TV series review: Grimm – Series 1 (2011)
As series two of Grimm has only just begun in the US, I thought I’d say a few words about series one.
Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) is a police officer in Portland, Oregon, and he does a good job with his partner Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby). At home, he has his fiancé Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), a veterinarian, and things are going pretty well.
At least until Nick’s aunt Marie (Kate Burton) shows up with her caravan and tells him he’s a Grimm and that a lot of fae creatures, or “Wesen”, are out to kill them both.
As it turns out, Grimms are from a bloodline originating in Germany, and they are partly a sort of guardian there to keep the balance between the world of everyday humans and the Wesen of the fae realm. Wesen look like ordinary humans most of the time, but a Grimm can see their true shape.
On death’s door because of cancer, Aunt Marie has to pass on this legacy to Nick – and it’s news to him. Suddenly, he starts seeing Wesen popping up everywhere in his police work, but as he’s previously been unaware of this whole world, he’s not prejudiced – something the Wesen find incredibly peculiar. A Grimm that doesn’t automatically kill them, but who might in fact be on their side?
We’re also introduced to the police captain, Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz, who reminds me soooo much of Richard Armitage!), but whose side he’s actually on is definitely unclear; upholstery-munching Sergeant Wu (Reggie Lee), but there’s a reason for it; and an unexpected ally – Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a Wider Blutbad (werewolf … sort of) who first shows up as a suspect and then turns out to be a great source of knowledge … and the sort of good mate you share a pint with and who can help you get out of sticky situations.
Set over 22 episodes, Grimm treats us viewers visually in many ways. There is always a lot of greenery about, like lush woodlands, and a vibrant but natural colour scheme in the shots. Most shows don’t seem to bother with colours, except for NCIS, where the colour saturation is exaggerated, and Spooks, which had a sort of blue-tinted high-contrast filter thing going on. The BBC miniseries North & South played colour balancing like a piano and based it on the main character’s perception of her surroundings.
Technical bits aside, yes, I do also mean eye candy. Nick even gets to take his top off, but that’s because he’s banged up in hospital. Still, definitely worth looking at, even when bruised.
Nick comes across as sympathetic and he’s a really nice guy, but my favourite character has got to be Monroe. “Oh, it’s him! Wossname!” I said when we first saw him, and when I looked him up, I realised that the name didn’t ring a bell and the only thing I can honestly say I’ve seen him in was one episode of The X-Files. Guess he must have made an impression!
Why do I like Monroe? Because of the sweaters? The sarcastic wit? The whole “hey, a Blutbaden can actually work really well on a vegetarian diet!” thing? The beard? The cello playing? The general awesomeness?
The show itself is of the monster-of-the-week variety. One week, they’re up against one kind of Wesen, next week, another, then a third one after that. It doesn’t get repetitive, though, and we always learn a bit more about the Wesen and what the Grimms are about, so I never got the feeling of “oh for goodness sake, you could’ve done this in half the episodes and the show would be all the better for it”, which is what’s bugging me with another show we’re currently following.
I suppose the police investigation, woodlands and the banter between the main character and his best friend/part-time sidekick, along with having a boss you as a viewer don’t trust, brings back memories of The X-Files at its best. The shows are completely different, but similar in the ways that count. This is why I’m looking forward to series two of Grimm, and hope it continues to improve and become even better.
Is there a downside? The transition between human and Wesen face looks a bit cheap, especially since they all cock their heads to one side and open their mouths, think “the MGM lion roaring”, when they do it. It probably makes the transition job easier for the CGI people, to be fair, but everyone changes face in the exact same way. It’s also a bit strange that Monroe seems to know just about everything about everything in the Wesen world, and that the female characters are a bit … well, lacking: there was Aunt Marie. She died in the first episode. There’s Juliette, who’s Nick’s loving significant other, who puts up with a lot of things … and I can’t go in to why I have a problem with her because that would spoil the series one finale.
The others are either crime victims, Wesen extras, or evil, manipulative, seductive, backstabby, murderous Wesen. No one is really given a prominent part – at least not as a positive character – with one exception: Rosalee Calvert (Bree Turner), a Fuchsbau herbalist/potion maker, and potential love interest for Monroe. I like her. She seems to be there to actually contribute, not just as a hug after a hard day’s work, or to converse with over dinner, or as a muggle you need to hide your secret new life from. I hope she’s used more in series two, and that maybe Juliette gets to step up and be more than just “Nick’s fiancé”.
So yeah, there are some improvements that can be made, clearly. But Grimm is a very enjoyable show, and it’s nice to see a police drama with a difference. Especially one that has such clear ties with a roleplaying game I very much enjoyed playing: Changeling. Can’t wait for it to return to the UK.
4 out of 5 caravans.