‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

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Famke Janssen Bill Skarsgard Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

Thanks to Netflix original programming, not only are there more production opportunities, but when a Netflix show is finally ready for public viewing, we’re not forced to wait a week for the next installment and can watch every single episode in a single shot. A nice bonus for folks with little patience – but in the case of the Eli Roth-produced Hemlock Grove, the show might have benefited from the standard release format.

Rather than earn longer legs by enticing audiences to hang on just one more week, a viewer can decide to turn this one off completely after just one two and a half hour viewing – but likely less.

The Roth-directed first episode opens with an introduction to Bill Skarsgård’s Roman Godfrey, by showing off an odd sexual fetish during a quickie in his car. From there, we jump to episode one’s main victim, Brooke Bluebell (Lorenza Izzo), a student at Hemlock Grove High who’s enjoying a little fling with a female teacher. They’re set to meet one night, but before Brooke can get there, she’s viciously attacked and literally torn apart by a mysterious predator.

From the moment Hemlock Grove begins, there’s red flags all over the place. On the technical front, the coloring often doesn’t match, the shot composition isn’t particularly appealing, and the action coverage is entirely disorienting. But, even worse, the first ten minutes are devastatingly poorly formatted. Why open with that strange sexual display that ultimately amounts to nothing, when you could kick things off with more of a bang? Brooke’s death isn’t particularly frightening or original, but her portion of the episode is one of few segments that actually has a somewhat compelling build.

Bill Skarsgard Landon Liboiron Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

Once poor Brooke’s insides are on the outside, Hemlock Grove falls almost entirely flat in an effort to deliver the basics of the show’s main players. Perhaps it’s just that Skarsgård charm, but Roman Godfrey is intriguing enough. He very clearly has inner demons, but also a curious allure and kindness that sets him up as a winning protagonist early on.

The same goes for the show’s other leading man, Landon Liboiron (Terra Nova). His character, Peter Rumancek (the poor guy who goes through that vicious werewolf transformation), first moves to town with his mother to live in the grungy trailer his deceased uncle left behind. With an assist from a notably appealing and real performance from Lili Taylor (The Conjuring) as his mother, Liboiron easily establishes Peter as a good guy with values – but also someone who’s in touch with his darker side. Ultimately, we end up with two leads harboring a unique combination of good and evil, and that’s intriguing enough to want to learn more.

However, beyond Roman and Peter, few characters make much of an impact by the end of the episode. The biggest letdown is Famke Janssen’s (X-Men) Olivia Godfrey. She’s very clearly pinned as one of the show’s main sources of mystery, but the elements of her character that are revealed in round one are either too cryptic to understand, or entirely uninteresting.

Back at school we’ve got Christina Wendall played by Freya Tingley. There’s nothing wrong with Tingley’s performance, but her introductory scene is full of terribly odd banter with Peter. She goes from outright accusing Peter of being a werewolf to judging him for using the word retard. We’ve also got Roman’s sister Shelley stalking the halls of Hemlock High. She’s a ceiling-high specimen with bandaged hands and hair that covers her face – the exact character you’d hope for from a show like Hemlock Grove. Her backstory isn’t particularly well woven into the main narrative, but her sub-plot is the first thing that piques interest in a manner the entire show should.

Bill Skarsgard Penelope Mitchell Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

Olivia, Roman, and Shelley’s extended family also make an appearance in the inaugural episode – but, yet again, their big moment amounts to nothing. The scene wastes time pointing out that Roman’s cousin, Letha (Penelope Mitchell), is nixing sushi in her effort to avoid mercury, when it could be building her character before hurling her into what should have been one of the episode’s more impressive set pieces: a night when Roman and Letha get to enjoy an entire amusement park to themselves. Regardless, the girl’s name is still Letha, so if you can keep yourself from giggling every time a character says her name (it sounds more like Lisa with a lisp), you might get more out of her than us less mature viewers.

It’s only episode one, so all of this thin character development could have been passable had the episode actually had a through line. Remember Brooke Bluebell? We don’t hear another word about her until the tail-end of the episode. And that teacher she was hooking up with? She disappears entirely. Whereas that opening massacre could have functioned as a developing scenario to push the episode forward while introducing the show’s leads, it’s entirely abandoned and what we’re left with is a set of disjointed moments desperately trying to convey the basics, while still being cryptic.

Lili Taylor Landon Liboiron Hemlock Grove ‘Hemlock Grove’ Season Premiere Review – Not Worth A Netflix Binge Watch

The end result is a dull and dreary display that barely scratches the surface of true horror and mystery. In fact, minus the hunk of organs that was Brooke Bluebell, the first episode of Hemlock Grove doesn’t really qualify as horror material at all. It’s more of a deliberately dark soap opera comprised of ominous staring and conversations that never really amount to much. For example, after first meeting Shelley, we get this great opportunity to see what life with the Godfrey family is really like when the trio sits down for dinner. However, in just about three lines of dialogue, Roman announces that there’s a new gypsy kid in town, Olivia throws her fork and calls them filth, and the scene comes to an abrupt end, cutting off before getting to what could, and should have been the most interesting part of the conversation.

Fortunately, throughout episodes two and three, the material does become more engaging – but more so because you’ve been in the world for nearly two and a half hours and not necessarily because the show improves. The narrative details never coalesce to make you feel like you’re finally understanding the Hemlock Grove universe, and the shooting style and shot selection further make the viewer feel like an outsider, as there’s often a very heavy hand on the camera.

But what really puts the stake in Hemlock Grove - more so than anything – is that it’s flat out boring. There are certainly moments that work and they’re very easy to identify because once they come and go, the urge to take a peek at the clock returns, and that sensation certainly doesn’t meld with the Netflix binge-watch release strategy.

All episodes of Hemlock Grove arrive on Netflix on April 19th.

Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.

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TAGS: hemlock grove

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  1. I don’t get why people say the first few episodes are boring- they’re setting the tone for the show (strange/dark/mysterious) and introudcing you to the characters the only way they should be introduced in this type of show- in weird ways that give you odd clues as to their nature.

  2. I thought the Hemlock Grove series was really good. I liked the campy style in which it was done; the nonchalant horror and the outrageous, over-the-top characters — especially Famke’s Olivia Godfrey. The one thing I didn’t care for was how they clumped all the stuff in at the very end about Olivia’s past; this should have been paced throughout the whole series. Hemlock Grove had some kinks that could have been worked out, but over-all, I thought it was pretty awesome, and has great potential for a second season!

  3. Not worth a binge viewing, eh?

    I watched several episodes back to back for the past couple of days while I work on art commissions. I just finished the last episode of season one and I am very, very glad that there is a season 2 coming. Gory, dark, passionate, and very imaginative. I was completely knocked off my seat by the last 2 episodes and the twists therein.

    Looking forward to seeing what Netflix throws at us next!

  4. Just thought i would enlighten the reviewer as to the fact that Litha cutting out mercury did start to open her character. If you had actually watched the whole series before opening an uninformed mouth you would come to find out she was pregnant. Possibly her informing her parents she was cutting out mercury was an effort of a teenage girl to inform her parents she was pregnant.

  5. I’m confused. Are we to believe that both Roman and Peter are high school students? That drink, smoke cigards, impregnant anything with breasts? Really? They all look like they should be in college. Maybe if Eli Roth had made this more about college students than high school I would believe it. I love Famke Janssen, but even she can’t keep me interested. So, she’s the aunt of Roman, but has incentrous thoughts and needs to eat babies? Help. I don’t understand.

    • don’t know what high school you went to, but when i was in high school kids we’re smoking, drinking,’pregnating all the time, the school even had a little playground and daycare program for the students with kids.

  6. Whoever wrote this article, has ZERO taste in movies/television, and has absolutely NO business writing reviews! This show is amazing, and I can not wait for season 2!

  7. I think the person who wrote the original review is a wanna be critic. The entire series was lovely. The casting was well done. I particularly like the torments and burdens and and “gifts” and how each character manifested that in their embodied presence. The acting was good and the dramas unfolding were intriguing. The series was definitely a thriller and the realities and the lessons learned by the characters, were valuable. I particularly like the gypsy mom and the pyschic medicine woman tantrica sister as strong wise womyn. I liked the surprise demon and being tormented trying to figure it out. I loved the sacrifices each had to make. I loved Olivia’s demeaner. I loved hating some characters, like the wherewolf catholic order biatch and grateful for what she did not accomplish in the end and what happened to her, though i appreciated her strong character. I loved
    romans compassion. I was a tad frustrated that Shel had to hide in that hell o fhers and not “come out” but she too was a strong smart woman as you will see. Filled with werewolves, vampires, gypsy psychics, shamyn, tortured beings and more. I am a psychologist, womens studies teacher and director. My partner and I watched the entire series in 3 nights and were proud of Netflix and totally addicted. we stayed up til almost 5am we were so hooked. WE cant wait for more, though it worries me how they could make it as captivating now that most of the cast is dead …thank you netfliX!!!

  8. This review of Hemlock Grove is labeled as “boring”? I’m glad I did not consider this article upon deciding to watch the show. Absolutely awesome and keeps you wanting more. Can not wait for Season 2!

  9. I just don’t get the (forced) “chemistry” between the two main characters. Banded together by their pursuit of a common goal, or something like that, yet they are so incompatible that I can rarely grasp the concept of their “friendship”. In all, most characters were far from likeable (Chausser, Letha(bland and unconventionally naive), Roman (rebel without a clue), Linda (yeah, she’s his mom and all, but she doesn’t add anything meaningful to the story)), the accents were dodgy (Norman (with strong hints of Dougary Scott’s Scottish accents), Olivia (where is she supposed to be from)), and, after a certain point, I sort of got the impression that things just began to happen for no apparent reason and with no plausible explanation behind them ( Linda initially having reservations about the Godfreys, only to throw these out of the window later, a pregnant virgin (in her own eyes at least) randomly deciding to begin a sexual relationship with a guy she has only (barely) known for like a week, the crazy homeless guy, the whole Roman turning into a vampire scene; crying, slitting his wrists and biting his mother, Peter skipping town, the sheriff suddenly turning rogue, Roman smashing the mirror, stopping to buy a rope that served no purpose, Roman waking from his coma just like that, Shelley running away, the ultimate “reveal” of the killer (which, by the way, wasn’t much of a surprise) was disappointing, I could go on and on). Had the potential to be better, but just couldn’t realise it. The highlight for me was watching the werewolf transformation.

    • @Omonu Thank you for voicing all the same issues I had with the show. I couldn’t agree more. Some of the interactions were so forced I lost track of what was happening because all I could think about was that that what they were doing did not make any sense. I will say that the werewolf transformation was the best I’ve seen in any movie or TV show.

  10. I think this show is judged way too harshly way too quickly. There are many, many parts of this show that don’t make sense until the very end. That might be frustrating to many viewers, but the beauty is that they were all released at once. You don’t have to wait a week to watch each episode. They are MEANT to be devoured as quickly as possible, hence the all-at-once release. I think the OP should have been a little bit more patient without writing off many things which were explained throughout the entire show. While people are entitled to their opinion, the way this was written almost makes me feel as though the OP is saying ‘this is my opinion and if it’s not yours, then I think you’re wrong’. This review, all in all, left a bad taste in my mouth.

  11. Here’s the problem with everyone reviewing this show so harshly: it was a novel BEFORE it was a show. The way that Roth adapted the novel to a series is beautiful. He not only takes the characters and literally gives them a perfect personification, the storyline progresses exactly the same way. And for those of you complaining about Olivia: please, please, PLEASE read the novel. Famke played her SPOT. ON. There’s absolutely nothing about this series that’s a let down, unless you’re judging based on Twilight or TV shows that are toned down for cable television. This review actually frustrates me.

  12. Are people liking this series purely based OnThe fact that it’s had a bad review here and they want to seem “edgy”.
    I’m 6 episodes in and I wish I could have the half hour version of events so far instead of the 5 hours I’ve had to put up with. I want to know what the hell is happening in this show. The “creatures” that the show tries to distinguish are dropped and picked up so randomly in the story line that no matter how many times ‘lupia’s’ are mentioned I still feel I’ve learnt nothing about them. The romanzig family is the only one that has been properly introduced and even nearly makes sense.
    The dialogue is so overly cryptic and meaningless, I keep expecting to be like “ohhhh that’s why that character said that”, but instead, half of the cast may as well keep their mouths shut.
    I found this review by googling ‘I don’t understand hemlock grove’ worried I’d missed out on something vital, but I’m pretty sure it’s just preying on the whole ‘supernatural stuff is sexy and twilight kids need another fix’ thing.
    The middle of the series best pick up, I am a fan of properly setting the scene, but this takes the cake, I just want something slightly meaningful to happen and explain a few of the characters backgrounds, even slightly, please!!

    • Or, maybe puerile are looking it, because they watched it, abd it’s freaking amazing!?

      • Sorry… auto correct… People, not puerile, and liking, not looking.

  13. Ash you have to watch the whole series to get it all. Its also an “upir” not “lupia” look up upir on Google and you’ll find out what they are talking about.

  14. Couldn’t agree more. This show is so terribly written and directed. It reminds me of something I would have written in the 4th grade. Characters are developed terribly and things happen randomly without explication or reason. The story completely follows my 4 year olds logic chain. There is none. If you think this show is great then you must be a fan of horrible D movie zombie flicks from the 70′s and 80′s. In TV and movies things need to tie together and have a point. Half way through the entire season I started to want to watch in antisipaion that maybe the storyline would develope and all that seemingly wasted film I was forced to watch would start to tie together somehow. I just finished the season and to my disappointment it didn’t. Things that need to be developed aren’t and most of the show was a complete waste of time for plot and character development. It seems that Netflix hired the writers and director on the cheap. Its truly a terribly written show. I’m in awe how anyone “loves” it. If you love this then HBO’s “True Blood” will give you an orgasm to watch. Watch and compare the two then tell me hemlock doesn’t need new writers and a new director.

  15. I really liked Hemlock Grove. It was corny, sexy, creepy, intriguing, and somewhat poetic, all at the same time. Finally werewolves who actually like being werewolves instead of complaining about said fact (ahem, Jacob Black). The plot has a couple holes but isn’t that what the next season’s for? Filling in the blanks? maybe the acting was awkward or dramatic and the dialogue could be a bit goofy but I feel like that made the characters relatable (because I don’t think anyone can relate to the emotional, coke head, vampire boy with the psycho of a mom, so I thought it was okay that it had its lame lines. Making it clumsily human). Because not everyone in movies have to be cool, saying the perfect thing all the time. The real world isn’t like that. I don’t care if you anyone else likes it or not. I do. It’s still new too. American Horror Story got better with time, who’s to say Hemlock won’t grow into its own? What I think is the most important part is that Hemlock is slowly morphing a new impression of vampires. Steering away from glittery men with virginity pledges.

  16. This article is well written, and I can agree with most of the points made. On the other hand, I did enjoy the series, with all it’s flaws. I found it intriguing, comical, mysterious and arousing. I’m sure with a skilled eye this story could have been portrayed with more finesse. For those of us with no film background to skew our persective-the show is a great escape from reality.

  17. Hemlock Grove is idiotic, tedious, and frequently offensive, and it has absolutely nothing to recommend it. If this is the best Netflix can do, then I hope it’s working on expanding its film catalogue, because crap like this won’t justify the subscription fee. I just watch it online here: http://onlineseries.ch/watch-tv/hemlock-grove

  18. Love LOVE this show. Finished Season 1 & wrapping up Season 2. Everything about it is just amazing. The cast, the plot, the scenery, overall, worth watching.

    • clearly amazon has paid a bunch of people to make positive reviews about thisas it is easily the single worst show ever created all cast members are horrendous at acting. funny how every time somebody gives a negative description of the show with great detail there is a follow up of broad nondescript reasons why the show is so great.

      • Clearly, you are wrong. I LOVED this show, and Amazon hasn’t paid me a penny. You either watched a totally different show than the rest of us, or clearly have horrible taste in shows… I bet you like Glee, huh? You one of those Pretty Little List fans? If it isn’t some mainstream teenie bopper hit, it must suck, huh? Did you watch the whole season? I doubt it. Don’t post things, just to try to seem cool, because it didn’t work; you appear foolish, and ignorant.

        • Agreed! Great show… I still love Killer Clowns From Outter Space, Pumpkin Head, Tocic Avenger, and many other movies that weren’t “professional”, but people on here are welcome to b**** & moan all they would like, but the fact is, Eli Roth has made something more memorable than any stupid amature review blogger ever will, so stop criticizing other people’s work and create something better if you can!

  19. This has got to be one of the worst television shows I have ever watched. I’ve watched the first three episodes and can’t take it anymore. I’m done. Extremely poor writing with terrible acting = misery. Who plays the rich mother? Did she go to acting school? I guess the subsidies from the Ontario Government make this drivvle profitable for Netflix.

  20. I did not relize before that the show was continuing past season 1. I’ve recently reviewed season 1 and I’m going into 2 now. One thing I’d like to point out is that this is a psychological thriller and not a gore thriller. If you’re wanting gore, this would agreeably be boring to you. Personally, gore does nothing for me. Im liking the show so far. Yeah, I’ve noticed some poorly written lines and all, some bad acting here and there, but, overall I think its well written and is done in a very unique style. Of course not everyone is going to like it. I like the mystery and the supernatural component. I love that its not a black and white particular monster “themed”. I’ve enjoyed it enough to come back for more so I’m giving season 2 a chance. I think this is a pretty good show.

  21. What is lacking in this show is humor. A good chuckle now and again is usually the most redeeming quality in this genre, but having watched through episode nine, the show remains dead serious. I am wondering toward what horrible conclusion this story is headed, that we are asked to accept its premise in earnest. And if we do, what are we to draw from all the atrocities and reckless behaviors presented thus far? Far too little, I fear, considering the serious issues breached (teen drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, murder, sexual assault, prostitution, infidelity-the list goes on and on). What’s it all for?