Posted by : Wendy B Tuesday, 3 January 2012

I tried watching Grimm but barely managed two episodes. I didn’t find either the story or the characters one bit appealing. My husband described the show as “Supernatural with fairy tales,” but while Supernatural at least featured the charismatic and decidedly lovely Winchester boys, I’m not feeling any such spark for the Grimm couple.

 From what little I saw, I gathered the basic plot to go something like this: Someone dies in some unusual way and the descendant of the Brothers Grimm and his partner solve the case. The fairy tale tie in comes when the Grimm happens to see someone in their true form and/or reports it to some guy who happens to know about them, which helps solve the case. Rinse. Repeat.

 Moving on, then, to the other show about fairy tales that hit the networks this season: Once Upon A Time. This one I’m actually watching and enjoying.

The plot of this is far more creative and thought provoking. It hops around from past to present, where the past is actually the fairy tales we know and love.... sort of. The characters and their plights are all recognizable, but there are many twists and turns in their stories and how they all link together. Unlike our usual fairy tales, these have had their happily ever after stolen by the wicked and vengeful queen of Snow White fame. Through heinous magic, the Queen manages to transport the fairy tale folk into present times, living in a quaint town called Storybrooke, Maine, where they know nothing of their true identities.

Enter our protagonist, Emma Swan, played by Jennifer Morrison who doesn’t really seem to be stretching beyond her previous role in House. No matter, since the plot and other characters are interesting enough to make up for that. Emma is, unbeknownst to all, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, whom the couple managed to transport into this reality in hopes of keeping her safe from the Queen so that she could save the fairy tale people when she grows up. Fulfilling prophecy and all that. The Queen is now mayor of Storybrooke, and as fate would have it, her adopted son, Henry, is actually the birth son of Emma, who gave him up when she had him at age 18.

And Henry knows the truth.

Or at least, he believes wholeheartedly in the truth and is doing his best to convince Emma to help him awaken the others to their true selves, while thwarting his adopted mother’s attempts to keep things under her control.

I don't care how desperate you are.
Stop making deals with him!
Also in the mix is Rumpelstiltskin, who has a hand in preying on the desperate and consequently twisting all the tales in the past, which are, in turn, reflected in the future. Just how much does he know and how much control does he have over the Queen herself? Is she a victim too?

The jumping back and forth and twisted tales might seem daunting, but it is surprisingly straight forward and easy to follow, with enough “oooooh so that’s what’s going on!” moments to keep me intrigued. My husband complains that the show is frustrating because the good guys never win in every episode. I am a fan of non-Hollywood endings, but it hadn’t actually clicked in my head that that was, in fact, what was happening: the fairy tales are not getting their happily ever afters. As of right now, the bad guy is winning. 

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. For every setback that Rumpelstiltskin and the Queen/Mayor manage to throw at Emma and Henry, there is always a moment of hope. I even had a “Hell yeah!” moment in the Jimmy Cricket episode.

5 Responses so far.

  1. Paul says:

    You do know they read Fables from Vertigo and then ripped it off? Same for Grimm. Except they did it poorly so they wouldn't have to pay anyone. They only call them fables once, but it's a telling slip.

  2. sam says:

    Bill Willingham did an interview where he basically said, he doesn't care if they ripped him off or not. To him, fairy tales are such a rich source material that he enjoys seeing someone else mining up these great stories and characters.

    http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/GraphicCity/news/?a=50708

    Also, I like that the show has two villains - the Queen and Rumpelstiltskin. The Queen seems to be motivated out of fear -- of losing what she has or who she has -- while Rumpelstiltskin is motivated out of a lust for power. Frankly I think he's the big bad, and she's been screwed over by a deal she made with him. We'll see.

  3. Yes! I've been watching this and enjoying it far more than I expected too. I'm not sure yet whether it's going to turn out to be genuinely thought-provoking and subtle or just mainstream entertainment, but currently I'm happy either way as long as they don't do anything squicky. I do hope, given the cliffhanger to the last aired episode, that the Evil Queen continues to get complex characterisation, partly because it's just more interesting if she's evil with a reason, and partly because much as I love the dynamics between the characters, in particular the Emma vs Regina dynamic, I could understand someone being kind of horrified at the biological determinism and anti-adoption messages one *could* draw from the show. Like I said, I don't think it's screwed up yet but it's the one area where I hope they tread carefully because it could easily become thoughtless?

    As to the Fables rip-off stuff, honestly I think most of that rumour comes from the fact that there was a Fables TV show in development for a while that came to nothing, then this shows up and people wonder if it's a way not to pay royalties. I'm inclined to believe that it's not a total rip-off given the fact there are two or three modern fairytale reinterpretation movies coming out this summer and that urban myth/fantasy has been a small but popular genre for at least the last 20 years. It's just as much a ripoff of that Beauty and the Beast TV show or The Tenth Kingdom. The actual plot elements of the show and the comic series don't seem to be that similar. Though I haven't read Fables very extensively, so I could be wrong on that!

    Anyway, glad to hear you're enjoying it!

  4. I haven't read Fables at all yet, though I really should. Thank you for the link, Sam, will look into that!

    I love that the queen has motivations beyond merely being evil.

    R does seem to hold a lot of power over here, even though he's not quite in the know in the future? Plus she must feel some resentment for the choice she had to make to make this all come true...

  5. My sister in law told me to watch this. So as principal it must be the devil in digital format. But, I am a glutton for punishment when my Canadian sister tells me to watch something. So I will suck it up, grab a notepad and watch it while taking notes on the problems I have with it and compile them into a musical review called Once upon a fail(feat.Kanye West).

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This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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