Roman Godfrey – Rich and Vaguely Jay Gatsby-ish. Roman might have been a very interesting character, a character who very obviously had Something Going On with him and could have had a hell of an arc as he discovered it, but the execution was awful. Played by Bill Skarsgård, during the course of this review(ish), we will call him The Littlest Skarsgård.
Peter Rumancek – A drifter Roma who is also a werewolf. Peter is a walking gypsy stereotype, which may have been intended to be ironic or to make a very pointed statement about prejudice, but never quite came off that way. Instead it was horribly offensive, especially given the fact that his being Roma is frequently used as a plot device and not because he was, you know, just Roma. His mom and cousin are badass though, despite also being walking stereotypes. I frequently refer to Peter as Greasy Wolf Boy (GWB).
Greasy Wolf Boy and Littlest Skarsgård are both set up to be a brotp and an otp. Seriously there is SO MUCH SEXUAL TENSION BETWEEN THESE TWO. It’s simultaneously adorable and frustrating because JUST KISS ALREADY. SHIT.
Olivia Godfrey – Roman’s batshit crazy mother with a vaguely British accent. Maybe. No one really knows what it’s supposed to be honestly and I like to believe that was done on purpose. To suggest that this is a character who is not entirely human but trying to be. I basically need to believe this because otherwise I’ll give up on everything ever. Played by Famke Janssen, she is known mostly as Maybe British Jean Grey (MBJG) in Chez Wyllys.
Norman Godfrey – Uncle/father to Roman, father to Letha, husband to some woman whose name was never important. Norman always looks somewhat disheveled and sweaty. I’m not sure if this was an intentional or if actor Dougray Scott was physically ill being on set. Or maybe it was because he was always hate-humping Maybe British Jean Grey.
Letha Godfrey – Roman’s cousin/Norman’s daughter. Letha supposedly gets pregnant by an angel through immaculate conception. Throughout the course of the season you get the impression that Roman might want to have sex with her despite the fact they’re first cousins/possibly half-brother and sister. I’m never sure about this but there’s definitely a level of squick going on. She’s ridiculously pretty, though has all the personality of a wet blanket. Pretty sure that was intentional. I sometimes like to call Letha “Virgin Mary”.
Shelley Godfrey – Roman’s hulking giant cyborg glowing sister who is reminiscent of a Frankenstein creation, hence the name Shelley, which still pisses me off. Shelley is my favorite character. At the beginning of the show, I called her Quasi-borg, but then I realized that was mean and awful.* Also I love Shelley. So instead I started calling her Glowworm, which is used as a term of endearment in the show. Because she does actually glow.
I DONT KNOW, GUYS. HEMLOCK GROVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY JUST KIDDING.
*Edit: To quote Erica Monroe: “YOU REALIZED IT WAS MEAN AND AWFUL THANKS TO YOUR DEAR, REALLY SMART FRIEND ERICA. You made me sit through this. I DESERVE A MENTION, MAN.”
Lynda Rumancek – Played by Lili Taylor. I love her and I wish this show just followed Lynda as she went through life being ridiculously chill and badass. Lynda deals Special Gypsy drugs to Olivia for reasons I’m unsure of. They’re like eye drops and had this show not have been so horrifying that probably would have squicked me more than it did. Lynda is the best and most awesome, likable character and Lili plays her flawlessly so of course we never see nearly enough of her.
Christina – A novelist who I really really wanted to like but of course I couldn’t because this show hates women. I think I called her Novelist Chick most of the time until her hair started turning white and it became obvious she knew more about What Was Going On With The Dead Girls. Then she was known as Batshit for reasons I will also get into later.
There was a ton of other characters as well, some more important than others, but these are who we’ll be talking about the most.
NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING WRONG IN HEMLOCK GROVE: THE SHOW THAT DESPERATELY WANTS TO BE TRUE BLOOD BUT NEVER QUITE PULLS IT OFF:
1. Misogyny. Misogyny everywhere.
Bitches, skanks, whores, and oh. “Farm fresh cunt.” FARM FRESH CUNT. This an actual term that is used. This is a thing that happens. “She’s a farm fresh cunt.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? And this came from both sides. Men, women, boys, girls. Everybody went around ripping apart women for no other reason than to rip apart women. Look, I haven’t read the source material so I’m not saying or even implying the show writers hate women, and maybe the blatant misogyny is done to make a point. I haven’t ruled this out. Because the alternative is this is Hemlock’s production team’s idea of edgy and hip. HATING VAGINAS. IT’S THE COOL THING TO DO, KIDS.
Except no. No it’s not. Don’t do that, kids. Do the opposite of that.
2. Slut-shaming. SO MUCH SLUT SHAMING.
The Littlest Skarsgård was, let’s face it, a RAGING MANWHORE. SEX EVERYWHERE WITH EVERYONE. At one point I actually described it as, “Everybody fucking everybody and Roman fucking everything for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.” This was presented as is. Littlest Skarsgård has weird sex because Littlest Skarsgård is super cool as well as being slightly unstable. However, every single female who had sex and enjoyed it was either awful or died and it was obvious we were being encouraged to think they were awful and/or should die. GIRLS WHO LIKE SEX ARE GROSS, GUYS.
To be fair, there were two exceptions to this. One was Greasy Wolf Boy’s cousin Destiny who was an actual prostitute and completely awesome, and once Norman had, like, a two second talk with Virgin Mary Letha that was actually refreshing to see. “Check this. Sex is pretty awesome.” But aside from that? The women in Hemlock Grove use sex as either a manipulative tool (Maybe British Jean Grey) or as a way to signal, “this chick is no good.” This became such a theme that as soon as Virgin Mary had sex with Greasy Wolf, I just knew she was not made long for this world. Because if there’s one thing for certain in the town of Hemlock, it’s that if you have a vagina and enjoy sex, you will most likely die*. Pinky promise.
*I realize this is a common theme in slasher films of yore, for the record. It’s just disheartening to see it in this day and age.
3. RAPE. RAPE HAPPENS.
Everyone talks about The Big One and I can understand why because it’s pretty massive and shocking. But very few, that I’ve found in my limited googling, anyway, talk about the rape scene that disturbed me the most.
The Littlest Skarsgård rapes a girl he goes to school with. It starts out as consensual, but quickly turns into school girl (Google tells me her name is Ashley which I literally did not know until I Googled because she liked sex so I wasn’t supposed to know) saying no. Repeatedly and forcefully. She wants untied. She is no longer cool with this. And Littlest Skarsgård proceeds to… have a psychotic break? Decides he DGAF about silly little things like consent? IS A HORRIBLE HUMAN BEING YES LET’S GO WITH THAT, and rape her. Look, I am not a girl who gets triggered easily, but my stomach was sick during this scene. At this point, I was just level 130 Done With This Kid. There was absolutely no way, in my mind, his character could be redeemed. And guess what? HE WASN’T. He mind-voodoos Ashley, because he can do this, and then, later, when he falls into a coma she actually gives Virgin Mary Letha a get well card for him and makes a comment about being “an awful bitch” the last time they saw each other. She thinks it was at a dance where she called him a sociopath (which he is) but the viewers know it’s actually THE TIME HE RAPED HER. You get the sense that this was an attempt at saying, “Hey, look. Don’t worry about this thing because she’s not even mad! SHE FEELS BAD.” No. Fuck that awful horrible noise. THAT IS AWFUL AND HORRIBLE. Rape culture. It’s a very real thing and this is a shining example of it.
4. RAPE HAPPENS AGAIN.
The Littlest Skarsgård doesn’t just rape Ashley. You find out, at the end, he ALSO raped sweet Virgin Mary cousin Letha with whom, if you recall from the roll call, he had uncomfortable sexual chemistry with before she started humping Greasy Wolf Boy. This rape was possibly orchestrated by Maybe British Jean Grey, who Jedi-mindtricked Littlest Skarsgård, because, remember? Sex as a weapon and all that. Awwww, poor Littlest Skarsgård, we’re supposed to think, right? Because he is a victim here too! He raped his cousin-sister under his maybe British mother’s influence. THAT IS SO SAD.
Except no. It’s not. Because Littlest Skarsgård has already proven before he is a rapist and, to be completely honest, given this knowledge, I couldn’t say for certain it was orchestrated by MBJG. Maybe she just locked those memories down and, in the climax of the season finale, made him recall. I can’t say for certain because he’s been established as a rapist. Either way, I DONT FEEL BAD FOR HIM.
(Worth noting: Virgin Mary Letha had consensual sex with Greasy Wolf Boy so of course she dies in childbirth. From a hemorrhage. In a state of the art hospital, in an OB wing basically built for her. Yes. This makes perfect sense. Absolutely.)
5. Awful horrible language.
No. I’m not talking about the fucks, shits, and damns. I’m not even talking about the cunts this time. What I’m referring to is the horribly offensive language this show routinely used. Two that jumped out at me the most? “Retard” and “Faggot.” I stopped counting at one point and threw my hands up because these words were just being thrown around like it was nothing and for no real damn reason. “Hahahaha. But that’s how kids talk!” NO, NOT-DAWSON’S CREEK. KIDS TALK THAT WAY BECAUSE WE LET THEM THINK IT’S OKAY TO WITH SHIT LIKE THIS. Get out of here. Go sit in a corner. Don’t even look at me.
Shelley’s character was my favorite, despite the ham-fisted Frankenstein reference, which pissed me off because I’m neurotic when I made the connection (to be fair, it’s pretty slick.) Shelley was brought back from the dead by the town’s resident crazy scientist doctor. Shelley was, by most definitions, a monster by outward appearances. Shelley was also hands down the best character on this show, second only to Awesome Lynda. So, of course at the end, the entire mystery is pinned on her by the people she loves the most in life. Because she’s a monster and therefore able to be collateral damage without losing much. The only one I feel like had any regret about this at all was Littlest Skarsgård who, for all of his awfulness, loved Shelley unconditionally. But even still, he quickly accepted blaming his sister for the murders, because “that’s what Shelley would want after she’s been shot and ran away.”
Fucking piece of shit ableists.
7. I have no idea what was actually happening at any point.
Growing up, my grandma would sometimes tell me, “If you moved any slower, you’d be going backwards.” Other favorites included, “as slow as a snail in molasses” and something about a herd of cows or elephants in quicksand or something. Basically, what I’m getting at here is, I feel like somewhat of an expert on slow. And when I say this story was slow, I mean it was slow. Looking back, I can’t tell you what exactly happened at any point. I mean, things happened, sure, but, on a whole, it was so full, so bloated, so much was utterly pointless, I dont know what actually happened.
At one point, I thought about doing a sort of live-blog. I don’t know why. I gave this up when, for the first major portion of this season, I kept writing, “what is this? What is even happening? Why is this important?” It was just random dialogue and random actions and random everything that served no purpose than to fill minutes. It did nothing for the story. I think, honestly, five episodes tops and it could have been told in a somewhat decent manner. There would have actually been a sense of the plot moving forward. Instead most episodes felt stagnant. The plot was never really pushed forward so much as it wandered aimlessly toward the season conclusion. You always got a sense that something was going to happen, so you kept watching, but eventually that feeling turned into, “something has to happen and now I’m committed.” Hemlock Grove does have an addicting quality to it, a something that makes you hit NEXT but now that I’m away from it I realize that something is simply “come on. There’s gotta be a pay off eventually.”
I keep hearing that this Netflix original series model is the new future of TV watching. I have to say, if Hemlock Grove is an indication of that, I’m seriously considering burning the world to keep the future at bay.
8. Christina the Batshit Crazy Novelist.
Fucking a, I wanted to like Christina. I was so prepared and ready to like Christina. A novelist! Quiet and nerdy! YES. I knew, somehow, she was going to end up being pivotal to the story. What was supposed to happen, I think, was for her character, her actual role in this gore-stained mystery, to be this massive plot twist. “What? No! It was Christina all along? GET OUT.” Except I knew it. A few episodes from the end (honestly they all blur together now), I went, “She’s the fucking crazy wolf killing these girls.” They established pretty fucking early that Greasy Wolf Boy was Not It. Only one other person had been running around talking the entire time talking about werewolves, and that person is in a mental hospital with hair turning progressively whiter after every attack. There was no guesswork.
Also, can I just say, the reason she went after the girls she did, the “whores and skanks,” could have been done really well. There could have been a really interesting reason behind it. Maybe she came from an uber-religious family who shamed any idea of sexuality. Maybe she was made to feel like being a female was equivalent to being a temptress. Maybe she was forcefed all this daughter of Eve rhetoric and was mentally ill so upon becoming older and being faced with her own hormones, turning into this wolf, she committed these heinous acts. But instead of something like that, instead of being given a solid reason for it, it just….was? LOL PROBABLY CAUSE SHE HAD A VAGINA, AMIRITE?
This is why we can’t have nice things.
9. Littlest Skarsgård’s Big Reveal.
As I mentioned in the roll call, it’s very obvious the Littlest Skarsgård has Something Going On. He had jedi-mindtricks. He was attracted to blood, so much so that in an early episode he notices a girl in school is on her period and falls her to the bathroom to dine if you get what I’m saying and I think you do. It’s very apparent, and we’re repeatedly beat over the head, that Maybe British Jean cares more about Littlest Skarsgård than she did her daughters who both mysteriously died. He was born in a caul! SHE PRACTICALLY CLAWED A NURSE TO GET HER HANDS ON HIM WHEN SHE SAW! We know. We know there’s something. The boy ain’t entirely right and there’s so many interesting things I wanted it to be.
He’s a vampire. Of course he is. And we find out in the final episode, at the climax, probably 10 episodes later than was entirely necessary.
10. Lazy storytelling.
This ties in with number 7, but deserves highlighted in its own. Storytelling is hard, guys. It’s really hard. There’s all kinds of rules you have to remember, whether you’re telling a story via movie, TV, a play, a novel, orally. Sometimes you have to leave some shit out in order to tell it the best way you can. You have to show vs. tell. You have to pick an angle you’re gonna tell this story from. You gotta keep the plot moving forward. There’s a lot to keep in mind! The problem with Hemlock Grove’s brand of story telling is they did none of these things. As I mentioned in number 7, the plot kinda hangs in one place, maybe taking a step or two forward only to do the Cha Cha Slide. There’s so much telling. So much telling. More telling than is acceptable in a TV show with the ability to easily show. I’m gonna use Greasy Wolf’s cat for example. During one of the last episodes, GWB has to make a sacrifice in order to learn how to change to a werewolf on the wrong moon to fight Sick Christina Wolf. This is the death of his cat Awesome Lynda, maybe 15 minutes before, tells Littlest Skarsgård GWB loves. Like, that’s it. 11 episodes and I never actually see proof that Greasy Wolf loves this cat. I barely even remember the cat. Instead, Awesome Lynda tells Littlest Skarsgård, and by proxy, us, and then 15ish minutes later we’re supposed to feel something other than general disgust when Greasy sacrifices Beloved Cat. That doesn’t work, guys. We need shown. You have to show us.
Hemlock Grove is based on a book and was adapted for TV. I really badly want to read this book now. It goes without saying that something always gets lost in the adaptation, and the book is always always better. I plan on buying and reading it as soon as humanly possible. Because the frustrating part about it is, I feel like Hemlock could have been golden. There was something definitely there. And I’ve seen others praise the hell out of the book, as well as say Season 2 is infinitely better. I don’t know that I’ll watch S2, but, man, I want to see how much better this works on paper.
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