That last episode sucked the life out of me, but I revived myself so I could recap the eighth episode of…
Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgard), aka an extremely strong contender for the Actual Worst Person On TV Award, is sniveling in his car after the events of the last episode where he raped Ashley Valentine. Are we supposed to feel bad for him? Because fuck no.
After doing yet another line of coke, Roman loses control of his car, careens off the side of the road, and manages not to die after crashing into a tree (what a shame). When he gets out, he sees the bright lights of the Godfrey Institute White Tower shining through the trees and darkness and rain, and a tiny little lightbulb turns on above his head.
After a quick run through of the credits, we next see Roman storming past the Institute’s front desk guy, who lets him pass with minimal protest once Roman whips out his magic eye powers. Roman then proceeds to give himself a self-guided tour of his soon-to-be-domain, staring disinterestedly at strange creatures in cages and animals being prodded at with big needles. For a science lab that’s supposed to be the best in the world, this place is shockingly lacking in both staffing and in decent security measures.
Roman eventually finds what he was looking for: two ominous-looking doors emblazoned with the Godfrey name. When he can’t get past the doors the conventional ways, he pulls a welding torch from out of a randomly open locker conveniently placed just to his left and starts towards the doors like he’s gonna blowtorch them open. Who even leaves tools like that lying around for emotionally unstable assholes to put their paws on?!
And then Dr. Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) swoops in from seemingly out of nowhere and calmly asks Roman to please put the torch down. That guy is gloriously blithe in the face of potential danger. Roman angrily asks Pryce about Ouroboros, and why the symbol keeps popping up in his dreams and his life.
Dr. Pryce placates Roman by taking him along past the doors, through a long secretive looking passageway that leads up to a room empty of everything besides a big box emitting a blue glow. This, Pryce says, is Project Ouroboros. Roman only gets a split-second peek inside the box (and the audience gets no peek at all, boooo) before Pryce slams a syringe deep into Roman’s neck and knocks him out. Bye bye, Roman.
Only not, because the dude is having some fucked up dreams/visions, and has apparently gone into a coma. A contrite Pryce later tries to explain to Olivia (Famke Janssen) that he only gave Roman a sedative, and there is no physiological reason for why he’s refusing to wake up – suggesting that Roman may have had a mental break. Olivia whisks comatose Roman back to the Godfrey house, despite Pryce’s advice. Once he’s situated there, his sister Shelley Godfrey (Amazon Eve) sits sadly by Roman’s bedside, pleading with him to come back..
Shelley’s “voice” is able to reach Roman in his dreamland coma state. A young girl with what would have been Shelley’s face and body, if she hadn’t died and been turned into a zombie-creature-thing comes up to Roman, and shows him a video that very neatly explains the title of the episode to both Roman and the audience. Catabasis, which is apparently what Roman is currently undergoing, is a “ritualized descent into the underworld to accomplish a necessary task or defeat a dangerous adversary.”
When Roman goes “Huh?” Shelley explains that he needs to destroy the monster inside him. That is singularly unhelpful, imaginary!Shelley.
Chasseur (Kandyse McClure), meanwhile, is sneaking about an auto shop inspecting Roman’s car when Sheriff Sworn (Aaron Douglas) walks in and questions her. They have another one of their weirdly layered chats, but this time – instead of dancing around the issue, the Sheriff actually outright calls Chasseur out on her levels of shadiness. “If the issues involve – as your patch suggests, fish and wildlife – have at it. Otherwise, stay out of police business.”
Oh man, you know what I’d like to see? A montage of the Sheriff learning the ways of the werewolf hunter so that he and Chasseur can team up, leave the town on a roadtrip, and hunt monsters together in a fun new spinoff with loads more blood and guts. Because there is barely any gore in Hemlock Grove, and that was basically what I signed up for with this show.
Back to actual recapping – Chasseur agrees to stay out of police business, and then promptly breaks into Peter and Lynda’s house to poke around. She’s interrupted by the mysterious priest dude from before, who cheerfully tells her that he was concerned about her after their last conversation so he decided to pop in for a visit.
Though she doesn’t look all that pleased to see him, Chasseur updates Mr. Priest Man on what she’s found out so far. She tries to tell him about Olivia Godfrey, but he’s suspiciously quick to shut that avenue of questioning down, and orders her to “bring him Peter Rumancek.” Manipulative vampire with a lot of secrets to hide vs. semi-harmless teenage werewolf? Yeah, let’s totally go for the werewolf. Chasseur looks pretty unhappy about this.
The other Godfrey family in town – Letha (Penelope Mitchell), Norman (Dougray Scott), and wife whose name I do not remember – are sharing an adorably happy moment for the first time in this show, when Olivia calls to let them know about Roman’s condition.
Letha is visibly distressed to hear about what happened, and she and Norman rush over to the mansion immediately to visit him. Norman pulls Olivia away to question her about Pryce’s involvement. They also bang later on in the episode while confessing their love for each other, which I don’t buy at all because there is so little chemistry between them it almost hurts to see them interact.
Roman, by the way, is still dreaming all throughout these events. Shelley leads him down a series of dark underground passageways (I’m sure they’re symbolic of the confusion in his mind state and warring sides of himself or something like that) before coming to a doorway which he has to enter alone. “Everyone you blame for your mistakes is waiting for you just on the other side,” she says sadly. And Roman walks through the door to see a bright and sunny courtyard with Chasseur waiting for him next to a blood-filled fountain.
Chasseur tells Roman that it’s not his fault he’s weak, that he needs to undergo an ordeal to mark his movement from child to adult – and then dips her hands into the pool of blood and smears it onto his shirt in the shape of a circle, which I suppose is meant to be Ouroboros.
This dream is weird, man.
She goes on to shove a silver spoon into Roman’s mouth before laughing that his birthright means nothing because the Dragon is going to eat him alive.
Roman wanders off in a huff, right into another section of his dream where his uncle Norman is psychoanalyzing/mocking Roman’s catabasis (this scene is actually kind of funny and enjoyable to watch). Norman suggests the point of this “episode” – which one could interpret to mean Roman’s psychotic episode, or the actual episode of the show we’re watching – is for the redemption of Roman’s character.
Roman’s about to walk away again in disgust when his father, J.R., appears to give him a lecture about legacy and family. Roman asks J.R. why he killed himself, to which J.R. replies that it’s pretty much all Olivia’s fault. “Half of her is in you,” says J.R. “You’re better off on your own than with a waste of a father.”
And then out of J.R.’s mouth spills the shocker of the past eight episodes: Norman is Roman’s real dad?! But is it really true? Or is it just something that Roman fears to be true?
Because this episode is clearly Roman-centric at this point, the dude goes on to another section of his dream journey. This time, the setting is one of his high school classrooms, where he watches weirdly sexual black-and-white film reels of his cousin Letha dancing. And then Letha’s mom shows up next to him screaming “You paid your fucking money!” at him with a literal forked tongue. Roman scrambles to get away from her, only to run into Brooke Bluebell, the first girl who was murdered, standing in the middle of the school hallway with her guts hanging out and asking Roman for a ride in his car.
Segue into the scene we’ve seen a few times before, of Roman and Peter hanging out on top of the Godfrey Steel Mill while birds tumble out of the sky and into the lake below. This time, the scene continues with the following dialogue:
Roman: We’re in this together, you and I.
Peter: Why do you need that to be true so badly?
Roman: Why can’t you admit it?!
Peter: I guess we’re both scorpions.
Okay, so dream-sequence officially has moved out of entertaining territory and back into really freaking weird.
Once Roman falls out of that particular setting and back into the blue hallways with non-deformed Shelley, his sister begins to agitatedly tell him that he’s running out of time. Roman freaks out, then rushes to the next setting – his house – intent on confronting the Dragon once and for all. Instead, what he finds at the Godfrey mansion is what looks like an underground portal to hell, a large and vicious wolf that looks suspiciously like Peter’s wolf form, and a nude Ashley Valentine whispering “You are ugly, Roman. Looking for a monster? Try looking in the coke mirror.”
The camera zooms in to Ashley’s hand grabbing Roman’s package, but when it zooms out the hand is not Ashley’s – it’s Olivia’s. Yep, Roman’s mother is holding Roman’s junk and crooning. What in the fresh ever-loving Oedipus complex hell…
If you’re wondering where Peter’s been in all of this, he’s mostly been ambling around town on his own, friendless once again. When his mother Lynda (Lili Taylor) finds out about his new lady love, Letha, she’s pleased to see him happy again. And then she finds out Letha is a Godfrey, aka Roman’s beloved cousin, and the look on her face says, “Are you fucking kidding me, bro?”
At school, Letha tells Peter about Roman being in a coma, but he acts as if he doesn’t care. That is proven to be untrue when he randomly shows up at the Godfrey household carrying some sort of item that he says might help Roman in his travels. He hands the item to a teary-eyed Olivia, who seems much more accepting of him than before. She offers to let him visit with Roman if he wants, though Peter says no (he’s apparently “really bad at this fucking shit”), and then just before he walks away Olivia softly tells him that he might have been a good influence on Roman, and that she wishes he had met him sooner.
Other tiny random-ish scenes that occur during the last seven or so minutes of the episode: Chasseur comes to ask Olivia questions but doesn’t actually ask any of the questions. Norman drives away from his house and his wife to go meet up with Olivia for sexytimes. Letha and Peter run into each other and have an impromptu picnic as Chasseur observes them from a distance with a camera that has a ridiculous amount of zoom. Dr. Pryce is doing that self-narration into a recording device trick he’s super fond of, and gloats about how his master plan is going swimmingly (the master plan being: show Roman the Ouroboros, then put Roman in a coma so no one would believe his story even if he were to wake up.)
The very last scene of the episode shows Shelley writing an angry note to Roman telling him “You are not allowed to remove yourself from my life. Wake up, Roman.” Sorry, Shelley, but your brother’s got a lot of dreaming left to do.
Comments + Verdict
Purely because this is a Roman-centric episode, and I’m growing to despise that dude a lot, I feel an urge to rate this episode a lot lower than I’m going to. Overall, though, “Catabasis” was minimally more cohesive than past episodes; not much in the way physical action occurred, but the stories being told were interesting enough and actually made sense.
Roman’s dream sequences were confusing and erratic as all hell, but I did enjoy parts of them – particularly Norman’s bit (for once, the actor was able to do more than be stiff and stoic) and the shot of a gutted Brooke Bluebell standing in the high school hall.
Roman: Stay the fuck away from me!
Pryce: Please give [the blowtorch] to me. I don’t think either of us would enjoy explaining to Olivia how you lost a hand.
Roman: What’s back there?! Is it Ouroboros?
Pryce: Frankly, you don’t even have to give it to me. I would just be substantially more comfortable if you extinguished it.
Peter: No, Letha. Like Lisa, but with a lisp.
Norman: You’re missing the gravitas acquired by years of stoic suffering.
Letha: Oh, you mean wrinkles.
Shelley: Be careful what you say you are, for that is what you are.
Chasseur: I’ll pray for your son.
Olivia: You will do no such thing.
Chasseur: Afraid he’ll be saved?
Olivia: It wouldn’t be the first time I broke something excellent and beautiful because tightening my grip comes more naturally to me than letting go.