Posted on May 28, 2016
Buffy laid the groundwork of season long arcs leading up to an ever worsening Big Bad. And it worked like a charm for them for three years. But that annual need to raise the stakes ended up leading to The Initiative in season 4, a concept that nearly undid all the good from the three seasons that came before it.
Here’s the problem with raising the stakes: Gothic stories need to be intimate and need to occur in confined spaces. The moment you open your aberration up to go worldwide you leave the vastly more interesting realm of the Gothic and enter the much more chancy world of weak kneed science fiction.
Rule #1: Never mix fantasy with science fiction.
If you create a world with shape shifting creatures who can be summoned by magic spell, do not under any circumstances create a high tech government facility to interact with them. Technology undoes mythology.
Don’t get me wrong. There are techno-gothic stories like Reanimator but in those cases the horror comes from the technology and is enclosed within the world the technology touches. No one chants a magic utterance to bring the dead back to life in Reanimator. It’s all technology. Grotesque and macabre but technology all the same.
It appears Grimm tried to correct its rambling, unfocused season 4 by going full on Initiative in season 5. All the tropes are there, the shiny underground facility, the grim (NPI), stone faced members of either side of the conflict reciting their justifications while our hero is trapped in the middle. There is some body swapping, lovers turn to enemies and vice versa. The product of a long forgotten story line returns as a powerful force of chaos.
Once a tight knit Gothic story blows up into a full blown world at war epic, it’s impossible to go back to the intimate storytelling that got the show going in the first place. To my mind, Buffy should have ended with The Gift, by far its most powerful episode and Angel never should gone to work for Wolfram & Hart.
And Grimm never should have jettisoned the Royals for the Black Claw. While I was never fond of the Royals story lines or the low rent green screen graphics that “took us to Europe” the idea of the Royals was far more in line with the Gothic mythology of the series than the awkward mix of high tech and ancient black magic that has defined this year’s arc.
Be honest with yourself. Wasn’t it more fun to watch Nick discover the world of the Grimm than to try to keep up with the huffing and puffing of this frantic and increasingly overwrought story?