Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grimm "Happily Ever Aftermath" Review

Grimm hasn't really re-imagined any fairy tales for a significant stretch of time. Each episode continues to open with a quote from a random fairy tale. Usually, the quote is loosely connected with the narrative. Grimm doesn't need to lean on fairy tales like Once Upon a Time though. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf and the others writer built a solid world that can stand not to devote each week to a fairy tale re-imagining. I'm telling you: this series is like ANGEL. "Happily Ever Aftermath" is a re-imagining of Cinderella. It wasn't one of their best re-imaginations of a classic fairy tale. The Rapunzel episode, "Let Your Hair Down," is an absolute gem whereas "Happily Ever Aftermath" is not an absolute gem. "Let Your Hair Down" had tremendous heart and a moving story to boot. NBC promoted tonight's Cinderella episode well. Perhaps fans of Once Upon a Time wanted to see another show's take on Cinderella. NBC featured the evil stepmother and step-sisters in the promo. "Happily Ever Aftermath" would disappoint the most ardent Once Upon a Time fans.

The episode hinges on the hope that no one will predict who killed the evil step-mother in the preview. I predicted the killer in the first act, but I won't let that affect my review of the episode. David Greenwalt is one of the more daring writers in the television business. He created FOX's short-lived Profit in the mid-90s, which critics hailed for its originality; and later, Greenwalt joined Buffy to help Joss run the show. Buffy, of course, defied genre conventions from the first scene of the series. Greenwalt and Kouf's script completely re-imagines the story of Cinderella. I've written about the darkness of fairy tales earlier in a Grimm review; specifically, I wrote about Greenwalt's desire to return fairy tales to their dark roots.

"Happily Ever Aftermath" is a dark episode. This isn't a story parents will read to their children before bedroom. Cinderella isn't an impoverished girl, and she never gets close to cleaning a fireplace. There are no fairy godmothers but, rather, a godfather who is actually a difficult-to-pronounce-name creature. The step-mother and step-sisters aren't evil, though Mavis (the mother) and Tiffany (one of the sisters) could stand to smile without smugness. Cinderella is married and, presumably, in a happy relationship with a man named Arthur. Arthur blows the family fortune in a horrible investment strategy made worse by his investor shooting himself in the head. The teaser is dedicated to the set-up for the 'who dunnit?' mystery. Arthur needs money badly, but Mavis refuses to help them, because she believes Lucinda, aka Cinderella, needs to spread her wings and find her own money. Mavis is dead before the sun rises the next morning.

Nick and Hank investigate the murder. As always, Hank is befuddled by the circumstances of the death. Nick needs act befuddled as well while he carries on the case in secret with the help of Eddie. Anyway, the Cinderella story plays out in exactly the opposite way of the Disney classic. Lucinda killed Mavis and Tiffany; she tried to kill Taylor, the other sister, but failed. Lucinda was left out of Mavis' will because Mavis never liked the entitled and spoiled daughter of her husband. Lucinda, of course, loves money, as she lived her entire life getting whatever she wished. The first scene of hers is telling. Her room is full of expensive dresses, shoes, and jewelry. Lucinda wanted her step-mother's money because she believed she owned it, since she's the daughter of Mavis' deceased husband, and the only way to get it was by killing Mavis, Tiffany and Taylor. A small piece of dialogue suggests that Lucinda killed her father; she talks about her experience post-death, but she's a psychopath; of course, I might be reading too much into it.

The complete reversal of the Cinderella story must've been fun for the writers. I can imagine how fun the break would be, twisting beloved moments in the story, overhauling characters, making Cinderella INSANE. I didn't think it was smooth execution though. The actress who portrayed Lucinda made her the obvious suspect through her batty line delivery and eerie smiles. Spencer, the godfather, doesn't work. He exists as a red-herring. Once he's declared innocent, with more an act and a half to go, the end very predictable. But I appreciate this kind of creative and daring approach to a beloved work; this kind of re-imagining is the reason why I'll always watch any show Greenwalt creates.

Obviously, one drawback of an episode like "Happily Ever Aftermath" is how the main characters become lost in the shuffle, so to speak. Indeed, I've written five paragraphs and only two sentences are about Nick. Nick and Monroe team together to stop the hyper-siren that is Lucinda. Hank does next-to-nothing in the case, but next week seems like the one that'll bring Hank into Nick's secret life. Spencer nearly broke Nick's cover, but certain cues saved Nick from an awkward conversation with Hank about being a Grimm and the creatures he needs to kill, or stop, like Spencer.

The B story is significant though. Nick has a nightmare about his parents. Juliette decides to help her boyfriend learn more about what happened to them. Nick soon learns about the four suspects in his parents death. Three of them were killed in the Coins episode. The other, Akira Kamura, was last seen in Lisbon, Portugal. I'd love nothing more than a seven minute scene in which Akira breaks down the Europa League failure of Sporting Lisbon followed by Nick showing up in the pub. Akira would flee because suspicious characters always flee. I digress. The B story brought Juliette closer with Nick's work, which is necessary if marriage should happen for them. Maybe Nick will feel compelled to open up to her about his Grimm life. The B accomplished quite a bit with limited screentime. It's a sign of economical storytelling.

"Happily Ever Aftermath" displays what I admire about the show. The Cinderella story wasn't executed perfectly, but oh well, it's no matter. Two episodes remain in the season, and I'd say we're set for a great two hours.

Other Thoughts:

-Monroe's joy over that crazy device of Aunt Marie's was spectacular.

-I'm sure someone could write an academic paper about this episode.

-David Greenwalt & Jim Kouf co-wrote this episode. Terrence O'Hara, a Buffy/ANGEL alum, directed it.


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.