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Grimm: “Bears Will Be Bears”

Illustration for article titled iGrimm/i: “Bears Will Be Bears”
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So that happened. Grimm pulled in 6.56 million viewers for its premiere, a bit under double what the final season premiere of Chuck managed to get. Sure, Game 7 of the World Series caused CBS to pull its Friday night lineup so it wouldn’t go up against the game, Fringe got pushed back another week, and by all accounts the game didn’t match the same drama as Game 6, but six and a half million viewers was a whole lot more than anyone expected. It wasn’t Once Upon A Time surprising, but still. I wasn’t expecting as bad of a debut as The Playboy Club, but when you’re the #1 overall pick in the Grantland Fall TV Cancellation Fantasy League Draft, you have to be hoping the premiere wasn’t just a Tim Tebow vs. Miami Dolphins one-time hit.

Not to go all doomsday scenario on everyone again, but Grimm now goes up against CSI: NY, Supernatural, and Fringe in the same time slot. That’s a whole mess of genre shows fighting for the limited Friday night audience. The latter two have their own niches with a much smaller and devoted audience, but the third CSI franchise show pulls in high number It’s possible that a good amount of people who didn’t watch baseball only watched the pilot because it was practically the only other scripted show on at the time on the major networks. Which is to say that once again, after only one episode there’s a lot of pressure on Grimm not to hemorrhage its premiere ratings that have practically nothing to do with the actual production of the show.

That the mounting pressure doesn’t show in this second episode is a relief, because tonight I thought Grimm managed to use its case of the week to start an interesting conversation about family tradition, and was a slight uptick from last week’s premiere. Mostly it has the last half of the episode to thank for that, where an influx of Silas Weir Mitchell helped the plot threads with Aunt Marie and the police chief move along with Nick and Hank’s case.

It was pretty unclear from the opening scenes which fairy tale would have an influence this week. The opening scene featured a young couple breaking into a nice home, eating all the nice food, and then trying out different beds for hooking up. When they notice somebody coming home, they try to get out, but an unknown beast captures the guy, and the girl high tails it out of the estate in a truck. It’s Hansel and Gretel, but without the witch, and it’s Goldilocks, but with another person. After two episodes, it’s clear that Grimm is playing fast and loose with the Grimm fairy tale universe. Last week gave us “Blutbaden” as Big Bad Wolves, but the direct translation of what Eddiee Monroe relays to Nick means “bloodbath” in German. Tonight, Nick dealt with a family of “Jägerbär” – combining the German words for “hunter” and “bear”, like the Goldilocks story.

It turns out that Jägerbärs have a coming-of-age ritual whereby a young bear monster chases someone through the woods and hunts them – which is what happens to the young couple when they’re kidnapped. It just so happens that the family this couple breaks into has an 18-year-old son – conveniently named Barry, with two dirt bike riding friends to form a trio that seemed a bit on-the-nose - and a wide collection of aboriginal art, with one bear claw piece similar to one that Nick finds in his Aunt Marie’s trailer.

The worst part of this kidnapping/missing person/supernatural investigation happens right when Nick and Hank get back to the house with the bear family, when Nick “cuts the crap” and just tells the mother and father that he knows who they are. It’s an easy out, but it does lead to something good. Apparently the “becoming a man” ritual isn’t done very often, and the father doesn’t want it to happen, even though the mother does. Within all this supernatural storytelling and twisting of Grimm fairy tales, the bear family breaks down into a struggle between Orthodoxy and modern practices. We get a chase through the woods, some questionable CGI with the family turning into bears, and a climax that sees the mother turning into a full-on Mama Grizzly before accidentally falling into a spike pit the boys rigged up. I’ve got no idea how the whole situation gets explained when the police are cleaning up, since nobody is talking about the supernatural stuff except Nick and the father, and pretty much everyone, including the couple who broke into the house in the first scene.
Despite all the little procedural holes that anyone can poke in the case, I found a lot to like here, and was especially impressed at the type of orthodox/reform discussion the parents seemed to be having in relation to their place in an increasingly modern world. I like that the show isn’t restricting itself to the source material that it draws on for inspiration, and twisting the original Grimm tales into something workable for a procedural offers a lot of chances for creative procedural plots.

Meanwhile, Aunt Marie is still on her deathbed after fending off a Reaper of the Grimms last week. She gets to spout of some helpful advice to Nick, but spends most of the episode incapacitated and needing a guard. After the twist that the police chief is in cahoots with the blonde demon girl Nick saw in the pilot, every time he shows up has some tension, which is good when he’s prodding Nick for information, or telling him that he has to take the police protection away from Marie so as not to appear like he’s giving special treatment to police families. Also in the good column for the week is more Silas Weir Mitchell, who continues to be far and away the best part of the show.

The big weakness over on Once Upon A Time – and here I’m agreeing with our own Oliver Sava – is that ABC’s fantasy drama takes itself far too seriously. Eddie Monroe is specifically designed to poke a hole in Grimm's puffed up procedural elements with humor and a more laid back attitude. When Nick wakes him up at 6:30 in the morning to thank him and ask for more advice, Eddie provides backstory, helps with world building, and throws in humor to boot. When he gets called in to protect Marie against his will, even the fight scene to ward off some would-be attackers seems like a better scene with Mitchell there firing off one-liners at the end. After that fight, Eddie has to get out, and before Nick returns, some guy in a priest outfit tries the same poison syringe thing that blonde demon girl failed at last week, which seemed really repetitive for a second episode in a row. Marie manages to fight the guy off and stab him with his own poison, but the effort leaves her dead in Nick’s arms. I don’t think Marie needed to stick around for this second episode, as it seems the impetus for him to start down the path to becoming a true Grimm would come from her death. All the hanging around just stretched what the show had to do out for a longer period of time, which is one of its glaring weaknesses.

There are still a lot of problems going on here, like how the first half of the episode moved at a crawl, struggling to link the plots together and only using Eddie in a small support performance. Nick’s girlfriend gets some screen time here, but most of it is irrelevant to the case and just provides a platform for Nick to talk about his aunt and look like he’s keeping a secret. Still, I thought this was a minor improvement over the scattershot pilot. Grimm doesn’t have a clear direction to go in yet, but having some interesting case-of-the-week plots and more Eddie Monroe will go a long way to sorting things out.

Stray observations:

  • I’m not sure how much I like that Nick relies on these monsters merely giving themselves away in order to see them. It’s just a bit too easy, but the idea that they have to “lose control” in order for him to see them explains why he can’t figure out the police chief.
  • At this point, Hank is the least important character on the show, only there to provide some standard cop dialogue and get in the way of Nick using his abilities because he won’t talk about them to anyone but Marie and Eddie.
  • The exposition from Marie in the hospital about the Reapers, the other Grimms in the world, and other backstory seemed forced, but for some reason Eddie speaking more German and talking like an expert as a Blutbad worked better. I think it was the tone that made a difference.

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