TV review: Intriguing premise can’t save ‘Grimm’

By Kate Griffiths

Despite lacking character development and cohesive plot arcs, the charming and endearing qualities of NBC’s “Grimm” stand firm. But whether or not these qualities are enough to make up for the show’s general letdowns is another question entirely.

The entire series centers on Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a police detective who inherits supernatural powers as a “Grimm” when his aunt passes away. These powers really aren’t much; Nick now has the ability to see the mythical creatures, known as Wesen, that inhabit the human world, but that’s about it. The powers don’t afford Nick any particular advantages, and his access to his Aunt Marie’s trailer full of intense and archaic weaponry is rarely used in any way.

Nick’s greatest asset is his friendship with a reformed “Blutbad,” essentially a wolf−man, named Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), one of the creatures Nick can now recognize. The direct translation of the German name is “blood bath,” but Monroe has given up on his violent ways and now enjoys leading a quiet life. That is, until Nick disturbs his peaceful existence and they grudgingly become friends as they learn to help one another.

The show draws its inspiration from the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, though many episodes are completely unrelated to their stories. Some episodes are taken from early French folk tales or the more obscure stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, such as “The Queen Bee,” which has links but no direct relevance to the plot of episode three, “Beeware.”

“Grimm” is both set and filmed in the outskirts of Portland, Ore. The wild, rural landscape adds to the mystical atmosphere that permeates much of the show. The pilot episode starts with a lone student going for a run through a densely forested region, only to be attacked by one of the evil “Blutbads.” Since the setting feels so quiet and abandoned, the shock of such an attack is quite genuine.

Though the show just aired its 14th episode, many of the characters have yet to go through a sufficient exploration. Nick’s partner, Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby), is still an enigma, even though he is one of the main characters. Nick’s fiancée, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), although attractive and a seemingly strong woman, has too little screen time for the audience to have any sense of her character. While Nick and Juliette seem to be loving partners, the show never delves into the intricacies of their relationship. As an example, the show barely addresses Nick’s inner struggle between telling Juliette about his newfound gifts or leaving her before she becomes endangered.

Police Captain Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz) is the most intriguing character. Though he first appeared to be a sympathetic−yet−fair colleague of Nick and Hank’s, it soon becomes clear that he knows more of the “Grimm−world” than Nick does. Renard may even have some placement in the upper echelons of the creature hierarchy, though Nick is still oblivious to this fact.

The most frustrating aspect of “Grimm” is not the bad computer−generated imagery or the poorly developed characters, but rather Nick’s complete inability to live up to the definition of a Grimm presented to the audience early on in the series. His Aunt Marie, while dying from terminal cancer, managed to endure and fight back during two attacks on her life, but Nick only manages to survive and deduce crimes because of police experience, the help of Monroe and — most of the time — dumb luck.

This is perhaps a more realistic approach to such a character; presumably, a Grimm does not become a full−fledged ninja overnight. But the slow evolution of his character affects the plot. The ending of each episode just leaves the audience wondering why Nick has these powers if they afford no particular changes to his character other than a mere understanding of the Wesen society. Ultimately, though, this is the reason many viewers keep watching: they want to witness the moment Nick comes into his own. So, perhaps the writers do know what they’re doing, and we are all along for the ride.

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