In the Fall Television season of 2011, we saw network TV take on a then-completely untested genre. After having a modicum of success with supernatural shows featuring the likes of vampires, werewolves, zombies and witches, audiences were ready for something different and new. Having exhausted the staple creatures of the night and monsters that go bump in the dark, network executives took a gamble on the stuff children?s nightmares were made of. Coupled with the success of popular film franchises that propelled the once-obscure realm of fantasy to huge mainstream money-making success, television decided to dip their hands into the deep well of fairytales. ABC took a huge gamble and created the successfully doe-eyed fairytale drama Once Upon A Time while rival network NBC set off creating cult mania with a dark supernatural crime procedural simply called Grimm.
Though both shows obviously had their origins rooted in the world of fairytales, each show took on very different paths. Reinventing the genre to suit the differing tastes of the modern television audience, they springboarded from the stories we all embraced as children and stylishly eked out their own mythologies. One enjoyed serial success as a fairytale soap opera while the other became a monster-of-the-week horror-action thriller.
Grimm introduced us to a world within our world. Hidden in plain sight, an unknown civilization of fantastical beings coexists with humans and shares the planet with us. They are called the Wesen, supernatural creatures who resemble mythical beings recorded in man?s legends and lore. This world has its own rules, its own laws, values and traditions. Barely tolerating the world of man and his petty foibles though, this Wesen world is kept in check by the titular Grimms. Both loyal guardians and lethal hunters, Grimms are feared by the Wesen as only they can pierce the veil of concealment which hides their true nature. Endowed with great superhuman powers, Grimms have the ability to slay all sorts of species of Wesen and are armed with an arsenal of ancient weapons for every contingency.
Played by David Giuntoli, Nick Burkhardt is a Portland homicide detective who discovers he is a Grimm late one night. His powers manifest as he is made aware of his true nature and suddenly he sees the world around him for what it truly is. Soon after, both his worlds collide as he discovers that the human and Wesen worlds bleed into each other every single day. There are days when the perpetrator of a crime he?s investigating is some sort of Wesen. Other times, they?re also the victims. But one thing?s for sure, the Wesen are all around him. And they?re all very scared of what he is. Sometimes, even violently so.
Through Nick, we are introduced to a whole host of Wesen species, each with their own special features and abilities. There?s the violent Blutbaden, fierce wolf-like creatures with keen senses and great strength. The gentle Eisbibers, meek and cowardly but crafty beaver-like beings. The foxy Fuchsbau, sly and cunning creatures who are at home in shady situations. And the evil Hexenbiest, witch-like Wesen with silver-white hair and ugly eyeless rotten faces. Through his many encounters with the Wesen, some have become Nick?s trusted allies and friends while others have become sworn enemies.
Revealed when they ?voge?, Wesen normally appear human. But under physical or emotional stress, they can allow themselves to be truly seen for what they really are. The Grimm though can pierce through their deceptions rather easily and almost immediately see the Wesen in their natural forms. This makes for wonderful TV magic as audiences witness this weekly transformation. It?s a rare combination of spot-on casting, brilliant make-up and top-notch CGI visual effects as we witness normal everyday humans visually melt into fearsome vulture-like monsters, iridescent blue-tinged aliens, strange bug-like creatures and beautifully plumed avian Wesens. The beauty of it all is that we don?t lose the actors underneath all the make-up and effects. If anything, the Wesen transformations only build on the characters they?ve created and everything is completely integrated into the performance. This kind of dedication to the craft is hardly seen nowadays in big-budget movies, let alone a weekly television program.
Almost every week, we are introduced to some new Wesen. After 53 episodes, we have a virtual menagerie of Wesen creatures that we already know of. And there are still many more on the way. There?s even talk of a Filipino Wesen slated to be featured in a future episode. Some speculate that it may be some variation of the Tikbalang, a half-man, half-horse creature of local lore. Whether the rumors are true, only time will tell. It would be interesting to see Filipino folklore make it into the Grimm mythology. After all, the Aswang, the Filipino flesh-eating vampire, already made its way into another supernatural genre show, the Canadian based Lost Girl back in 2010. Similar to but slightly different from Grimm, that show also reveals how the world of humans and the world of the Fae mix and mingle. But, that?s another story. 🙂