The Grimm Variations – Episode 2 “Little Red Riding Hood” Recap & Review

Little Red Riding Hood

At the beginning of episode 2, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are riding with their sister, Charlotte, where she asks Jacob to tell her the story of Little Red Riding Hood. When Wilhelm questions if she isn’t afraid of the wolf, Charlotte says that she’s not afraid because little girl and her grandmother win against the wolf. However, Charlotte is convinced that there are not one but many wolves in the story, but Wilhelm assures her that there’s only one wolf. 

Episode 2 of The Grimm Variations is situated in a dystopian landscape where the rich-poor divide is enormous. The rich live inside a walled city. It’s a corporate paradise where a company called InProgress Incorporated has made a supercomputer, Betty, where people can “spiritually live” a disease-free and immortal life. The living can use a nanomachine called the Eye Drop to interact with, that is change their appearance, situation or practically do anything, the community inside Betty. The company sells this immortal residency to other people. 

This is here that a beautiful woman goes to a bar and meets Grey, a stylish and handsome man who charms her. He invites her to his room and with a flick of his finger, they switch to a motel and enter a room. No sooner do they enter than Gray pins the woman and binds her. He removes her false appearance, the effect of the Eye Drop, and kills her brutally, rejoicing in the orgasmic pleasure of holding something real in an unreal world: a fresh out of the body, barely-beating heart.  

Apparently in this world, since those who’ve attained immortality amidst a world constructed by AI, the only pleasure seems to be hunting, quite literally. And Grey is a man obsessed with the real, a serial killer who lives for the pleasure of hunting. As he takes a bath and washes the last of the blood off of his body, a man named Brown enters. From their conversation, we understand that the two are part of Wolf Club, the club of the super rich, whose believes is rooted in truth. Grey seems to be a newcomer in this cult-like club, who has had his taste of the kill. Later, it would be revealed that this is the club that operates the “hunts” and has links in the outskirts of the walled city for prospective prey for the members. 

As Grey’s lust for kill heightens, Brown advises him to practice caution since they will not be able to help him if he goes too far with his obsession with “authenticity”. He further warns that it will destroy Grey. Brown hands him a letter and asks him to consider paying a visit to the place mentioned in it. 

Grey meets with an old lady on the outskirts of the city. He’s amazed at the different beautiful, “real” things she has, including a parrot, all of it rooted in reality and not a part of the AI. He asks the lady to prepare him a prey for the hunt. This isn’t an appropriate request since it is outside the club’s functioning. It would be later revealed that hunts through the club were relatively safer since the lady was accountable to the club members. But not this time. She agrees and tells him that it would take a week to arrange one. The entire structure works as a prostitution ring, only the prey don’t know that they are going to be killed. The lady, then, picks Grey’s little red riding hood, a woman named Scarlet. 

Meanwhile, Grey is waiting for the hunt and has no interest in his business. He seems to be an executive of InProgress Incorporated, and the business meeting is about expanding the AI server since the company has received a lot of residency applications. Grey finally receives a message and proceeds to go outside of the city wall, since Scarlet refused to enter the rich people’s city.

We meet Scarlet in a noisy bar. A man follows her and tries to sell her the Eye Drop, when she refuses, he hits her and forces himself upon her before Grey enters like a hero and saves Scarlet. Grey begins his play and Scarlet invites him to her house. She offers him a colourful drink, Grey puts his guard down and tries to bring out the diamond-shaped Eye Drop, but it rolls on the floor and Scarlet crushes it underneath her feet. 

Grey wakes up to find himself bound, just like how he likes to hunt. It turns out Scarlet is also a serial killer, a hunter. She explains to him that she put up a front of a victim to lure him into her house as she cuts his face, finger and proceeds to cut open his stomach like that of the wolf in the fairy tale. 

Later, Brown calls the lady to inquire about Grey but since the request did not come from the club, she tells him she’s not obliged to disclose. He informs her that the club has decided to hunt using the immortality service and the lady agrees that it might be the best option since the “real has far too many temptations”. Scarlet comes to the lady and asks for blood. Read blood. And the cycle of temptation begins.

The Episode Review

I have mixed feelings about this chapter, mostly because the episode is very subjective and open to interpretation. Although the idea is ambitious, the world building is lacking. The entire virtual reality arc is a bit of a stretch and a poor attempt at giving character motivation for Grey’s criminal acts. Since, there is no clear information on what really is going on: what is the Wolf Club; and what they do, we can only guess. It was challenging to follow the episode and the motivations behind characters.

For example, although we understand Grey’s lust for blood, of the real, since he lives in an unreal “Reality”, we aren’t sure about the motivation behind Scarlet’s blood lust and hunting. Why does she hunt? What’s her purpose behind hunting? Perhaps she’s just another serial killer without a purpose who’s working in the outskirts of the city. Perhaps the writers want to subvert the gendered idea of a male serial killer, which is quite stale for today’s world where we have had smart and bold female killers already. The assumption that she’s synonymous with Grey, and just another female serial killer who was successful in outwitting him, would only make her character an attempt at a poorly-constructed, not-so-clever feminist rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. 

However, if we look at it this way: that Grey, instead of his wolfish character, actually represents Little Red Riding Hood of the original Grimm Fairy Tales, this chapter starts making more sense. Grey is the one who goes to visit the “grandma”, and into a different territory and perishes under the hand of a triumphant wolf, that is Scarlet, who disguises herself as a victim, like a wolf in sheep’s skin, only to pounce on her pray later. This analysis would make the entire chapter quiet clever despite the ridiculous virtual reality shenanigans. 

Another point to note is that this chapter plays a lot more on the idea of real and non-real, a tussle between reality as we know it and virtual reality that our world is entering into. While the real world is colourful, with its colourful drinks and bars, the virtual world where Grey lives is black and white, monotonous and morose. Also notice the names of the characters; Scarlet, who lives in the real world; Grey and Brown, who live in the virtual world. However, only if there had been a bit more clarity in terms of execution, this chapter might have worked really well as a subversive “variation” to a traditional fairy tale plot. 

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