World-building, Wesen, and Grimm

Last year, it seemed there were more sci-fi and fantasy-based TV shows than ever before – and at the end of the year, it felt that most of them had been sent packing.  Only a few network shows were notably unscathed. Once Upon a Time was not a surprise, with the Disney backing, well-known actors, dark writing and popular acclaim.   Less expected was NBC’s support of Grimm, which had quietly flourished in its Friday-night slot and become a bit of a cult favorite.

I know it was certainly one of my favorites, and it’s one of the few shows with which I’ve kept up this season (ditching cable means I seem to watch less TV each year).  Yet, though I love the actors, adore the humor, and look forward to new episodes, I’m finding myself becoming more and more critical of the show – namely, the writing.

It’s not exactly their fault, at least not currently; I think the problem is a combination of world-building and plot-building.  The premise of Grimm is an interesting one, but it’s very inconsistent when you start thinking about it:  just how common are Wesen?

Nowadays it would seem that every third person is a Wesen of some kind – not just murderers, but random people connected to crimes or even everyday life.  First of all, if this is so common, why keep the normie humans in the dark at all?  Secondly, if we’re really dealing with a parallel society, where are the cops who handle Wesen-related murders?

In last weeks’ episode, we essentially saw a medical/mental health issue.  A character is eventually put in an institution for regular humans, but we know they’ll be watched over by a Wesen employee (lucky for the world at large).  We know that Wesen have retirement homes, so why don’t they have other facilities as well?   Seems like catering to Wesen needs is not only a business opportunity, it’s something that’s required for a functional society.  And what, exactly, do the Royal families do if not govern day-to-day business?

And then there’s the biology.  So far we’ve only seen Wesen families of one “animal.”  How easy is it for them to find their “mate”?  Again, is this literally so common that there might be several Fuchsbaue in one high school, or will we see Wesen matchmaking services?  What happens with a regular human, or another “species”?  And are they species distinct from one another?   What about Nick and the other Grimms?  And if Wesen are apparently so common, why not other Grimms?

I’m sure some of these questions will be answered this season, as I know I’m not the only one who had them.  The problem is that it’s fairly obvious it’s being made up as one goes along.  While this is just a TV show, not great literature – and that reminds me, did it ever make sense for wizards to have such little knowledge of the Muggle world in Harry Potter? – it’s still irksome.  Sure, maybe you didn’t think a show would stick for more than a season, but shouldn’t a little bit of care go into the concept?  Joss Whedon might make things up as he goes along too, but at least he makes sure he’s consistent.  And then we call him a genius.

Thus, I suppose I have a message for TV writers, producers and even would-be writers: if you’re going to attempt to tackle sci-fi and fantasy, you’re going to have to do just a little bit of world-building.  It doesn’t have to be some massive fantasy; just a smidge of consistency.  If this is out of your comfort zone, make sure there’s at least one writer on the team for whom it is not.  The sort of fans who will like the general concept – in short, watch your show – are also the sort who will notice the details.

On the other hand, to the team behind Grimm: well, you should have had a better sense of scope before you began, but that time has passed now.  Try to create consistency with what you have already, but don’t lose focus on what’s made the show great: the interplay between the characters.  It’s never been a show known for its epic mythology, so while I appreciate the occasional switch-up from Creature Feature, don’t get too bogged in trying to have it all make sense.

I may like my epic fantasies, but I also like Grimm: a quirky little show with characters I love and a fun concept.  And though I may complain about the details, I suppose only the latter is essential to a successful and entertaining TV show.

What about you?  What do you look for in a sci-fi or fantasy-based show or movie?  Is world-building and consistency important to you, or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?  And what do you think of Grimm?  Share your thoughts below!  

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