Grimm, Ep. 1.02, “Bears Will Be Bears”: Series balances tradition with menace with humor to remain promising
Who’s been sleeping in my bed?
Gilda and Rocky don’t have a lot of money. They don’t get to eat gourmet or drink fine wines, or roll around on Egyptian cotton sheets. The people with the luxury log cabin in the forest get to do all of that stuff, so one night, Gilda and Rocky (it’s not quite an anagram, but you get the picture) decide to do a little redistribution of the finer things in life. They break into the house, raid the icebox and choose a bed to get friendly in. There are lots of beds in this house, but one of them is just right. That this escapade might fall into the category of Very Bad Idea becomes clear when a truck wearing the dead body of a deer as decoration rolls into the yard. Someone is going to be very, very angry…
Cop, and newly initiated Grimm, Nick Burckhardt gets involved in the case when Gilda turns up at his station claiming that whoever lives in the cabin in the wood caught Rocky and is holding him captive. The couple who own the cabin seem normal enough on the surface, but their large collection of Germanic folk objects, a totem pole crowned with a bear carving and a strong interest in preserving ancient traditions (along with the presence of thinly-coated-with-slime Currie Graham as pater familias) hint that not all is as it should be. Our suspicions are confirmed when Nick meets the couple’s three sons. As a Grimm, he has the ability to see the beast beneath the skin and what Nick detects in the Rabe brothers is hairy and liable to take a strong and personal offence to trespassing.
While finding out what exactly those boys have planned for Rocky, Nick has to protect his ailing Aunt Marie, who is being hunted by a shadowy group of assassins known as the Reapers. He turns to Munroe, clockmaker and reformed Blutbad, who controls his urge to eat small children with a strict diet and regular Pilates, to keep guard over her while he works on the case.
The main challenge facing Grimm is that because it’s based on stories for children, an adult audience is going to need constant reassurance that the series isn’t going to go all Disney on its ass. At the same time, it’s a family show, so there’s a limit to where the writers can go. The solution is to give us a shot of toughness and humor to keep the saccharine at bay, so when Nick’s partner Hank (played with oodles of relaxed charm by Russell Hornsby) sees blonde hottie Gilda for the first time, he shoulders Nick out of the way so he can get to interview her first. Munroe the Blutbad (Silas Weir Mitchell striking just the right balance between funny and sinister) has a perfectly rendered scene at Aunt Marie’s bedside where he beefs about having to protect her when it was her kind who dismembered Grandpappy and put his head on a spike. And if we’re tempted to believe that Munroe is the kind of Big Bad Wolf we could keep as a pet, when he lets his control slip in a confrontation with two Reaper agents, the results suggest the alternate title Breaking Baddies. As medics rush the Reaper to the ER for reattachment surgery, parts of him following behind in a beer cooler, Munroe confesses to Nick that he might have gotten a little carried away. Ooops. But the most memorable image of the episode has to be the simultaneously hilarious and creepy image of cancer stricken Aunt Marie, a Grimm to the bitter end, engaged in a life or death struggle with an assassin the Reapers have disguised as a priest.
There are plenty of sly touches to make the familiar plotlines spring back to life. The Reapers use spider venom to try to kill Aunt Marie. Mama Bear prunes a bush of red roses beamed direct from the pages of Snow White. Aunt Marie’s trailer has shelves stacked with grisly objects we’re just dying for Nick to explore. And to keep the narrative ball rolling, we have a teaser at the end of the episode. Nick and his girlfriend Juliette are being watched and whatever’s hiding behind the tree at the graveyard most definitely isn’t human.