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Each Friday in The Televangelists, one of our writers examines the met and missed potential of television.
All of those fairy tales and imaginary monsters that you loved as a child (e.g., “The Three Little Pigs”, “The Pied Piper”, the Big Bad Wolf) are real. Or at least, they have a basis in reality. Or so goes the premise of Grimm, a supernatural detective show that has been something of a sleeper hit for NBC this past season. Like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, to which Grimm has more than a passing resemblance, though its gloomier and less campy, Grimm draws heavily from our collective mythology, and that’s much of the fun of the series.
The show follows the exploits of Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a Portland homicide detective who suddenly learns that he is the latest in the long line of Grimms, individuals who are tasked with protecting humanity from the wesen, fairy tale monsters who live hidden amongst “normal” civilization. However, Burkhardt knows nothing of his legacy — the Grimms are very secretive about their existence, as is their wont — and so finds himself stumbling blindly through a new world, one that exists just beneath the surface of our own.
He finds himself turning to a most unlikely source, a Wieder Blutbad (think reformed werewolf) named Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) who resists his wesen urges through “a strict regimen of diet, drugs and Pilates”. Monroe serves as Burkhardt’s guide to the wesen world, and explains its myriad creatures and intricacies. During these explanations, Burkhardt experiences a second revelation: he may see the wesen as monsters, but they see him as a monster because of his Grimm heritage. (Over the years, the Grimms have been responsible for the deaths of many wesen, including Monroe’s great grandma.)
An occasional wesen, like Monroe, will respond to Burkhardt with a measure of guarded tolerance and even burgeoning friendship, but most of the time, Burkhardt is met with mistrust, violence, hatred, and fear as befitting a monster and a bogeyman. This has become one of the show’s most interesting and enjoyable aspects, as Burkhardt frequently has to deal with wesen discrimination and work through their (legitimate) distrust of him. In one humorous series of scenes, a group of Eisbiber (think giant beavers) are convinced that Burkhardt will eventually kill them because, after all, he’s a Grimm, and do everything they can to curry his favor.
As a result, Burkhardt discovers that the wesen are, for all of their strange habits, outlandish appearances, and whatnot, far more normal than they appear. Many of them simply want to live, work, and raise their families in peace. Indeed, in a world populated with frightening monsters, Grimms like Burkhardt may be the most frightening monsters of all.
Given that this is only the show’s first season, Grimm is still finding its pace. Some episodes suffer from monsters that are, well, too unbelievable, and there are times when the answers and resolutions to its various twists and intrigues are frustratingly slow in coming. And one wonders how, exactly, it will blend a pre-existing mythology (i.e., Grimms’ Fairy Tales) with its own. That being said, I find myself easily settling back into its world with each new episode, and enjoying Burkhardt’s growing education about the truth of his heritage, and the awful reputation that he must overcome.