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Grimm: Pilot

Nearly two hundred years ago, two brothers wrote down true tales of the monsters that walk among us. Visible only to the Grimm family, the monsters look human to the rest of us, so the true importance of the tales “written” by the Grimm brothers is known only to their descendants, each of whom receives the curse when an older relative dies. Portland detective Nick Burkhardt is the latest in this tradition to be cursed when his guardian aunt edges closer to death, and he is struggling to come to terms with his new power while juggling an appropriate work/life balance and—I’m sure—missing sunshine, since Portland looks horribly grim (and an awful lot like Vancouver).

Grimm has a hard task ahead. ABC’s Once Upon a Time is delightful for some mysterious reason—cheesy, kinda dopey (dwarf pun!), but nonetheless winning and adorable. Grimm is none of those things. Additionally, Friday nights are increasingly busy: once the cool people go out to the bars and sex clubs, us pathetic losers can enjoy an all-night lineup of Supernatural, Fringe, Chuck, Nikita, cheese puffs, and perpetual virginity. There’s not much room in that schedule for another show. Luckily, the World Series meant we didn’t have to cancel our SPN or Fringe DVR season pass this week, but I was dreading such a difficult future choice.

Happily, I’m not planning to watch Grimm again.

At this point, it is nothing more than a poorly done procedural with fairy-tale gloss. The crime-solving was mediocre, at best: the lack of even the most superficial attention to aspects of policing that everyone knows about from simply existing in the world tweaked my mystery-novel sensibilities. The stakes were woefully nonexistent, and I never once felt like the little girl might get killed, or even inappropriately touched—much less eaten.

The folkloric elements are equally dull. I have no more than a passing interest in fairy tales and folklore: they’re interesting and fun, but I don’t see them as profound peasant wisdom or examples of the universality of our collective fears or monolithic ancient tales that remained unchanged until “discovered” in the 1800s. They’re cultural artifacts collected for highly nationalistic reasons by amateurs who likely messed with their source material rather considerably, and along the way unintentionally founded one of the more disturbingly racist branches of the soft sciences. It takes more than a big, bad wolf to get my awesomeness radar pinging.

Sadly, there wasn’t much more here than a not-so-big, not-so-bad wolf. Despite creator David Greenwalt’s impressive pedigree, the world-building did not impress me. Aside from the two wolves, all the monsters that Nick saw were just... monsters. Skeletal asymmetrical zombie-ish monsters with gross teeth. It reminded me more of Jacob’s Ladder than the thrills and chills of youthful dark tales.

The mythology is of the “Wait—tell me more about the mysterious past before you die! Oh, no!” variety. There’s an aunt who conveniently slips in and out of consciousness, depending on how much time is remaining until the end of the episode. There’s a trailer that’s bigger on the inside. There are books to be used in Buffy-esque research—flipping through pages, looking at pictures. (If only research were that easy, ever. I guess it’s better than Wikipedia?) There’s a mysterious necklace/locket/key thingamabob, and a long-standing feud between the Grimms and the monsters.

Above all, there’s no spark. The lead character was blah; the writing was flat, expository, and humorless. Some of the shots were just weird: why was the sky suddenly red at the end of the episode? The score sounded like it had been pieced together from old episodes of Lost—and when did it become de rigueur to end each act break with a dull thump? The previews for the rest of the season don’t look any better: not a quip or a jaw-drop to be found. The most amusing part of the episode was the fact that the monsters both drove Volkswagens.

I suppose this could get better. Stranger things have happened. But the world, the cast, the premise—all of it—just feel too limited for much growth. I’m certainly not going to stash the cheese puffs, hit the swinger’s bars, or cancel my DVR recordings for Supernatural and Fringe.

I will, however, electronically stick my tongue out at Gus, who called dibs on Once Upon a Time, and totally won our epic battle for fairy-tale-television reviewing supremacy. This week, at least.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. So it was pretty grim, huh? Terrific review, Josie. :)

  2. That was rather bland, wasn't it. I was so ready to like this show that I've actually been kind-of confused after seeing it. I knew something about Grimm had been off but I couldn't put my finger on it. Only after reading your review did it hit me: the show just wasn't very good. (Yeah, sometimes I'm a bit slow :-))

    Anyway, I will probably watch the next episode or two just in case it suddenly gets better, but I'm not optimistic...

  3. It's too similar to Supernatural's early seasons. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad.

  4. I thought it was pretty good. I liked the corny humor and the setting was sharp.

    The lead is technically a male Slayer, but that's cool with me.

    There wasn't anything groundbreaking or awe-inspiring. I don't watch any of the other SF/horror shows on Friday, so this show isn't supplanting anything for me.

    It was a simple, entertaining show. I'll be sticking with it.

  5. It kind of felt like a poor man's version of Supernatural! Not impressed - wendel

  6. I wasn't impressed either. It only made me happier for choosing Once Upon a Time. I thought it was dreadfully predictable. I'll only keep going if I hear it got good, but as you said, Josie, it doesn't seem to have much room for it.

    Your review is spot on.

  7. That bad, huh? Good to know. I'll stick to Lost Girl.

  8. What I liked about this pilot:
    - The intro with the music, the colours and the slow change in her screams. (Though that song doesn't last long enough for the detectives to know that that was playing when she got got, so not only is the detective work poor, it just doesn't make any sense.)
    - Friendly neighbourhood blood bat... I mean Blutbad. One thing this show is missing is a lot more comedy.

    What I did not like about this pilot:
    - Everything else.
    - The idea I may be killed horribly for my clothing choices.

    This is really too bad, because I love both crime shows and folklore / fairy tails. I may give it another try, just in case.

    Nice review, though!

  9. One thing that makes me sad is that NBC favored this show over Ronald D Moore's 17th Precinct, which had a more interesting cast and more potential. Bad decision.

  10. Sometimes I am such an idiot I amaze myself. I was watching this, thinking it was the most badly edited, poorly constructed hour of television I had ever seen until the hour went by in minutes and I realized I had just watched the deleted scenes. LOL

    I am one of those people who adds something to her Netflix queue and then forgets what's on it. This arrived in the post the other day so I figured I would watch the pilot. I agree with your review, Josie, but I am more intrigued by the possibilities than I think you were. I especially like the potential bromance between Nick and the werewolf whose name is escaping me at the moment.

    Not to mention Kate Burton in a bald wig. Now, that's commitment to a role!


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