Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grimm, Bears Will Be Bears, a Review

A story blending the police procedural and the fairy tale should not be this bland.

Bears Will Be Bears is a small step up from the pilot episode. The product placement has been toned down considerably to the more usual long, loving shots of gleaming items rather than the extensive name-brand referencing of last week.

Generic Cop, aka Nick, is still pretty much the fresh-faced, standard-issue honest cop. There's little else to say about him. Other characters remain equally bland. Beautiful fiancee has red hair. Dubious but supportive partner/best friend is dubious.

The exceptions to this rule are Monroe, the former Bad Wolf, and Aunt Maria. Bad Wolf is, I admit, a pretty common brand of snarky, but any glimmer of humor is welcome, and it is, at least, a more recent mold. Though--I do predict his "dark past" is going to come back to haunt him and Nick at some point, possibly in an interesting fashion, possibly not (I also suspect some variant of the line "I told you I used to be a murderer, what did you expect?" will come up. I rather hope it doesn't, but it's hard to see the writers resisting).

Aunt Marie had by far the most potential of the bunch. She seemed a person, and a fairly complex one at that, but, as she's dead, we'll never learn more about this librarian/monster-hunter/adoptive mother.

Like the pilot, the plot Bears Will Be Bears has a definite paint-by-numbers feel. The events happen, but there's little real energy behind them. It's a loose take on "Goldilocks," which I think was an unfortunate follow up to the pilot's "Little Red Riding Hood." Last week the show featured snarling wolves who hunt people; this week it featured snarling bears. If this is going to be a monster-of-the-week show, let it at least provide unique monsters!

In their favor, the bears had a better and more understandable motive than the Bad Wolf. He just didn't like red (Or was driven mad by it? Seems the race would have died out by now, if they really, literally could not help themselves around what is a very common color).  The bears actually do have a culture and reason behind their actions, giving them some credibility and some slight indication of personality. The monster pairing, however, remains unfortunate.

So far, the overall bland feel of the show comes largely from the astonishingly poor use the show's creators have made of their source material. They are drawing from three powerful genres and doing little more than skimming off the top of any of them.

I know relatively little about the monster-hunter sub-genre, so I cannot comment too extensively on it. I will say this, though: I know there is a tradition of the monster-hunter being kept in the dark until the last possible moment (usually when he or she is confronting a monster), and Grimm is sticking to this--for no readily apparent reason. It seems this trait runs in the Grimm family. Why, then, are they not raised to it? Told the tales, trained in fighting and weaponry, and prepared for the day when their designated mentor dies? Also, while I'm at it: Archaic weapons are also a tradition, and one Marie apparently kept, also for no apparent reason. Plain lead bullets work just fine.

Police procedurals: I'm more into the detective story side of things, being more an inconsistent viewer of Masterpiece Theater, or at one point Monk than a CSI fan, but I thought they were supposed to feature actual detecting and shows of skill and mystery. Nick has now, twice, stumbled over the perpetrators, and just by coincidence, they've been monsters with fancy German names (Do they have a collective name, these beasts? The "Them" the Grimms hunt?). The intelligence and skill required has been negligible. There's never been any real chance that the perpetrator was an ordinary, evil human, nor has Nick been called on to use much of his training as a policeman. He's a homicide detective. Let's see him detect!

This leads us to fairy tales, which I do know, and which is what drew me to Grimm in the first place. Fairy tales are strange things, full of unexpected twists and a strange logic. Help comes from unexpected places, so does harm. Baba Yaga may show you the way to the next castle--or she might eat you. Or she might come into your house and count the spoons. The simpleton wins. The loudmouth wins. There are rules, but they are hard to keep. There are monsters and evil stepmothers and blessings from beyond the grave. They are horrible and wonderful and mysterious.

And Grimm is using them as a monster-trove.

Fair enough. They can be that, but what a waste.


For the moment, Bears Will Be Bears is up on Hulu. I'm guessing it'll be there for another month, but they haven't posted the schedule yet.

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