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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Grimm's outlook quite grim

NBC's Grimm continues its freshman run with "Tarantella." A mummified body is found, organs liquefied with acid and sucked out through the abdomen. The police suspect a ritualistic serial killer, but Nick (David Giuntoli) knows better. He researches the spiders of the supernatural world, and learns of a deadly kind that must kill three people every five years to stave off rapid aging. This explains the real killer's (Amy Acker, Angel, Dollhouse) motivation, and allows Nick to find her before she can take a third victim.

Amy Acker's presence is a must on sci-fi fantasy shows, second only to Summer Glau. It is not surprising that Grimm recruits her, too. Though it is too bad that she is stopped so quickly and tossed in jail, doomed to never be seen again. Even should the show find some reason to bring the character back, an older actress will likely be called upon to play her, given the encounter that Nick and Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) have with another of her species, who doesn't kill. It's a waste, then, to use such a talented actress in the genre in such a bit role.

However, there should be little regret on Acker's part to being regulated to a single episode. After all, Grimm is not exactly at the top of its game. The focus of the series so far has been police procedural with a slight twist. While this formula does appeal to some viewers, it does not do so, on its own, for many of Acker's fans, who are used to much more intelligent television. Acker is better used in stories that take more than an hour to play out, and by not repeating on Grimm, it leaves her open to better jobs.

Grimm's biggest mistake is going for the procedural path. Many other shows on the air currently do the same, only better. Instead, Grimm should be focusing on its characters. Why hasn't Nick told Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) his secret yet? Why drag it out over so many episodes? What are Captain Renard's (Sasha Roiz) goals? Why hasn't Renard revealed to Nick that he knows what's really going on? Wouldn't that make their police work more effective? These are the interesting plots that should be explored, rather than spend such a major focus on the case of the week junk.

Nick's character is poorly fleshed out. He wants to hold on to his normal life, or so he says, yet he fully delves into this new line of work as a Grimm, too. It's a flawed attempt at compartmentalization. Yet, it would be so much easier to manage his time if he told Juliette about his activities. It would be understandable if Nick was afraid to tell her, for fear of losing her, or her having a very negative reaction. But these things are mentioned, at best, with almost no time spent looking at the feelings of the characters involved. There is much wasted opportunity here.

Even worse, in "Tarantella," Nick threatens some peaceful creatures that have been watching his house. Their curiosity is understandable, given that they have never encountered a Grimm before. But rather than help them to know him, so they aren't scared, and stop bothering him, Nick threatens and intimidates. Perhaps he is worried for Juliette's safety and wants to keep those types away from her, but again, this isn't really explored. And Nick should know better than to run off people who could be helpful. Surely, through his interactions with Monroe, Nick has learned it is good to make friends with the supernatural? Not only that, but what is these peaceful types have less peaceful friends, and, feeling scared, send those baddies to deal with Nick?

All of that aside, "Tarantella" is mostly a fine, stand alone story. Acker is great as the suburban mom who kills because she has to. The clues are laid out fairly realistically, other than the stretch involving the watch, and how it ends up in police hands. Nick's hunt for the killer plays out with excitement.

The only serious complaint about this particular case-of-the-week plot is that Nick totally ignores the fact that the killer's daughter is also a spider creature, and will soon be killing, too. There is no conversation to deal with the girl, nor is any attempt made to stop her before she acts. In this ending, it kind of ruins a lot of what "Tarantella" does right, spoiling the one story in the episode that works.

Perhaps Grimm will get its act together, perhaps not. Grimm airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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