Hemlock Grove Season 1 – Season Review
Hemlock Grove is how I imagine a HBO show would be if HBO wasn’t constantly fellating itself and getting high off its own “brilliance.”
So it’s, like, the good kind of pretentious: weird and esoteric, but not at all committed to it.
Should I be worried that I’m a fan of non-commitment?
TL;DR Hemlock Grove is mostly just a bunch of crazy shit thrown around in the hopes that there’ll be some semblance of a plot. But it’s played cool and (this is important) fun enough to be, well, fun.
I just really hope there’s a season 2. Plz.
The plot (as the content would suggest) is a bit all over the place. The main thread concerns the murders of some young women in the moodily named town of Hemlock Grove. Peter (Landon Liboiron aka Josh from Terra Nova) is a teenage gypsy werewolf, and Roman Godfrey (Bill “Alexander is my much hotter brother” Skarsgard) is a teenage rich vampire (but he doesn’t know it). Together, they set out to solve the crime. Subplots include an immaculate pregnancy in Roman’s cousin; the mysterious and looming influence of the Godfrey family; Olivia Godfrey (the ageless Famke Janssen) being fuckin’ weird; a secret, werewolf-tracking society; resurrection experiments; gypsy witchcraft; incest vibes; and homoerotic tension.
You know, the usual.
It may sound like a clusterfuck of stupidity, and it pretty much is, but there’s a pervasive flippance in Hemlock Grove that I just adored. It’s so “whatever” with its introduction of plot threads and new elements. It’s equally dismissive: happily dropping anything that isn’t important at the moment, then picking it up later just because.
I don’t know. The first episode put me off a little bit. But Hemlock Grove just turned out to be super consistent, and only near the end, when the plot had to come together to make it have any impact, did it start to lean towards something more mundane.
But otherwise, this is a fantastic little gem. I think this is what a David Lynch TV show would look like (I haven’t seen Twin Peaks, so just pretend that he didn’t do this already) if it had the sensibility of a pulp teen horror novel.
It certainly makes TVD look like the fucking melodramatic tumor of a soap opera that it is. #stillwatchitthough
Why I hate this season:
The “throw it in” approach isn’t all good, though. You spend a lot of the time just having no fucking idea what’s happening. There’s a magic realism-esque attitude, where there’s no big reaction to new, weird shit. But it’s a bit difficult to believe that so few people in this show are bothered by some of the stuff that goes on. For instance, when Roman requests to view Peter’s transformation into a wolf, which is nasty as fuck. And he barely flinches.
Famke Janssen gets strangely sidelined for most of the season. She has a constant presence, but for being the top-billed cast member, she doesn’t get a whole lotta screentime.
Speaking of relegated characters, Christina turns out to be the (spoiler alert. You know how I do) killer (something something became a werewolf by drinking water out of Peter’s wolf-form paw print), and her motivation is essentially just jealousy over prettier girls. Although Christina is one of the first characters to appear in the show, she evaporates and only appears sporadically, with no actual plot of her own. Then BAM, big bad killer. Stupid.
The incest vibe between Famke and Roman never really gets there. I’ve had enough teasing from Bates Motel.
And the explanation for Famke’s behaviour was, like, wtf. In the last episode, we find out she had babies with the expectation that one of them (which turned out to be Roman) would be born with a flap of skin or some shit on their face. Which she ate. No explanation for why. Then she uses mind powers to make him impregnate Letha (his cousin). No real explanation for that, either. The emotional trauma and stress does cause Roman to slit his wrists, which facilitates his transformation into a vampire, but why the incest baby, Famke?
They also wait super long to drop the vampire bomb.
The Ouroboros motif appears a lot (read: A LOT) throughout the season, then turns out to be arbitrary. It’s some resurrection experiment that the Godfrey lab used to revive Shelley (and at the end of the finale, apparently Famke. Roman killed her, btw), but that’s about as far as it goes. Why does it come up so often for Peter and Roman, then?
There are a lot of unanswered questions. So come on season 2, hey?
Oh, and are gypsies, like, a thing in America? We just have bogans here in Australia. Is it like that?
Reasons to watch:
For every misstep and unexplained, wtf moment, Hemlock Grove is worth it. You just have to switch off that constantly unimpressed little bitch voice inside (and mine’s pretty loud. So if I can do it, you can too) and take this cool-ass ride.
I always thought that TVD was how you should do werewolves and vampires. Now I know that it doesn’t have to be all lovey dovey melodramatic pain. Hemlock Grove does pinch compulsion, though. I’m okay with it.
Roman is superbly watchable. He’s a fluctuating pot of intrigue, disdain, brotherly love, sadness, self-loathing, privilege and heroism. Peter, on the other hand, is more affirmed, caring and driven. Together, they make a great team and their friendship feels utterly genuine. And even though the homoeroticism is played hard, it never overwhelms them.
Though I wouldn’t be opposed to some fanservice. Season 2, plz.
Lili Taylor is Peter’s mum. Having only seen her before in the laughable The Haunting, I was glad to see her redeem herself.
The true dark horse of Hemlock Grove is Shelley, Roman’s little sister. She’s deformed and mute from her botched Ouroboros resurrection, but bitch is strong. She saves Roman, Peter and Letha from Christina at the end, and when the sheriff shoots her, I legit teared up. She then runs off and allows the town to blame her for the murders (instead of having to find a way to explain that Christina was a fucking werewolf). Dat self sacrifice.
She also has a touching relationship with the kind/sassy shop girl who keeps some earrings for her. Christina killed her, so Shelley got her fucking revenge. Nice.
Kandyse McClure plays the Templar-esque society operative, and Aaron Douglas is the sheriff. They have several scenes together. Battlestar Galactica fans, you may cum now.
Despite the 2 male main characters, women play equal roles in the story. So you can shut up, Anita Sarkeesian.
Best line goes to Roman. He and Peter see an elderly man walking in the street:
Roman: “What’s with this guy?”
Peter: “I don’t know. He’s just old.”
Peter and Roman dig up the buried corpse of the second victim so Peter can take her intestines out and give them to his cousin. Who puts a tiny rodent into them, waits a bit, takes it out, eats it, then channels the victim so Peter can ask her questions. It’s awesome. Bonus points for the cousin puking her guts up afterwards.
Two of my favourite characters are the sheriff’s blonde, bitchy daughters. They get to drop the c-bomb, and although are skanky tweens, are actually really nice and caring. So I was horrified when they got slaughtered by the bad wolf. And even more horrified when it turned out to be Christina, who they cared about. So sad.
The wolf battle between Wolf Christina and Wolf Peter in the finale is using real fuckin’ wolves. Twilight just keeps looking worse and worse, hey?
Oh, and I think I really need to point out that I don’t think Hemlock Grove is trying to be profound. It’s just trying to be weird and wacky and moody. And if it’s working this well, then I’ll allow it.