Hemlock Grove: Gone Sis review

Hemlock Grove establishes a little bit of style and gets graded on a curve in its second episode of season two.

I’ve often wondered why no YouTube or video editing wizard has cobbled together a vampire-only cut of True Blood. Get rid of the pesky humans, fairies, werewolves, werepanthers, shapeshifters and witches and True Blood is a much more interesting show by only focusing on the politics of pop culture’s most A-list monsters: vampires.

The best compliment I can pay Hemlock Grove in its second season is that I think I’d be willing to watch a vampire-only cut of this show too. This is a compliment because my previous favorite version of the show would have been 30 minutes of dead air, then one minute of Shelley embarrassedly smiling, followed by 20 more minutes of dead air.

Hemlock Grove still struggles (to put it mildly) with purpose and coherence in its second season but thanks to Roman’s burgeoning vampiric tendencies it no longer struggles as much with style.

The Roman Godfrey in “Gone Sis” represents the smoothest and most interesting version of Roman we’ve gotten yet. There may be some Skarsgard-ian charm in this kid yet.

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Take where the episode opens: in a non-descript hotel room with a brooding, smoking Roman. It wouldn’t necessarily take Vince Gilligan to know where this scene is going. Roman is clearly far more interested in draining blood than bedding a prostitute but it doesn’t make how events play out any less satisfying. Roman mentioning the blood type he’s looking for, murdering a pimp and then downing a cigarette with is face covered in blood is…cool. The plot still hasn’t moved forward and the show hasn’t declared how it’s different from Twilight/True Blood/Vampire Diaries/Insert-pretty-Vampire-media-here but at least it’s starting to provide compelling images in motion, which is kind of the whole point of this “pointing cameras at actors and sets” thing.

Then a new character, Miranda, is introduced. She is as insufferable as any other young female character on this show (except for Shelley. The first person who speaks ill of Shelley is banished from this review) only she has a nose ring so she must be totes cool. Her introduction serves only as a fresh pair of eyes for which to view Roman. To those of us who’ve seen season one of Hemlock Grove, Roman Godfrey is an obnoxious bore. But to Miranda, Roman represents sex and danger. It’s not a coincidence that Miranda’s introduction to the plot is reminiscent of Jonathan Harker’s journey in Dracula. He suffers a misfortune in the middle of the night and the only place to seek refuge is a castle inhabited by a mysterious and rich man, re: vampire. Just give Harker a nose ring and boobs (which you’d better believe are exposed just minutes later in the very same episode) and you have this episode of Hemlock Grove. It’s important that we begin to see Roman as sensual and/or dangerous if this season is to be a success at all.

More to that point is the story of Roman and his horse. Thanks to his meeting with his now, sympathetic mother (thank God Dr. Pryce has all these drugs that conveniently fix characters most annoying tributes) we and Olivia know that Roman is struggling with his hunger.

“Your hunger alone will eventually grow deeper. Bodies will pile up,” she says. This finally makes explicit the relationship between Olivia and Dr. Pryce. She kills people via exsanguination and then he gets the bodies to experiment on. But it also gives scene’s with Roman an added sense with desperation.

When Roman gets a horse it at first seems like a shout out to Tony Soprano and other sociopath’s obsessed with animals. Then Roman eats it at the end of our episode, completing a small character arc. Wait, an honest-to-goodness episode-long character arc? On THIS show? Hemlock Grove, are you feeling ok?

If nothing else, Hemlock Grove should have been “cool.” Work in some supernatural gore, some nudity, some slick editing and a good enough soundtrack and you have a show that still won’t show up on any year-end “best of” lists but will have enough .gifs to make the Tumblr crowd happy.

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Season two has done a much better job with this. Take even the title of the episode. Peter’s plotline hadn’t progressed much aside from him becoming a two-truck driver/mechanic, which is the most reasonable profession for a gypsy werewolf anyway. But something as simple as creating the linguistically interesting phrase “Gone Sis” from a truck stop called “Wagoner’s Oasis” is just not something that would have occurred to this show in the first season.

Problems remain, but with memories of season one’s disaster fresh in my mind, I’ll be happy to grade on a curve as long as Hemlock Grove continues to bring the style, even without the substance.

Check back on our Hemlock Grove season two page for more coverage.  

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3 out of 5