Netflix UK head-to-head: Which is better, Grimm or Once Upon A Time?
Jo Bromilow | On 21, Mar 2015
Now that Once Upon a Time has arrived on Netflix – with new episodes from Season 4 arriving every Wednesday – those who like their Netflix binge nights with a side of fairytale magic have seen Christmas come at once. But Netflix is a veritable playground of fantastical delights and for fans of myth and legend, there’s another TV show that jostles with Once Upon a Time to fill that spot in your queue: Grimm.
With Season 3 of Grimm now available, which should you watch? Let us help you to decide…
I’m a big fan of fairy tales set in the real world… (hums How Does She Know from Enchanted)
That makes two of us! There’s something for you in both these shows, but they are different: while Grimm is set in an entirely real world that just happens to have a supernatural layer to it, Once Upon a Time features characters from fairy tales that have been transported to the real world, with some characters stuck back in their old one trying to reunite them. So, actually, quite like Enchanted. But without the singing.
So we’re talking Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle…?
Oh, yes – and then some. OUAT originally premiered with Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White in the lead role, who, along with her friends, was transported to the fictional (yet real) town of Storybrooke (an adorably picturesque place, with muted tones that nicely contrast with the fairy tale world) by the evil queen, Regina.
While the inhabitants, each with their own back-stories, try to come to terms with the new arrangement, others strive to break the queen’s curse and return things to the way they were – and others try to find ways to profit from the new arrangement…
So where’s Snow White in Grimm?
If OUAT is a dark Enchanted, Grimm is Buffy the Vampire Slayer (with the same dodgy prosthetics) meets Harry Potter. Set in modern-day Portland (shot beautifully, like an ad for both the city’s shadowy corners and its plethora of hipster coffee shops), it tells the story of police detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), who discovers that he, like his mother before him, is a Grimm, one of a group of clandestine guardians that hunts down monsters to protect the human world. They have an encyclopaedia and everything.
Well, that depends on your definition of “monster”, as Nick soon discovers. He’s tasked with hunting Wesen, which are basically human-animal hybrids living in human form. Nick can see them, even when they choose not to be seen, and can use this ability to stop the ones who cause trouble. Of course, as soon as Nick discovers he’s a Grimm, the number of bizarre crimes (mostly murders) in Portland starts to increase dramatically.
So it’s gory…
Well, there are a few episodes we regretted watching over dinner. Notably one about a man who morphs into a fly…
We see what you did there.
Hang on, Grimm’s fairy tales!
You’ve got it! Grimm is inspired by myth and folklore from Europe (mostly, with a few guest appearances from other continents) so expect lots of Germanic names. Once Upon a Time, on the other hand, started out drawing inspiration from Hans Christian Anderson-style stories, but as its popularity has grown, it’s expanded to include more Disney characters. Mulan pops up in the second season and Elsa and Anna from Frozen have also become central characters – a sizeable fourth season draw
OUAT’s quite predictable, then?
Oh, not at all. We meet a host of characters with conflicting motivations, such as the delectably devilish Mr Gold (played by Robert Carlyle). Along with that, OUAT has done its best to add fresh twists to the tales, meaning that those who are traditionally perceived as the good guys aren’t always that way (there’s a particularly ingenious example of this in Season 3). The show unites heroes under the same roof, but we mostly look forward to how the villains intersect, with intriguing promotional posters featuring Maleficent (True Blood’s magnificent Kristin Bauer van Straten), Ursula and Cruella De Vill.
OUAT sounds like it has a great cast
It does, with the storybook universe meaning that we can constantly meet new people. Each episode’s format generally has an equal mix of real-world action and fairyland back-story, so we’re given a good portfolio of characters with depth. Grimm, by comparison, has a strong central group that grows slightly over time, with fresh Wesen for Nick and his friends to battle each week.
And what about the humans? Are the casts convincing?
Definitely. Grimm’s Nick is busy working out the discovery his parents were murdered as opposed to dying in an accident (did we mention Harry Potter?), while trying to conceal his abilities from his girlfriend, Juliet (Bitsie Tulloch), who isn’t being fooled by his cover-ups. She really gets a chance to shine in the second season. The same is true of the other background characters, as the first season’s weekly creature features gives way to an ongoing story arc; Silas Weir Mitchell has great fun as the archetypal Portland hipster werewolf, simultaneously battling his Wesen nature and befriending a man whose ancestors killed his.
OUAT follows much the same formula, with Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), Storybrooke’s deputy sheriff, giving us a window into the confusion and frustration experienced by all the supernatural Storybrooke residents, albeit with the added confusion of the presence of young Henry, who owns a magical book that reveals the parallel stories of the Storybrooke residents. He just happens to have been adopted by Regina, aka the Evil Queen from Snow White (Lana Parilla).
So, they’ve both got books?
Pretty much. And what we wouldn’t give to get our hands on the beautifully drawn Wesen encyclopaedia Nick’s ancestors have been working on.
Speaking of… how’s the CGI?
Well OUAT has the advantage of using a largely human cast, so aside from a few lighting effects and excellent makeup there’s no dodgy prosthetics to distract us – Robert Carlyle clearly has a tonne of fun in his alter-ego makeup. Grimm revels in the CGI of the Buffy era, with our Wesen cast transforming to partial Wesen the first time we meet each of them. In some cases, you have to try hard not to giggle, with often tender moments between Wesen family or friends slightly dulled by their furry or fluffy faces. But the cast do their darnedest to power through.
Who would win in a fight?
Well, Nick does have the advantage of being able to see whatever magic you’re about to throw at him, as well as his trusty partner, Hank (Russell Hornsby), and a werewolf – blutbad, if we’re using proper names – on his side. But OUAT’s Regina has magic, Snow White has her handsome prince (who’s handy with a sword) and Mr Gold? He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve…
We know, right?
So which should I watch?
Basically, if you’re in the mood for cosy Sunday afternoon viewing with a nice dose of nostalgia mixed with some neat, grown-up twists on the classics, we recommend you get lost in Storybrooke. If you like your villains not to be human, and fancy something a little silly to play mystery-solving along with, go for Grimm.
And I can watch them both on Netflix UK, right?
Grimm – Season 3
Once Upon a Time – Seasons 1 to 5