in Television

I Should Have Given Up On ‘Hemlock Grove’ Ages Ago But Better Late Than Never

hemlock grove

Some of you might be familiar with my Hemlock Grove recaps, which I’ve been doing since the show first aired on Netflix last year. I’m a huge fan of the horror genre and have (had) a passing fancy with Eli Roth’s everything, so I figured I was going to enjoy this. I mean, werewolves, vampires, blood, guts, gore, obvious campiness. What’s there not to love?

TURNS OUT THERE’S SO MUCH.

Hemlock Grove is the type of show you expected Netflix would put out when they first announced they were making original shows. Namely, ridiculously bad, with poor acting and worse writing. (Amazon pilots, for example!) Instead they gave us an Emmy-winning powerhouse like House of Cards… and then they followed up with this shit fest.

I somehow managed to trudge through the first season of the show (the word “somehow” here acts as a synonym for “copious amounts of alcohol and bitching”) as well as Brian McGreevy’s book, on which the show is based. This isn’t one of those “the book is so much better than the show!” moments. No no no, these two are pretty evenly matched for an award in mediocrity. When it came time for season two, I really, really tried to give it an open-minded chance, and to be perfectly honest, it was better than season one… but that’s not saying much. That’s like saying one steaming pile of horse poo is better than another, marginally bigger steaming pile of horse poo.

It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even think about thinking about bringing myself to finish up the season. I enjoy hate-watching as much as the next person, but enough is enough. I have two episodes left and I will never ever watch them, not unless an internet Hellmouth were to open and swallow up every other piece of media on the planet and all there is left to watch is Hemlock Grove 2×09 and 2×10. (And even then, I’d probably just sit in the corner and watch paint dry.)

Hemlock Grove commits the most grievous sin a show can ever commit, besides being terribly offensive (though it has that in spades as well): it’s so goddamn boring. It can’t even claim to be the contemplative or meaningful type of “boring.” There’s no slow burn here, just plodding, meandering, soulless nothingness. Horror is not supposed to be boring. Horror is supposed to be horrifying, just like entertainment is meant to be entertaining.

To better illustrate what it is I’m talking about, let me list out a few of Hemlock Grove season 1-2’s cardinal sins:

  • Every episode of S1 was 45 minutes of nothing and 5 minutes of the plot sorta moving forward
  • Practically all the women died in horrible ways
  • I signed up for gore and horror, got almost zero gore or horror
  • The plot/conflict for S1 made no sense – like, why do they think Peter is the murderer? Because he’s Romani? Because he’s new in town and therefore MUST be the killer? Because an obviously traumatized young woman is going around saying he told her he was a mythical creature? Seriously, WHY. THERE IS NO PROOF.
  • Constant usage of ethnic slurs
  • Police stupidity/brutality/blatant disregard for those pesky little things called “laws”, and “due process”, and “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”
  • The werewolf transformations are the best parts of both seasons and it barely ever happened
  • “Clever” symbolism that was way too heavy-handed
  • Clementine and her struggle with her religious/personal vows was the most compelling plot line for me in s1, so naturally the way her story ended was ugh-worthy. (See: bullet point number 2)
  • S2’s plot also made little sense, though to be fair I barely paid attention because it was all so freaking boring
  • This is more of a personal gripe but Letha’s baby was kinda creepy-lookin’
  • Another personal gripe: Olivia’s weird accent in s1 was very weird. At least they did away with that in s2?
  • Bill Skarsgard’s acting is… ehh… not great. Though to be fair, neither is anyone else’s, really
  • S1 Roman is awful, awful, awful; he raped and mind-wiped a classmate, and that’s gotten swept under the rug by both the show and by many viewers
  • Speaking of sweeping things under the rug, Hemlock Grove picks up and drops character traits/plot points willy nilly. For example, I totally forgot about Pryce’s super-strength until I accidentally reread an old recap (I don’t think it’s been shown or mentioned even once beyond the first time he showed it off), as far as I know the Caucasian In Pennsylvania red herring in s1 was never fully explained, and did Beaumont The Ball Cutter ever show up again or did they drop that one too?
  • Slut-shaming
  • Woman shaming
  • Slut-shaming perpetuated and acted upon by a woman (which, by the way, doesn’t make it any less misogynistic)
  • Dat dialogue. Priceless examples: “Your smile makes the flowers grow and your tits make them bloom.” “This is a strange town, you can feel it in your balls.” “What do you suggest I do? Turn the other ass cheek and spend my golden years with that monster?”
  • I’m looking back at my ratings for s2 episodes right now and I realized that I was grading everything so high because I kept comparing it to s1. Episodes that were bad or boring got a decent rating because I kept subconsciously going, “Well at least it wasn’t [insert shitty season one episode here].” BUT THAT’S NO WAY TO WATCH A SHOW.

The list probably goes on. I know I shouldn’t have devoted so much of my life to a show that I pretty much hated every minute of, but recap writing aside, there was no specific point that made me give up on Hemlock Grove – it was more a snowball of disgust that, twenty-one episodes later, I finally had enough of. And hey – better late than never.

Somehow, someway, Hemlock Grove has gotten renewed for a third and final season next year. Will you be watching it, or have you, like me, given up? Let me know your thoughts below! (Copious amounts of grumbling are highly encouraged, whether at the show itself or at me for “not getting it.”)

  • Caligula’s Sword

    I stopped a couple episodes into the second season…IDK I just don’t have a desire to finish/watch it. Had high hopes going in. Also tried reading the book stopped after second chapter.

    • Yeah, the book isn’t that great but I powered through for lack of anything else to do that weekend lol. What did you think of HG’s first season?

      • Caligula’s Sword

        It’s weird I watched at a pretty fast clip, I think I was holding out for a breakout episode that really catapulted the season and made the story awesome…but that never happened. So when I started the second season and it wasn’t any better I stopped. Maybe I’ll pick it back up after the third season is released since I’m a completist. Is the second season that bad?

  • This is my favorite article you’ve ever written.

  • Dayna

    i loved both seasons and can’t wait until next season. i am surprised when people don’t like the acting. i think the missteps are in the writing. i really think the actors play exactly how the characters are supposed to be and a few scenes with Shelly and Roman were heart wrenching(if you didn’t watch the last two episodes you missed them Christine). i do agree with some of your assessments such as, Roman is A BAD GUY with a few redeaming (sp?) qualities. the first season i felt was rather misogynistic, they didn’t exactly drop Dr. Pryce’s super power, he pushed Roman across the room to get him to stop drinking so much gooey stuff but they did not keep the crazy, roofie, eye thing (quote from Peter) that Roman and Olivia did so well. i could go on all night (but no one else wants to) about the show. think of Hemlock Grove as a pulp fiction book being played out on screen. The actors were even styled to look like characatures (again, sp.?)

    • Dayna

      i like Hemlock Grove so much i am replying to my own post. i should correct myself, Roman is not bad, he is an extremely psychologically damaged person.

  • Anonymous

    >Slut-shaming
    >Woman shaming
    >Slut-shaming perpetuated and acted upon by a woman (which, by the way, doesn’t make it any less misogynistic)

    Well that didn’t take long, did it?