Yesterday, I was unfortunate enough to find myself sidelined by a trip to the dentist. Years of dental hubris finally caught up to me, and five fillings and a root cleaning later, I was marooned on my sofa for the afternoon with my trusty canine companion, Simone, and a bottle of ginger ale. I did what any self-respecting geek gal with some time on her hands, localized anesthesia, and On Demand would do, I went looking for new genre delights.
I settled on Grimm, an NBC I had heard about from friends and relations. I’m sure you’ve all been the target of such recommendations. Last year all anyone suggested to me for television was Grimm and Once Upon a Time. The whole first season of Grimm is currently available On Demand and on Hulu, a prelude to the season 2 premiere on August 13.
To briefly offer an overview, Grimm- yes, like the Brothers, yes, again, stop groaning- makes its premise that fairy tales are actually profiles of supernatural beasties. The stories are meant to be guides for human sentinels in our midst (Grimms) whose job it is to keep us safe from the Big Bad Wolves and sundry villains. The monsters all get cool Germanic sounding species names, which I know you can dig. Our hero is satisfactorily handsome police detective Nick Burkhardt, who begins to see the secret faces of these fairytale foes as he patrols the mean streets of Portland. He’s got sufficiently bushy eyebrows to solve supernatural mysteries. The Portland setting is perfectly, eerily gloomy, and if you have a mystic Pacific Northwest jones like me, that may very well be enough for you, nerd.
So there’s a lot in Grimm that is well-tread, thematically. Grimm’s Fairy tales, police officers fighting monsters, a protagonist who “sees” monsters where no one else can, a bloodline of chosen ones… It feels heavy under the burden of a dozen cliches. But for all it can be ponderous, Grimm has got some unexpected charms. Foremost among them is Kate Burton, as beleaguered, battle-hardened librarian by day, monster slayer by night, Marie Kessler. I loved her from the start. She’s not young, she’s not sexy. She is BALD and wearing one of those Chico’s gypsy skirts and a turban when we meet her. She has a bad reputation among the creatures of the night. IT IS THE BEST. Deal with that, NBC audience.
And I didn’t even mention that while being 100% badass and fighting evil, she is also fighting CANCER, and being the catalyst for the show. Having spent her life fighting the monsters among us, she is finally losing the fight to the emperor of all maladies. She brings her battle trailer (a la The Troll Hunter) to her surrogate son’s home in Portland, and tells him that she is terribly sorry, but he has to take on this legacy and her super awesome equipped airstream.
So of course, Detective Burkhardt takes up the mantle.
The first four episodes (as far as I have gotten) are full of fun adventures, and are certainly enjoyable in that comfortable intersection of police procedural and fairytale. Grimm has shown it can be funny and it’s stylistically interesting. I’ll probably keep watching, though I’m in no hurry to work my way through the series.
A Lady Nerd’s Lament
But I don’t understand why we lose Marie so early. It feels unforgivably convenient that part of the plot is that Burkhardt only gains his powers because his aunt, who raised him from his youth, is dying. It’s a bequest. However, she’s the most interesting, nuanced character on the show, and it’s a big bummer to watch her go down in episode two. Ultimately, what sucks about it is that she is so much fresher as a character than Detective Burkhardt, that I wish their roles were reversed.
Because you know what could have made this show awesome? What if an aging police detective, losing the fight to cancer, arrived at the doorstep of his surrogate daughter’s home and told her she had to fight the forces of darkness? That’s a show. What if she is a librarian, but despite our conceptions of that profession, but she learns to use her wits AND her physicality to fight the monsters. She trains and works hard. What if she learns to be good at it? The thrill in watching that character succeed would be greater, no doubt, than watching one more cop come up against evil.
Ultimately I wish that writers/producers would take a closer look at some of the “minor” characters they are writing. It seems to me that my favorite characters on a whole slew of genre shows currently airing are not the main characters, but the peripheral ones where the writers are taking risks and going new places.
Just one nerd’s lament. But hopefully we’ll see a Marie Kessler as the lead in a show someday.