NBC’s fairytale-tinged police series Grimm started out last year in a grim spot in the schedule (Friday nights, to which it will return in September), one of many supernatural shows popping up just about everywhere. It seemed at first a direct competitor to ABC’s Once Upon A Time, which quickly gained a rabid following. But besides their supernatural tints, the shows are extremely different in execution.
I reviewed the first three episodes of Grimm last year and found it diverting but not exceptional, especially in such a jam-packed fall lineup of great shows. But as things went on the show started coming more into its own, moving away from its procedural roots to more of a wholly supernatural show (that borrows from quite a number of other fantasy series, including Lord of the Rings), and left its first season with a number of cliff hangers. For more on what’s in store for the upcoming season (as well as a helpful video reminder of the past one) hit the jump.
Though Grimm was originally based on the Grimm Fairy Tales, the series has been progressing away, to its benefit, from its Creature of the Week format (though that does still remain in part) and has expanded some of hero Nick Burkhardt’s (David Giuntoli) struggles with Season One creatures such as the Hexenbiest Adalind and her family into longer-term stories. The greatest villain he faces, however, (unbeknownst to him, as we learned in the first season) is his police captain Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz) and, now, Renard’s estranged brother (the fantastic James Frain). Frain is a new addition to the cast that will surely help keep the series fresh, even with its exceptionally long network seasons (something that causes even the most engaging of series to narratively falter).
As for the old cast, one of the most compelling narratives of the new season will explore Nick’s partner Hank (Russell Hornsby) coming to terms with the beasts he’s starting to see, as well as the relationship between Hank and Nick because of it. Hopefully, it will all lead up to Hank’s inclusion in Nick’s supernatural dealings. It’s also a neat bit of world-building to have both Hank and Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch, as Nick’s girlfriend) react so strongly to the idea of living in a world where these creatures are real – a natural reaction, and one that helps ground the series by acknowledging in a meta but not overly cutsey way just how crazy all of this really is.
The inner circle around the hero is always an incredibly important part to any Chosen One story, and while Nick’s reformed Blutbad friend Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), who was an early highlight of the series, is great, he alone was not enough to keep the narrative moving. The upgrade of last year’s late-season addition Rosalee (Bree Turner), a Fushsbau who assists Nick, to a series regular has helped form Nick’s gang into a more complete group of demon fighters (who seem to be finding a lot of similarities with their other fantasy counterparts, like Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter series, or Xander and Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). But the best newcomer for the upcoming season, even though likely short-term, is Nick’s mother (Elizabeth Mastrantonio), previously presumed dead, whose return was teased at the end of last season. Though the reunion of the two Burkhardt Grimms is not particularly warm or fuzzy, Mama Burkhardt’s appearance means some more answers regarding the Grimms, and a deeper exploration of the series’ mythology. And with Auntie Marie gone, Nick needs someone to guide him on his path who specifically knows his struggles and can assist in his training.
In many ways Grimm has thematic shades of the aforementioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer - a Chosen One who must defeat a never-ending army of bad guys, all wrapped up with plenty of ridiculousness, but a healthy dose of humor as well (the purveyor of much of that humor is Monroe). That humor is a welcome relief to a series that doesn’t hold back on its darkness and graphic violence. Though some of the effects can feel rudimentary at times, it still manages to be eerie and occasionally horrifying (the Hexenbiests in particular). And while Grimm can have its moments either way, good and bad, a strong cast helps temper its more questionable aspects.
As for the particulars of the second season, there seem to be plenty of twists in the first two episodes that will reinvest fans while catching the interest of new viewers as well (the show was heavily promoted by NBC during its Olympic coverage). While some may have written Grimm off as being too formulaic in its first season, even in regards to its fantasy elements, the second season seems to have found more of its footing. Last year I said Grimm was not enough of a police show to satisfy fans of procedurals, nor is it enough of a supernatural series to appease fans of that genre, either. But from what I’ve seen so far of the second season, it seems to be adding more depth and narrative elements, and shifting further focus towards the supernatural. It’s also added an element in the discovery of some very powerful coins (shades of a certain ring …) that makes Nick’s knowledge of them worth more than his life, a way of opening the series up to something larger than Portland and the fate of one man.
Still, over such a long season it’s sure to falter here and there, probably relying more on Creature of the Week elements to get it through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – some of those creatures are pretty fun. The bottom line is that it is a fun show that many may follow with casual interest, but its continuous upgrades will more than likely make it worth following a little more closely.
Season Two of Grimm starts Monday, August 13 at 10 p.m. on NBC, and will resume its Friday time slot at 9 p.m. on September 14th.