This past Friday, April 19, Netflix debuted a new original series called Hemlock Grove. The beauty of Netflix original series is that once they air, viewers are able to watch the entire season. So on Friday night I watched the first 2 episodes followed up by 2 more Saturday morning and another 3 Saturday evening. I saw another 3 episodes on Sunday, 1 yesterday (Monday), and I finally finished the season’s last 2 episodes today.
Another one of the great features of a program being on Netflix is the ability to watch it anywhere. I streamed 2 episodes on my phone while at work and watched the rest on my Blu-ray player at home. If I wanted to I could have watched from any computer I was close to but that was never a necessity.
By way of brief summary, the show takes place in a fictitious Pennsylvania town called Hemlock Grove where a series of grizzly murders begin to transpire. We quickly learn that the killer is a sick werewolf but we spend the season wondering exactly who the werewolf is. We know that it’s not the protagonist Peter Rumancek, the half-gypsy werewolf who just moved into town with his mother Lynda. Peter makes fast friends with Roman Godfrey, the rich kid whose family basically owns the town. There’s something definitely off about Roman as evident in a weird penchant for blood and his Jedi-like skills of persuasion. His mother Olivia appears to be evil incarnate and everyone seems to stay clear of messing with her. Did I mention that Roman’s sister Shelley is a reanimated corpse that glows when touched? Well, she is.
So without giving too much away I’ll say this: This was a weird series. It raised tons of questions and made us wait for answers. When we finally find out who the killer werewolf is it ends up being anticlimactic and unsatisfying. It’s strange that we find this out at the end of episode 12 and then it’s resolved at the beginning of episode 13. The viewer is left feeling disappointed and wondering what could possibly be next. Well, what follows makes it all worth it. Peter and Roman always seemed like a strange pair and once Olivia allows Roman to remember (she has the same power of persuasion that he does and apparently hypnotized him into forgetting a whole bunch of stuff until his 18th birthday) we get the payoff. Now it makes sense why Lynda and her cousin Destiny told Peter to stay away from the Godfreys. Peter, Lynda, and Destiny all know what Roman is before he does but the viewer has no idea what they’re talking about when they call him by whatever name it is that they call him.
Plenty more happens on the show and I’m leaving so much out but this isn’t a formal review or summary. Just a sketch of what I feel are the most important things. With that said, there’s plenty to dislike about this series. I thought it would have been much better from the trailers I watched in the weeks leading up to its debut. One thing that irked me was the random sex scenes that didn’t add to the story or really make any sense in the shows metanarrative. The acting was also uneven. Sometimes the performances were fantastic and other times mediocre.
The dialogue is hindered by unbelievable accents. Bill Skarsgård plays Roman Godfrey and whenever he gets upset or has to raise his voice (which is quite often) his natural Swedish accent gets the better of him. Famke Janssen, a native of the Netherlands, on the other hand, has a perfect American accent. The only problem is that she puts on a fake British accent for this series and it sounds rather ridiculous. Dougray Scott plays Roman’s uncle Norman, and he’s stoic and monotone throughout the series but we can tell it’s because he’s hiding a Scottish accent.
Like I said, I was willing to put up with the weird pacing and plot twists because in the end, I thought the reveal was good enough to warrant it, but in truth, I don’t know that I could handle another season like this. They’d definitely have to make some changes if they want to compete with other supernatural thrillers. I’ve yet to rate it on Netflix but I’ll probably give it 3 out of 5 stars.