Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Once Upon a Time vs Grimm

There are few things true geeks like more than a genuine debate about who or what is the best of something. Who's the best Star Trek captain? (Kirk) Who's the best Doctor? (David Tennant) So it's really no surprise that when Once Upon a Time and Grimm, two very similar shows, debuted this fall people immediately started to argue over which was better and which would manage to escape cancellation.

I started off firmly in the Grimm camp. It's so reminiscent of Buffy that it felt a bit like going back to a high school reunion. Everyone is the same, but slightly different. In this case, the effects were a bit better but they still had that somewhat cheesy, not quite scary look of the Buffy baddies. It made me want to say "Awww!" every time a demon showed his true colors.

But the biggest similarity between Grimm and Buffy is the story itself. Instead of a slayer, you have a Grimm. Instead of a teenage girl, you have a cop. Those might seem like big differences, but the stories of the shows run so closely it's like they're in parallel universes that almost touch but not quite.

In Grimm, our cop hero Nick discovers he's the most recent in a long line of warriors who fight evil, just like Buffy. He's ill-prepared and more than a little shocked about his new circumstances, just like Buffy. And, just like Buffy, there are sidekicks from the mortal world who have no idea what's going on and sidekicks from the not-quite-human world who try to help our hero. It's Buffy v2.0 and it's a fun show, but it's been done before.

Once Upon a Time, however, is a bit different. Like Grimm, the characters from the world of make-believe are real and living here with us but this is not their home. They all think they're human, and that's how they're living, but only because they've all been transported here by the Evil Queen and lost their memories in the process.

Our heroine, she's one of them, only she's been living outside their little town. This makes her the most human of the lot and she holds the key to putting everything back to rights. The only problem is that there's just one little boy who knows the truth and neither our heroine nor anyone else believes his story.

This show isn't a weekly battle with a new bad guy, it's an ongoing struggle to put an entire world, the world of fantasy and fairytale, back in it's rightful place. And although no one knows who they really are, the evil or good that formed them has carried over into their human lives. Snow White is a gentle, naive teacher.  The Evil Queen is nasty and controlling and even has a tree full of lovely red apples in her backyard.

The story of Once Upon a Time unfolds in our world and theirs, through a series of flashbacks to the time before the Evil Queen cast her spell. We see how Snow White and Prince Charming met and it's full of exactly what you'd expect, but at the same time it's a surprise. The prince defeats trolls with a shiny sword and shoots arrows like he's Robin Hood, but his princess isn't cowering in fear.  It's the story we all know, but not quite the way we know it.

So, despite starting off loving Grimm, I've found myself sucked in to the world of Once Upon a Time. I don't how their stories will end. I can't imagine how it's all going to come together and I find myself rooting for the good guys and against evil just like I did reading about them as a kid. Despite revolving around characters we've all know since childhood, Once Upon a Time manages to tell a new story. Whether it leads us to the dwarfs and the safety of their cottage or into the darkest parts of the forest is hard to tell, but I can't wait to find out.

10 comments:

  1. I'm loving Once Upon a Time. I thought the pilot was okay, but the last two episodes were great (and Robert Carlyle is amazing as Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin). I loved the subversion of the Cinderella story.

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  2. I really like them both. Despite the fact that they may seem to have similar premises, both shows stand well on their own. Thanks to different, although not the best, time-slots and DVR I am able to keep up with and enjoy them both. I favor Grimm mainly because it's a little less "Disney-fied" than Once Upon a Time, but I like them both none the less.

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  3. I have liked them both. But I agree that OUAT seems to have a solid story line at this point.

    Grimm will have a decent following so its hard to really place a thumb on the "last one standing"

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  4. Wow! We are on the exact same page with this.

    I reviewed the first episode of each over here, http://sarahthisis.tumblr.com/post/12576872207/the-fantasy-fairy-tale-series-rumble-grimm-vs-once(shameless plug) and I really thought I would like Grimm more and I didn't. For almost exactly the same reason, I've seen it done before. And just because you've put a fresh coat of fairy tale paint on it doesn't mean I'm going to watch it.

    Once Upon a Time really surprised me. At times I still get twinges of, "Oh this is just some crappy Fables ripoff," but I feel it's beginning to develop it's own thing the more I watch.

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  5. I switched camps too. My big ding against Grimm is the main character of Nick Burkhardt. I just don't think as a cop he's getting to "slayer" fast enough. Let's remember Luke Skywalker went from whiny farm boy to the Hero of Yavin quicker. Just saying. Once Upon A Time started slow and has the whole Lost flashback thing going well for it. I especially love how they're messing with the versions of the fairy tales we all have in our heads in a similar way Tim Burton did with Sleepy Hollow. This will keep the show interesting in unexpected ways and hopefully gives the writers some much needed space to work in. Robert Carlyle is doing an incredible job of stealing every scene he's in (and that's ok by me). With recent plot twists (no spoilers) I'm interested in seeing which direction this show will take.
    Now if we could only get a show with some fraking spaceships again gorram it.

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  6. My jury is still out on both. As you pointed out, Grimm has an endless monster of the week setting but writers seem to get bored with this sort of thing and start killing off side characters (or they turn out to be evil-I've got my suspicions about what they plan to do to the fiance). On the other hand Once really needs to have a limited run (and heavens forbid they actually have it mapped out ahead of time). I think it has potential for heroism and redemption (evil queen I'm talking to you) but I'm worried it lacks the depth needed before they run out of story and it gets cancelled without resolution.

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  7. I've seen an episode of both, I suppose I'd go with Once Upon a Time (it should be called Storybrook).

    It has a more cohesive collection of characters and Grimm will soon run out of recognizable fairytales to serve as guest murderers/victims.

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  8. I cannot believe that only one person took issue with my captain statement! Kevin, you're awesome. Wrong, but awesome ;)

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  9. I like Grimm, but didn't like the latest episode very much. I actually got bored enough to stop watching and resume computer time. *sigh* I want so much to find a sci-fi/fantasy TV show that I can love again like I did Firefly and Star Trek. By the way, Picard is the MAN.

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