You know, I have no problem recommending Person of Interest because it’s such smart storytelling. I love recommending Leverage because it’s such smart storytelling. I tell everybody about iZombie because it’s such smart storytelling.
And then there’s Grimm.
Grimm is run by people who routinely forget entire story lines, shove new characters in weekly, change the rules at any given moment, and often take implausibility so far out toward the edge that it circles back and bites them in the butt. The Grimm people look on smart storytelling the way extreme sports addicts look on yoga. They are batshit insane and so are their stories.
I love Grimm.
There were so many reasons not to in the beginning. The hero Nick was so vanilla that extra sprinkles wouldn’t have made him interesting. His girl friend Juliette made vanilla look like a step up. The premise was ridiculous–there are monsters around us killing people and nobody has noticed for thousands of years–and the set-up was a cliche: of course the hero is a homicide detective and there’s a case-of-the-week. So looking back as Grimm finishes its fourth and possibly best season yet, why did I stay? (SPOILERS BELOW)
1. Monroe. The first episode was a Little Red Riding Hood story with a wolf Wesen (the race of monsters that look like animals but can appear as humans, too) kidnapping a little girl in a red hood after ripping apart a college student in a red hoodie. (Little kids and dogs do not die in Grimm; a teenager did once, but he was going out to have sex in the woods, so I chalk that up to horror movie tropes more than Grimm rules.) Nick narrowed his search down to one guy, a wolfish-looking clock expert, who actually was a wolf-Wesen (a Blutbaut, try to keep up), but a reformed one who managed his blood lust with a vegetarian diet and pilates. From the first episode, Monroe was the guy to watch, the perfect partner to straight-arrow Nick.
2. The humor. Okay, a lot of the humor came from Monroe, but there was plenty to go around. Grimm is not a comedy, it’s a monster of the week show and it can get fairly, well, grim, but there’s so much snark in the show from people like Sergeant Wu and the devious Captain Renard, plus there’s Bud the beaver-like Wesen who should have his own show where he just babbles. One of my favorite all time moments in this show is when Nick, his partner Hank, and Captain Renard are all in the captain’s office, and Hank gets the news that a woman they’ve all slept with is pregnant again; he looks at Renard (who knocked her up the first time) with one of those “Did you have to?” looks, and Renard just shakes his head and points at Nick. (It helps that the woman they’re talking about is one of my favorite characters, a take-no-prisoners witch who’s tried to kill all three of them at one time or another, and still they can’t resist her.)
3. The monsters. I’m not a big fan of horror and I do not like being scared, but the monsters on this show are terrific. They’re also, as it turns out, not monsters, just people who are, uh, differently abled. This is important because Nick was born a Grimm, which means he has the job of killing all the Wesen he can find. Except he’s not killing Monroe, the guy’s his best friend. And Bud the beaver/Wesen is a great guy. And then there’s the love of Monroe’s life, a wonderful woman named Rosalee, who’s a fox/Wesen. Basically, Nick likes Wesen as long as they’re not trying to kill somebody, which means he has some explaining to do whenever he meets a Wesen who’s not a crook. The Grimm drinking game is triggered by Nick saying, “I’m not going to kill you!” which I think is a good line for a hero.
4. The characters’ arcs. The one thing the writers do seem to keep a grip on is their characterization. The people of Grimm not only do not act out of character, they actually grow and change, none more than our vanilla hero, Nick, who is now capable of tossing his badge to one side and going full terminator on the bad guys, usually in tandem with Monroe, who helps by turning into a wolf/man (but not a werewolf; that’s somebody else). I think being turned into a zombie was good for Nick. It really sharpened those edges and now he has crazy eyes when he goes full Grimm.
5.The bad guys. Such good antagonists. The Bad Wesen of the Week has been some terrific actors–Amy Acker was a beautiful spider and Arnold Vosloo was a terrific scorpion–but there are also organized groups of great power after Our Gang, like the royal family, a bunch of dickheads who keep sendin assassins to take out Nick, even though the bastard prince of the family (that would be Captain Renard) has him under protection. You’d think the royals would get tired of getting their assassins’ heads back in boxes, but it never seems to pale on them. Sometimes they come after the magic coins that Nick has, except he gave them to his mother who took them somewhere that the writers forgot. Sometimes they’re after keys that Nick fought for and then the writers forgot, except he finally used them to unlock a box that had this thing in it that nobody’s sure exactly what it does. (I’ll bet you anything the writers don’t know either; the showrunner admitted they’d forgotten the keys and brought them back for the 100th episode. I love the idea of these writers all sitting around going, “So these keys we made up a couple of years ago. What are they for?” Because I do that all the time when I plot.) The first year, the hexenbiest (witch) Adalind was a major problem for Nick; this year he’s living with her and their son, who have just been blackmailed into leaving him by a Wesen rebel group trying to take over the world, or at least Portland, by making Captain Renard mayor, which brings us to . . .
4. The writers willingness to say, “Fuck it, why not make the hero a zombie?”
Basically, the thing that makes Grimm such uneven storytelling is the thing that makes it so damn entertaining. These writers will do anything EXCEPT destroy the core community. That is, at the end of the day, Nick, Monroe, Rosalie, Hank, Wu, Captain Renard, Adalind . . . they’re not going anywhere. Supporting characters may bite it, but they know enough not to screw with the stuff that brings the viewers back. Okay, they killed Juliette, which was okay with me, but then they brought her back as . . . actually, I don’t know what Juliette is now except they call her Eve (because she’s brand new, argh) and she wears really weird wigs. And Nick just threatened to kill Renard which is a nice callback to the first season when Renard tried to kill Nick’s aunt by sending in Adalind with a syringe full of poison . . . well, you had to be there.
I’m not going to tell you Grimm is great story-telling because sometimes it’s not. But it’s almost always great community, and no matter how lame an individual episode might be, I’ll still watch these people snark, fight, fall in love, have babies, do disgusting things to get their powers back, and generally bend reality without a second thought.
Where to start:
The Pilot is good: It manages to deliver an amazing amount of exposition while still telling the story of the kidnapped child. No worries, the kid makes it back home just fine. The kidnapper, not so much.