The thing that Grimm had going for it from the start is its take on a hidden community of Wesen (creatures that are the basis of fairytales) that dwells among us. This premise allows the show to subtly tackle issues of bias and fear of the unknown, while entertaining us with clever dialogue and likeable characters.
This concept is not new; better shows like The X-Files and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer have done it.
But how Grimm chooses to be different, and remain relevant for six years, is the (weird) journeys it takes with the main characters. Its marketability also lies in its two-in-one deal – a monster-of-the-week framework worked into a police procedural mould. There is network-TV-safe violence like beheading with hardly any blood.
However, Grimm also has the tendency to start up a subplot and then totally abandon it. The most wasted one in my opinion is concerning the lead character going against his nature, which gets resolved in a little over two episodes.
Conspiracies also often come and go on this show with very little fuel to keep the fire going. There was one about the Wesen royal family up to something or other, and then an evil organisation known as Black Claw also getting up to something or other. Neither one was worth going ape – or woge-ing, to use the show’s terminology – over.
Let’s not even start on how the characters here frequently cheat death – they must have learned a lesson or two from Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries, for sure.
OK, a bit of history. Grimm tells us the Wesen are people who look like us except when they are frightened or angry. Then their visage changes to resemble an animal – a cat, a mouse, a wolf, etc – depending on the individual Wesen’s lineage. Their behaviour is also patterned after their animalistic “foundation”, so to speak. For example, if the Wesen is a Mauzhertz (of mouse origin), then their default personality is to be in a state of panic, ever ready to flee and hide.
The theory here is that Wesen are the basis for the scary creatures in fairy tales, folklore and legends. For instance, the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood is of a Wesen line known as Blutbaden.
To keep the numbers of these “beasts” in check, there are the Grimms – humans with the ability to see Wesen for what they are. In the city of Portland, that Grimm happens to be homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), who quickly realises that most of his murder cases are Wesen-related. But as Nick and the audience discover, there are monsters and there are MONSTERS!
It is this distinction that ran through the series’ first season, establishing Nick as a different kind of Grimm – one who adheres to today’s more politically-correct code of conduct, exercising tolerance towards others. To further prove how inclusive he is, Nick befriends a Wesen – a reformed (hence vegetarian) Blutbad named Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), to be exact – in helping him solve these weird cases.
Nick’s logic is that as long as the Wesen is not a killer, he lets them be. That’s very civil, and a bit off the path for a Grimm, especially since he was handed all kinds of strange weapons by his aunt to aid him in his mission to kill Wesen.
In the first season, Grimm established its weekly murder procedural format, which it kept to quite consistently over its subsequent seasons.
Amazingly enough, it has done so without becoming stale, with only a few boring episodes in its six years (that’s 123 episodes!). The special effects are not that super but are good enough, considering the demands of coming up with a suitably striking design for the Wesen of the week.
The series also goes far and wide to find its fantastic beasts. One episode revolved around an Aswang, a shapeshifting bloodsucker in Filipino folklore. Grimm even includes historical events and figures: Hitler, for example, was revealed as a bloodthirsty Wesen! That explains a lot.
What makes Grimm truly special is how it ensures that the development of the core characters is constantly in motion, going places where not many other series have dared to take their principal people.
When the audience first meets Juliette (Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch), she is the love of Nick’s life – not very memorable and kind of annoying, to be honest. This beautiful red-haired girl, with big eyes and trusting heart, turns into the exact opposite by S4, ultimately becoming the Big Bad for the show that year. S5
saw her still being a badass, only working for the good guys, and still showing zero emotion when it comes to things like love and relationships.
In that season, Juliette – or Eve as she preferred to be known – was an unstoppable force. Now in S6, her character changes again – she’s neither fully Juliette nor totally badass Eve (one website has dubbed S6 Juliette as Julievette).
While her story arc may not as compelling as, say, Carol’s in The Walking Dead (from abused woman to a woman you don’t want to mess with, regardless of whether you have a tiger or not), hers is still an interesting arc.
Grimm pulls the same trick more than once – Big Bad Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee) is rehabilitated and becomes Nick’s love interest; Captain Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz) is constantly flip-flopping between villain and good guy from season to season (which is always fun to watch, thanks to Roiz’s performance).
At the same time, the series acknowledges that not every character has to travel such a demanding route. Monroe remains the same person we met at the start of the show, but his story arc is my favourite – he goes from the smartest guy (with the funniest lines) on the show to getting married to the other smartest person on the show, Rosalee (Bree Turner), who can deliver some great zingers from time to time.
The audience can always depend on Monroe and Rosalee to ground the supernatural element although, ironically, they are Wesen. Through Monroe and Rosalee’s story, too, the issue of discrimination was tackled boldly as they are of two different kinds of Wesen (one is a wolf, the other is a cat).
One episode in Season Six also brings up the issue of mercy killing, which is handled with a delicate touch.
On the other end of the spectrum, Grimm did take itself a little too seriously in S5, so it’s good that S6 gets back into the humour groove (the third episode Oh Captain, My Captain being a case in point).
Perhaps what is most curious about S6 is how it decides to go fully with the monster-of-the-week formula starting from its fourth episode. There are only 13 episodes this season, and 10 episodes in, I am still not sure who the Big Bad is (surely it’s not a little girl!) or where the story about a magical stick is going (don’t ask me, I don’t understand it).
While we do not want a fairy-tale ending – that is not the point of the show, anyway – we do at least need an emotionally poignant finish where the characters are concerned (hopefully skipping over the tangled Juliette-Nick-Adalind relationship). But as of now, Grimm is carrying on like it’s going to continue its story in another medium (no pun intended).
At the end of the day, Grimm has had a good run and, whether we like it or not, every book does have a last page.
Grimm airs every Saturday at 10.30pm on Universal Channel HD (HyppTV Ch 612).