Like a Wet Dog Lost in a Sunless Maze, So Goes "Hemlock Grove"

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Like a Wet Dog Lost in a Sunless Maze, So Goes "Hemlock Grove"

By Mike Roorda | TV Reviews | May 3, 2013 | Comments ()


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.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • tracey8051

    I watched the entire show while I crocheted some scarves. I kept thinking it would get better at some point. Turns out the last fifteen minutes or so were worse than the entire show put together. At least I have a new scarf.

  • SabrinaHatesDisqus

    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.

    You... You make it sound as if those aren't incredibly worthwhile ventures in which I will spend my Sunday morning engaging.

  • KatSings

    I watched the first episode and two things stayed with me - 1. Pity for Dougray Scott, who I now want to watch on loop in Ever After to wash that taste out of my mouth. 2. WHAT THE FUCK IS FAMKE'S ACCENT SUPPOSED TO BE? Seriously. It's like Joey Tribiani doing accents levels of bad and every time she opens her beautiful mouth, I'm taken right out of whatever crazy stupid shit is happening to yell "WHY ARE YOU TALKING LIKE THAT- STAHP!" because I cannot handle it.

  • Ariel

    It's based on a book! Also called "Hemlock Grove"! As in, Eli Roth didn't come up with all that ridiculousness, it's all actually IN THE BOOK! Which I read because I love monsters and horror and mashups, but DEAR GOD actually bringing myself to finish the book was painful. I'm sorry to hear the show didn't take what was probably a cool idea done wrong and make any sense from it.

  • hickoryduck

    Well the writer of the book wrote the show, so.....

  • Ariel

    There ya go...

  • Lee

    I love campy gore but this was so painful to get through. I hate watched most of the episodes. Thank god Netflix launched House of Cards first or I'd have no faith in their original (sorta) programming.

  • "Roman is a sunken-eyed and sallow-skinned misanthrope who despises his family fortune..." Rich people who hate being rich are the worst and laziest characters. I don't know why screenwriters do this. It doesn't make them more relatable to "regular" people because A) I've never met a rich person who hated being rich, and B) if I had a 'family fortune' you sure as fuck better believe I would enjoy the ever living hell out of it and you know you would too.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    I watched the entire season over two or three days. I WAS OBSESSED. I still have no idea what the hell was happening most of the time and it was definitely a guilty, guilty pleasure.

  • mats19

    I'm with you on this. I watched all of it have NO Idea what's actually going on but at the same liime it was the guiltiest of pleasures... what got me the whole time though was they kept talking about how hairy werewolf boy was , when in reality he literally had no hair on his body which made it really awkward when they used the word hirsute in an actual sentence to describe him.

    But honestly if you like shitty things it's atleast a pretty shitty thing to watch. I'd rather spend time with this then watching ANOTHER rerun of law and order svu.

  • KSPaula

    seriously - so bad - and I'll watch almost anything if I'm bored enough - I mean I watched an entire foreign french movie, thinking eventually it will have sub-titles pop up (which never did!) - this was brutal - and the finale was indescribably WTF?! in caps

  • DataAngel

    The book isn't a whole lot more understandable.

    I'm watching it. I hate it. It's stupid and they're all phoning it in (oh, Dougray Scott, what has become of you?!) but it's like a traffic accident.

  • Homestar

    I couldn't finish the first episode, it was so dumb. I was still a bit tempted, but this review killed that.

    However, what I want to address is this sentence:
    "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."

    Do you mean "too long to qualify as GQ stubble"? I think that's what you mean. If not, I can't figure it out.

  • RilesSD

    I couldn't finish the first ep either. Lost interest about 15 minutes in. i may get back to it after House of Cards, Mad Men, Lilyhammer, Girls, Veep...

    Ok, maybe I won't get back to Hemlock.

  • MikeRoorda

    You nailed it. That's exactly what I was going for. Too short for a lumberjack, too long for a male model. I should have just said he has Keanu-esque facial hair. Gross at any length.

  • Homestar

    Good! I'm not crazy. I agree, that gypsy/werewolf's facial hair is gross. That contributed to my not being able to finish the first episode, I think.

  • Siege

    Is it just me, or is one of Bill Sarsgaard's eyes not entirely in tune with the other one?

  • Bea Pants

    The werewolf transformation scene was pretty cool. Otherwise I spent most of the episode going "Wait. What's up?" I gave up after the fourth episode when I literally had no idea what developments had taken place during the last hour.

  • Wednesday

    My teenager started watching it last weekend so I saw probably a bit more than half of the first episode. There may as well have been out-of-sync subtitles that straight-up TOLD you what was about to happen, the foreshadowing was that obvious.

    She finished the first episode and deleted it from the Netflix queue. And this kid will watch just about any horror movie or show that's out there for the camp value.

  • Mrs. Julien


    (I just wanted to be sure you knew you had gotten the reaction you were going for with the header photo. Also, he seems furry.)

  • MikeRoorda

    This is a constant source of "comic relief" on the show as well. "Man. You are HAIRY. You're not a werewolf are you?" Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

    Actually. After 40 minutes of sour stares and the least titillating sex scenes ever it *may* have gotten a smile out of me.

  • Good review of a terrible show. Seriously, however bad you think it is after reading this take, it's worse. Much worse. It's as awful as anything delivered by the networks in the last five years, easy.

  • Lindsey Gregory

    Blush...yer doin it wrong.

  • Lindsey Gregory

    LOL. The screen cap looks like it was made using that The Walking Dead Yourself Facebook app.

  • AudioSuede

    My wife loves a lot of silly things. She watches every Law & Order spinoff religiously. Her favorite movie is Home Alone. She keeps trying to get me to watch Under the Tuscan Sun unironically. She likes to watch Supernatural to wake up in the morning (but REFUSES to watch Buffy, because she's terrible sometimes). Her celebrity crush is Vincent D'onofrio.

    But of all the things I've ever seen her watch, Hemlock Grove is by far the worst. Thank god it's only one season. Pray there's never any more.

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