Review: Grimm – Bad Teeth
by John Johnson
I’ve grown to appreciate Grimm over the summer as I played catch up on a series I wrote off fairly early in its first season. It has a pleasant visual aesthetic that is coupled with some very fun and twisted takes on our common fairy tale mythology. Many of the performances were strong and the writing got more confident as the first season progressed. NBC decided to give Grimm a head start on the fall TV season by airing it on Monday nights, starting this past week. The hope would be that the show would be given a boost, using the lead out of NBC’s Olympic coverage. The first episode, “Bad Teeth,” was an interesting hour of the program, establishing a new paradigm for the series, but ultimately got bogged down with the weight of the show’s emerging mythology.
After the traditional teaser depicting the new creature of the week, the episode picked up exactly where the last episode of the first season left off: Nick is being attacked by Kimura, a Dragon’s Tongue assassin, and his mother is the woman in black who is helping him defeat the monster. Yes, it’s true; Nick is no longer an orphan. Better yet, his mother is played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Scarface, The Abyss). Even better than that, he is now not the last Grimm. Most everything you knew before has been thrown out the window. This would/could be a brilliant turn if it were used just a bit later in the series. Right now, at the start of the second season, the audience (and potentially an Olympics-inspired new audience) could use an easing into the world of the show. Instead we are thrown into the deep end, and asked to stay afloat.
If you are a first time viewer, I can’t help but think you would be sunk. I’ve been at best a casual fan, and I found myself taking notes more on what was going on rather than any sort of qualitative analysis. In fact, I had to stop the episode and turn to Wikipedia to help fill in the gaps. I’m positive that NBC is aware of this potentially dangerous shortcoming as they have created a free e-book in the style of Aunt Marie’s journal that gives full details on the creatures, mysteries and backstory of the show. It is available for download at nbc.com for iBooks, the Kindle Fire and the Nook. The iBook version contains key video clips as well as journal entries and 3-D drawings of the creatures.
The episode, however, is solid. I went to Wikipedia because I wanted to know more. They had very much sucked me in. I attribute this to the advances the show has made in the mythology it is shoving down our throats. It takes what has gone before, and tweaks it ever so slightly that it is now profoundly different. No longer simply good versus evil (and all the best episodes I’ve seen of the first season are much more than that), the show is steeped in the responsibilities and obligations of progeny and inheritance. Nick was always a reluctant bearer of the yoke of being a Grimm, but now that the familiar obligation has a voice in his mother, the show has an added depth that has proven to be successful in the past, as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.
Nick’s mother fills in the now complicated mythology of the show, as she says, “You know this is all very important to us.” In a nutshell: our fairy tales are based on real life creatures called Wesen. The Wesen are were-creatures that mostly stay hidden from ordinary humans, but on occasion, allow themselves to be seen. The legends that sprung up around the Wesen became our fairy tales. The Grimms are hunters/enforcers that once kept the Wesen in line for the seven royal families of old. Nick Burkhardt was the last Grimm, at least until his mother showed up.
The lasting impact of genealogical servitude, while given short shrift in the first season of the show, is rampant now in all areas of the series. It is now not merely tradition but the obligation to be a servant to your destined role which can be played with by all parties (Grimm, Wesen and Royal) in the series. This is good. This is even great. It’s just too much in this first episode back for returning viewers, or worse first episode ever for new viewers.
Silas Weir Mitchell (Prison Break) continues to steal the show as reluctant big bad wolf Monroe. The writers smartly use him to defuse tension, and he helps the eat-your-vegetables delivery of mythological information infinitely more palatable. Sasha Roiz (Caprica) has an unenviable job. As Captain Renard he must, at all times, be insidiously blank. Is he a good guy? Bad guy? Wesen? Royal? Something else? I give Roiz a lot of credit here, because it would be very easy to make this cypher of a role unwatchable. I look forward to seeing his character break out. Bree Turner’s Rosalee has been added as a series regular this season, and this is a welcome addition. She has an easy and fun chemistry with Mitchell, and the show suffered from too few women on the side of good.
David Guintoli as Nick is getting stronger, continuing the first season’s growth pattern. He is much stronger at delivering the lighter material, and the writers should take note. They would be best-served in making the show lighter in general. Don’t misunderstand–I’m not wanting the cases or aesthetic of the show to be any less grim. On the contrary, they can be as dark and twisted as the writers would like, but the pervasive bleakness of the series in uninviting, and the emphasis on the overarching mythology in this first episode back is overwhelming. The best supernatural genre shows (The X-Files, Buffy, Angel, Supernatural) temper the horror and realism with generous doses of sardonic comedy; Monroe can’t do it all.
I want to love this show, don’t make it so hard to do so.
Currently, Grimm airs Monday nights at 10:00 on NBC. It will move to Fridays at 9:00 on September 14. The first season was recently released on DVD, and is available OnDemand or through the end of September.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars