All 13 episodes were released on April 19, 2013; it was developed by Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman and executive produced by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel – (which totally freaked me out), Hostel II, Endangered Species….). The series is based on the book Hemlock Grove (March 2012) which was written by McGreevy. The show takes place in Pennsylvania, in a town which appears at times like small town America, at others like corporate America….
The cast was an interesting mix of crazy. Some of them I could take or leave, like the sheriff played by Aaron Douglas – it wasn’t the actor – it was the way the role was written and left unfinished. However, the remaining cast was pretty well placed. Famke Janssen played Olivia Godfrey (crreeeepppyy), Bill Skarsgard as Roman Godfrey, Landon Liboiron as Peter Rumancek, Penelope Mitchel as Letha Godfrey, Kandyse McClue as Dr. Clementine Chasseur and Lilli Taylor as Lynda Rumancek. The actors all played their roles – some seemed a bit stiff more than others (may have been the way they were directed or it may have been nerves.)
The following paragraphs contain some – NOT ALL – spoilers. If you are not interested in reading them, please skip to the bottom of this post.
I liked the tone of this series – meaning it was shot more like a foreign film than an American series. It took awhile for the world to open up, but for a first series there was a decent amount of backstory, family angst, violence, suspense, drinking, smoking, drugs and sex – and it was well done, not tacky. It was interesting to watch Peter (vargulf or werewolf – and a 1/2 breed gypsy) predict things he thought would happen (or that he thought Roman was involved in making happen) – for instance his love and relationship with Letha. I was sad to see her die – as I saw her as a dominating female role in a follow-up series. However, we are talking about the supernatural so whose to say they can’t write her back in at a later date. I’m curious to see what they will do with the baby seeing as how there was no resolution in that regard.
I loved Olivia’s character – commanding, cool, swanky; yet so classic and elegant. She really was the ultimate of control and discretion. It took me forever to figure out what she was – I kept crossing off creatures on my supernatural list – I discovered it later in the episodes than I had thought. So that is to the writer’s credit. Although you never saw her actually violent, the way the scenes were filmed left it to an understanding that she was a virile beast – not to be screwed with. The way the backstory for her was implemented could have been done in a smoother way and would have added to the undercurrent of confusion Roman was faced with, until he understood his true nature. Interesting that it was thrown in at the last-minute and really seemed like an afterthought by the writers.
My favorite character was by far a toss-up between Clementine and Roman because they were both in such personal struggle and I kept wanting to say – “the answer is RIGHT there in front of you”. Roman’s struggle to understand he’s an upir (vampire) really was almost like a coming of age. He made some friends along the way – so he was showing his humanity. Although in Clementine’s case the writer’s tipped their had with Olivia’s “little mouse” comment at the Godfrey Steel Mill. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between the Doctor, Roman and Papus will play out. I was left thinking the Papus isn’t who you are led to believe he is (maybe he’s a Baphomet?). The reference he made to Dante was interesting….
The only part which made me truly sad was the loss of Shelly. She was such a great character and a strong moral figure for Roman… …I’m hoping they haven’t written her off all together. If Roman goes off the deep end – Shelly would be the only person to bring him back. It was touching to see Roman’s protection over Shelly and his “love” for his sister.
I will not even discuss the white-haired chick – that was just out of left field and confusing – I’ll leave that one for you to figure out.
The only other thing I will say is I really like the mythical/historical references (i.e. upir, vargulf, magic, gypsy, etc..) however it’s a bit hard to follow the history with a Upir being from Russian history and the Godfrey family seeming to be Romanian – how did that happen? So, if I follow Olivia (Romanian) mated with a gypsy and that’s why she hates them? But wait, Roman’s father is plain American so the Upir gene comes from Olivia? Also, if Peter is a 1/2 breed (according to him 1/2 Romanian gypsy and 1/2 Italian) where did the Were blood come from? Does Peter have a Were/Italian Dad lingering around somewhere because obviously his Mom is gypsy. It’s just a little confusing to follow – and could lead to viewer frustration down the road if they are trying to fill in back story to bring the viewer to present day. Maybe they can clean it up a little – or at the very least they will have to be careful in future writing to not confuse the cultural/mythical/historical reference – otherwise the series will just be a conundrum wrapped in a riddle of idiocy. When writing series like these, the devil (no pun intended) is in the detail. The detail is what makes the viewer say – “oh yeah! now I get it” later down the viewing road.
The show was a bit dreamlike at times, and is not for the wam-bam viewer. This is a thinking persons series, you really have to take the time to pay attention to the details to get the conclusion. The writers may have wanted to do a bit more research on Roman and Slavic Vampire folklore, as there will be some critics in the choices of words and last names they used..
Overall I enjoyed the series, it was a bit scattered at times jumping from plot line to plot line – but that could be because it’s a new series. I’m sure we all remember when the original Twilight movie came out – who would have thought years later they would have gotten better each time and become major contributors to cult culture. I’d be shocked if this series didn’t get picked up by cable. Although Bill Skarsgard would have a little competition on his hands with HBO, since his brother Alexander plays Eric Northman, a pretty serious Vampire Sheriff on True Blood. The two series are so vastly different a viewer could not compare the two. Bill must have gotten some tips from his Dad (Stellan Skarsgard) and his brother because he defiantly had the empathy/creepy/detached at a moments notice vibe going on. Something his Dad and his brother are pretty good at.
Good luck to Hemlock Grove, and I’m hoping to see another season soon. Maybe they can tie up the loose ends of the characters left hanging out there….the question is though, what will Roman do now that he’s “all grown up”? And will his humanity hold – or is it all out game on?