Given the recent spate of fairy tale adaptations showing up in both film and television, I expected “Grimm” to be very formulaic and uninspired. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. While some of the standard fairy tale tropes were present, it is clear that the creators took great care to take a fresh approach.
Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli) is a homicide detective in Portland. He has a partner named Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby), and he is about to ask his girlfriend Juliette Silverton (Bitsie Tulloch) to marry him. Unfortunately, Nick is beginning to see some strange things. Certain people appear to be changing into gruesome creatures right before his very eyes, but nobody else seems to notice.
Meanwhile, a woman wearing a red sweatshirt is jogging in the woods, listening to “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by the Eurythmics on her iPod. When she stops to look at a ceramic figurine that has been placed in the path, she is attacked and dismembered by an unknown creature. Nick is called to the scene to investigate.
A creepy bald woman arrives in town driving an SUV pulling a camper. After some misdirection, she is revealed as Nick’s aunt Marie (Kate Burton). Marie has a terminal disease, and she has come to talk to Nick before she dies. Soon a strange creature attacks them, and Nick is forced to kill it, after which it morphs back into a human. Before she lapses into a coma, she is able to explain to Nick that he has inherited the family curse, and all the information can be found in her trailer. Later that night, he investigates her trailer, and discovers a detailed book containing drawings and descriptions of a variety of supernatural creatures.
A postman is walking down the sidewalk, but only the back of his head is shown. A little girl in a red sweatshirt skips by. He pauses, turns around, and begins following her. When she goes missing, her parents call the police. Nick and Hank investigate the nearby woods. Nick follows some boot prints, and when he reaches a street, he notices a man in front of a house who briefly turns into a wolf.
After Nick has pursued and arrested the wolf-man, they find no evidence against him and must let him go. Nick is not convinced, though. After pouring through Marie’s book some more, he returns to the house of the wolf-man to do some surveillance. He is discovered, yet after a brief tussle, the wolf invites him in for a beer. Nick learns that his name is Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), and he is a “Blutbad,” better known as The Big Bad Wolf.
In the course of their discussion, Nick learns that he is a “Grimm,” and his kind have studied and battled the Blutbaden and similar creatures for centuries. He learns that Eddie himself is a reformed Blutbad, who does not feed on humans. After realizing the creature that abducted the little girl was also a Blutbad, Nick persuades Eddie to help him find the creature before he kills her.
The postman (Tim Bagley) lives in a fairy tale cottage in the woods, wears a yellow sweater, does needlepoint, and cooks chicken pot pies. After a fruitless search of the cottage, Nick and Hank leave, but before they reach the car, Hank realizes that the postman was humming “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” After a fight, they are able to kill the creature and rescue the little girl unharmed.
The epilogue contains several important surprises, including Marie suddenly opening her eyes shortly after an attempt on her life. Fittingly, one of the final scenes is set to Marilyn Manson’s version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
Points Of Interest
I should not have been surprised at the quality of this pilot, given the fact that David Greenwalt is the series co-creator and co-writer of the episode. Greenwalt has an impressive genre pedigree, beginning with “The X-Files,” continuing through “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” and recent fare such as “Moonlight.”
On the other hand, I was surprised at director Marc Buckland (“Love Bites,”) who comes from a comedy background. He succeeds, along with cinematographer Clark Mathis (“Night Stalker”) and composer Richard Marvin (“Six Feet Under”), to imbue the episode with a cinematic eeriness.
The pilot does an excellent job of setting up the series mythology. Quite a bit of setup is required, and the result could easily be a cluttered mess, yet somehow they seemed to avoid falling into this trap. I was impressed by the writers’ attention to detail. Almost everything that occurs in this episode has a purpose, and few plot threads are left dangling.
On paper, the mystery of the killer Blutbad would seem to be the focus of this episode. Instead, it is used as a vehicle to establish the mythology that will play out throughout the series. This is a difficult feat, and they manage it fairly well. While I do care that they found the girl, I am more interested in finding out the secrets behind the Grimms and their supernatural enemies.
Eddie is already my favorite character. He is fulfilling the dual roles of comic relief and guide to the supernatural mythology of the series. Mitchell is a veteran character actor, and he is perfect in this role.
The “fairy tales are real” angle is certainly not a new idea, and I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that this is a radically new approach to the formula. However, this episode sparked my interest, and it seems like the idea has potential.
What Didn't Work
Several of the formulaic elements don’t quite pass my “cheesiness” filter. The most prominent is the visual effect used to morph normal people into monsters and back again, indicating that only Nick is able to sense their true natures. This does not have the scare value it once did. However, it is an important element in establishing Nick’s new powers, so I will have to live with it.
The postman was a walking cliché as the villain of the episode. Once again, that may have been the writers’ intention; so I’m not sure if that is a plus or a minus.
The moment I saw that Sasha Roiz was playing police Captain Renard, I knew he would turn out to be evil. He has played villains recently in both “Warehouse 13” and “Caprica.” It might have been less obvious to cast an unknown actor in this role. On the other hand, he is revealed as a bad guy at the very end of the episode anyway.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Grimm” stars David Gluntoli, Russell Hornsby, Bitsie Tulloch and Silas Weir Mitchell. “Pilot” was written by David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf and Stephen Carpenter, and was directed by Marc Buckland.
“Grimm” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
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