Review: NBC's 'Grimm' returns, improved, for season 2
Deeper mythology and a more balanced ensemble highlight the growth curve
In today's podcast, Fienberg and I revisited NBC's "Grimm," which begins its second season tonight at 10. (NBC is airing a episodes on Mondays for the next few weeks in the hopes of hanging onto their Olympic audience for as long as possible.)
I stopped watching "Grimm" after the first few episodes last year as part of my inevitable fall season triage. Outside of Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe, and whatever residual trust David Greenwalt had built up from the "Buffy"/"Angel" days, I didn't see enough there to merit making the long-term investment on an inconvenient night, and the one episode NBC sent out later in the year didn't do much for me, either.
But Dan and I had spent much of this summer rewatching the first season of "Buffy" for the podcast, and it was striking to be reminded of how bumpy and prolonged that show's growing pains were. Though there were earlier highlights, it's not really until the last two or three episodes of the season that it really starts to resemble the show we remember from those season 2 & 3 heights. And as I watched so many bad or simply clumsy episodes, I began to wonder if I would have had the time and patience to stick it out with "Buffy" were it to debut today. Given how many more channels and original scripted shows there are today versus 1997, my guess is probably not.
But given Greenwalt, and given that this is a relatively slow time of year, I decided to give "Grimm" one more chance. As mentioned on the podcast, I asked the show's publicist to highlight a handful of season 1 episodes I could watch to A)see examples of the show at its best, and B)be able to follow things when I watched the second season premiere. He gave me a list of four — for those curious, "Three Coins in a Fuchsbau," "Let Down Your Hair," "Last Grimm Standing" and "Woman in Black" — and I had time to watch the first and last of those, along with the first two episodes of the second season (which are heavy on both the mythology and on Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Nick's not-so-dead mother).
And having watched those four hours, I can say that I did see a clear improvement from the show I had witnessed last fall. The supporting cast was better used, there were occasional touches of humor beyond Monroe, they mythology didn't just feel like a retread of bits from "Buffy," "Angel," etc., and I even thought leading man David Giuntoli had gotten better — not to the point of being an asset, necessarily, but at least to where I no longer looked at him as a poor man's Brandon Routh. He doesn't have a ton of range, but he also doesn't seem like a charisma vacuum.
Still, Giuntoli rising to a level of adequacy doesn't solve the problem that I would enjoy "Grimm" more if it were centered around virtually any other character in the ensemble: Monroe obviously ("Angel"-esque piece, with more humor, in which a monster is forced to go against his own kind), but also Hank (a cop who doesn't even have the Grimm bloodlines has to engage in this business), Captain Renard (story told from the villain's POV), maybe even Juliet (veterinarian by day, monster-fighter by night!). "Buffy" had snappy dialogue to carry us over those early rough patches, but it also had Sarah Michelle Gellar doing transcendent work at the center of the show. David Boreanaz did not start "Buffy" well, but by the time "Angel" began, he had developed enough to plausibly carry his own show.
Unless Giuntoli continues to get (significantly) better, I feel like he limits the ceiling of "Grimm." Over time, it's turned into a much better example of the show it wants to be, but how much more room does it have to grow?
For those of you who watched through the end of last season, what did you think the show's biggest strengths and weaknesses were by the end? And does anyone who gave up earlier intend to give it another try tonight?