Grimm: Fairy Tales with a Twist

Image credit: Cocoparisienne on Pixabay / Public Domain

A couple of months ago I bought a Google Chrome Cast to use with my television set. I have an old second-hand TV that was gifted by a friend because I didn’t have a TV myself. One of the series I recently started watching was ‘Grimm‘. This drama aired originally in October 2011 on NBC and ran for six seasons. Currently, Dutch Netflix has five seasons available.

Kinder und Hausmärchen

Grimm‘ is based on the popular fairy tales we all know from the German Grimm brothers. They travelled around in the German Empire collecting fairy tales and published those in 1812 as ‘Kinder und Hausmärchen‘. It became a classic and a staple ingredient in many European homes.

The television series isn’t about the fairy tales themselves, but about the creatures we find in them. In the series, Grimms are a family of guardians that protect humans from evil creatures. Nick, the protagonist of the show, doesn’t know he is a Grimm until he starts to see strange things and his dying aunt visits him. I’m not spoiling anything here, since this is all in the Pilot Episode.

A Fantasy Detective Series

The first season shows Nick’s ‘awakening’ of sorts and how he is starting to make sense of his abilities and the consequences for his closest friends and colleagues. The story’s setting is Portland where Nick works as a detective for the Portland Police Department. His partner and his girlfriend have no idea about what Nick really is nor do they know about about these creatures. This makes their interactions interesting.

Most of the first season is about establishing the ‘world’ Nick operates in. The first couple of episodes feel very repetitive: Establishing shot, crime happens, police on the scene, Nick arrives on the crime scene realising this is the work of a creature, finding out what kind of creature we deal with, resolve. Rinse, repeat. I found this one of the major weaknesses of the season. It has a strong ‘monster of the week’ vibe.

For those who keep watching, there is a pay off: half-way through the season it becomes clear that behind the scenes something bigger is going on, you get little nuggets to play with, every new episode gives you a new puzzle piece.

‘Germlish’ jargon

Besides the repetitive nature of the first couple of episodes, I really struggled with the German in the series. This is because I speak German myself.

In order to make the world-building more believable, the writers introduce jargon in the series. For example, the shape-shifting creatures are ‘Wesen’, which indeed is German for ‘creature’. All ‘species’ of creatures are also given German names, which is where the butchering begins.

Some names, like ‘Bauernschwein’ are funny and believable in the context, but something like ‘Reinigen’ isn’t. It’s like calling a plumber ‘plumbing’ as it is a verb, not a noun.

One of the characters even claims to speak a bit of German, but when he does it’s barely recognisable as German and what he says doesn’t make any sense. It brings me totally out of the story, instead of focusing on what is happening, I am attempting to make my ears stop bleeding. I may be a nitpicker, but it makes the linguist in me cry.

Who or What is Captain Renard?

Aside from the language struggles, it is enjoyable to watch. I really want to find out what is going on a larger scale and what the role of Nick’s boss, Captain Sean Renard is in all of this. Clearly he knows about the ‘Wesen’, he knows what Nick is and is protecting him several times. Does that make him a good guy or is he in cahoots with the bad guys? I’m intrigued by his name. The word ‘Renard’ means ‘fox’ in French, but the name ‘Sean’ is the Irish version of ‘John’.

I also like to see how Nick will evolve. He doesn’t know what is going on at first either, and together with the viewer he is trying to make sense of all of this. He needs to come to terms with the fact that everything he knows about himself and his parents changes. The stories he has heard aren’t necessarily false, but they’re not entirely true either. He needs to step in his new role and make very big decisions about his family and relationships as a result.

His friend Monroe is in the same boat, but in a mirror image. He’s an unlikely ally and his choices will make a lot of enemies. Both characters show that one person is just that, an individual. You don’t have to do things because you’ve been brought up in a certain way or because you belong to a certain group. You have a free will to make your own choices in life.

I can’t wait to finish this, series! I am taking a break after season one, because I want to start watching something else and revisit it later.

Giving the show 4 out of 5 stars. Have you seen it? What did you think of it? (No spoilers, please!)