Vera Maven versus Grimm

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Meet Vera Maven

“Ms. Maven, do you ever think about television?”

I think about everything, I’m afraid.

“Maybe you can tell me about NBC’s Grimm?”

Oh, my dear! This is finishing it’s third season, and just a few weeks ago announced a fourth! This is positively ancient by nightly drama standards, isn’t it? Thankfully, TV drama tends to develop with age, and believe me, that is doubly, triply, quadruply thankful in the case of Grimm.

“So you weren’t a fan of the first season, I take it?”

I am a critic by nature, darling; I can never be a fan of anything. Such is my blessing and my curse. And even though this is the internet, let’s be honest, shall we? There were some serious problems with the first season.

The show dressed itself as a police procedural with a supernatural twist, one based on a mythology inspired from European fairy tales. As for the first part, the whole “procedural” outfit? There was nothing special, just basic formula. A cold open with a scary monster, a hero who discovered clues the audience already knew, and a fight scene to capture or kill the brutes. If the hero found a problem, oops! No worries! Just look in the Big Book That’s Never Wrong or ask his friend, Monroe, of whom I believe it will finally be revealed has the last name “Exposition.”

But, hey, even the trappings of a horrible outfit can look good on the runway with a brilliant model– it’s all about the people inside, n’est ce pas? Character counts? And, yes, I think we can all agree that our hero Nick, David Giuntoli, is a brilliant model of manhood. Did you know he was considered for Man of Steel? Indeed.

Grimm (2011-present) NBC Universal Television Created by Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf

Grimm (2011-present) NBC Universal Television
Created by Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf

But as good as poor, adorable Giuntoli is, it’s really Nick who I’m disappointed in. Can you honestly tell me why Nick is a hero? What’s his motivation? I can understand if, in the first season, he may be acting out his role as a “Grimm” simply because he has been flung into a brave new world by his dying Aunt, and he must find a way to survive. But what has happened instead is that Nick is merely fulfilling his role as Grimm at night the same way he fulfils his role as police officer by day– he’s basically punching a card and following the job description someone gave him. Having a sense of duty is nice, isn’t it? But WHY should someone have a sense of duty? It’s not all about duty, because he tries to balance it with a “normal” life with his family, by which I mean of course basically just one person, Juliette.

So it was a great decision to name the show Grimm, as it was really all the Great Nick Show in those first seasons, really. His job partner, his life partner, his were-partner, everyone really was there just so Nick could move through the plot. So here’s the “thankfully” part– the show runners have finally realised that it’s better for Nick to have all such partners be fully aware of his nature as a Grimm. There’s actually a supporting cast that can interact more freely! Hooray!

Especially for Juliette. In the beginning, she’s a perfect example of a problem character for characters with a secret identity. She’s someone who has to exist to support Her Man, but by definition she never can, because she can never know him fully. Passivity is so passé.

“Come on, Vera! At least she is over that season-long subplot of losing her memory…”

Shush! Shush! Shhhhhhh! There are some things we never speak of, my dear.

And look, she is still Ms. Problem! What can she really do, I mean, REALLY? She is a veterinarian, so that is somewhat, kind of, tangentially, if-you-squint related to the Wesen creatures Nick encounters? She is good at using Google? She can also read from the Big Book That Knows Everything?

If you are starting to think that this show is not necessarily meant for a female audience, I’m starting to think you are right. There really are no female leads, only support– Juliette and Rosalie– both defined only by their support of Nick. Oh? You will argue about Rosalie’s relationship with Monroe? Still defining by relationship and support of a man, dearie. Notice the other women who appear? All villains or creatures of the night who must be destroyed. And yes, I am raising my eyebrows in a knowing way right now.

“But Vera, the world they’ve created is much bigger than just Nick and the Monsters of Portland.”

I was going to subtitle it this way– Grimm: Nick and his Walking Talking Resources. But you are right to some extent. Must be those sharp, twinkling blue eyes of yours! There is a lot of world-building going on here. Too bad it’s so schizophrenic! The writers here seem to want to wrap a chiffon around the dungarees. But that’s just too separate to mesh well!

This has really been a problem in this recent season. Just look at the way they have A Plot and B Plot attempt to share space in the same episode, and yet have such separate tone, plot, and pacing that they might as well be different TV shows entirely. And when there is world-building in the Monster-of-the-Week of Portland world, it’s pretty much the same formula that we’ve been following from the beginning. “Oh, look! It’s dungarees again! But this time, they are made in Bangladesh, so it’s different.”

And that’s at best. At worst, they introduce a plot element simply to describe what we’ve been taking for granted for three years now. “Oh! So Wesen can recognise Grimms by their eyes. Good thing that took an episode to work through! Here’s some sunglasses.”

Yes, it’s a wonderful world of drawn-out B Plots and wedding plans.

But let’s leave with something good to say, yes? I’m such a positive person by nature, you know. Let’s see… Whoever Nick and Juliette hire to do their innumerable home repairs will certainly be able to afford a nice university for his children.

“Before Grimm leaves the runway, what’s your final assessment, Vera?”

 

It’s less on the “Must Watch” end of the scale and more on the “Watch If You Must.”

“Insightful as always, Ms. Maven.”

 

Charmed, my dear.

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