Hemlock Grove Grows Up: Eli Roth’s Netflix Series Develops Characters and Plot in Season 2

Contains Spoilers for Season 2 of Hemlock Grove

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After a shaky, hammy first season, Hemlock Grove came back for a second season on July 11th and it felt like a different show. Gone were the very Eli Roth-y over the top gore scenes with the unnecessary sex (did Destiny and Chasseur really need to hook up? Come on) and clunky dialogue. The plot seemed to actually follow an arc that made sense as opposed to just throwing random things at us for “what-a-twist!” reveals. Most importantly, the characters were more developed and evolved this season.

By the end, I felt they had learned something. It was by no means perfect (I’m looking at you, weird CGI manta-ray-gargoyle-human-face Dr. Spivak) but it definitely was enough to keep me on edge and excited for  a third season.

Let’s talk about season 2.

What worked

Shelley

Shelley’s arc this season was tragic, humanizing and perfect. I always felt that she was underused in season one, just kind of there, with the shock value of: “Look, she’s a mutant giant that glows.” This season, through her scenes with the little boy in the basement, we got to know exactly who Shelley is: a heroine. She is brought back after Olivia mercilessly eats the “new, prettier Shelley” (is it horrible that I was a little glad?) and her first word is a guttural, heart-wrenching, “Why?” I just lost it. I’m hoping against hope that Shelley will have a happy ending in the Hemlock Grove universe, but I know better.

Dr. Johann Pryce

I was so glad to see more of him this season! He is a ruthless, calculating genius but he has a soft spot for Shelley and wears that awesome sleep mask. Who else would you want on your side during a crisis? The man is everything!

Bye, Bye Norman

It was about time. Talk about a character that had nothing going for him except how he related to other characters. Norman alone on the screen without Olivia? Bor-ring! Bon voyage!

Madeleine Martin

I’ve been a fan of Madeleine Martin since OITNB, but she was a revelation on Hemlock Grove. She portrayed her character, Miranda Cates, exquisitely. Miranda made a lot of questionable decisions while in the town of Hemlock Grove (the minute I start spontaneously lactating —especially if I’ve never been pregnant/had children— I’m finding the nearest door, not nearest baby!) but then again, that’s what made her fit right into this universe.

While she’s in the middle of dealing with upirs and werewolves and participating in all kinds of crazy shit,  she can still be the voice of reason. She can be  a regular person having a meltdown: “The fuck with all of you! I hate you all!”

Her love for Nadia, while at times verging on ridiculously blind, was a big catalyst for moving the plot forward and made for the most beautiful scene to end the season (weird CGI monster excluded). Alas, her insistence in seeing the best of everyone was her undoing  in the end.

The Threesome

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The fangirl in me would have made this number one because of the hotness factor alone (and by the way, why was it not shown? Not cool!) but all physical aspects aside, this is exactly where Roman and Peter were headed from the moment they met. I feel like this moment not only brought them back together after a fight so they could battle the “Big Bad” together, but confirmed that they’re going to be the real love story in this series.

I hope the writers don’t shy away from this obvious development, because seriously, this is 2014 and two men being the main love story on a show not made specifically for LGBT audiences shouldn’t be a big deal. From the minute Roman and Peter met, their chemistry has been undeniable and it’s pretty obvious that the women in their lives tend to be the third wheel. Even though they aren’t ready to admit this deep connection to themselves yet, at least Miranda got them a step closer to their truth. Plus, how awkwardly awesome was that morning after scene?

What didn’t work

Dr. Spivak’s Big Reveal

Let me be honest, I love that Dr. Spivak ended up being the real villain because he was just so damn likeable! What didn’t work was the execution of that final scene. I know what they were going for with the big gargoyle-like creature “saving” Miranda and Nadia from descending to their deaths, but they didn’t have the budget and it was just a comical CGI mess. I think the scene could have still been done with a bit of cinematic sleight of hand to prevent it from being so cheesy.

Then again, this is an Eli Roth production …

Linda’s Stint in Jail

This really felt like a contrived plot line to get Peter back in Hemlock Grove. Couldn’t we have been a little more creative? Couldn’t the dreams of the murders alone driven Peter back to town? I just really don’t see the FBI crashing a Romani funeral to issue gypsies with RICO charges because they’re desperate. Just … no.

The Order of the Dragon

Yawn. I don’t really care about their agreement with upirs. It’s another plotline that seems squeezed in and really not interesting. Why should we care? We don’t know enough to care after two seasons. It’s the same thing with the uber-religious sect that was trying to kill Nadia; we weren’t shown anything to make us understand why they wanted Nadia. Yes, there were some allusions to her being the Antichrist (you don’t want to have a staring contest with this baby) but it just didn’t feel like enough. The scene in which the  sect was  taken down in Roman’s apartment was very anticlimactic (except for Roman pulling Peter out of the wolf).

Dr. Galina Zhelezhnova- Burdukovskaya

As fun as saying her name was, the character really served no purpose. Yes, she opposed Dr. Pryce, but we never knew her motivations or really anything about her. She was pointless. The season wouldn’t have suffered without her.

What can they do next?

Strengthen Destiny

There’s no denying that Kaniehtiio Horn is a scene stealer, but the character of Destiny definitely needs more fleshing out. It was nice to see her fall in love (and what’s up with her boyfriend? Can’t wait to find out if he’s a hitman or CIA) and expand her visions, but she needs to be more than just there to warn Peter about turning on a bad moon. I want to know more about her. So basically, the writers need to give her the Shelley Treatment.

Keep Up the Character Development

One thing this season got right–more character evolution, less cheap thrills and gore.  It was exciting to see Roman and Peter maturing a little bit while struggling with their nature. Roman trying to retain his humanity while fighting his Upir urges made for riveting character study and Bill Skarsgård was born to play him. Landon Liboiron shines as Peter, coming to terms with his darker side as a consequence of calling on the moon one too many times. It’s a nice contrast to his placid, hippie-like demeanor last season.

Say No to the Apocalypse

As attractive as a storyline involving the Antichrist may sound on paper, bringing about the Apocalypse would be the kiss of death for this show. Dear Writers: I’m open to finding out what kind of demon-Upir-who-knows-what hybrid Nadia is, but please, do not make her the Antichrist and do not make this show about the End of Times. You’ll write yourself into a corner, and before you know it you’ll be rewriting all of the mythology for the show you’ve already laid out faster than Lost. Only Buffy can save the world; please leave it to the professionals.

 

Kat Pao
Kat Pao lives in South Florida with her Curmudgeon Love, Mark, their punk rock toddler, Francesca, their saintly dog, Bruce Campbell and their fatass dick of a cat, Bela Lugosi. She loves being a Pop Culture/TV Analyst and loves that writing about TV gives her yet another excuse to watch more of it. Did she mention she loves TV?
http://katcanblog.wordpress.com/
  • http://firinnasch.tumblr.com/ Firinn Asch

    I watched the first season of this show when I was real hopped up on cold meds over the course of a very confusing 48 hours. The only line I remember is “Will you tell me some stories about being a g***y?” This makes me more optimistic for a second season but man the whole “roma” thing irritated me….

    • http://katcanblog.wordpress.com/ Kat Pao

      This season was MUCH improved on that shit, trust me!

  • Snail13

    Probably binge watching this weekend.

  • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

    I didn’t read your whole article, only the first paragraph just in case I wanted to check it out. I watched the first two episodes of the first season and turned it off, it wasn’t for me.

    • WrongAsRain

      The spoilers in Kat’s articles haven’t actually spoiled anything for me yet–like with True Detective, I know the ending now but after reading about it, I think I’d still want to watch the show. With Hemlock Grove, after I read this, I was like, “Nope, no manta-ray gargoyle shitty CGI stuff for me, no thanks, Eli Roth.”

      I kind of also hate werewolves. There, I said it. I love horror, but werewolves were only scary and interesting in American Werewolf in London and that’s where it ends for me.

      • http://katcanblog.wordpress.com/ Kat Pao

        But see, the show was really good! I hate that the CGI Manta Ray will keep you :( Won’t some good ol’ Romancek bring you back?

        http://fuckyeahromancek.tumblr.com/page/2#