“Do not call her that! Do not call that abortion by my daughter’s name.”
So the entire first season of Hemlock Grove premiered on Netflix yesterday. The first episode of the series opens with Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgard) sitting in an ice cream parlor and staring blankly out the windows, until a girl walks up to the shop doors and gives him a sultry look. The two of them end up having vigorous sex in Roman’s car, and Roman shows off his bloodplay kink. When they’re done, he tosses her a fat wad of bills before she leaves, to encourage her to ‘forget’ his name.
Cut to the obvious First Victim of the series: a pretty and intelligent cheerleader by the name of Brooke Bluebell (Lorenza Izzo), who may or may not be having an affair with one of her female teachers, known to her as Banksy.
All this minor character depth is going to be rendered useless, anyways, ’cause dat girl about to dieeee.
On her way to a date with said teacher, Brooke stops her car as she waits for a train to pass. As she’s idly texting her boo, the car gets attacked by some unknown force (spoiler that’s hardly even a spoiler at this point: it’s a werewolf) and Brooke goes barreling out of the wreck, running full speed into the woods. Unnecessarily shaky camera and iffy editing aside, the scene is pretty intense.
Brooke eventually comes across a random-ass shed in the middle of a field in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and for some reason, she makes the decision to hide inside it – I mean, seriously? Something big and snarly is coming after her, so instead of continuing to run the fuck away until she’s in actual civilization with people who can help her, she’s gonna box herself into a tiny shed? A shed that doesn’t even have a door so she can try to shut the monster out, by the way.
Anyways, obviously the creature finds her, and she gets mauled. Before that happens, she manages to dial Banksy’s number – and her lover is forced to listen as Brooke dies a violent death.
Cue stylized Hemlock Grove credits!
And now we shift to “Earlier This Summer,” when Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) and his mother, Lynda (Lili Taylor), roll into town and start to settle into the dilapidated trailer they inherited from Vince, Lynda’s deceased brother. Off into the distance, conveniently framed by the trees around the Rumancek property, is the Godfrey mansion – illustrating the very different backgrounds from which the two main guys of the show come.
As Lynda begins tidying up, Peter heads into town to steal a badass looking leather jacket for himself (that I predict will be a component of 99% of his outfits in this show) and a pretty pearl necklace for his mother.
Later, while Peter is napping, he dreams of ouroboros – a snake eating its own tail – and of jellyfish in the sky… and then wakes up to find a girl named Christina (Freya Tingley) watching him sleep like a creeper.
They strike up a conversation where Peter divulges a boatload of personal information considering he’s talking to someone he’s never met before. Eventually Christina notices that his index and middle fingers are the same length, which obviously means he’s a werewolf, right?
Peter seems amused by her earnestness and how she basically blurts everything she’s thinking, so he confirms that he is, in fact, a very scary werewolf. He’s also a total snarky bitch about it. I like him already.
Then the town Sheriff (played by Aaron Douglas?! But he’s a Cylon oh my god everybody run) rolls by in a truck, staring at them suspiciously. Peter wants nothing to do with the Po-Po, so he and Christina part ways.
Meanwhile, Roman has a series of chilly conversations with his mother, Olivia Godfrey (Famke Janssen) but he brightens up when he finds out she rented out an entire carnival for him as a gift. He invites his cousin, Letha Godfrey (Penelope Mitchell) to hang out with him there for the day. (By the way, he is really, really close to his cousin. Like, uncomfortable levels of closeness.)
The next day is the first day of high school. Roman and Peter trade looks from across the courtyard as Peter walks up and into the school. When he sees Christina, he greets her warmly, but she shuts him down because she doesn’t want other people to see a social outcast talking to her.
Looks like that friendship is over.
Soon after, a tall girl with bandaged up hands and her hair over her face walks in. A curious Peter watches her move past, noting the faint blue light coming out of her skin as she walks under a light. He finds out that she’s Roman’s sister, Shelley.
When he gets home, Peter tells his mom about the Godfreys. Apparently Roman is something called an “upir” (Google will tell you that’s a vampire from Russian folklore), but he doubts that Roman knows that he is one. Peter also expresses confusion over what Shelley could be. His mom warns him to stay away from the Godfreys, but naturally that is not at all what he’s going to do.
A similar conversation is happening up at the Godfrey estate. Olivia asks Roman how his first day of school went during dinner, and Roman immediately starts talking about Peter, the “gypsy” who’s rumored to be a werewolf. Olivia seems disgusted by the very mention of the Rumanceks.
After their meal, Shelley goes up an elevator to her attic bedroom and takes off her wig, revealing a disfigured and distorted face – and we flash back to thirteen years ago, where her father, J.R. (Paul Popowich) and her uncle Norman (Dougray Scott) are arguing on the sidewalk in the middle of the rain. They talk about Shelley, whom J.R. emotionally disowns, and his wife, Olivia, whom he deems to be evil.
He asks for Norman’s help in destroying Olivia, but when his brother refuses, J.R. is enraged – and he hisses in his ear that he knows Norman has been sleeping with Olivia. Oooh, shitt.
J.R. goes home to grab a gun from a desk drawer, and rides the elevator up to Shelley’s attic. All he does is stand over her crib staring at her, though, and after a few moments he heads to Roman’s room and kisses his forehead. It’s clear by this point that he’s saying his last goodbyes. But what, oh what, is he going to do? Will he kill Olivia? Or will he kill himself?
Yeah, it’s himself (obviously, since Olivia is still alive in present-day). Little Kid Roman walks in to see his father’s dead body pouring blood out onto the rug. Olivia comforts him, saying that everything would be alright because Roman is “so much stronger” than his father was. Well, I guess that explains why Roman is so self-destructive and fucked up as a teenager.
In present day, Norman is confronting Olivia about the recent increases in funding for Dr. Pryce’s branch of research at the Godfrey Institute. Olivia dodges his lines of questioning expertly, but Norman isn’t easily deterred.
Aaand then finally, someone finds Brooke Bluebell’s body. Remember when that happened? The poor girl’s been rotting away in a shed while all this other drama-filled stuff happened.
The cops quickly swarm the area, and when the Sheriff and his lackeys see Peter walking by on the way to school, they start to interrogate him (for no good reason. Why does everyone hate on Peter so much, man? He’s harmless, the worst he’s done is have snappy comebacks.)
They let him go pretty quickly, but all is not well, because Christina has been spreading tales; everyone at Peter’s school is whispering about him being a werewolf.
Norman, meanwhile, is tasked with introducing the Sheriff to the aforementioned Dr. Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) so they can discuss details of Brooke’s case. Pryce tells them it’s definitely an animal attack, though he doesn’t know what kind.
At night, Peter goes to the place where Brooke died to search in the dirt for clues – and finds Roman Godfrey instead, who introduces himself by saying, “So how did it feel when you killed that girl?”
Thoughts + Verdict
It was a pretty slow start to the series, but that’s par for the course for first episodes since they’re still establishing characters and such. So far, I like Peter the most; Landon seems to be the most comfortable with his character. Others like Freya Tingley and Dougray Scott come across a bit stiff, at times. I’ll still watch the rest of the episodes, but I’m less excited about the series than I was initially.
Christina: I’ve seen you swimming in my grandparents’ pond.
Peter: …So you’ve seen me naked.
-Olivia sees J.R. walk in the room holding a gun-
Olivia: Really, J.R.? Not again.
J.R.: What are you?
Olivia: Annoyed, exasperated, sexually underwhelmed. Shall I go on?
J.R.: What. Are. You.
Olivia: Pull the trigger and find out.
Letha: Did you know Pennsylvania has more hate groups per capita than any other state in the country?
Roman: About time we won something.
Letha: We also lead the nation in Ho Ho consumption.