In the last few months, NBC has been doubling down on the second season of its terrific supernatural procedural “Grimm.” On top of a big presence for the show at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego and lots of high-caliber ads during the Summer Olympics, the network moved the show to Monday nights for the first weeks, clearly trying to make last year’s surprise survivor this year’s bona fide hit.
And unlike its similarly Olympics-hyped brethren, “Grimm” not only lives up to its own publicity, it exceeds it: Last night’s premiere, the first of two parts, maintained the funny/frightening tone of the first season while moving the narrative out of fairy-tale quaint into full-blown epic. Ancient princes control otherworldly forces in search, perhaps, of a powerful treasure, the crusades are invoked, as are talismans of power, and a team of disparate talents assemble to fight the forces of darkness, which may include the least likely characters. There’s a bewitched “princess,” a saber-tooth tiger and kick-ass mom. All that and the splendid cast of characters from last season.
The series revolves around the adventures of Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a Portland, Ore., detective who discovered last year a. the creatures of fairy tales (here called Wesen, pronounced "vesin") are real and walk among us and b. he is the latest in a long line of Grimms, warriors who can see them and, equipped with the greatest assortment of weapons this side of the Middle-earth, fight them if necessary. After the death of his beloved Aunt Marie (Kate Burton) made him next in line, Nick quickly broke with Grimm tradition and befriended a creature named Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), who acts as his Wesen guide and partner in supernatural crime fighting. Nick’s actual partner, Hank (Russell Hornsby) remains ignorant of Nick’s new calling (though surely he will catch on soon) as does Nick’s fiancée Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch). (In the season finale, Nick confessed all to Juliette but then a hexenbiest put a spell on her that sent her into a possibly deadly and/or memory-destroying sleep, so we’ll see how that goes.) Nick’s captain, Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz), however, knows exactly what Nick is, but remains himself a cipher, his international man of mystery-ness actually deepening as more of his actual status within the Wesen world is revealed.
Which picks up where last season left off, at least chronologically. “Storytime is over,” warns the current tagline, and certainly the opening crime, in which the tiger-man slaughters a bunch of unfortunates, is perhaps the goriest sequence of “Grimm” thus far. But when a show debuts with the murder of one young woman and the abduction of another by a big, bad wolf, well, viewers need to be prepared for a little darkness. More captivating is the appearance of Nick’s mother, who had been thought dead. As played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Kelly Burkhardt is truly grim Grimm, her spirit as scarred and battle-tempered as her visage; although it’s difficult to quite trust her, she’s a great character and one rarely seen on TV — a woman warrior of a certain age. There is hope for us all.
It’s Kelly who, in the second half of the premiere, offers a bit more historical background on the Grimms, taking things a bit dangerously near Dan Brown territory, but swerving at the last minute to choose a road less traveled by. “Grimm’s” ability to acknowledge, and at times directly reference, its many progenitors while still remaining entirely its own ... beast ... is one of the show’s greatest strengths.
That and Mitchell’s Monroe, who, as a Zen-practicing, support-group-attending Blutbad embodies the unlikely genre mash-up of modern cop show sensibility and down-the-dark-forest-path gothic overtones. And now Monroe has a steady in Rosalee (Bree Turner), a comely Wesen apothecary.
It’s hard not to love a show with a comely apothecary, and it’s impossible not to love the new season of “Grimm.”