The problem with ‘Grimm’ isn’t that it’s the second “fairy tales are real!” TV show out of the gate. Nor is it the generally excellently shot pilot, which makes Portland look super spooky, all the time. It’s not even the cast, which is filled to the brimm (sorry, brim) with recognizable character actors getting their chance to shine. Heck, it’s not even the premise, which liberally borrows from ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer,’ ‘Supernatural,’ ‘Fringe,’ and even every police procedural on the block. No, the biggest problem with ‘Grimm’ is the dialogue.
I don’t want to get too glib here, but as I sat watching the pilot for the show, hearing what the actors were being asked to say, I at first thought, “Okay, this is beginning of the episode exposition, things will calm down, and they’ll stop sounding like robots at some point, right?” Boy, was I wrong. As the Pilot continued, and people would – no joke – recap things that just happened thirty seconds earlier, and then another character would recap what they had just said, it all starts to have a cumulative effect of making you feel a little crazy. By the end of the hour, I even started to imagine that maybe – just maybe – someone had written a script in English, used Google Translate to turn the whole script into, say, German, and then translated it back into English. That’s maybe the most reasonable explanation as to why three veteran TV writers couldn’t make a single line sound like something human beings would ever, ever say.
Anyway, at the risk of being relentlessly [HUGE PUN ALERT] grim here, it’s not all bad. In fact, the episode starts off with a cool, fun, winky scene of a college student in a red hoodie jogging through the woods. The stop just short of sending her down Grandma’s House Lane, but to the tune of ‘Sweet Dreams,’ we see her get deeper and deeper into the woods, until she’s attacked – and ripped to shreds – by, well, something.
Things kind of go downhill from there as we’re treated to the rather tortured banter of detective Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli) and Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby). Nick is about to propose to his long time girlfriend, but is being held up by disturbing, monstrous images he keeps seeing on people’s faces. They head to the crime scene, and discover not only the remains of the college student, but also human boot prints, and her ipod – still helpfully playing Sweet Dreams on repeat.
They’re not sure whether this is a murder case, or a wild animal, so they decide to pursue it until it turns out to be one or the other. Meanwhile? A weird, bald woman shows up at Nick’s house… But don’t worry, it’s just his aunt, who is dying of cancer. Or is she??? No, she is, but she’s also one of a long line of Grimm’s – fighters of evil beings only they can see. As she’s dying, her gift, her curse, is getting passed to Nick, which is why he’s started to see monsters everywhere. Does he believe this? Nope, not until he’s attacked by a monster with a scythe, who he kills by shooting him a bunch of times. Also, the Aunt is attacked and ends up in a coma. We’ll see her later.
Luckily, this causes absolutely no complications with the police, other than his concerned captain sending him for psych evaluations – standard procedure for a first killing. Meanwhile, a little girl also wearing a red sweatshirt gets kidnapped, and its up to our crack duo to find the perpetrator. They head into the woods – again – and discover that the trail leads directly to a wolf-like man. Well, Nick does, and when they discover nothing at the wolf-guys house, everyone thinks he just cried wolf. Don’t worry, they actually use that “joke” in the episode.
Nick heads back to the guys house later, only to discover he’s a monster named Eddie (Silas Weir Mitchell) who has his crazy side under control. He reveals that he’s a Big Bad Wolf (in German), and they’re attracted to red things. Naturally, Nick forces Eddie to help him out finding the girl, and buddy banter ensues. That’s right: there are two entirely different buddy cop pairs in this show. That’s how awesome it is.
Eddie takes Nick over the river and through the woods to a Big Bad Wolf’s house that’s outfitted like a grandmothers house, complete with stitched pillows and cozy lighting. Only took two thirds of the show, but we finally got there. Nice. Eddie bails, because he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to control himself, so Nick calls Hank. Hank is dubious (whole crying wolf thing), but investigates anyway. And he’s about to dismiss the whole thing, until the Wolf in disguise hums Sweet Dreams.
That’s right: in the world of Grimm, no one really knows the song Sweet Dreams, except for this one dead college student, and not only that, but the bad guy listened to it on her iPod, got it stuck in his head, whistled it at the wrong time, and that’s what convinces Hank he’s got the girl. Brilliant police work, detective.
Anyway, Nick and Hank head back in the building, Hank shoots the Big Bad Wolf dead, and Nick finds the girl. Hank smiles, and tells Nick he really saved the day, even though Eddie took him where he needed to go, and Hank killed the bad guy.
Over at the hospital, Nick is talking to his comatose Aunt because he doesn’t know what’s real anymore, when she’s attacked by an eeeeevil nurse. Nick gets injected with a deadly green formula of whatever, and falls unconscious, while the Evil Nurse escapes. She talks to someone telling him that she failed, because Nick was there. “Well, we better try again then,” says the Police Captain who WAS BEHIND IT THE WHOLE TIME! BA-BUM!
Anyway, it’s hard to get across how terrible the dialogue was here, particularly as the plot is, honestly, totally fine. Sure, the hero doesn’t do a whole lot, and doesn’t seem to have any special powers other than monster-spotting, a potentially boring choice in the long run. But there is enough set up here, from a mysterious key, to gathering enemies, to a complicated mythology that could keep the show going for a while.
The two major questions, though, are this: can the dialogue get better; and what makes this any different from Supernatural in particular, and the whole “chosen one” genre started by Buffy in general? We’ll really only know this over time, I guess, and it is well shot – and the cast engaging enough – that I’m ready for a second go around.
Also in a general sense, it’s now clear that ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘Grimm’ are two very different shows, even though they’re easily going to have slight similarities, given the subject matter, as time continues. The greatest similarity, though? Two poorly written and executed pilots, with some potentially damning elements that will hopefully be cleaned up as the series (plural) continue. We’ll be watching, but they both better shape up, and soon.