‘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.

TAGS: hemlock grove

247 Comments

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  1. “Famke Janssen’s faux British accent induces involuntary grimmaces.” Her accent was not supposed to be British. Her accent is European, though from which region is not specified. The inquiry is left to be made that she is from around the vicinity of Romania, because of the Gypsy boy and style of dress shown in her story (the story is obviously about her). So maybe the reason it was a terrible British accent is because it wasn’t a British accent.

    • it was Romanian I think or Ukrainian. around that area, but also I there was a good forethought on her accent not being place able concidering the story

  2. I have watched a ton of shows over my life span. I can honestly say this show left me thinking and questioning the next step. I think you are way off your mark on all counts. Sure, I saw flaws, nothing worse than any other show with less excuses and a bigger budget.this has been a spectacular show and I will be purchasing the novels if any.

    • I just finished watching the entire series over the past week. Overall, it was the characters that really kept me watching. I started caring a lot about the characters, always a good sign. I felt disappointed when some of my favorite characters were killed off or otherwise transformed as I wanted to know more about them. I thought the acting was rather good, if OTT sometimes. Standouts are Nicole Boivin, who plays Roman Godfrey’s sister, conveying a ton of feeling without speaking a word. The two main protagonists, Roman Godfrey and Peter Romancek, portrayed by Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron, and the role of Christina Wendell played by Freya Tingley, are standouts throughout the series. The script has much to offer in ideas and concepts; one great thing is that the script doesn’t try to explain things to the audience; there are a lot of conceptual, philosophical, religious, and occult, ideas express, but not on an intellectual level. the words the characters are speaking are almost always very personal, oftentimes poetic, even in conversation with each other. It’s a bit strange stylistically; people don’t speak like this in real life; for some this will be somewhat trying; but I think this poetic, feeling quality is what drew me into the characters. If I had a problem with anything, it was that not all the plotlines had a successful trajectory and conclusion. My main disappointment was the lack of real development about what is/was going on at the Godfrey Institute (white towers). the very end seemed like a tacked on rush to show us and for the first time in the entire series the Point-of-view is us, the viewer, and it was really unsatisfactory and kind of spoiled it; I would have rather that remained a total mystery – until the next season when there could be time to develop this part a bit more; maybe there isn’t going to be a second season and that’s why they did it…even so…. Other than that, I really liked the series. As a fan of the horror genre since the 60s and having watched horror films from the silent era up to today, I really appreciated this, even if not 100% successful. My recommendation: See it!

  3. Love it I want more

  4. My family and I watched the series in one sitting… we couldn’t stop wstching! I thought the negative reviews were way off base. I understand striving for perfection, however, picking this apart and deliberately looking for flaws… instead of criticizing, maybe you should try to put your own series on netflix if you’re so talented. I’ll watch the series again and stick to picking apart shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Desperate Housewives”…. not talent or thought in those.

  5. I loved the show. I can’t wait for season 2. It’s a shame that a decent show gets knocked when there is so much junk on TV. It’s not perfect but it works.

  6. I love this show cant wait till the season 2 hopefully. I heard from people that it was confusing and bounced everywhere, but that’s because they don’t understand that the show is expressing all the characters so they could come together later in the story. Also the last minute of the episode 13 was a surprise, I thought that little b**** had it coming to her!

  7. Show is awesome and I totally watched the whole season in 3 days. Binge watch on! So tired of these lame reviewers who think they “know” it all. Don’t keep your day job buddy.

  8. Anyone know who makes the car Roman drives?

    • I think this review was a miss. Hemlock Grove has steered away from the teeny bopper sparkling vampire movement and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done to Netflix. Their show House of Cards was good too. As far as saying there were a bunch of technical and coloring mistakes, no one cares except film school nerds and people who think way too critically about the world. It’s a great story. Kudos to the limited CG on the wolves too its about time film started using real animals again. Get over it PITA.

    • I think it’s a Morgan, Bruce.

  9. Wow, this review really hit the nail on the head! I couldn’t agree more. There are definitely some good scenes and interesting stories but put together, nothing really makes sense or nothing comes from it. I found this show really hard to follow and only finished the series as a favor for a friend. I too thought this show was a bit boring even though there was a lot happening. I didn’t feel particularly connected to any character and Olivi’s character was the most odd. Even more so than Shelly who I think the audience would have liked to learn more about. I felt like the show wasted a lot of time on characters who ended up dying.

    • well if you can’t keep up with the showing you didn’t know what it was about within the first four episodes you’re not very smart. this is one of the best TV shows I’ve seen, p nimaroff knows nothing about good television shows, I’ve told many people about this show and the absolutely love it. I’m sorry didn’t turn out like one of these stupid diaries of a vampire crappy show but as for femka accent being a little English I’m okay with that considering I am English and do so many dialects of the English language who really cares where she sounds like she comes from all I know is this was one of the best television shows and it needs to premiere season too soon

  10. I love this show so much and i am so hoping and wishing they make more! And if they do they will be just as amazing and interesting as the last… I was hooked after the first and sad it ended…

  11. This show is definetly not for those few squeamish people out there, although even though I do find myself to be a bit squeamish, I got through most parts without dying a little on the inside :P All jokes aside, it’s a good show if you are patient enough to go through with it ’til the end when everything is revealed, because you get that feeling of euphoria when you go: “Ooooooh, so thaaaats what he/she is… blahblahblah” and you understand everything. For me personally, I was able to stick it out, so I was satisfied to finally know what the hell was going on :D. I hope there will be a season two so I can know what happens next. :)

  12. Once again the “critics” are wrong. The series was actually pretty good, even if it took a a few episodes to really get into it.

  13. I thought it was a interesting & good tv show beyond the flaws, & I’m already dying for season 2 to begin…

  14. For critics to write a bad review on a show such as this…tells me they can be trusted about as much as lawyers this day and age

  15. I really loved the show. It was phenomenal. I could not stop watching. If they don’t do a season two i will be so disappointed. I would really like to know what happens next.

  16. I really enjoyed the series. I would have watched it throught, if I wasn’t working. Great story. I would love a second season.

  17. LOVE IT !!!! so hoping for more seasons.

  18. Hemlock grove was great. I stayed up all night watching all 13 shows. I hope they do a season 2!

  19. I like the show. I’m curious how it is all going to play out.

  20. I loved it. I hope they make a second season. Definitely much more interesting that many of those useless reality shows you see on TV!

  21. I loved this show! I luv the mix of sex, violence, monster’s, magic & mayhem. Cannot wait for season 2!!! Hope it comes soon! May re-watch again! <3 <3 <3

  22. I finished the first season…it was pretty good and kept me entertained. I like the twist on Roman being a vampire or something along those lines. Pretty good show I give it a 3.5/5 and I look forward to the second season. It’s much easier to write a negative review than a positive one.

  23. I was wondering what the accents were. well they’re rich snobbish accents. Not really accents. My girlfriend and I found it work a netflix binge watch. Were on the last episode tonight, havent been really doing much else. Great show really strange, looking forward to season 2. Snobs.

  24. This was a great series, my daughter and I can’t wait for the next series

  25. The driving-conversation-exposition clips are gawd-awful: Bad direction letting the driving actor (usually the Skarsgård kid) talk for 10 seconds while looking at the passenger. The steering wheel nor the car ever move not to mention that the car would have ended up in the weeds after the first 2 seconds. And who ever is in charge of post-production on these sequences should be fired. Color correction all over the board. Best example: Christina Wendall and her boyfriend Tyler head out to the water in his Subie. A different tint, contrast and brightness with every friggin’ cut. The green screen in these sequences in so bad, it looks like rear projection – maybe it is rear projection! Welcome to film techniques of the 1940′s!

  26. WOW Just finished watching this in the last 2 days. I love this new series! I really hope they make a season 2. I had a feeling it was werewolves and vampires. But the vampires weren’t confirmed until the very end which is nice.

  27. The show is fantastic, and I can’t wait for more. I think that the bad reviews show a lack of imagination on the part of the reviewers. It seems that they only like shows that fit into neat categories and are easy to label.The show is meant to be strange, quirky and over the top. I eagerly await season two.

  28. Sorry, but I’m hooked! Every episode left me feeling ravaged, hungry for the next one and deeper and deeper into the storyline. I watched them all over a 4 day period and I need a season 2. Sure, it wasn’t perfect but it was entrancing.

  29. oh and Olivia s accent is Russian because her and roman are Upirs which is explained here http://www.mythicalcreatureslist.com/mythical-creature/Upir

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