Have you heard of the “television” series Hemlock Grove? If so, you are part of a fair elite group of people, even if you haven’t watched the series at all. Being that I am into the paranormal and such it was on my radar before. Out of curiosity and boredom I began watching the series. You can only get it through Netflix, and from what I’ve read the service plans to launch more original series. I haven’t had live television for a while now, so on the rare occasion that I do watch anything on the TV, it’s through Netflix or Amazon.
I will be giving away some spoilers later for the people who have seen season 1 or who don’t really care to watch the series, and I will give fair warning before doing so. First, an overview. Hemlock Grove is about a weird little town in rural Pennsylvania (there are plenty of those, from what I’ve experienced) that is chock-full of weird people. Aside from the usual rednecks, there are some paranormal-themed characters and the unsuspecting humans who are manipulated by them. First off are the Godfreys, who own half the town thanks a family legacy from the old steel mill. Olivia Godfrey is an aloof, manipulative socialite (played by Famke Janssen with a questionable British accent). Roman Godfrey is her rebellious teenage son with a self-destructive streak, who can also make eye contact with people and get them to do whatever he wants. Shelley Godfrey is perhaps the most interesting of the bunch, because she is a product of having been brought back from the dead, with one eye completely different from the other (she keeps it hidden behind her hair. Shelley also cannot talk, so she uses a digital assistant, her hands are always wrapped in gauze, and she is incredibly tall.
Olivia is having an affair with her brother-in-law, Norman, which started after Norman’s brother “committed suicide” at the beginning of the series. Then there is Norman’s daughter, Letha, who claims she was immaculately impregnated by an angel.
And then there are the Rumanceks, a Gypsy family that is new in town. The Rumanceks live magical lives, but the most interesting of the bunch is Peter, who is secretly a werewolf.
As luck would have it, once the Rumanceks move into town some killings of young girls begin. The killings are brutal and obviously are being done by a vicious animal, but it doesn’t eat the prey and even leaves them where they will inevitably be found. Rumors fly that Peter is a werewolf and that he’s responsible. Meanwhile, Peter and Roman band together to find the killer and stop him before more innocent girls die. They learn that the responsible party is a vargulf, of a werewolf that has gone mad, and likely doesn’t even know what he’s doing.
Throw in the mix a secretive Catholic society of werewolf hunters, one of whom is posing as a fish and game official, and you have yourself a pretty interesting plot.
Along the way viewers find out that there is plenty of tension in the town toward the Godfreys, who own a large medical research tower. Rumors fly that strange experiments are done on people there, which considering Shelley’s state of existence seems pretty reasonable. It’s hinted at that the head scientist at the center is even doing experiments on the side, things that Olivia has no idea about.
The setup for the story is actually pretty interesting, one might even say wondrous. The cinematography gives a dream-like feeling to the town, like you’ve stepped into a land where anything is possible. But then there are plenty of frustrating things about the series. First off, some people will be offended by the swearing and nudity in the series, so if those things disturb you I would recommend staying away. If you like tight plots with resolutions that actually make sense, you are in for disappointment.And if you hate television shows that slow down on purpose to draw a storyline out unnecessarily, you really are going to be driven mad. I almost gave up halfway through the season because things had slowed down so much and the plot became so convoluted and downright ridiculous. The truly frustrating part is that a few tweaks would have made the series far, far better. I’ve read that Netflix is optioning a second season, but I’m not sure I’ll be on board for that one.
So now for the spoilers. I knew from the beginning of the series that Olivia and Roman were vampires, so the “big reveal” in the final episode was pretty anticlimactic for me. And then there was the fact that everyone kept calling Peter “hairy” and saying that drove their suspicions about him being a werewolf, yet he had virtually no hair from the neck down! Sorry, but that got really old really fast.
The biggest complaint I had was that the plot slowed way down partway through the series. And then there was this weird sexual tension between Roman and Peter that never really made sense, especially how in the end Roman was pissed Peter left town without saying goodbye (and he seemed a little too upset that Peter shaved his head- awkward). A lot of the series seemed like filler, which was annoying.
The revelation that Christina was the vargulf was a little much. It made sense why her hair turned white and how she was acting out in frustration about her perceptions of other girls, but there was a major problem with the plot. The killings started right as Peter arrived in town, but it supposedly took time for Christina to figure out what he was all about, so who killed the first girl or two? Yeah, that one was a big plot hole that left me feeling insulted.