When I first saw the previews for the two shows I was most interested in this fall, Once Upon a Time and Grimm, I thought something along the lines of, “Oh, typical. Two networks, two different takes on the same theme. Instant competition, instant press. Yeah, that’s kind of irritating, get an original idea.” BUT, after having watched the pilots for both series, I can tell you that the argument is pretty much invalid because the series are two completely different animals. While Once Upon a Time has a whimsical and otherworldly feel, Grimm is much darker fantasy, very grounded in the real world, and more of a police procedural with a twist.
The premise of Grimm is that, far from a fairy tale world, the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales were not just stories but, as one character cleverly puts it, “profiling.” The descendants of the Grimm family have the ability to see the otherworldly creatures around them when the creatures lose control and cannot maintain their human disguises. What do you know? Our hero, Nick Burkhardt, is one such Grimm that is only now discovering his powers. The show draws from the old German mythology, including “blutbaden” the original Big Bad Wolves, or wolfmen, and some strange creatures that are beautiful women until their faces seem to rot away. The pilot didn’t delve into the greater world too much, which was a wise choice as it leaves a lot of mystery to explore and avoids the dreaded “info-dump” that bogs down what should be a fast-paced show. Also, point of interest, I will never wear a red hoodie sweatshirt again. Watch the pilot to find out why.
The show is filmed in Portland. Why is this significant? Well, the deep, dark forests of the Pacific Northwest not only create some great reasons not to go into the woods, but also put me in mind of one of my favorite shows of all time, The X-Files. Is this intentional? Probably. The co-creator of the show has a pretty awesome supernatural television pedigree that starts with The X-Files and includes Buffy. This show seems to be following a similar format to The X-Files. It is primarily a police procedural with hints of an overarching mythology, which means that it’s not the end of the world if you miss an episode here or there, though you may find you don’t want to.
Now, I’ll admit, I went into watching this pilot with higher expectations than I did with Once Upon a Time, so I did find a few things I’d like to see improved on; however, overall, I really liked the show. I think the chemistry between Nick (David Giuntoli) and his partner could use some work. I was getting mixed messages about how long they had been partners, some dialogue hinting that they were still getting to know each other, and some seeming to imply a deeper level of trust. Still, I think the acting was good, and the potential for them to grow is there. Similarly, we didn’t see much interaction between Nick and his live-in girlfriend, Juliet, which makes his conflict over how deeply he wants to involve her in his world a bit bland. What should be a really torturous decision for Nick doesn’t seem all that bad because we haven’t been invested in their relationship. Can this develop? Sure, I’d love to see Juliet become a bigger part of the show.
Two character stand-outs would have to be Eddie (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed bludbat, or big bad wolf, and Aunt Marie (Kate Burton) Nick’s mysterious aunt who shows up with her old Airstream bearing some bad news and a strange green key. (Also, Aunt Marie is an ass-kicking librarian. Further proof that my attempts to make librarians the next action heroes is working. Go Aunt Marie! Beatrice applauds you! No idea what I’m talking about? Read my book.) I have a sneaking suspicion that Aunt Marie may not last long in the series, so catch her while you can. I’m looking forward to seeing more creatures reveal themselves throughout the series. The source material is dark and rich, so I’m curious to see what the writers do with it.
In summary, don’t feel like you’re getting more of the same if you’re a fan of Once Upon a Time. Likewise, if Once Upon a Time is not your cup of tea, you might give Grimm a look. The series are very different in subject, style, and atmosphere. I found both to be really enjoyable in completely different ways and I’m looking forward to seeing where both go this season. Grimm is on NBC on Friday night at 9/8C, later than Once Upon a Time and appropriate for the darker tone of the series.
P.S. NBC has put together a very cool little interactive easter egg where you can snoop through Aunt Marie’s trailer. If you’re into the show, check it out! It’s very cool.