedural on top of supernatural intrigue. It can and has worked before—most notably in Angel and Supernatural—but here there’s too much of the former and a vague sense of the latter.
I’m still unsure of Nick will only be fighting the wolfish beasties, or the tribe of monsters identified in the episode are more like Clive Barker’s shape-shifting Night Breed, inspiring all of the fairy-tale characters we are most familiar with. Some of the title heads for future episodes suggest this too, like Bears Will Be Bears and Game Ogre. I’m suspecting the latter, since the show will need such variation to continue. If it ends up just being CSI: Far, Far Away, then I don’t expect I’ll keep DVRing. May I also suggest a change of evening too, NBC? There’s little chance that any of the Fringe/Supernatural fans are going to abandon their favorite show to catch this one, but it is in their wheel house so they might be more accommodating on another night.
Consider me cautiously skeptical, but Grimm has done what few other new hour longs have this season; it’s got me signed on for another episode.