Grimm vs. Once Upon a Time. We’re close to the halfway point of a normal season, so I thought now might be a good time to give some thoughts on the progress of both of these network fairy-tale retellings. Did you notice both have trees in their logos? That’s interesting.
Overall, they’re both having solid first seasons. ABC is still pushing Once Upon a Time, whereas Grimm is just starting to get the push it deserves. A Friday night timeslot isn’t exactly the best spot though and Grimm may be suffering for it.
Once Upon a Time
At ten episodes in (as of this writing), Once Upon a Time has picked up a decent stride but still struggles with some integral pieces. For instance, some of their strongest episodes focus on characters that haven’t been shown since or characters that aren’t relevent to the main plotline. It’s a huge ensemble cast and it’s easy to lose focus. It’s hard to complain when those episodes often outshine the episodes that follow the “central” storyline.
Strongest Episodes: I have two personal favorites as of this time. The first is “That Still Small Voice” which focuses on the character of Dr. Hopper/Jiminy Cricket. We only saw Dr. Hooper on limited occasions before this so it was definitely nice to spend some more time with the character. His interactions with the young Henry are truly touching, as he recalls his own younger days. The story of how he became the little cricket is also touching, in a very Disney kind of way (seeing as this an ABC show and all).
My other favorite so far is the tale of our Woodsman/Sheriff Graham, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” Until this point, we were kind of left in the dark about Sheriff Graham’s counterpart in the fairy tale realm. Some thought he was the Big Bad Wolf. Well, turns out he’s the woodsman-turned-assassin sent to kill Snow White. The culmination of his real-world story is the first glimpse we see that the fairy tale and real world might overlap more than we thought. The story gave actor Jamie Dornan some substance to work with and it resonated on a few different levels (with me anyways).
It’s worth noting that both of these stories took ensemble characters and brought them to the forefront. The downside is that these characters don’t really show up again. This should be a tool to help create a sense of importance in the ensemble, but it’s hard when we go back to the same old characters after being given a refreshing change of pace. I’m excited to see a few other tales come forward, namely Ruby’s turn as Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White’s exploits with the seven dwarves.
Strengths in General: The ensemble cast works for the most part, allowing us to latch on to characters that we like. The actors are mostly spot-on, when given substance in the script. The effects have also been stepped up.
Weaknesses in General: The ensemble backfires when we begin to care for lesser characters but get the more bland characters thrown back into the spotlight (mostly female lead Emma, who I just don’t find that interesting). They’ve done some work by giving more screentime to the enigmatic Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin, who I can’t get enough of. It’s hard to work with a cast that huge and they continue to add characters. A recent case… Last week’s Hansel and Gretel episode was interesting but ultimately unimportant to the central story.
With just one less episode (right now at 9), Grimm seems to be a little behind in terms of general progression. Once Upon a Time has a strong through-line but Grimm is lacking a little focus, though has some elements that, if tapped into, can bring the show into a good place.
Strongest Episodes: In general, the episodes by themselves are weaker. They each feature a unique storyline but most fall a little flat. The most interesting one recent for me was the physical “Game Ogre,” in which Nick the detective battled a certified ogre, including thick skin and dense bones, rendering the ogre nearly indestructible. It highlighted some incredible effects and fight scenes, while also illuminating some backstory into Nick’s partner Hank. The ogre has served as an actual challenge for Nick, as opposed to some of the other “Monsters of the Week” who don’t seem intimidating or challenging for our hero.
Strengths in General: The core idea, that there is a lineage of people destined to protect this world from danger, is a unique one. It’s a shame that this facet has been pretty much unexplored. Luckily, Nick’s werewolf buddy Monroe serves as a guide to translating the dangers that lurk in Portland, Oregon. Monroe helps to take these foreign creatures (with extremely foreign names) and helps us (the audience) to understand them. Monroe is probably the most charismatic and relatable character on the show.
Weaknesses in General: Our hero is pretty flat. He’s a cop, he tries to do the right thing. Both him and his partner are essentially charicatures. We’ve seen a few instances where Nick is able to express some sort of emotion and it’s been refreshing. In general though, Nick is the constant while the world around him changes. I wish he had a more dynamic relationship with this crazy world. And why isn’t he more interested in this other realm of fantasy? He has a plethora of knowledge available to him but seems to be avoiding learning anything about it, until he needs to look up some sort of beastie. Also, there is no plot that is driving the story forward. No greater evil. If we’re halfway through the season, we should have an idea of what the season will culminate with.
At the beginning of both shows, there was a huge grip of people that were going to follow both shows. I’ve noticed that the group has been divided and people have chosen a show to follow. Most are following Once Upon a Time. It’s more accessible, it’s more colorful, and it more closely resembles the Disney fairytale world that we want to see. Grimm has a smaller cult following, resonating with those of us that grew up with The X-Files.
At this point, Once Upon a Time has a stronger following and a higher liklihood of being renewed. They have a strong throughline, meaning we’re invested in what will happen, and they’ve gotten a much larger push from their network. Grimm has decent ratings (for NBC, which is struggling) but they aren’t hooking viewers in. I feel like Grimm has potential but isn’t trying hard enough to keep its viewers. Once Upon a Time, on the opposite side, has a large viewership but is in the precarious position of keeping them. A misstep in the latter half of the season could result in viewers becoming jumbled and confused the ensemble cast. They need to be careful of their footing.
I still continue to watch both shows and I appreciate what they’re doing. They’re actually both fairly unique and the crossover isn’t as apparent as I believed it would be when the Pilots aired. Interestingly enough, next week Grimm is tackling the Hansel and Gretel story and we’ll see how it compares to last week’s Once Upon a Time.
Anyways, keep posted and I’ll likely post an update closer to the end of the season.