You wanna give a kid nightmares? Tell 'em a fairy tale.
Not one of those antiseptic, Disneyfied things in which all the rough edges have been smoothed away by time and prudence. Pluck one of the original stories from Grimm's Fairy Tales and watch the fear well up in those little eyes: Stories about children abandoned in the forest and abducted by cannibalistic witches; of girls constantly under attack by conniving stepmothers; of grandmamas being eaten by wolves who then lurk in disguise to lure young girls to their doom.
Fairy tales were harrowing, often bloody affairs, perhaps purposefully told to scare the stuffing out of young listeners: "Be shrewd as snakes," these stories scream. "Don't go outside without someone with you. Listen to your ma and pa. Else the world's wolves will eat you up."
Then, as children grow a little older, they learn that these stories—these fairy tales—are made up. The forest does not hold gingerbread houses. Wolves, no matter how hard they try, can never look like your grandmother.
According to NBC's drama Grimm, they can. And do.
Nick Burckhardt will tell you all about it, if you ask nicely and have a high endurance for outlandish tales. Back in the day, he'll say, he was just a run-of-the-mill police detective, spending his workdays putting run-of-the-mill bad guys behind bars.
But that was before he started seeing monsters.
They're called Wesen and, in Germanic fashion, pronounced vessin. They're the sorts of monsters that have haunted our fairy tales since the most ancient of days. Turns out, Nick's part of the storied Grimm family—a clan tasked from time immemorial to do battle with these supernatural beasties that still walk the earth. Most folks don't notice these monsters, at least not under normal circumstances. They disguise themselves as beautiful women or truculent teens or even the occasional grandmother, hiding from prying eyes … unless a couple of those eyes happen to belong to a Grimm.
Ever since discovering his freakish ability to see the freakish things surrounding him, Nick's life has taken on a different, darker hue. As he and his partner, Hank, set out to solve their caseload, Nick notices that some of the perps aren't quite who they seem to be. And as the show takes a more serialized turn, this paranormal police officer finds himself enmeshed in a complicated good-vs.-evil showdown involving coins, keys and his own family's legacy.
When the monsters aren't as monstrous as their reputation implies, he's taken to striking up awkward friendships, like with Eddie Monroe, a "big, bad wolf" in the old stories. (Now he's drinking mochas and doing Pilates.) But when they're truly bad dudes, Nick responds in kind, doing everything he can to, well, protect and serve.
That mean Grimm is yanking fables out of their magical garden by the roots and slapping them down in the middle of a cookie-cutter cop procedural. And the resulting monster mash-up is no child's lark. Grimm earns its typical TV-14 rating at every turn, from its sometime salacious sexual encounters to its questionable language.
But the biggest, baddest, toothiest villain in Grimm is its violence. In most procedurals, folks might get shot or stabbed. Here, there's the potential for them to have their arms ripped off or be devoured alive. The gore we see can be truly horrific—more at home in a Saw movie than prime-time television.
And with no desire to replicate those old yarns' sense of queasy, unforgiving morality, Grimm ends up feeling both schlockier and showier, more eager to shock viewers with gore than probe the darker corners of their brains and souls.
"The Ungrateful Dead"
In this season premiere, zombies wreak havoc. Monroe, Juliette and Rosalee battle the walkers, who are actually people infected with a substance spewed from a human blowfish Voodoo priest. We see the creatures fall off (or get thrown from) the trio's speeding car and get hammered in a bunch of other ways too. (The not really undead zombies recover once given an antidote.)
Nick, in a deathlike trance and trapped in a coffin, is kidnapped by the Voodoo guy and put on a plane. Nick revives, escapes and fights the bad dude, causing the plane to crash. (We see at least one dead body in the wreckage.) Nick staggers off to a bar and beats up about 20 people there.
Adalind wants to become a Hexenbiest (shape-shifting demon witch) again. And she does so when a mist, sometimes resembling spectral hands, envelopes her and seems to be absorbed by her. But to get there, the still-beating heart of another Hexenbiest has to be cut out (we see someone remove it from the gaping chest cavity) and buried along the monster's severed feet, hands and eyeballs (which are shown lying on the floor).
There's a crack about not thanking God. Jokes allude to drug use. Characters say "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑ch." They misuse God's name a half-dozen times.
In this second-season premiere, Nick finishes a showdown with a vicious Wesen—with a little help from his mom, who he thought died 18 years ago. They knock the man/beast out, and he's carted off to jail, leaving mother and son a little time to get reacquainted … and for Nick to learn a bit more about his own complicated backstory. Meanwhile, a monstrous saber-toothed killer—a Wesen assassin with a contract for Nick—hitches a boat to Portland and sets a trap.
The accompanying gore is outlandishly over-the-top. Heads and limbs are scattered around a shipping container, the walls bathed in blood. Several corpses have had their flesh torn to ribbons. Nick's mother sticks her fingers into the puncture wound left on the neck of one.
We see a man being whipped across his belly, blood covering his face, and flesh hanging off his torso in ragged bunches. Another man dies from poisoning, his swollen tongue jutting from his mouth. Several people transform into nasty creatures, including one whose face turns into a corpse-like visage. Characters say "h‑‑‑" four or five times, and "b‑‑ch" and "d‑‑n" twice each. God's name is interjected inappropriately.
"Bears Will Be Bears"
Breaking into a remote house, a young couple eat some food and make out in the owners' beds. When the owners come back, the blonde flees, leaving her boyfriend behind. Now the guy's gone missing, and the girl turns to Nick and Hank.
The home's owners, of course, are shape-shifting bears (creatures, we're told, connected to the spiritual world), and their teenage son and his shape-shifting friends want to use their captive as quarry for a coming-of-age hunt. We see the lads smear blood over the victim's face and throw a dummy into a pit filled with spears.
A shape-shifter rips the arm off an assailant. (We see the attack.) Nick's hand is skewered by a knife during a dream sequence. (Blood squirts.) A woman impales herself on spikes. A man is stabbed in the gut. A girl is slapped and kicked. And someone is devoured (offscreen) by a demonic creature.
The blonde strips down to her underwear and makes out with her boyfriend, taking off his shirt. They both throw wine glasses in the fireplace. Police make references to stains related to "wine and whoopie." Double entendres wink at sexual themes. Folks say "h‑‑‑" and "p‑‑‑"; they abuse God's name.