Since the first season aired in April of 2013, Hemlock Grove has gained a bit of traction and managed to earn itself a bit of a cult following, despite receiving neutral to negative reviews from critics (much like the book series the show is based on), and despite the times of excessive teenage vampiric and lycanthropic romantic storytelling. But Netlflix proved that they know how to do an original series, even with the horror genre, after Hemlock’s first season received a wider global audience and viewership in its first weekend than House of Cards.
Season 1 Recap
Taking place in Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, Season 1 centers around the gruesome murders of teenage girls and the attempts to solve who or what is responsible by a couple of unlikely friends. First, we have is Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron), a teenage Romani or “gypsy” as he is known by the towns people due to his poor family heritage and their history of never staying in the same place for very long. Early on, rumors start to develop around Peter being a werewolf, and him being responsible for the killings. Though Peter is not responsible, he secretly is a werewolf, along with some of his family. Then we have Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgârd), the son of the wealthiest family in town. Roman is good looking, well-dressed, and seems as if he would not have a minute to spare with someone as low-class as Peter, yet through an odd string of events, the two determine that the killer is in fact a werewolf, and form a pact to find it and kill it. Roman’s mother, Olivia Godfrey (Famke Janssen), is in charge of the Godfrey Institute (until Roman comes of age), a biomedical testing facility and one of the primary sources of employment in Hemlock Grove. The Godfrey Institute is rumored to be up to illegal testings and sinister business practices, which is true, and the reason behind most of the town hating the Godfrey family. The Godfrey family too has a dark secret, one that reveals later on through a string of unusual occurrences like Roman being able to hypnotize people through making eye contact and his obsession with blood (cue chilling music).
After Roman is consumed by his vampirism (finally, Jesus Christ), things get more interesting with him as he attacks civilians and even the pimp of one of his favorite prostitutes. Though one thing to say about this, it was interesting how season 1 set up that he could be a vampire without really going into too many details about it until the very end. I found that by doing this, I ended up getting bored waiting for the reveal since it took so long, rather than getting anxious. Though when it finally did happen, it made season 2 reasonably more entertaining.
The plot of the second season deviates heavily away from the first, with falling outs from Roman and Peter and the rebuilding of their friendship, to the protagonist(s) they must face this time, in addition to a variety of other subplots between Roman’s and Peter’s parents. This time around, young children are being hunted by a group in white masks, claiming to have evangelical purpose as their driving motivation and God on their side. Peter and Roman begin to share dreams creating clues they must decipher and unravel before it gets too late. Roman is sickened by what he has become and can no longer stand it, seeking the help of Dr Pryce, a medical physician and scientist at the Godfrey Institute with an obscure and sinister agenda. Roman is rather reluctant to ask Dr Pryce perhaps, as the two are always combative due to their mutual history with one another, but due to Dr Pryce’s experiments, Roman believes he can be cured of his vampirism. Meanwhile, the group behind the child killings targets someone close to Roman and Peter.
With season 2 available in its entirety for stream on Netflix since July 11, we were able to get through all 10 episodes relatively quickly. The second season was able to benefit from the cliffhanger of the first, so the action kicked right in on the get go especially with how drawn out and underwhelming season 1 felt at times. The werewolf transformations were arguably among the more gruesome scenes in the series, and series producer, Eli Roth made sure to deliver more on that front. The music, as unnoticeable as that can be, changed dramatically as well, and was a pleasant addition to keep the pace racing during high-tension moments.
While I rather enjoyed the acting of Skarsgârd and Liboiron, some of the dialogue seemed absurd beyond comprehension, and the facial expressions the director felt the need to implement in serious moments were occasionally laughable and hard to believe made the final cut. Some of the visual effects were better than others, and the story had potential to be something you may find yourself sharing amongst coworkers at the water cooler, yet I find myself indifferent having gotten through both seasons in a matter of 2 weeks. While unimpressed, it held merit in entertainment value and unique character building, but a storyline that never fully convinced me. Season 2 ends with another cliffhanger almost guaranteeing a third season, which I am likely to watch, if I don’t forget this series exists.
If you are looking for a decent horror/thriller title to get involved in, and happen to be a Netflix subscriber, you may find something to enjoy of Hemlock Grove. But with all the great shows out on Netflix and Hulu, this is one that could easily go unnoticed without missing out on much.
Hemlock Grove is a Netflix original series based on a series of books by Brian McGreedy. The show stars Bill Skarsgârd, Landon Liboiron, and Famke Janssen. The first episode was directed by Eli Roth, with both seasons produced by Roth and written by Brian McGreedy.