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Hemlock Grove 1×13 “Birth” Recap

Trigger warning: Self-harm, suicide, mutilation

In the episode before this one, we all found out the true identity of the vargulf that’s been killing off young girls in town: none other than Peter’s ex-friend Christina Wendell.

This season finale episode kicks off with a flashback to that summer, when Peter and Christina were still buddy buddy. Christina’s hanging out in the Rumanceks’ living room rattling off a story about one of her friends as Peter surreptitiously takes a few swigs of his beer. When Christina reveals her worries over feeling weird and different from everyone else at her high school, Peter’s quick to encourage her, leading to a somewhat sweet bonding scene.

Too bad we all know how that story’s gonna turn out.

Back in present day, Letha is still struggling with the church doors as Roman faces off with wolf!Christina. Just when things are starting to look very, very bad for both Roman and Letha, Peter comes back – now in his shiny black werewolf form, having made the necessary sacrifice in the last episode – and thus begins the final showdown between Peter and Christina.

Christina’s desire for destruction seems to be even stronger than Peter’s desire to protect his friends, however, and Christina ends up biting into Peter’s neck with a sickening crunch noise. As she turns back around to growl menacingly at a shocked Letha and Roman, quickly thumping footsteps behind her reveal the amazing Shelley Godfrey.

She pulls Christina away from her family members and then snaps the wolf’s neck. Shelley stares sadly down at both Christina – who’s reverted back to her human form now that she’s dead – and Peter – who oddly enough is still wolf-itized.

Roman approaches his sister with a comforting smile, only to get his face covered in Shelley’s blood as she’s shot in the back by Sheriff Sworn. Seriously, dude?! You couldn’t show up like, five minutes earlier to see the werewolf  showdown? No no, instead you show up just in time to see poor sweet Shelley standing over Christina’s body and then shoot her in the back instead of taking her in for questioning like you’re supposed to. The criminal justice system in this town is shit.

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Shelley runs out of the church and into the woods as Roman and the Sheriff give chase. Outside, Roman uses his eye magic powers to stop Sheriff Sworn from hurting his sister before entering the woods as well.

Back in the church, a clearly traumatized Letha clutches her baby bump. She watches as Sworn reenters the building to carry Christina’s body away, barely even glancing at either Letha or the humongous semi-dead wolf to his right. He probably thought they were both non-issues at the moment.

Thankfully, Peter waits until after the Sheriff fucks off before coming to. Letha scrambles over to his body and holds him as he whines in pain.

It’s not clear how long it takes, but eventually Peter turns back into a very alive human, with his face pretty much intact (can you imagine how awful it would be if he turned back without his face and had to live like that?). Letha is overjoyed to see that he’s alright.

Roman, on the other hand, is much less joyful. He returns to the Godfrey mansion and updates Olivia on what just happened, and tells her that he can’t find Shelley anywhere.

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Letha and Peter return to his cousin Destiny’s house, where Lynda is waiting for them. As Peter goes to get some much-needed sleep, Lynda and Letha talk about Peter’s werewolf/death/rebirth thing. Lynda tells the girl that Letha’s love was what brought Peter back from the dead, and they embrace.

Norman, meanwhile, is waiting in his car outside for Letha and listening to a radio broadcast pronouncing Shelley Godfrey as “disfigured, mentally ill biotech heiress” that’s been killing everyone. Norman switches the radio off when Letha gets into the car.

He then tells his daughter that he, Olivia, and the Sheriff have arranged a specific story about the killings to protect “the ones that are still here” – aka, Letha and Roman now have to pretend they were never there, and (at least in public) buy into the whole thing about Shelley being a murderer.

Letha agrees, knowing that’s the only way to protect Peter – because the town needs a villain to pin everything on, and because the people will believe whatever the Godfreys say. On the other side of town, Olivia and Roman make plans to protect Shelley if and when she comes back to Hemlock Grove.

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Later on, Christina’s given a funeral which Letha and Norman attend in order to keep up appearances. In the middle of the service, Letha leaves to go check up on Roman as Norman sidles up to Sheriff Sworn to offer his condolences.

The Sheriff is still consumed by grief and anger, though, and he mutters that if he were a real hero, he would burn the Godfrey Institute to the ground and kill Dr. Pryce, the scientist who created “that abomination” Shelley. He then tells Norman that he’s resigned as Sheriff. After the funeral, Norman heads to the White Tower to officially sign off his shares to Lod LLC.

Peter drives Roman to see Destiny. Roman asks her to use her powers to find Shelley to no avail – Shelley isn’t answering. Roman is hellbent on finding his sister, and Destiny gently asks if he’s looking for her because she needs him, or because she needs her. That was really deep.

A gust of wind blows through the living room where Peter is waiting, just as his phone rings – Letha’s having her baby! Peter is adorably excited, and he and Roman immediately rush off to meet her at the hospital… but not before Destiny finally gets an ominous reading off of Roman.

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In the hospital waiting room, Peter and Roman share celebratory cigars. They also talk about Shelley, and Roman confesses to having forced himself to see Shelley by using his powers on himself.

Peter’s totally unnerved, and flashes back to the warning Destiny gave him early on in the season: Roman is going to face the hardest choice of his life, and whoever’s around him when it happens is going to share in the consequences.

Meanwhile, Letha’s delivery isn’t going so well at all. A code omega is called in her OR and all available staff rush to her aid, but it’s too late – Letha and her baby are dead, and Norman, Roman, and Peter are absolutely destroyed.

Norman pulls her lifeless body off the operating table and brings her to Dr. Pryce, begging him to save her, to bring her back the way he brought back Shelley. Pryce regretfully tells Norman that that’s impossible because she’s too old – he can only bring back the bodies of babies.

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Norman collapses onto the floor in his grief, as Pryce tells him, “I’m sorry. I’m… not God.” Later on, alone in his office, Pryce himself succumbs to tears and rage.

Back at home, Peter and Lynda have packed all their things and are preparing to leave town. Before they go, Peter cuts off all his hair. At Roman’s request, Olivia takes her son to go see Peter, but the Rumanceks are long gone.

As Roman cries at having lost both his best friend and his close cousin, Olivia stands outside and remembers her childhood: the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man, she had in her youth fallen in love and run away with a slave on her father’s property. The slave, named Dimitri, had eventually betrayed her by stealing all her jewels and both of their horses, leaving her alone and impregnated, to die in the cold woods.

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Abandoned, young Olivia then took a sharp rock and carved off her tail (which totally explains how present-day Olivia got her scar). Olivia’s family found her a few days later, and when she gave birth to a daughter she ordered her to be taken away.

Back in present day, Norman and his wife are finally separating from each other. Norman goes to Olivia, where she accepts his presence with open arms.

That night, Olivia brings Roman up to Shelley’s attic, where she shows him his birthday present: a baby pram, complete with baby. Olivia recounts how she’d committed infanticide countless times before finally giving birth to Roman, who was “born with the caul.”

You know how Letha thought she’d gotten impregnated by an angel? Yeah, that “angel” was her own cousin, Roman. The baby in the pram is Roman and Letha’s daughter, and Olivia means for him to kill the child to fulfill his destiny or something like that. Horrified, Roman rejects this information and tries to eye-magic himself into “making his heart steel,” as dream!Shelley had told him to do.

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Roman then pulls a razor out of his pocket and slices deep into both arms, committing suicide. Olivia seems largely unbothered, and it’s clear why in the next scene: suicide is how their upir side is born. When Olivia had cut off her tail all those years ago, she had bled out and died, only to rise again and become a vampire.

Roman wakes up an upir, and attacks his mother, draining her of blood and then ripping out her tongue using his teeth (yes, that means mother-on-son kissage. Roman also delivers an unintentionally hilarious cheesy line: “You talk too much.”) Roman’s now the head of the Godfrey estate and  all the millions that come with it.

Elsewhere, Chasseur’s twin brother Michael reports for duty to the same priest dude that Chasseur met with before. The priest tells Michael that Roman Godfrey was the one to kill Michael’s sister (that big fat liar) and the look on Michael’s face shows there’s gonna be hell to pay in season two.

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Even more elsewhere (does that phrase even make sense?) Sheriff Sworn is listening to police radio scanners and building bombs. Methinks he’s going to use those on the Godfrey Tower, as hinted at in his angry rant at Christina’s funeral.

Lynda and newly bald Peter are driving down an aimless stretch of road when Peter sees a vision of Shelley, young and unmarred by the Godfrey Institutes’ hands, on the side of the road.

Back at the Institute, Dr. Pryce is shown putting Olivia’s corpse in the hospital morgue with a little smirk on his face. We finally get a glimpse of what’s inside that creepy and ominous black box in the Institute’s basement – a humanoid body encased in some kind of crystal… and it’s just opened its eyes.

Fade to black! Roll the credits! But wait… there’s another bonus scene after credits, for those who were patient enough to wait for it (read: not me). The camera zooms in slowly onto Christina Wendell’s tombstone, and as we inch closer and closer we start to hear screaming from underground. Christina’s totally alive, folks.

Verdict + Rating

The episode again suffered from being excruciatingly slow. The final showdown between Christina and Peter, along with Letha’s death, were very anti-climactic scenes. There were some parts that were okay, but overall it was a very ‘meh’ season finale, and even the cliffhanger wasn’t enough to catch my interest.

Rating: C

Memorable Quotes

Peter: Every fucked-up feeling you’re feeling right now, pretty much every chick in the universe has come through it alright. Mostly.

Take it from an old man, okay. This town, these people, and all this fucked-up shit that seems like the end of the known world, it’s all just a blip. The world outside this place, the life that you’re gonna live, is so much bigger than this. You were born for so much more than you can see here.

Lynda: It was you. There’s no magic in the world stronger than life itself, and life is love. Nothing’s stronger. Nothing ever has been.

Letha: We’re Godfreys. And what we say happened, happened.

Norman: I can’t wait to marry your ass.
Olivia: You’ll have to engage it first.

Peter: Baby, my heart has no words. Your smile makes the flowers grow, and your tits make ’em bloom. I love your ass to pieces and anything that pops out of you. This is the best news I’ve heard all year.

Lynda: In a life that’s long and well lived, there’s gonna be pain and darkness that can’t be understood by those who live day to day like it’s any other. You loved her, she loved you, and you’re never gonna be the same again.

And these are all good things.

  • BSKPRUS

    You missed something: After the “Fade to Black”, thus during the credits, we see that Christina Wendall is not dead. We see her grave and her clawing her way out and screaming from being buried alive. Remember how werewolves only die if they are properly decapitated? They didn’t do that with Christina. She will be in Season 2.

    • Oh man, that’s what I get for closing the window before the credits finished rolling. Thanks for reading and letting me know!

  • Hi there! Just my interpretation of events, but I think Olivia was using her mind control on Roman to make him go around trying to impregnate girls, either to produce an upir grandchild or a baby for Roman to feed on when he completed his transformation (as folklore says that upirs particularly like children). This would explain why he couldn’t remember attacking Letha until Olivia commanded him to remember and also why he showed up to Ashley’s house crying and saying he shouldn’t be there, before assaulting her.

  • I found your recaps while trying to figure out if Hemlock Grove was worth watching all the way through, and I just wanted to say, I loved your writing. Thank you for your snarky, truthful, and entertaining commentary on what is possibly one of the strangest shows on Netflix. 🙂