NBC may be onto something with its fairytale detective series Grimm. The drama centers on a young detective named Nick (David Giuntoli); within the first 15 minutes or so of Friday's premiere, Nick's bald, cancer-stricken aunt showed up unannounced, started yammering about the "misfortune" of their family, insisted he break up with the girlfriend he was planning to propose to, got attacked by a scythe-swinging monster, and gave him a weird necklace he's now supposed to guard with this life. Then she fell into a coma, leaving our hero with only a few basic facts: fairytales are real, his parents didn't die in a car crash, and he's is one of the last remaining "Grimms"—people who can detect the very real and very dangerous fairytale creatures living in our midst. Thanks for the vague pointers, Auntie! Good thing she left him a trailer full of literature on the subject.
Nick's job as a homicide detective quickly morphed into a series of man—er, creature—hunts, as he started to realize he'll now be tasked with maintaining the balance between humanity and the fairytale monsters who threaten it. It's unclear whether these creatures are on the verge of becoming stronger or more dangerous, but that seems to be the general message. Basically, Nick's got a lot of work to do.
I'm digging how the show incorporates fairytales into real life without completely disrupting the boundaries of reality, which the pilot did by introducing the bad guys as evil fairytale characters who disguise themselves as human. According to Grimm, the mythological minority look and act like us, even though they can pose a real threat—as evidenced by the grisly murder that opened the series premiere. It's only when Nick sees flashes of their scary monster faces that he can expose them for who they really are. I'm on board with that conviction, because it doesn't seem entirely unrealistic—if fairytale creatures have been secretly living amongst us for thousands of years without ANYBODY noticing, then they must really good at hiding. And what better hiding place than right alongside us, pretending to be us?
Grimm's first episode was everything a pilot for a fairytale detective procedural should be. Though many procedural pilots spend too much time on character introduction and too little time on the action inherent in the case-of-the-week formula, Grimm managed to intertwine the two without sacrificing momentum. Aunt Marie's visit set up some of the longer arcs—basically, that Nick (and viewers) will need to learn more about who he is and the responsibilities that come with being a Grimm—but her coma and the pressing nature of the Big Bad Wolf case ensured we didn't get too bogged down by exposition. Before Nick could spend too much time searching his aunt's trailer for answers, we were distracted by the Big Bad Wolf's pursuit of his second victim, Baby Red Riding Hoodie. That story set-up, when the postman began to trail after the little girl, was perfectly placed to distract us from Nick's longer story arc for pretty much the rest of the episode, leaving us intrigued to learn more.
And once you consider the excellent production values and impressive shot set-ups, Grimm gave us quite an entertaining debut. I really love the show's look so far, and the overhead shot of the abducted girl in the mailbag on the floor of the Big Bad Wolf's house was particularly rad. Even the less-than-premium CGI was pretty good.
I also think Grimm's pilot nailed the suspense factor. There was enough tension to warrant the action, and enough action to warrant the tension (I particularly loved seeing Eddie jump out his window to attack Nick). The sound editing helped with this, too: In the opening scene, when Red Riding Hoodie got sacked, the off-screen growls and the sound of tearing flesh were enough to make me lose my appetite for a week. I suspect Grimm's sound mixers simply got together in post-production and were like, "Okay, let's prove to everyone in the first 45 seconds that we are NOT EFFING AROUND."
Of course, the episode wasn't without its flaws. Anytime a show wants to kick things off by blasting a Eurythmics song, it's fine by me. But I was a little turned off that the iPod was still playing "Sweet Dreams" when the detectives arrived at Red Riding Hoodie's crime scene. I seriously doubt the girl was running to a single song on repeat. And while I get that at the end of the episode, the song was supposed to reveal the "true" bad guy, the device was a bit of stretch for me. I was similarly bothered by the fact that nobody in the police department made the connection between kidnapping victims wearing red before Nick noticed (or was told by Eddie?). Those minor snafus ate away at my suspension of disbelief, but since this was a pilot episode, I'm willing to let them slide.
If it's not already obvious, I'm looking forward to the rest of this series. I'm glad Nick's aunt is still in the game, what with her eyes finally opening at the end, and that there's evil lurking in the police department (this wouldn't be a detective show without a couple of corrupt cops, right?). Nick hasn't even scratched the surface of what he's dealing with here. And though I'm wondering how long Grimm can go before it runs out of iconic fairytale lore to geek out about, I'm hoping that the 200+ tales in the Brothers Grimm canon will inspire at least a full season's worth of episodes. As long as the show's Friday-night timeslot doesn't prematurely sentence it to cancellation, this thing has real potential.
What did you think of the premiere?