Hemlock Grove Review: A Gypsy is a Gypsy is a . . . SQUIRREL! Ooh, yes, Vampires are Greek! No, Roman! Wait, there are Nazis!

Okay, so I know it’s been a while since I reviewed anything, and it’s not exactly a movie I’m about to review.  Last November, I finished my dissertation (Yay!) and after that, the idea of writing ANYTHING made me almost physically ill.  Now, I’m recovered though, so back to reviewing!

Up next, I  will be going to the actual movies to see Star Trek: Into the Darkness.  I already have my tickets. ‘Cause I’m cool like that.

Why did I watch Hemlock Grove?  Well, my friend and excellent writer, Jamie Ridenhour, was watching it, so I decided to check it out.  He gave up, understandably, after episode 7, and I almost wish I had too.  Plus, Netflix told me I’d like it, and I thought Netflix knew me, like really knew me. Oh, Netflix, I thought we were friends and now I’m not sure you know me at all.

I am going to write this Hemlock Grove review in a near approximation of how the show was actually presented, which means there will be no clear sense of order, except some level of chronology (though that will be shaky too), many non sequiturs, and little-to-no sense of transition or unity.  Also, if you don’t like spoilers, go away quickly.  I write reviews for people who have already seen the show, so are therefore already spoiled (ha!  my pun was almost as bad as this show):

  • You know, when I was freshperson, I once drank a bottle of wine before a party.  I remember feeling so licentious, so very “breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law.”  (I also threw up.  And, then I didn’t drink again till I was in grad school).  Apparently, in HG, there are no laws about teens drinking at all.  I guess that makes sense as no one in this show seems to actually be teenager-ish, except for the two, silly blond girls.  Except, even they kind of seem more like middle school aged with their antics and dressing up, though they have very strong opinions about other girls and sex and appearance and actually use the word “trollop” at some point, I’m pretty sure.  This break from anything close to reality while also being somewhat close to real problems (girls feeling pressure, girls being mean to other girls, hard for girls to enter into sexuality, etc…) pretty much sums up the entire show, when characters act in ways that only kinda, sorta make sense.
  • Why does Olivia dress only in white, with an occasional one color accent?  Why is her accent completely unrelated to her back story?  Why does she need those eye drops?  No explanation, except Olivia doesn’t make sense.  I don’t know why, but I’m okay with that for the first part of the show.  Once they tried to explain her, she made even less sense,which again brought me back to “Why does Olivia do anything?”  We just don’t know.
  • Clementine’s line:” Quid pro quo, Clarice” was great.  Kandyse McClure would have made a great Clarice.  Now, why did the writers chose to reference Thomas Harris?  I don’t know, but I did like her delivery of the line.
  • tzulkameenop:  No, that’s not a real word, but pretend it is and it’s Greek, and therefore really important.  Until it’s not.  Actually, I just wanted to tell you a Greek word.  This show is really just a practice for a vocabulary test.
  • Hey, you know what? I’m going to tell you a long story that has some great meaning, all while smoking a cigarette.  If your mind starts to wander, then I’ll totally understand, but just realize that I’m about to say something really important. Keep listening to me as I speak in a monotone voice and smoke, and you should really keep listening to me because I’m telling a story that’s really important.  AHHH! Cut away from the action!
  • Speaking of smoking, is smoking making a comeback?  I thought people had stopped smoking in real life and on TV.
  • Chalk?  They have chalk!  I had a chalkboard once, about 3 years ago, when I was an adjunct.  It was so hard to find real chalk. Yet, these “teenagers,” found it with no problem.  I had to go to a specialty education store, no kidding. I guess Wal-mart would have it, but I can’t see Roman heading over to Wally World.  
  • Hey that cat you love?  The pretty gray one?  Well, get ready.  She’s going to die so Peter can act like a zombie to have a memory.  ‘Cause you know, killing cats is a known way to strike up a memory.  And, the memory he sacrificed the cat for?  Well, it tells him the same thing his mom and whatever Destiny is to him have been telling him: Run away.  So totally worth it. Bye, bye Casper, your death is the only one that made me sad. Next up, bacon grease is irresistible to crazy werewolves.  Why did Roman have to fry up 80 pounds of bacon for about 1 ounce of grease?  Oh, yeah, I forget: there is no why.
  • Destiny is a prostitute/psychic/scam artist/medium with an amazingly nice apartment.  This doesn’t really make sense, but at least she was scantily clad most of the time she was on screen.
  • Peter and Roman saying “Shee-Yit” was totally cringe-inducing.  And, why are Peter and Roman so excited about the baby?
  • Holy shee-yit, this last episode dragged on and on.  If the show had been set up as an explanation of Godfrey family, instead of a crazy werewolf gone bad murder mystery, I might be more willing to not be annoyed by this episode. Peter and Roman have a nice bromance going, until Peter runs away and breaks Roman’s heart.  So, Roman is a vampire/angel/werewolf hunter/brother with telekinetic powers who kills his own mother?  And Olivia dies from her tongue being bitten out?  What?  Okay, again, I have to remember: this show doesn’t make sense.

In all seriousness, I wanted to like this show because I love supernatural stuff.  I also like shows with elements that are nonsense and surrealistic.  Really, in spite of my complaints in this review, I do. I love Twin Peaks and hoped this show would capture some of that surrealism, which I haven’t seen on TV since TP wrapped up.  Surreal does not equal ridiculous though. I was superstoked about Famke Jansen (her accent didn’t bother me the way it did other folks) and Lily Taylor.  I just can’t like this show though.  Here’s why:

The show had horrible things happen, like when Roman raped that girl, but for no reason and with no consequence.  He rapes her, then tells her to forget about it, and then NOTHING happens.  While I realize that this actually represents what happens in real life (seriously, if you want to be depressed, go look at how many rape cases are actually tried, then how many of those result in a conviction.  It’s really low and really depressing), I think the show needed to show Roman at least have some sense of guilt about it.  No, he only feels guilty for insulting some guy in a bar.  All the dead girls in this show (because of sexual activity…cause you know, this is still 1569 and we’re all still Puritans), and this rape scene reinforced the idea that women, especially sexually active ones, are so, so expendable.  I didn’t like my stepdaughter reading Twilight, and I wouldn’t like her to watch this show.  This show reinforced so many awful stereotypes and ideas.  I thought we were moving past some of this, really, but apparently, not in Hemlock Grove.

There were some good things about the show though:

  • Dougray Scott, Bill Skarsgard, and Joel de la Fuente
  • Kandyse McClure. I remember her from Battlestar Galactica, and I still like her.
  • The werewolf explanation.  When it finally came, it was pretty good, though I’m not sure drinking water out of mud is THAT depraved. Also, what librarian knows how to change into a werewolf…?  Oh yeah, this show doesn’t make sense.  I did, really, like the line, “That’s the thing with whispers.  You put a thousand of them together, you get a howl.”
  • Shelly.  She’s a total badass. I will probably watch the next season because of her, even though it pains me to admit it.

I said this about Jamie’s book before and I’ll say it again, if Netflix wants a werewolf show, they should totally buy his book, hire a hot guy, like Bill Skarsgard (seriously, that Skarsgard family did something right to end up with Bill and Alexander) (On second thought, maybe not him.  He’d actually be a better fit for a thinking- zombie-monster or a Jekyll/Hyde character or maybe Dorian Gray.  Or, hey, an actual vampire!  Maybe they’ll put him on True Blood!), or someone, but definitely not the guy who played Peter, and produce that one.  It is fun and interesting, has a plot and makes sense.  This show, meh, not so much.  It just has too much going on while at the same time having nothing go on.  Maybe a better editor for Season 2?  And, writers, someone please be willing to at least look up the word “verisimilitude,” okay? Oh, and hire some women who don’t hate other women to help you write the script.

If you read this, you might also enjoy this real-time review of HG.

Two good songs in the last episode, here for your enjoyment.  Elektrik People “Make Me a Bird” and Perfume Genius “Sister Song.”


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