By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Grimm: Season One on Blogcritics.
NBC’s cops-and-monsters show Grimm is about to begin its second season, so if you need to get caught up (or are already a fan who wants a refresher) the complete first season is now available on Blu-ray. The 22 episodes are consistently entertaining, but the show still has plenty of untapped potential. Hopefully the second season will establish more of an overall story arc, because the first season is frustratingly episodic. That said, there’s a lot to like about Grimm, which takes its inspiration from the fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm, first published in the 19th century.
In the pilot, homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) begins seeing things that he can’t understand. The faces of seemingly random strangers are morphing into those of fierce, beastly monsters. Nick’s aunt (Kate Burton) reveals to him that his ancestors were Grimms, hunters of a wide variety of creatures known collectively as the Wesen. They are aggressive, blood-thirsty, and strong individuals. Only Grimms can see their dual form, as they switch between apparently normal humans and their true selves, such as the pig-like Bauerschwein or wolf-like Blutbaden. Unfortunately, Nick’s aunt has little time left as she is dying from cancer. It’s up to him to adjust to the onset of his Grimm-related abilities.
And adjust he does, as suddenly every case he works has a supernatural element as he chases down Wesen with his partner, Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby). Hank doesn’t know about Nick’s Grimm heritage. They get a huge assist from Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed Blutbad who has trained himself to ignore his violent instincts and assimilate with ordinary humans. Given his intimate knowledge and experience with the Wesen, Monroe is invaluable to Nick. When stuck with tough cases, Nick seeks Monroe’s advice and gets him increasingly involved in the crime-fighting process. Monroe is reluctant at first, given that the Grimms have hunted down his ancestors for many generations, but since he has refocused his lifestyle to embrace mainstream societal values, he agrees to help.
The biggest problem with Grimm is that each episode is more or less a self-contained story. Nick and Hank’s captain, Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz), is actually a creature—though he keeps his identity hidden from Nick. In fact, Captain Renard is behind the attempted murder of Nick’s aunt (though it’s her illness she succumbs to). Word spreads eventually throughout the brotherhood of creatures that there is a Grimm in town, making Nick their collective enemy. These on-going elements lend a little continuity to the series, but hopefully future episodes will explore the possibilities more deeply.
The acting also leaves a little to be desired. It’s not that Giuntoli is bad as Nick, he’s just not a very interesting presence. Hornsby gets by a little easier, as Hank is allowed more humorous remarks that make him a bit looser and more fun than Nick. Many of the featured one-off characters from week to week are played by actors who seem to specialize in generic blandness. Bitsie Tulloch, who plays Nick’s girlfriend Juliette, isn’t given enough to do—Nick might as well have been single. Hopefully she will be better integrated in the second season (and a late-season turn of events suggests this will be the case). The scene-stealer, far and away, is Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe, who easily turns in the most memorable performance throughout the season. Mitchell is funny and offbeat, making Monroe the consistent highlight of Grimm.
One unequivocal benefit of Grimm: Season One on Blu-ray is the flawless quality of the visual presentation. Shot on location in and around Portland, OR, the cinematography is well represented by this 1080p transfer. The plant life of the Pacific Northwest forests appears extremely detailed, with the intricate textures of the greenery looking ultra-realistic. Nighttime scenes are no less vivid. Often bathed in warm orange lighting, sharpness and detail remain strong even in the dark. The colors are remarkable, such as in the fourth episode, “Lonelyhearts,” which features a richly colorful garden. The often dodgy CGI looks even worse in sterling high definition, which is only further testament to the quality of the transfer.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is not as strikingly awesome as the visual presentation, but it’s still very strong. The directionality of sound effects during the “jump” moments works really well, with creatures bursting from one side of the surround spectrum to the other. The mix makes good use of all channels, perfectly balancing ambient effects with music and dialogue. The overall result goes well beyond what would be required of a B-list potboiler, so Universal really deserves credit for the technical care that obviously went into this.
Extras are not extremely extensive, but there is a nice array, including audition tapes for several of the primary cast members. More than half the episodes have deleted scenes. “The World of Grimm” is a superficial behind-the-scenes featurette that lasts about 10 minutes. A few additional featurettes range from mildly interesting (“Making the Monsters” focuses on the makeup effects) to worthless (“Highlights Reels” are just that, montages of clips from throughout the season). Helpful for viewers who want to know more specifics about the monstrous creatures is the “Grimm Guide.” This one’s a Blu-ray exclusive and it’s mostly text based, presenting insight about the creatures.
A note about the packaging: the five Blu-ray discs are housed within pockets in an annoying cardboard foldout. If you hate sliding discs in and out of sleeves as much as I do, with the scuffs and fingerprints that inevitably result, be prepared to intensely dislike this package.
Grimm is a generally fun time-passer rather than a genuinely great show. Its formulaic approach gets a little tiring, especially when watching numerous episodes back to back. But the high quality Blu-ray presentation makes this first season package a winner for fans of the show.