“How do you explain dancing to someone with no legs?”
This question, asked by Letha Godfrey to her cousin Roman Godfrey, pretty much sums up my feelings about reviewing this show. How can I explain Hemlock Grove to a person who has not seen it? This original Netflix series created and written by Brian McGreevy, based on his novel, is an experience.
I’ve watched the first three episodes, and I feel like any feedback I give is a gigantic spoiler that would alter one’s viewing. I went into the series blind, only reading the brief synopsis, since I wanted to revel in the mystery. I think that’s the best way to consume this show: blind, and in (almost) one sitting.
Unfolding on a background of the strange murder of Brooke Bluebell by what seems like a vicious wild animal, there are many intricate layers that demand unwrapping, and that take their time evolving in front of your eyes. There is corporate mystery; what are the people in the Godfrey tower up to? Are the strange killings attributed to some of their experiments? There is supernatural mystery; is the half-roma boy, Peter Romancek, a werewolf? Is he the perpetrator of the murders that look to be caused by wild-animals? What, exactly, is Roman Godfrey, the teenager who can compel people with his thoughts? There is straight-up sci-fi; the skin of Roman’s sister, Shelley, glows blue when one touches it, and half of her face is alien-like, perched atop a giant, flat-footed frame. There’s sex, drugs, high school dances, wannabe writers, and, as it says in the warning card rolling before the trailer, there is (very light) lesbian necrophilia.
This is not your average teenage supernatural dramas. The visuals are gory, the subject matter twisted, the actors convincing. In Hemlock Grove, we find two Battlestar Galactica alums as the Sheriff and Dr. Chasseur (Chief Tyrell and Petty Officer Dualla, what up!), and Bill Skarsgård, my favorite TV vampire’s younger brother (that’s Eric Northman from True Blood to you, teacup humans).
The cinematography is stunning, especially in the premiere where the vibrant, bubblegum colors contrast with the stark reality of a bloody murder and eerie music. The steel-town look is underplayed, contrasting nicely with the sweeping lush forests. One could say that it’s almost Twin Peaks-esque, but Hemlock Grove feels too tangible to say that. It wants you to know that this universe could be real, and lacks the otherworldly quality of the David Lynch series. The sounds, the close-ups, the textures of everyday objects lock you in as you get to know these mysterious characters.
I guess that’s all I can give to a person who has not watched this show. To dance, you need legs. To get Hemlock Grove, you need your own appreciation… and a Netflix subscription.