My husband was away on a business trip, and I was all alone with
the cat. When my husband isn’t around, I take this opportunity to watch TV
that he doesn’t care about, usually reality TV. I was about to binge watch
all the seasons of Top Chef, when I saw an add for Hemlock Grove, a TV
series produced by Eli Roth. I love supernatural things and I really
love Femke Janssen, so I decided to go for it. I found myself watching
both seasons, not because it was a gripping story but mostly because I
was sure that it would get better. It really didn’t.
Hemlock Grove is based off a book by Brian McGreevy, of the same name, and it
is your typical werewolf / vampire buddy TV series. It features a
mega-corporation ruling a small town, Femke Janssen as a mysterious
femme fatale that is obviously a vampire and evil, (but no one
notices) a monster hunter backed by the Roman Catholic
church, (who’s a lesbian!) and gypsies, who are also werewolves. Oy.
I think my main
problem with Hemlock Grove is that it tries to pack as many tropes into
one story as possible, to hit as many subculture groups as possible. I
don’t usually mind this, (Witness her love of Doomsday. -Ed) but Hemlock Grove made me think that McGreevy and the show’s producers think the average person watching this series is an idiot. Here are
some of the more labored points.
You must be a werewolf because you are so hairy.
First of all, as you can see Landon Liboiron is NOT hairy. Shaggy hair and scruff does not make someone hairy. This poor kid, every regular human he meets in town is like, shit son, you hairy. He spends a lot of the show naked, due to transformation and such and he is smooth. Also his name is Peter. Like in Peter and the Wolf. Smooth.
2. Vampires rule the world with sex and head games
The Godfreys who rule this small town in Pennsylvania are clearly weird. At least Mama Godfrey is. The original Godfreys owned a steel mill that provided jobs and a lively-hood. The eldest Godfrey boy meets mysterious lady Oliva (who is…British? I think? Really, Femke needs accent work), falls in love and decides to take all of his knowledge and money running steel mills and turn it to genetic engineering? Cause that’s a thing that happens. So they abandon the steel mill and build, I shit you not, an ivory tower. They call it the Tower.
To sweeten the deal, Olivia is sleeping with the younger Godfrey boy and she keeps killing her children, until she has Roman cause he was born with a cowl or something. When the older Godfrey finally realizes that Oliva is evil she does away with him and the younger Godfrey (who is a psychologist, by the way) suspects nothing. Clearly, it was suicide.
Let’s talk about Roman for a moment. He hasn’t come into his upire-ness because apparently you have to take your own life to become a full upire. (Did I mention they don’t call them vampires? No, they’re “upires.” I kept expecting them to yell “Strike!”) Mama did it by cutting off her tail, or something. Personally I don’t think she should have died from that, but maybe it contained her brain or something. Anyhoo, Roman Godfrey, played by Bill Skarsgård, looks like a vampire, acts like a vampire, and like every heartthrob vampire of the last twenty years, he fears the monster inside of him. He has some crazy mind powers, that allows him to erase the minds of his rape victims. He rapes two women and yet I’m suppose to like him, because he wants to be good. I don’t believe him in the slightest. I think he wants to be friends with Peter simply because it turns him on to see a wolf burst out of a dude and then eat himself.
3. Obvious names are obvious
In addition to Peter the werewolf, McGreevy was incredibly lazy with his names. The gypsy with honest to god psychic powers is named Destiny. The monster hunter is named Chasseur, which is french for hunter. And last but not least, the child brought back from the dead is named Shelly. The head scientist at Godfrey institues is named Dr. Pryce. The girl who thinks she’s been impregnated by an angel is named Letha (greek for forgetfulness). Oh, and in season two Peter gets a job at Templar’s Towing. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other references, but at a certain point I stopped caring. There’s cleverness and just straight up heavy handed-ness. And when he couldn’t come up with a snappy name, he comes up with a name like Dr. Galina Zhelezhnova-Burdukovskaya which I’m sure means something.
4. Sexual encounters of the random kind
|“So I’m totally pregnant, but I want you to be my first.” “Kay”|
The requisite two guys fighting over the same chick rears its ugly head. I hope this story line was in the book, because it came out of nowhere. Roman digs his cousin Letha. He uses his mind powers after he rapes her to make her believe it was an angel and then mind tricks himself to forget what he’s done, I guess. He is super protective over her and gets mopey when Peter starts crushing on her. Then Letha, who starts off being like, “Eww, you’re a hairy gypsy,” all of a sudden switches to, “I want to have so much sex with you. I knew you were the one, etc.” Peter being a good guy, thinking of his friend, resists for all of two seconds and then bangs the crap out of her. Roman takes this really poorly, so he goes out and bangs then mind fucks the high school slut. WHERE ARE THE ADULTS IN THIS TOWN?! Oh they are off having their own sexcapdes. Norman and Oliva can’t get enough of each other, and Chasseur the unnecessary character has a really random sex scene with the psychic gyspy.
Oh yeah, Letha dies at the end of Season 1 and Peter shaves his head in grief? And Roman kills his mom, and then at the start of season two which I think is like maybe a year later, another blond chick walks into their life (apparently she’s been groomed by these bat lizard people to get the baby… it’s only gets weirder) and she proceeds to bang both of them and there is a threesome. Although – I will give them this: the morning after scene between the two guys is gold.
5. The town doesn’t believe in supernatural creatures, but the biggest insult to call someone is “werewolf”
|Because “you smell like the dead” doesn’t roll off the tongue like “werewolf”|
Wait, what? There is no history of supernatural occurrences in this town (excepting Oliva’s creepiness) and no one bats an eyelash as the Frankenstien-ish monster going to high school, yet the children poke fun at each other calling each other werewolves. Also they seem to hate gypsies, for some reason. Also the local bookshop owner has Buffy level knowledge of the supernatural, but clearly doesn’t believe it. After the second death, I feel like the town should go on lockdown. Instead the children are running around having sex.
I guess what I am trying to say here is this: Hemlock Grove wasn’t so bad that I just stopped watching, but it is definitely not good. I watched all the episodes, because I wanted an excuse to knit and I like using TV as background noise. It makes for great background, because you have a 90% chance of randomly looking up and seeing blood, sex, and/or boobies. (New information gained about my wife. – Ed) I think Eli Roth really held back in how gruesome he wanted the show to be because they weren’t sure how much Netflix would allow. No one forced me to watch this show and I definitely don’t recommend it, so if you decide to find out for yourself, just be warned. There’s so much potential for cool stories, but none of them ever happen. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Mae Linh is a Physics and Math teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, who was dragged kicking and screaming into nerdom when she met her husband – and then just kind of stayed. She loves Tyranids and sewing, not necessarily in that order.