How Being Like Buffy Can Turn Grimm From A Good Show Into A Great Show

Let's be clear: Grimm is a totally guilty pleasure show. It's the kind of show you watch on demand when you're eating dinner or checking your email. Despite not being on many people's radar, the show has found itself content Friday's at 8PM on NBC, a time slot normally reserved for on-the-bubble scifi shows. Season four premieres this week.

Grimm is a fun show but it's not a great show. Like Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, Grimm's appeal is that it inherits the talents from the best science fiction television show of all time: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Co-creator David Greenwalt's influence from his work on Buffy and Angel is obvious. The central premise of the show is the same: special person with powers fights monsters that nobody else really knows about but are freaking everywhere. Both shows started with a freak-of -the-week premise that slowly evolved into more complex storylines focusing on the ensemble rather than the boring white protagonist. And last season they introduced a punk, edgy, female Grimm named "Trubel"... remind you of anyone? Basically the same show.
Despite strides forward, Grimm can still learn from its predecessor. As Oscar Wilde said, "Good writers borrow, great writers steal." Here are three simple things Grimm can do to become a truly great show that I can't eat dinner during:
Fight a "Big Bad," BUT only for one season at a time
I know that in a post-LOST world, this format isn't the first thing that comes to mind, but for a show like Grimm it's perfect. More importantly, it works. Buffy is defined by its "Big Bads." It gives each season a fresh start but doesn't diminish what came before it. Grimm has reached the point where it has had enough one-off episodes that they can draw from and even expand upon for a whole season (see: The First Evil on Buffy).

The most annoying part of Grimm is the Adalind plotline. She was set up as a villain from the very first episode and then LOSES HER POWERS at the end of the first season. We spend the next two seasons watching her try to get them back in a b-plotline that stops the show dead. Before you say anything: no, she's not like Spike. She's boring and her arc has gone on for far too long. Kill her.

Last season, Grimm introduced a potentially great villain, played by Wesley Wyndam-Pryce himself, Alexis Denisof.
More Wesley!!!
Denisof can play the shit out of this character. The problem, however, is that his screen time was too rare, lacked focus, and his story was weakly resolved (he tried to steal a baby and was arrested or something). Focus on one big bad, build it up to a big showdown, and deliver on that showdown. Since his character wasn't killed off, I'm hoping they do this. Because of Buffy and shows like it, it's what we're expecting. When you don't deliver and just have the characters lingering on, it's frustrating as hell.
Kill supporting characters

For the sake of spoilers, I won't go into the details of how Buffy The Vampire Slayer used this so effectively, but I will say that that when you kill a supporting character in a smart and meaningful way, the result is an emotional punch that can change the show forever.
This technique sometimes used in excess.
In the case of Grimm, the best character to kill is Rosalee, who already seems to be a target based on the direction of the show thus far. Lets look at the evidence: they've started adding backstory to her character about her past and she just married the lovable sidekick Monroe. Everything seems to be perfect. So someone has to die. Television writers are evil and they know to twist the blade once it's in. I just hope the Grimm writers have the guts to pull it off.
Die! Die! Die!
The thing about killing characters, however, is that it isn't really about that build up and the actual kill, it's about how the other characters react when that character is killed off or leaves the show. Buffy and Angel turned into better shows after they killed off a character because the other members of the group each reacted to the loss in different ways, creating complex dramatic tension. How great would Monroe's heart-breaking reaction to Rosalee's death be if he sought revenge and started acting completely out of character in a motivated yet understandable way? How would the cool-headed Nick talk him down after such a loss? This is enough meaty character development to last a full season.

Play up the tension between fantasy and reality

The premise of Grimm centers on the fact that it's a modern depiction of the Grimm Fairy Tales, yet its modernity is mostly shown in a typical police procedural. Here Grimm can learn from the brilliant season six of Buffy, in which the "big bad" was arguably reality itself. The show has played well into the low-hanging fruit that is the Wesen "metaphor-for-homosexuality" (as seen in many other science fiction stories, particularly Bryan Singer's X-Men films), but this can only get you so far. This approach keeps you in the perspective of the Wesen supporting characters, continually making them more interesting than Nick, the protagonist. The show exists in a world literally full of monsters, yet only a few select people can see them. How have they not capitalized on the metaphor for mental illness, a metaphor that would focus more on Nick?

The show has teeter-tottered around the ethical dilemma surrounding the show's central premise and how Nick keeps this world a secret while still doing his job as a cop. Nick is told in the first episode that these things are monsters that need to be exterminated. Throughout the show he has learned that that isn't true and that there are good Wesen and there are bad Wesen. As a police officer, he still believes in innocence until proven guilty...but what if he didn't? What if he faced a Wesen seemingly so gruesome that he murdered them in cold blood? Not in self-defense and not even because he was sure of the crimes they committed, but for one simple fact: they were a monster. A character shift of Nick losing faith, how his friends react to this loss, and how he finds his way back to himself is a rich and meaty arc that's well worth watching.

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So yeah, Grimm's not a great show, but it could be. Unlike its cousin (nephews of Buffy?), Agents of SHIELD, Grimm lacks the benefit of a pre-established universe and has had to work its way up to where it is. Now that it has done that, I'd like to see it build on the world they've established by fighting a great bad guy, killing some characters, and playing into the ethics of the premise. It'll never be like Buffy, but few shows ever will be. But if you can get me to pay more attention to it than my dinner, then kudos to you.


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