Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), Portland’s trendiest detective (he sports designer jeans and chic leather jackets, no drab suits for him), has a gift. No, it isn’t his pretty eyes, though those baby blues do have something to do with it. Nick is a Grimm and can see fairytale monsters. More accurately, he sees “Wesen,” creatures with two physiological states – human and beast – who are the “real-life” basis for all of the animal characters and magical antagonists described in folklore and legends. Though Wesen appear to be ordinary people, Nick has the ability to detect the beast within and then shoot that beast in the throat with a crossbow if it pisses him off.
Grimm, NBC’s gritty, supernatural crime procedural, was one of last year’s most addictive new series and an unexpected hit for the network. In the first season, Nick learned about Wesen with a lot of help from his new wine-swilling Blutbad bestie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) while hiding his Grimminess (Grimmdom?) from his girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) and partner Hank (Russel Hornsby). The season was fun and spooky, perfectly capturing the darkness of the original Grimm’s fairytales without regurgitating those stories. But the show, which had seemed so original and fresh, is four episodes into its second season and has taken a regrettable turn. One of the sorriest TV clichés has just found its way into the drama: Amnesia.
At the end of season one, former Hexenbiest Adalind (Claire Coffee) poisons Juliette via cat scratch. Juliette falls into a coma, but right before she does her Sleeping Beauty thing, Nick finally tells her that he’s a Grimm. In “The Kiss,” the second episode of the new season, a smooch by Nick’s shady boss, Capt. Renard (Sasha Roiz) awakens her from her slumber. The rub: she can’t remember Nick. She can recall everything else about her life – even Monroe, who she only knows through Nick – but not her live-in boyfriend (which I don’t think is supposed to be a commentary on how dull Nick seems next to Monroe).
Amnesia as a plot device is – well, the word that immediately comes to mind is “bleh.” A few more words: Amnesia is the most inorganic and manipulative type of drama. This being said, some recent shows have been able to make memory loss work by having it seem inevitable and unavoidable (the case with Fringe) or building the entire premise around it (the case with the other fairytale show, Once Upon a Time). The use of the trope here is less frustrating than the execution. It’s introduced right after a major revelation. It would be fine, I think, to have Juliette forget about Nick and then slowly find out about the Grimm thing, but the way her memory loss is being handled, at the moment, is textbook soap opera.
Another issue that was easily ignored before the amnesia but stands out now is that Nick has never seemed overly attached to Juliette. Sure, the characters loved each other in the first season (kissing, going on a double date with Hank and his Hexenbiest sweetie) but there weren’t enough emotionally significant interactions between the two of them to indicate how difficult this change would be for Nick or to make me personally care much about Juliette’s fate. Instead of starting this season negating their love, it probably would have made more sense to use this second season to show how strong that love is, and then, if the amnesia is really that necessary to the plot, include it after that’s been established. Although Tulloch is enjoyable in the role and I wouldn’t want her to leave the show, as it stands, Juliette could decide to leave Nick and it wouldn’t matter much to me as a viewer.
This is because of a major flaw in the way the show is structured: Nick’s work has an impact on Juliette – she notices a change in him once he accepts his Grimm birth rite – but that domestic plotline has little relevance to the Grimm plotline (except, of course, the time when Juliette was kidnapped by a psychotic fire breather). Even when Juliette was in the hospital in a coma, Nick carried on doing his job with no trouble. I don’t get the feeling that this is supposed to be a character detail – you know, a purposeful display of how dedicated and focused he is on his work or that busting Wesen is a mental distraction from emotional turmoil – it’s just easier to structure the plot this way.
The crime procedural element doesn’t have to be separate from the personal, human story. Grimm is an exciting show but it could be more than that if we could see Nick out in the field, having some kind of internal struggle, a struggle that’s more meaningful than just trying to understand the Wesen world. While I’m not a fan of Juliette’s amnesia, now that it’s out there, it would be nice if whatever anxiety Nick has about his girlfriend would express itself when he’s dealing with Wesen. (Perhaps, he could slip up on the job or neglect his Grimm duties altogether.)
I adore Grimm but sophomore seasons are notoriously treacherous and this one is starting out shaky.