‘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.

Follow Perri Nemiroff on Twitter @PNemiroff
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  1. oh and Olivia s accent is Russian because her and roman are Upirs. Google upir

  2. oh and Olivia s accent is Russian because her and roman are Upirs.

  3. I dont care what ppl say….i loved this series…nd would live to c a second season…if there is anything i can do to help this happen,let me know…

    • I don’t think it’s fair that we all have to see the bad published reviews on stuff and not any good one’s. I’m with everyone els on this show, I’m dying for a second season and am gonna be seriously bummed if they don’t make one. I absolutely LOOOOOOVVED this show, and all the actors, I’m super sad that Litha is gone though.

  4. I want a second season!

  5. Great show loved all 12 episodes

  6. I loved this series! The first couple episodes are hard to understand because the viewer does feel like an outsider I had a lot of questions but that’s also the reason I kept watching I thought to myself maybe the next episode will answer my questions then I was hooked! i love the town the creepy dark people and Godfrey empire I can not wait for season two does anyone know anything about season two? If you do please share I’m dying to know!

  7. The series was fantastic! After watching 3 episodes I was seriously hooked. I watched the rest over the next 4 days! Please continue this series! I love it!

  8. This show was amazing! I watched it over the course of 4 days !!! I hope they continue it.

  9. this is a very good show, reminds me of lost or any other mystery, teeth clenching, need to watch the next episode type of show. i will cry my eyes out if season 2 does not come out. this website is hating on a beautiful show

  10. I don’t understand why Perri Nemiroff was calling boring, but it was a really great show to watch. I can’t wait for a second season.

  11. Obviously I watched something different than the reviewer, because this series was awesome! All the episodes were great and kept me intrigued the whole time! Can’t wait until the next season!!!!!!!!

  12. What exactly was this reviewer comparing this to. If this show is boring than, I would love to be bored for a couple more seasons.


  13. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAKE A SECOND SEASON! i watched the first season in 2 day’s. staying up until 5 am because i was so hooked.

  14. The show was great, I want to see the new season of this show, Like a lot’s of pepole say it’s was hard to start understanding this show, but when you got hook you got hook to bone… I really did enjoy this show and the diffrence in to the type of story…. Sad to see that small girl die at the end of the 12 show but i already sayded to my wife that she was the wolf and that she was gone at The end of this season it was predictable.

    • Wtf kind of word is sayded?

  15. I loved the show and am waiting for the second season. Please tell me that there’s gonna be another season.

  16. Regretably I can not stop a movie once I’ve started, I kept thinking it had to get better. I kept hoping it would have to answer the questions that went unanswered. It didn’t. Also, I’m not a prude, but get annoyed with writers who feel like they have to use the “f” word constantly. In this movie, every three minutes. And all the characters talked the same, men, women, little old ladies, little girls, all had the “f” word as the most common word in their language. That is poor writing, the author thinks everyone talks like s/he does and they don’t.

    UGH on this movie. I was so mad when it was over.

  17. I personally loved the series. I don’t think the guy who wrote this review is qualified to judge it. He’s obviously the type of person who can’t get enough of dancing with the stars and other mainstream garbage that doesn’t require viewers to think or even have an IQ above 40.

  18. I really enjoyed the series. I want to know when they are going to make the second.

  19. Totally loved this series, so much so I blitzed it in 2 days and then rewatched it with my husband (who also loved it, as I knew he wld) just a day later. I thought it was original, well acted (at least by the lead characters who mattered) compelling and interesting, the effects were first class and ok, had a cpl of questions left unanswered but isn’t that just even more of a reason for season 2… This series was great, and this review is nothing short of a load of rubbish if you ask me, totally written by the wrong person, which given the massive fan base that’s already growing and is begging for season 2, just works against us and should be ignored.

  20. I sincerely hope that no one reads this and doesn’t watch it because of the opinion of a guy who writes for a web site I’ve never heard of… I very much enjoyed the show, am excited for more, and yes it is a little confusing here and there but I think given time they will explain the characters and their backgrounds. Why so harsh?

  21. This show is a masterpiece! Can not wait for the second season! *Haters gonna hate.

  22. It was a very good show! Something different! Love it so much and awaiting for the next season!

  23. I LOVE this series!! I hope Netflx brings it back.

  24. Well, you obviously don’t know how to grasp the feel of what Eli’s getting at. Everything ties together as to the why if you are patient. Starting it off with a “bang” would be great for a movie, but that isn’t entirely the feel of the show. Dig deeper than your desire to have instant gratification so that you can see the world around the story line.

    I actually enjoyed it immensely.

  25. Season 1 of Hemlock grove is fantasic start to finish, loved it can’t wait for a season 2. Awsome job netflix, the show alone is well worth the cost of instant streaming.

  26. Reviewer wtf were you watching? Great show I want season 2! A countless times in the series I found myself blown away with twists. Roman is amazing love how sick he is and anyone know where I could find a werewolf print around I’m a bit parched.

  27. The review is accurate for me. The show is boring. The dialogue scenes are poorly acted, but that might have been overcome if what was being said was actually moving the story along. There was definitely a major spark missing.

  28. Shame that all the critics hated this, mainly because they’re all just trying to out-bile each other. I loved it and really hope there’s a season 2. I found all the characters very engaging – especially Olivia – and loved the slightly obscure ‘Twin Peaks’ story lines. So come on… Let’s be having season 2 please Netflix.