It has taken me a little while, but I have finally gotten through the entire first season of HEMLOCK GROVE. Posting an entire batch of 13 episodes all at once sounds great in theory, but as silly things like ‘real life’ and ‘responsibilities’ take over to filch my time away from the finer things.
I quite enjoyed the first half of the season and equally enjoyed the second half of the season. As previously stated, it’s not the greatest television show in the history of television, but it was darn good with fleeting moments of greatness that totally deserves a second season renewal.
Think of HEMLOCK GROVE collectively as one big 10-ish-hour-long pilot episode. It’s rough around the edges at some points, had a couple of dead ends and made a few really stupid decisions but it was an awful lot of fun and a refreshing departure from many of the recycled ideas that float around out there these days.
To address some of the common complaints from reviewers and the general commenting populace: FAMKE JANSSEN’S British accent is not awful. Actually, I was not distracted with it in the least, as many of the haters out there spew “It’s the worst part of the show!” Untrue. If anything, BILL SKARSGARD’S attempt at shedding his Nordic dialect in favor of “spoiled Americanized teenager” was shaky at best. The second common complaint went something like this: “I’m three episodes in and turned it off… worst show I’ve ever seen.” I would implore people to watch it through to the end unless you are some sort of sitcom junkie or CW fanboy, then stick with what you know best. To address people criticizing the acting quality, I agree that it was uneven at times but was just fine overall being significantly ahead of similar fare offered up by MTV/CW/SYFY.
**Potential spoilers ahead**
The Good: Werewolf transformations all the way. As awesome as they were and understandably not overdone, It could have used another one or two conservatively placed within. The story. They tiptoe a line that could so easily fall off to a TWILIGHT or MTV’s TEEN WOLF or even ARROW in quality, but stay true to their own unique vision. There’s enough going on to keep you interested at several levels, and the addition of some of the side-stories (genetic engineering and Shelley) refuse to make it rehash of similar shows. The cast is spot on with a minor exception or two. The show overall is very stylish with great sets and lots of artistic character. The music fits the mood perfectly.
The Stupid: Peter inviting Roman over for his werewolf transformation. This is probably the one single thing that angered me the most. One would imagine that you keep such things extremely private. Everybody chalks it up to “Peter’s never had a real friend before” and that explanation gets old after a while. Olivia gives Roman a huge/awesome looking axe just to have him fumble and drop it instead of lopping off the villain’s head with it. Along those lines, why did they make Roman such a confused wimp for the first 99% of the season? He clearly knows he’s some sort of non-human so why is he constantly surprised to hear about it? The explanation of the Godfrey family secret (Spoiler alert: They’re vampires. But you knew that already…) happened way too quickly with no real build up to Roman’s “transformation”. They could have peppered it in the last 4 or 5 episodes than cram it in the last 10 minutes of the finale. The dream sequence was too long and convoluted. The character of Clementine Chasseur seemed significantly underutilized to the point of being completely unnecessary. Her back story was pretty cool, but she was supposed to be some awesome werewolf hunter that didn’t kill the werewolf and then was dispatched way too easily by Olivia. There were no real ‘surprises’ as the characters were revealed to be monsters. I would have appreciated a little more of a twist concerning the main villain which I saw coming three episodes beforehand.
The Unanswered: What exactly is Uroboros and why did it frighten Roman so much that he fell into a coma? What happened to Shelley at the end and where did she run off to? Is Olivia dead? Presumably she is, but why kill off the show’s biggest star? And all it takes to kill a vampire is another vampire tearing out their tongue? Why did Letha die when she was under the best medical care available? Dr. Price seemed genuinely upset about it, so we must assume it was not malicious. How about the baby… we see its crib, but are not sure if it turned out like Shelley did. What is the real history between the Godfrey and Rumancek families and why they “hate” each other. *Plot hole alert*… if the Godfreys and Rumanceks really do hate each other as much as they are supposed to, couldn’t the Rumanceks have moved to any other town than Hemlock Grove?
Many parallels can be drawn between HEMLOCK GROVE and TRUE BLOOD, also DARK SHADOWS and TWIN PEAKS to some extent. Don’t expect it to explain everything right away or at all in some cases. There are probably 3-4 seasons of solid material where if they retool a tad and learn from some of their mistakes, HEMLOCK GROVE can quite possibly become one of the can’t-miss shows of NETFLIX’s (hopefully) more frequent exclusive offerings.
B- for the season as a whole, easily made into A material with a little bit of polish on the next go-around.