Fans of Angel, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff, will remember that took a long time to find its feet. The makers of Angel have a new production, a fairy-tale cop show called Grimm. And the pilot gave us a very "early Angel" feel.
That is to say, the Grimm pilot is not quite firing on all cylinders. It mostly feels pretty by-the-numbers, with just a few moments of wit or cleverness to remind us of what Angel eventually became. The good news is, Grimm does have loads of potential. Spoilers ahead...
So in Grimm, we learn that all the monsters and creatures in the Grimm Fairy Tales are real, and the Brothers Grimm were actually "the first profilers." Instead of just collecting folklore for children, they were actually profiling all of the real-life predators that are out there. And their descendants have the magical power to see the monsters who appear to be regular humans, along with a vaguely defined sacred trust to fight these baddies. (So yes, the "Grimms" are sort of like the Slayer. And when one dies, another is called.)
Little does Nick, a hard-working Portland police officer who looks sorta like Brandon Routh, realize that he's actually descended from the Brothers Grimm and is thus "a Grimm" himself — until he starts seeing the real monster faces of the people around him. Soon, he and his African American partner Hank are coping with the case of a "big bad wolf" who's targeting any girl who's wearing a red hoodie. And meanwhile, Nick starts learning more about his heritage from his aunt, a badass ninja who's sadly dying of cancer.
The first episode is not exactly bursting with cleverness. For example, in the first scene, we see a girl in a red hoodie going jogging, and her iPod is playing the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams are Made of This." And then she's attacked by the big bad wolf. Much later, her shredded remains are found, and then the detectives find her iPod — which is still playing "Sweet Dreams are Made of This." Towards the end of the episode, they're questioning a suspect, and decide he's innocent — until they hear him humming "Sweet Dreams are Made of This" under his breath. It's the song from her iPod! Then they know he's guilty. Because apparently this girl's iPod only had one song on it. Umm... yeah.
The first episode is mostly a by-the-numbers "guy discovers his heroic destiny and fights his first monster" story, with pretty much no surprises. The good news is, there are a few good moments. In particular, we meet one supporting character who actually has some life to him: Monroe, a "nice" monster who doesn't prey on people. He explains that he does a lot of pilates to keep his urge to kill humans under control. He's very much like Lorne or Clem from the Buffyverse, and when he's on screen, the show suddenly becomes a bit more interesting.
All in all, though, the show seems to be trying really hard to stick to the "cop show" formula, and it's clear that every week there's going to be a "fairytale monster of the week" thing, with Nick using his super-senses and Grimm powers to find and fight the monster, while his clueless partner Hank wonders what's going on. And every case will be based on a different fairytale — the producers told the Comic-Con panel that the cases will include "The Three Little Wolves" (instead of the Three Little Pigs). And Cinderella "might become Thinderella," said one producer. There could be Hansel and Gretl and Goldilocks episodes coming up too.
And at some point, the show might draw on fables from other parts of the world too. Producer Jim Kouf told the panel, "The Grimm brothers were only the profilers in Germany at the time, so we are going draw on fairy tales from all over the world." They stressed that there will be a self-contained storyline every week, but all of the characters will have ongoing arcs as well.
One of the biggest problems with the pilot was the lack of character development for the main character, Nick — we're told he's hugely in love with his fiancee, Juliette, and he's going to have to choose between their relationship and his monster-fighting destiny. But we never really see this on screen. And in the roundtable interviews after the panel, the show's stars revealed that they shot a lot of "lovey dovey scenes" between the two characters, which ended up getting cut to make room for more exposition.
It sounded as though the character of Nick's fiancee was very much a work in progress. Actor Bitsie Tulloch told us that her character was a baker originally, and her job was changed at the last minute to veterinarian. (Which could mean she gets to help look after some wounded monsters at some point, possibly.)
And David Giuntoli, who plays Nick, says we'll see a big conflict between Nick's monster-sensing abilities and his police duties. Nick will be getting clues from his Grimm vision that he can't use in his police work, because he can't explain how he knows stuff. He'll have to find ways to use actual police procedures to solve crimes, even when he already knows who did it. (In the pilot, he basically just keeps telling people he has a hunch, or not really explaining.)
Another bright spot: Caprica's Sasha Roiz plays a recurring role, which is oddly similar to the recurring role he's playing on Warehouse 13 right now. And Roiz told us there's going to be a lot of layers of mystery around his character, and we may not find out who (or what) he really is for a while. Talking about fairy tales, Roiz told us:
They do run the gamut of various oral lessons — everything from respecting your elders to being able to recognize veils and various deceits. They are great for kids but they work on a whole differnet level [for adults in the 21st century.]