Grimm reality

Grimm is the only TV series I watch every episode of, and that largely for social reasons. It has its good points but also some really disturbing ones, and like some other shows I’ve sampled, really excessive amounts of violence. Generally I look at fantasy shows through a fan filter, not worrying much about how implausible they are. But it’s also a cop show, and it’s harder to separate that from reality when the cops are doing things that couldn’t be justified in real life.

David Giuntoli as Nick Burkhardt (IMDB)For those who don’t know it, here’s a quick explanation of the premise. There are beings who resemble creatures from folk tales when in their true form, but who can pass for human. They’re called Wesen, which is German for “beings.” Most are harmless but some do very nasty things. A few people, called “Grimms,” can see them for what they are and have a special ability to fight them. Nick Burkhardt, a detective for the Portland, Oregon police, is a Grimm. There are huge numbers of Wesen in Portland and, as far as we can tell, everywhere else. Traditionally, Grimms and Wesen have been deadly enemies, but Nick is trying to change this. In the police department, just four people know about this situation; one of them is Nick’s boss, who is a half-Wesen. A group in Europe called the Royal Families wants to maintain old traditions and really hates Nick.

For a while the show was making some positive points about the relationship between the police and a minority group. Most Wesen really distrust Grimms, with good historical reasons. Sometimes Nick is able to break through the distrust. But in the last few episodes of the fourth season the conflict with the Royals gets more intense, and Nick has a man abducted and then kills him in a duel. The man he kills really deserves it, naturally, and Nick has a strong personal reason for what he does. Still, it’s first-degree murder under the law.

Let’s look at this through the reality filter. An unknown subspecies of humans is living among us, including enough bad ones that almost every week one of them commits a murder in Portland. Nick and his circle have taken it on themselves to keep this a secret, even though it’s costing lives. If they were just private citizens, this would be their choice; the Wesen have kept their existence secret for centuries, and revealing their existence would be bad for them. When the police cover up the existence of creatures who commit crimes, though, it’s a very different matter. They try to keep Wesen cases from going to trial, or they conceal important parts of the story from the court. By the end of the fourth season, Nick and his associates have engaged in a big secret raid and committed extra-judicial killings. There’s no justification for police operating this way.

Maybe the fifth season will offer some reflection on what’s happened and a change in course. I’m afraid, though, that the show’s producers just think that showing cops killing people and getting away with it boosts ratings. Maybe they think that the people who watch Grimm are the ones who think the Ferguson and Baltimore cops can do no wrong. If so, I think they’ve seriously misjudged the audience.

I’m thinking of working this premise up into an article for sale. Please comment on any points you think I could make better.

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6 Responses to “Grimm reality”

  1. Eyal Mozes Says:

    Nick and his circle have taken it on themselves to keep this a secret, even though it’s costing lives. If they were just private citizens, this would be their choice;

    I don’t agree. Any person who knows about future crimes – especially murders – has an obligation to reveal that information in order to help prevent it. Certainly a moral obligation; and from my limited, non-professional understanding of the law, they have a legal obligation as well, and if they keep it a secret can be charged as accessories before the fact. This obligation exists not just for policemen, but for private citizens as well.

    There is a very common trope of the existence of super-natural beings who regularly commit murder and other violent crimes, and of an organization that fights these beings while keeping their existence a secret. If we look realistically at, say, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, we’d have to say that Buffy, as well as the Council of Watchers, by keeping the existence of vampires a secret, are accessories before the fact to the many murders committed by vampires. Burkhardt being a policeman makes him even more guilty, but that is a difference in degree, not in kind.

  2. Gary McGath Says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. I was thinking of private citizens who knew of the existence of Wesen in general, as opposed to police who learned about them from investigating crimes. If I turn this into an article for submission, I’ll be sure to make that point clearer.

  3. nonyabizz Says:

    I’m just beginning the 4th season.
    The duel notwithstanding, I don’t agree with “accessories before the fact”. If said people “exposed” everyone, would they prevent a particular murder? Maybe. Big maybe. But guaranteed a lot more people would be hurt.
    Suppose they did expose them. Could it be proven? Again, maybe.
    But what then?
    It’s very much like the mutants on X-men. Who is going to be the arbiter? Cull them all before anyone can do any harm? Good luck with that.

    • Eyal Mozes Says:

      I’ve only watched a couple of episodes, so I can’t comment in detail about the show. But it seems clear that if the existence of, for example, the Blutbaden (who I assume are a subspecies of Wesen) was generally known, individuals would be able to take precautions and be better protected against attacks by homicidal Blutbaden. So I don’t see how there can be doubt that many murders would have been prevented had the existence of the Wesen been publicized.

      Of course if Burkhardt, or any other Grimm, decided to publicize the existence of Wesen, they’d have trouble convincing people of that. If Burkhardt chose to keep quiet in the belief that he won’t accomplish anything other than getting himself committed as insane, that would be an understandable, perhaps reasonable decision. But that doesn’t seem to be their reason for keeping the secret; they seem to be actively working to suppress the knowledge and prevent any evidence from coming out.

      The question of what’s the right solution to the danger posed by Wesen is a separate question. Certainly killing all of them, including the innocent ones, would be wrong. But the point is that in a world in which the Wesen exist, how to deal with the danger would be a question on which there should be public debate and decision; it would not be something that can properly be decided by a secret, unaccountable organization.

      Everything I’ve said here applies just as strongly to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and many other fictional universes in which a secret organization fights against dangerous supernatural beings while keeping their existence a secret. As I said above, the fact that Burkhardt is a policeman only slightly increases his guilt, and does not make an essential difference.

      • Gary McGath Says:

        The other side of the equation is that the Wesen might be a target of irrational hostility and violence, so revealing them might prevent some murders but lead to others. The number of Wesen appears to be quite large, and it isn’t clear that on the whole they’re more violent than normal people, though some subspecies are. (This is a difference from Buffy; vampires on that show are, with very rare exceptions, evil.) I would favor having the truth out; the results have to be better in the long run. But if someone knew of Wesen and wasn’t concealing knowledge of a crime, I think keeping their secret would be a defensible choice.

        A Blutbad (which translates as “bloodbath” — the treatment of German on the show is ridiculous) is a Wesen known in folk tales as a “big bad wolf.” You may have seen the song I posted recently about Munroe, who is a peaceful Blutbad and a friend of Nick’s.

  4. Coiria Says:

    I’ve only recently watched any of Grimm, but the lack of good police procedure in the very first episode was frustrating. Monroe was an informant, and Nick could’ve told Hank that he’d been shown the house by a CI who’d run off. (A trained detective would think in those terms.) They don’t ask the postman any good questions–like “what’s your route?”–and the realization that he was humming a tune that was marginally related to another case is creepy, but no reasonable person would conclude that it was sufficient evidence for an immediate raid. And shooting an unarmed, fleeing suspect who might not even know it’s the police who broke into his house? The show never explains how the little girls who’s red jackets are in the closet went missing and no one opened a serial kidnapper case, either. The entire show suffers from a lack of creative realism. Part of what makes a fictional story develop in a unique direction is fitting the plot into the constraints of a specific world. The Grimm world is supposed to be ours, and Nick is a detective. Instead of following these points to their logical conclusion, the writers are following formula for paranormal hunter fiction. This results in some seriously disturbing ethical violations if you’re actually paying attention instead of sinking into a formula-induced stupor.


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