By: Candi Condes
Hemlock Grove, Netflix’s second original series, takes on the supernatural, werewolves, vampires, magic, evil scientific corporations, gypsies, class struggle, teen drama, and then some. If this seems like overkill, it is. At best it can be called overly ambitious, at worst, clichéd and disorganized. It compromises character development for an overloaded plot that goes nowhere.
In the strange town of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania the glossy suburban veneer hides more than the usual teen angst and affairs. Peter Rumancek and his mother are gypsies who move to Hemlock Grove after Peter’s uncle dies.
Everyone they encounter, especially the wealthy Godfrey family who run an all-powerful scientific corporation, treats them with suspicion. Peter eventually befriends Roman, his classmate and heir to the Godfrey estate and reveals he is a werewolf.
In the meantime, someone or something in the woods has murdered a classmate of Peter and Roman’s. It appears that the rest of the episodes will attempt to reveal who the killer is.
Hemlock Grove may be trying to be campy but it just comes off as cliché. It is difficult to tell if the show is self aware enough to be poking fun at the horror film genre or if it just falls victim to hackneyed storylines. The initial chase sequence, in which the cheerleader, Brooke Bluebell, is brutally murdered, features the typical hysterical teen girl running through the forest scene–added to the fact that she is on her way to an illicit sexual encounter with a teacher in the most overused opening in the book.
Roman Godfrey’s character is one of the few that shows any kind of development, though the writers overdo it, making him the typical spoiled, rich, entitled teen, casually using drugs and drinking at all hours of the day and night, while simultaneously making him sympathetic by showing how caring he is toward his deformed sister and cousin. He might be an “upier,” a term, which after the second episode remains unexplained, but is a type of vampire.
Other characters come and go with little introduction and even less development, leaving the viewer with little to no investment in their fate. Though they will surely be reintroduced later, characters like Dr. Pryce, a scientist, or Shelly Godfrey, Roman’s sister, disappear for long stretches. Rather than creating mystery, the overly busy plot causes confusion.
Simultaneously, because the storyline is fragmented into so many different subplots, the development in the story lines is incredibly slow and nothing actually happens. The dialogue is clichéd and full of innuendo and little actual meaning; the actors’ delivery wooden. Famke Janssen’s unnecessary English accent is so bad that it becomes a distraction.