Like a Wet Dog Lost in a Sunless Maze, So Goes "Hemlock Grove"
I should probably preface this by saying that if you've been waiting to watch Netflix's latest exclusive show "Hemlock Grove," and want to go into it completely blind, then you should proceed at your own risk. I'm not going to say that I'll be discussing spoilers, because that would require me to know what in the sweet hell is going on, and even though I'm seven episodes in at this point, I have no clue. But I will be discussing plot points that they seem to have dribbled out slowly in the hopes that it'll keep the audience interested, and there's so little actual plot to keep you interested in this show that those little points are really the only hook the show has to offer. So now that we've gotten that out of the way ...
Don't watch "Hemlock Grove." Please don't. It's so incredibly bad and needlessly convoluted that your time is better off spent reorganizing your DVD collection or searching for the matches to all your missing socks. I can see where producer Eli Roth was going when his gory little brain birthed this genre mishmash and would be willing to bet his pitch included the words "Twilight" and "Twin Peaks." While "Hemlock Grove" is a spiritual successor to both, it has none of the plotting that carried viewers over the rough patches in either.
The series revolves around two guys, Roman (played by Bill Skarsgård, son to Stellan and brother to Sookie sucker Alexander) and Peter (played by Landon Liboiron, he of terrible Terra Nova "fame"), as they try and solve a particularly gruesome murder. (It is Eli Roth after all, so the violence is uncomfortable at best. A lingering shot on a dead girl's face while something munches on her entrails just out of view is standard fare.)
Roman is a sunken-eyed and sallow-skinned misanthrope who despises his family fortune almost as much as the girls that he creepily screws while staring at himself in the mirror. Bill Skarsgård seems to think that walking into every room and reacting like someone just farted is an effective way to convey angst, but really, it makes you want to punch Roman in his stupid vitamin D-deficient face. Life is so tough isn't it, Roman? It must really suck to have a mother (played by the only bright spot in this ordeal, Famke Jannsen) who doesn't age and is dangerously attractive, be super stupid rich, relatively good looking and have what appears to be no real responsibilities. Also, he and mommy are most likely vampires. He can make people do what he wants by creepily staring at them and enjoys the taste of his own blood. Usually in mid coitus. The writers haven't come out and said it yet, but they've been clumsily hinting at it and winking relentlessly.
Peter, it's revealed early on, is a modern day Gypsy and also a werewolf. Liboiron is a slightly better actor than Skarsgård here and has managed, so far, to do a better job at being conflicted without just mashing all the buttons labeled "asshole" and hoping for the best. Since he's a Gypsy, though, he's required to look exactly like you think a Gypsy should look. His hair is long and unwashed. His beard is that magical disgusting length where it's not long enough to belong on a lumberjack and too short to qualify as GQ stubble. His wardrobe makes him look like a mid-'70s jam band festival attendee, full of shirts that can't button up high enough, ratty-looking vests and bangly accessories that you just know were in a shoebox labeled "discount" right next to the patchouli selection when he bought them. Or stole them. Who knows. He's a Gypsy and I want to punch him with soap.
All of the aforementioned stumbles, however, I could probably forgive if only the plot provided enough meat to keep me interested. Like I said, I'm seven episodes in at this point and still have no clue what the hell is going on. I've got the broad strokes and have a general sense of where we're headed, but that's really it. Something out there is killing young attractive women, and by "killing" I mean chewing them to bits and leaving the hunks in convenient places for people to find. It might also be painting with the victim's blood. Peter and Roman are trying to figure out who it is, because ... actually I don't know why. Peter is helping, I think, because there's a rumor going around that he's a werewolf (which started because he told someone he was a werewolf) and he's concerned he'll end up getting blamed. I bet he smells like wet dog, too, so that's probably a dead giveaway. Roman is helping him for reasons unclear to me. Maybe he has vampire reasons? Honestly, I don't really care. I'm painting with the widest brush available because the story is revealed so slowly that it's difficult to keep track of, not because it's too convoluted but because by the time they get to the next actual plot reveal you've forgotten the significance of the last one. I tried and tried to unpack this show's plot in a more interesting manner, but it defies explanation. I'm going to just list some other shit they've got going on to try and give you a sense of what other nuts they've mixed into their crazy cake. Ready?
There's vampires, and werewolves, and possibly an angel baby. Kandsye McClure (Dualla from "Battlestar Galactica") plays a Catholic monster assassin. Her cover is as a Fish and Game officer. Famke doesn't age. She's also sleeping with the owner of a pharmaceutical company that built a huge ass skyscraper in the middle of a small town, and she used to be married to the same dude's brother but he shot himself because of reasons. There's a weird maybe-incestual thing happening between Roman and his cousin, who may be pregnant with the angel baby. Roman's sister died as a child, was brought back to life by the creepy pharma company and now as a teen is 7 feet tall, has a googly eye and glows when she has feels. There's some weird recurring symbolism of a snake eating its own tail. In episode six, because Eli Roth hates women, Roman simultaneously forces himself on a girl and stares at himself in the mirror all while insisting the poor girl call him ugly. Also, someone may or may not have "a dragon in them" and at least one person claims to have "seen the dragon." That's just the beginning. I'm leaving LOTS out. Yeah. That feeling you have in the back of your head? That "what the HELL did I just read?" That's what it feels like watching this show.
Up until now I've been telling everyone -- friends, family and coworkers alike -- that "I'm only watching it because my wife is making me." It seemed like a good excuse, but it isn't strictly true. My wife would never actually "make me" do anything. Although I've been vocally protesting when she turns it on at night, I don't leave the room. At this point, I can't turn away. I know it's bad, I know I'm going to be let down, but the show is a fever I can't shake. Please don't misunderstand; this isn't a "good-bad" show. It's firmly in the "bad-bad" column. If you want to watch a fantasy or fairy tale show, watch "Grimm" instead. I don't think anyone should watch "Hemlock Grove," much less finish it, but I'm probably going to do both.