Sorry for the delay, kids. As there was no new episode of Grimm last week, I decided to hold off on the column and take a break. You understand, don’t you?
In this week of the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows, the characters on Once Upon a Time and Grimm are dealing with some heavy-duty Daddy Issues. On Once Upon a Time, Emma tries to help a homeless brother and sister reunite with their father so that they don’t get lost in the foster care system. That brother and sister? Hansel and Gretel. On Grimm, a man who’s spent his life being mousy under his father’s thumb discovers his true self after his father’s death. The only problem is, the self he discovers is crazy.
Once Upon a Time, Ep. 9: “True North”
After Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) is falsely accused of shoplifting, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) gets called in to deal with a school-age sister and brother, Ava and Nicholas (Karley Scott Collins and Quinn Lord), and discovers that they have been homeless since their mother died. In an attempt to save them from the foster care system with which she is all too familiar, she attempts to locate their father (Nicholas Lea) and convince him to take them on. Meanwhile, the Evil Queen (Lana Parilla) captures Hansel and Gretel’s father, then kidnaps the children and has them steal a certain magical apple from the home of a Blind Witch (Emma Caulfield in a fun cameo!) who loves to eat children. In the end, children and father are reunited, Emma consoles Henry with severely edited information about his father, and a mysterious stranger rides into Storybrooke, something no one, other than Emma, has ever been able to do.
Script (1.5): Is it wrong that, whenever the storyline focuses primarily on Emma and something that hits her “too close to home,” I enjoy it less? David H. Goodman and Liz Tigelaar have provided us with a perfectly acceptable retelling of Hansel and Gretel with some wonderful moments about how powerful family is. It was especially poignant to see the Evil Queen learn the importance of family from the children’s father, highlighting how broken her own family is, and how she longs for a kind of love that she hasn’t experienced.
However, the plot of this episode, both in the Storybrooke world and in the fairy tale world, moved really slowly. While Emma was emotionally invested in returning Ava and Nicholas to their father, the actual action of the episode had more to do with the children. This wouldn’t be a problem if these were going to be recurring characters in which it would serve to become invested. But they, like the Cinderella we met in “The Price of Gold,” seem to be one-off characters who exist solely to give Emma some kind of emotional context. There should be a way to explore Emma’s inner-life without using cipher characters.
Can someone say Emma Flashbacks? When are we getting those?
The flashback half of the episode wasn’t terribly interesting either, which is rare for flashbacks featuring the Evil Queen. Perhaps it’s because I never found the story of Hansel and Gretel terribly interesting, but there never seemed to be high enough stakes. Even when the children were trapped by the Blind Witch, I never felt any real danger. Also, Ava/Gretel got all the great lines/material. I didn’t care a whit for Hansel.
Performances (1.5): The main cast was solid, but nothing out of the ordinary. Emma Caulfield as the Blind Witch was a treat, but she was wasted as the script didn’t really give her much to work with. The stand-out this episode was guest star Karley Scott Collins as Ava/Gretel. She brought a fierce intelligence to the part without ever losing the fact that the character is a scared, vulnerable little girl. Once Upon a Time would do well to find a way to have this girl back. FYI, I think Ava and Henry would make a cute little couple. Just saying….
Production (2): Oh. My. Goodness. The Evil Queen’s wardrobe gets more and more outlandish with every episode, and IT’S AMAZING! DID YOU SEE THAT MAJESTIC HAT?! However, the Evil Queen had some stiff competition in the wardrobe department from the Blind Witch, whose dress was not only gorgeous, but not what one would expect from the witch in Hansel and Gretel. It was an interesting choice to go young-looking and sexy with the witch, rather than with the standard Old Hag. The Blind Witch’s house, too, was wonderfully designed, seeming exactly like the kind of place in which a child, or anyone, really, would feel too safe.
Representation (1.5): Racially/ethnically, there was very little. Obviously, there was Lana Parilla, but she didn’t really get to do much in this episode. As for gender representation, while Ava/Gretel got to be a wonderful example of a brave, competent girl, it was only by comparison to a little brother who was completely incompetent and an absent father. It’s grating to me when a female character’s success is entirely dependent on the complete and utter failure of the males around her. As if girls and women can only succeed if all the men around her are incredibly stupid, or incompetent (see the Dreamworks film, Monsters Vs. Aliens).
Audience Engagement (2): Despite the story being weak as far as Emma’s character development, this was a good, solid standalone story; easy to digest and with the kind of moral at the end that feels safe and familiar to people. Fans and casual viewers alike can at least enjoy this episode on that level. The Once Upon a Time cast continues to reach out to fans via social media, too. Several of the actors, Ginnfer Goodwin and Josh Dallas in particular, go above and beyond their duties to the show in their interactions, sometimes offering advice to young fans who need it, or offering reassurance to those who seem troubled. They never overstep their bounds, but they seem to genuinely care about people, which is nice to see.
TOTAL SCORE FOR Once Upon a Time: 8.5 (out of 10)
Grimm, Ep 9: “Of Mouse and Man”
While investigating the murder of a douchebag (it was seriously one of those things where the world is kinda better off), Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) encounter a mousy man, Martin Burgess (Fred Koehler), who has severe daddy issues. Meanwhile, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) is sent a violent message by Reapers to stay away from Nick, and Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) becomes concerned when she notices a couple staking out the house and taking pictures. When she confronts the family, however, they run into their house afraid.
Because Juliette totally looks like she’d cut someone.
I’m kidding. It’s probably because her BF’s a Grimm.
Then again, Juliette did go to the couple’s house ready to start something. Maybe she would totally cut someone….
Script (2): Alan DiFiore and Dan E. Fesman have given us an amazing look into the heart and mind of a complex character that is both chilling and deeply sad. Martin Burgess is such a great character, because he could be any one of us; confined by a small life and desperate for change, held back by the expectations of others. Martin’s descent into madness was fascinating, and made all the more interesting by the fact that he only got truly bad once his father died. So it wasn’t his father that drove him crazy so much as it was his freedom.
The direction in which the writers are taking Monroe is also fascinating. While I still hold to my belief that they had no business having Monroe do Nick’s job for him in the last episode, they’re doing right by him in this one. It makes sense that Monroe reformed blutbad, fixer of watches, and lover of Christmas would love the excitement of helping Nick despite the disapproval of the rest of the creature community. Meanwhile, Nick needed someone to fill the void left behind by Aunt Marie. Monroe is not only a knowledgeable connection to the creature world, but also a friend, and having both of those things in one person is important to Nick. The moment when Monroe and Nick clink beer bottles seemed to signal an Epic Bromance in the making, and it was exciting to see.
Lastly, I’m glad that Juliette’s finally getting some serious action. I’ll discuss that more below. However, I love what her actions mean for the story. We’re getting closer to the inevitable reckoning that’s coming, when Nick won’t be able to keep being a Grimm a secret from her anymore. His secret life is closing in both on his life with Juliette and his friendship with Monroe in this episode, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to that pressure.
Performances (2): Two words: Fred Koehler. He was absolutely mesmerizing to watch as Martin Burgess, giving a performance that was both terrifying and heartbreaking. Also, he kind of has the perfect face to play a mouse creature. Koehler pretty much stole the episode from everyone. Not bad for a rodent.
Production (2): Not only was there perfect morphing between Martin’s human and rodent self, but the visual effects when Martin sees his father everywhere were outstanding. And it wasn’t just mice we got to see. We were also introduced to a snake creature that transformed beautifully. Martin’s spaces were also well-designed. Both his home and his workplace were jam-packed with stuff (he’s a pack rat. Get it?), and the entrance that looked like a big mouse hole was a nice, subtle touch.
Representation (2): It’s been a long time coming, but Juliette has finally become a person. A real one. With her own opinions and motivations separate from Nick. A good portion of the episode focused on her dealing with the situation of the family taking pictures of her house, and she stepped up to deal with it not once, but twice, and not even discussing it with Nick until much later. Even better, while he seemed concerned, he didn’t “reprimand” her or even suggest that what she did wasn’t safe. He asked her what happened, she told him, and they were both worried. End of story.
On the race/ethnicity front, both Hank and Sargent Wu continue to be well-represented in the scripts, particularly Hank. They need to hurry and get into what’s going on with Sargent Wu beyond snarky comments a first name would be a nice place to start or I’m going to start docking points again.
Audience Engagement (2): Not only was this the best episode of Grimm to date, but viewers were able to spend it live-tweeting with Bitsie Tulloch on the #grimmlive hashtag on Twitter. “Of Mouse and Man” knocked it firmly out of the park.
TOTAL SCORE FOR Grimm: 10 (out of 10)
Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 71
And just like that, the tide has turned, and Grimm is in the lead for the first time in the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows.
As there was no episode of Grimm last week, I will be posting a Once Upon a Time special in a little while to discuss the episode “7:15AM,” which will not be scored. The regular column, which I will be calling #10 even though it will technically be Once‘s Episode 11 vs. Grimm‘s Episode 10, will appear on Monday.
Grimm airs an all-new episode tonight at 9PM ET. Once Upon a Time, as always, airs on Sundays at 8PM ET.
Teresa Jusino is a pack rat. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.