NBC’s police procedural/supernatural fantasy/dramatic comedy Grimm returned earlier this month, and I wasn’t happy with the results. After a promising cliffhanger last year left protagonist Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a Portland detective who gains the ability to spot supernatural creatures (“Wesen”) masquerading as civilians, captured by an enigmatic prince and placed in a zombified coma, the potential for Grimm to start its third season strong was sky-high. In fact, I was confident that, after two seasons of consistent mediocrity, my patience with the show would finally pay off. At last, the writers had a chance to step up and transform Grimm into truly great television.
Shockingly, the two-part season premiere and episodes since have done much to reverse the steps forward Grimm had taken at the end of its second season. Now, to my great disappointment, Grimm is settling in for another repetitive, lifeless string of episodes, and I’ve had enough. There’s just too much potential for greatness in the show’s set-up for me to sit idly by and watch, week after week, as the writers fritter away every chance they get to make Grimm good. And with an episode titled “Twelve Days of Krampus” coming up, I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Read on for my four recommendations on how to save NBC’s Grimm from itself.Next
1. Give stories the time they need to unfold.
One of my biggest gripes about Grimm is its dismaying ability to introduce promising plots and then totally sweep them under the rug by episode’s end. While the procedural side of Grimm may appeal to some viewers, the monster-of-the-week set-up ensures that very few episodes end in logical, satisfying ways.
Case in point: the season one episode “Tarantella.” The titular Wesen is a spider-like creature called a Spinnetod, who sucks out the lives of innocents in order to keep from rapidly aging. By episode’s end, the Spinnetod (a woman named Lena) has been captured and detained; without any sustenance, she begins to age rapidly. I’d love to see the face of the cop who comes by to retrieve her the next morning. Unfortunately, the episode ends there, and Lena never appears in the show again.
Need another example? Season two’s “The Good Shepherd” offered a feeble main plot (a wolf Wesen hypnotizes and steals from a congregation of sheep Wesen) that collapses half-way through when a ridiculous series of affairs and financial double-crosses come to light. The subplots are just as awful. A Nuckelavee (horse Wesen), previously dispatched to Portland by the aforementioned Prince Eric, was introduced as a major threat to Nick. However, the writers forgot about him until the last moments of the episode, only to write the creature off by having Nick quickly cave in his head with a decorated hammer.
Though it’s understandable for Grimm‘s writers to want to hide behind procedural formula, the show suffers as a result of their refusal to let plots play out logically.Previous Next
2. Ditch the superfluous supporting characters or empower them.
Bitsie Tulloch is unquestionably the worst part of Grimm, and her character’s continued survival never fails to depress me. When the show started out, with Tulloch’s Juliette playing supportive girlfriend to Nick as he began to discover his abilities, I was almost certain that her character had an expiration date of episode six. After all, the death of his girlfriend at the hands of supernatural foes would be a suitable catalyst to get Nick jump-started on his destiny as a Grimm. Shockingly, three seasons in, Juliette is still alive and kicking (though you wouldn’t know it from Tulloch’s disinterested gaze).
Tulloch’s paltry acting abilities only strengthen the case for killing Juliette. Whenever she’s placed in mortal danger or at loggerheads with Nick, her painfully stiff delivery turns Grimm into a particularly egregious soap opera. The writers evidently didn’t notice this until after they’d written an entire amnesia arc for the character in season two. Turns out, the only thing worse than Tulloch’s chemistry with Guintoli is her acting in scenes without him. Her memory loss weighed down the season like stones in a swimsuit.
Perhaps the writers can empower her this season, letting the character use her veterinarian training to help Nick with cases, but I have little confidence that Juliette will suddenly become bearable. For Tulloch’s poor performance as much as the character’s ultimate expendability, Juliette falls firmly in the ‘Ditch’ category.
However, there’s still hope for another currently useless character: Hank Griffin (Russell Horsnby). Nick’s detective partner was on such an aimless trajectory last season that nobody noticed him even when they wrote Hornsby’s torn Achilles tendon into the story. Even while limping around on crutches, his role in the show did not change whatsoever. That says something about a character: currently, Hank is nothing to Nick but a handicap.
If the writers want to fix Hank, they can start by giving him more ‘showcase’ episodes like season one’s “Game Ogre,” which found Hank facing off against an almost-indestructible Siegbarste as Nick lay in the hospital following a brutal attack from the creature. Though Hank’s unfamiliarity with Wesen was the main point of that episode, a similarly Nick-lite episode could work doubly well now that Hank knows about his partner’s second job. If Grimm‘s writers really want to commit to the ensemble they’re setting up (Nick, Hank, Juliette, Monroe and Rosalee), they need to be prepared to have all of those members stand on their own two feet, not just Nick. Hank isn’t stupid, and the show would be making a mistake by treating him as such.Previous Next
3. Commit to the show’s overarching narrative.
A show with a universe as wide-reaching as Grimm is hobbled by its procedural elements. The writers’ current pattern of monster-of-the-week stories spiced with tiny advances in the show’s overarching plot may appeal to some, but it’s not enough for me. Episodes like season one’s “Cat and Mouse” and season two’s “Season of the Hexenbiest” have demonstrated that Grimm can be terrifically entertaining when Nick’s explores the wider Wesen world, more entertaining than when he’s constrained to dealing with Portland police cases.
It’s season three, and we know some cool things about the Grimm universe but not nearly as much as we should. There’s a Royal Wesen Family in Europe that desperately wants to use a key Nick inherited from his dead aunt as a treasure map. Nick’s boss, cool cucumber Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) was once a part of said Family but has since become estranged. A resistance is brewing in Europe against the totalitarian Wesen police, called the ‘Verrat.’ Oh, and Hitler was a Wesen. Cool. But, really, who cares?
Though tantalizing, the above pieces of information feel like tidbits, probably because that’s what the writers intended them as. Only a few shows can succeed at combining procedural formula with overarching plot (Justified managed it in its first season, Chuck thrived on the combination and the middle period of Fringe also succeeded in striking the balance), and Grimm‘s writers simply aren’t up to even attempting the challenge. Though they tried to plant their feet in both worlds with the show’s original premise, all they’ve managed to do is chug through procedural stories and haphazardly toss in one semi-significant, serialized development every four or five episodes. It’s an unsatisfying blend. If Grimm is ever going to get interesting, it’s going to have to pick serialized storytelling over weekly cases or find a better way to balance the two.Previous Next
4. Be bold.
Season two ended on a terrifically promising note, with Nick zombified, imprisoned in a coffin and being readied for shipment to the European castle of Eric Renard, the evil Wesen half-brother of Nick’s police captain. If the writers had trusted this story enough to commit to it, Grimm could have been something this season that it has not been since its first episode: unpredictable.
Instead, we got a pretty unsatisfying wrap-up to that story by the end of the two-part premiere (though admittedly not one as bad as the second season premiere), and now Nick is back in Portland, solving cases. Grimm‘s writers missed out on a truly great opportunity to expand their show. If Nick had been taken to Europe, his sudden exposure to the Royal Family would have been extremely interesting to watch. His friends desperately searching for him or, better yet, struggling to keep Portland’s Wesen under control in his absence also would have made for a compelling hook throughout the first half of the third season.
Grimm is a show ripe with unrealized potential; grittier, more complex storylines could be a great thing for its overall quality. If I were writing the show, I would opt for a more serialized structure than Grimm‘s actual writers currently have – the show’s universe is both certifiably massive and, if they use it properly, conducive to a great many seasons. Personally, I feel like it’s only a matter of time until Nick should be forced to choose between being a Grimm and a cop. He’s managing both professions right now, but the results are inescapably mediocre – without fail, convenient plot contrivances or straight-up holes are essential for Nick to be able to crack cases.
How much more interesting would the show be if Nick was forced to quit the force, or if he was actually hunted by his old colleagues for the many murders he’s committed in the name of being a Grimm? He could commit full-time to being a Grimm, adopt the thrill-a-minute lifestyle of a man on the lam and team up with Wesen pal Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell, one of the cast’s few bright spots) while simultaneously washing his hands of working with Hank (who, as I stated previously, has been obsolete for a while).
Grimm does action and suspense much better than procedural drama and humor, and all of us viewers picked up on that fact way back in season 1. It’s about time the show’s writers figured it out too.
Do you agree with my ideas for fixing current issues with NBC’s Grimm? Sound off in the comments section!Previous