Offbeat crime procedural 'Grimm' may have happy future
Silas Weir Mitchell (left) and David Giuntoli star in "Grimm," premiering Friday on NBC.
Those first scenes show the shocking attack on and (off-camera) murder of a young jogger wearing a red hooded sweatshirt in the Oregon woods, a case that draws the attention of Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), whose world is about to turn upside down. His first signal that something is awry comes when he starts seeing apparent hallucinations in which the faces of some of the people around him abruptly morph into hideous, beastly parodies of humanity, a startling phenomenon that coincides with the unexpected arrival of his beloved Aunt Marie (guest star Kate Burton), who bears a heap of bad news.
For starters, she's dying, which means it's time to reveal to Nick their family legacy. Like Marie, Nick is one of the last in a long line of monster hunters descended from the Brothers Grimm, who weren't mere yarn-spinners -- they were the 19th-century equivalent of criminal profilers, documenting various dangerous creatures that stalked mankind. With Marie's death fast approaching, it now falls to Nick to battle those beasties, who are vividly aware of "Grimms" like Nick. It's only after his case leads Nick to Monroe (the excellent Silas Weir Mitchell of "Prison Break"), a reformed Grimm creature himself, that the detective is able to start making sense of his new destiny.
"In the first several episodes, Nick is in denial," Giuntoli says of his character. "He really does not want this to be happening to him. He doesn't want his new destiny. But eventually he comes to terms with it throughout the season and really wants to make good by his aunt.
"He's learning about his family, about his heritage, and getting more and more comfortable in his new identity. He's able to solve these crimes now. It's a lot easier now, but he's going to suffer and pay a price in his personal life. He has had this whole new identity shift that is pulling him toward this Grimm world and away from what his life used to be."
For various reasons, Nick is reluctant to share the new truth of his life with either his girlfriend, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch), or his police partner, Hank (Russell Hornsby), which forces him, almost by default, to form a tenuous alliance with Monroe, who is no more thrilled by the prospect than Nick is.
"The trust has to be earned on both sides," Mitchell explains. "A mutual respect of a kind begins to percolate, because we're equivalencies to each other: When I was growing up, Nick was the big scary thing my parents told me stories about, and when he was growing up, I was the big scary thing, and each of us through our own paths have come to this place of reckoning in our own lives. Nick in particular is learning new stuff all the time about his situation, whereas I have lived in my situation and had an awareness of it, for a long time, so I am more at ease with the creature/Grimm dynamic. Certainly I've never seen (a Grimm) before and never even knew that they were really real, so despite the necessary suspicion, there is a kind of recognition there."
It's that fertile, often funny relationship between this distinctly odd couple that is probably the most promising aspect of "Grimm," which was developed by executive producers David Greenwalt ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Jim Kouf ("Angel") from an initial idea by Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace") and his producing partner, Todd Millner, who likewise are executive producers on the NBC series.
Maybe it's partly the "Buffy/Angel" DNA at work here, but the "Grimm" pilot strikes an uncommonly self-assured blend of the light and the dark, juxtaposing genuinely creepy moments with the banter between Nick and Monroe (and kudos, by the way, to whoever was responsible for the inspired casting of the very recognizable guest star who plays the killer in the opener).
"There is very much a sense of gallows humor, which is a big part of this world," Mitchell says. "If you were a creature who had spent his life feeling creature things, dark things, then you would find an ease with it in a way that a layperson might be a little shocked by. You've also got the twisted geniuses of Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt behind a lot of this stuff, and they have a great sense of humor that doesn't shy away from the dark, which is wonderful. It's a richer kind of humor, I think, and I like it. The grisly element is part of its charm in a weird way."
Each episode takes a fairy tale and twists it or stands it on its head, but while the first episode very obviously is "Little Red Riding Hood," viewers may have to dig a little deeper as the series unfolds and the tales become more embedded in the personal lives of the show's main characters.
"You might see something called 'Thinderella,' " Greenwalt reveals. "You might be seeing 'Little Goldilocks and the Three Bears' and 'The Three Little Wolves,' a take on 'The Three Little Pigs.' All kinds of great stuff is coming down the pike. It won't be only Grimm stories. It will be fairy tales from all over the world."
"We're saying that the Grimms were the profilers in Germany at their period in time," Kouf adds. "But anyone who told fairy tales was a profiler for those crimes, too."