The Grimm Variations – Episode 1 “Cinderella” Recap & Review


Episode 1 of The Grimm Variations begin with Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm writing their rendition of Cinderella when their younger sister Charlotte arrives. She’s concerned about poor Cinderella who is mistreated by their step-sisters but her brothers reassure her that being a hardworking girl, she’s achieve her happy ending. The real story begins. 

This rendition of Cinderella is set in modern Japan. Viscount Otawara proposes marriage to a geisha, Tsuruko. However, she has her reservations about the Viscount’s daughter, who might have trouble accepting her new family. However, the Viscount discloses to Tsuruko that it was his daughter, Kiyoko, who wanted to have a new family. 

The three, Tsuruko and her two daughters, Makiko and Sawako, arrive to the Otawara estate to much fanfare. The two daughters seem much less ladylike than Kiyoko, bickering with each other at the drop of a hat. Kiyoko, a cheerful, naive and seemingly kind little girl arrive to meet her new family and instantly expresses her happiness over their arrival. Makiko and Sawako consider her harmless and lust after the fancy and beautiful possessions of Kiyoko and her mother. To the servants, they appear as impertinent and of low birth. 

Kiyoko does her very best to please her new older sisters, she starts eating in an unladylike manner, gives them her mother’s most expensive and beautiful clothing which end up tearing apart while Makiko and Sawako argue over the ownership of it all. Yet, Kiyoko does into her room and talks to her doll about “such lovely people” as her doll creepy turns her head to look at Kiyoko. 

The next day, the servant girl who badmouth the two sisters is accused of theft. It turns out that she stole the beautiful hairclip that Kiyoko wears. Makiko alleged that Kiyoko had gifted her the clip. The servant girl argues that she found the clip in the garden but Makiko hits her and their mother Tsuruko turns her out of the house. Later, Makiko confides in Sawako and that’s its odd for a thief to flaunt the their theft in bright daylight since the servant girl was caught wearing it. While they are discussing it, they find Kiyoko listening to their conversation outside the door. Makiko catches her and insinuate that Kiyoko was behind the entire scheme. Kiyoko feigns ignorance and runs, claiming that the two are scaring her and falls down the stairs. 

The next day, it’s revealed, but only to the viewers, that she deliberately fell down and says the one of her older sisters pushed her. Kiyoko’s father is furious at the conduct of Makiko and Sawako but Kiyoko enters and begs for forgiveness for the two. Little by little, Kiyoko offers her most stunning jewellery to Makiko and the most expensive dresses to Sawako while he starts wearing the clothes of a maidservant and behaves like one, called her step-sisters and step-mother as madam. At the same time, Makiko and Sawako become even more bad-tempered, they are hated by everybody in the Otawara household. 

Later, Kiyoko’s father confides in her that he has had enough of the two sister and he plans to send them abroad. Makiko and Sawako try to explain to their mother that Kiyoko is deliberately playing games but she’s unconvinced until Kiyoko visits her a little while later and calls her “Madam” instead of “Mother”.

A few days later, Kiyoko’s father dies in a car accident. Tsuruko is heartbroken, while the rest of the girls are mourning, except for Kiyoko who comes having worn brightly coloured clothes and says that she’s celebrating, and that all the sisters can finally be close to each other. Even in her conversations with her creepy talking doll, she expresses how happy she is. 

5 years later, Makiko and Sawako appear to have taken over the household as Kiyoko serves them all. Tsuruko has been ill and Kiyoko brings her medicinal drinks while insinuating that Makiko and Sawako are too busy in their own worlds to meet her. In her own room, Kiyoko confesses to her doll that since her father died, everyday has been fun and joy for her. In a flashback, we see Kiyoko asking her sisters to stay with them for the sake of their mother, as Makiko and Sawawo try to leave the house. In the present, Kiyoko deliberates how much more this happiness would last for. 

One day, they are invited to a count’s ball. Makiko and Sawako discuss how it’s their only chance to escape from Kiyoko – by marrying the count’s son. Meanwhile, Kiyoko is listening to their conversation outside their door, and smiles creepily. There’s much fanfare about the ball in the Otawara household as Makiko and Sawako get ready. Tsuruko  tells Kiyoko to go to the ball as well but she denies saying that she couldn’t possibly take her sisters’ place.

As Makiko and Sawake leave for the ball. Kiyoko shows her true colours and kills Tsuruko, saying that she doesn’t like “broken dolls”. It turns out that Kiyoko might have been poisoning Tsuruko, bit by bit. As Makiko and Sawako enjoy their time at the ball, Kiyoko enters in a red gown and makes it seem like the two sisters had barred her from coming to the ball.

Everybody has the impression of the two as bullies and counterfeit.  Makiko and Sawako burst into anger in front of everybody and the count’s son kicks them out of the ball. He, then, enjoys a dance with Kiyoko where we learn that it was little Kiyoko, who tweaked her father’s car and made him die since he wanted to send her new playthings (Makiko and Sawako) away. Kiyoko then leaves the count’s house, telling his son that they will never meet again while leaving behind her hairclip, the same hairclip which she gave to Makiko 5 years earlier. 

Back that the house, Makiko and Sawako are overcome with grief and anger over their mother’s death and blame Kiyoko. Sawako mentions that they wanted to visit her but Kiyoko did not let them and they were worried that Kiyoko would harm their mother if they did. To everybody else of course, they seem nasty and evil towards Kiyoko. Later, Kiyoko tells the servants that she will take good care of her sisters, and proceeds to make them the same herbal concoction for “calming effect” and vows to take care of her sisters. 

Later the next day, the count’s son visit the Otawara estate and Makiko asserts her authority over the house. Right at this time, Sawako hits Kiyoko and the count declares that he is taking Kiyoko with her. Makiko fights for the house but the two sisters are thrown out. They are finally free! 

Later, it’s revealed that they outwit Kiyoko and made it seem that they wanted to marry the count. They also made themselves appear evil so that the count would turn them out, freeing them from Kiyoko’s dark manipulations. Her doll asks her what Kiyoko’s new game will be and it seems the count’s son is the next target! 

The Episode Review

This chapter of The Grimm Variations was excellent! Making the traditional story of a passive victim into a master manipulating psychopath, and in the most subtle of ways, made the story more of a horror-thriller than a fairy tale. This dark and “grimm” rendition of Cinderella was as refreshing as it was twisted. 

To clarify, Kiyoko is a master manipulating psychopath, who loves playing games with dolls, only the dolls are human and alive, you can imagine her fun. She manipulates people around her to win at her schemes and games. It’s even more fun for her because real “dolls” have agency, their unexpected actions makes the games more fun for her twisted brain. And this is Kiyoko had been doing for the past 5 years, all Makiko and Sawako were doing was going along with her schemes in the hope of saving their mother.

After the ball fiasco, Kiyoko planned to make them have the same poison that she brewed to kill their mother but alas, the two sisters outwitted her into getting themselves kicked out of the house by the count’s son, who also married her. The added horrifying touch of a talking doll, who resembles Charlotte is a masterstroke, suggesting that the doll might well be Charlotte’s signature on this variation of a beloved fairy tale! 

All in all, this chapter of The Grimm Variations was a fresh, dark, extremely clever and well-thought-out rendition of a popular fairy tale, and we cannot wait for the other “grimm” tales in this series. We predict that they are going to be equally clever and cunning as this one!


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