Hemlock Grove: Hemlock Diego’s Policy Player’s Dream Book Review

Hemlock Grove indulges its best and worst instincts in a bizarrely titled episode.

“Whoop whoop whoop!” Your personal reaction to Hemlock Grove probably correlates very closely with the last three minutes of the incomprehensibly titled “Hemlock Diego’s Policy Player’s Dream Book”* We all must acknowledge that Peter bursting into Dr. Pryce and his fabulous sleep mask’s room, then groveling in front of the doctor to relieve his hunger, which he describes as a bird right down to replicating the “whooping” sounds is…ridiculous.

*No, I have no idea why this episode is titled that. And exactly one gold star to the first person who can explain it. 

But for some it’s the exact right kind of ridiculous. It’s a well-earned moment of insanity that pays off five episodes of Bill Skarsgard’s increasingly sallow, sweaty face. And for others: it’s just an actor not being able to translate what must have seemed like a daring line of dialogue in the script. It’s not being completely swept away in the moment because you remember Roman being able to overcome his hunger long enough for a passionate sex scene moments earlier.

Hemlock Grove, while occasionally able to execute its Gothic vision perfectly, is more often than not maddeningly inconsistent. The result is that it’s become Netflix’s own Rorschach test of quality for audiences. And “Diego” has plenty of ammunition for both sides of the debate. 

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Miranda says that she is driving through Hemlock Grove from Maine but by “Maine” she must mean “season one” as she is starting to stand out as the most frustratingly dimwitted character on a show filled with recovering dimwits. Of all the possible reactions to her finding and breast-feeding a baby with piercing blue eyes locked in a sound-proof room, immediate acceptance followed by coitus was pretty low-down on the list of logical thinking. I have high hopes for her seemingly random lactation and don’t fully buy Roman’s doctor’s “eh, it’s probably nothing” explanation but as she stands now, Miranda as a character is nothing more than an enticing chew toy for Roman to struggle against. Also, is Peter ever going to call her back? You let her out of your sight for one day and suddenly she’s with your ex best friend/current rival. 

Speaking of Peter and Roman’s friendship, that’s due to come back very soon. The decision to separate Peter and Roman for the first half of the season has paid dividends. Roman battling his hunger and Peter becoming a darker version of himself were best done in private. The complexities of their relationship together and necessary time spent rebuilding bridges would distract from their own interpersonal demons. Their tiff, however, hasrun its course and is beginning to make the “white mask accident men” (still can’t think of the better name for these guys) far too inconsequential. That aside, the Hemlock Grove Netflix marketing team deserves a quick shout out as all the promotional materials have perfectly reflected this season’s focus on internal struggle.

And Peter’s internal struggle increases by leaps and bounds in this episode. Much like Roman’s “whoop whoops,” Peter’s destruction of the “lady lawyer’s” office is something that must have felt stronger on the page than in practice but his plot needed an injection of extreme behavior to mirror Roman’s desperation. His handling of his mother’s jailbreak also strains credulity but is for the good of the show. Unless the “white mask accident men”* are based in Romania, Lydia Rumancek is probably more or less done for the season. It’s a shame but at least it thins the considerable ranks of named characters on Hemlock Grove and we get to see the effects of Destiny’s Psycho Gypsy Brain Fog.

*The white mask accident men’s body count reaches approximately five in this episode but we are no more closer to understanding who they are or what they want.

Olivia is another Hemlock character who would be served well by having someone to talk to other than Dr. Pryce or Norman (who has a strangely attractive Private Investigator as it turns out). Still the renewed focus on internal struggles all around has rehabilitated her character somewhat. She’s ambiguous enough to be interesting. Season one of the show clearly intended for her to be a far more mysterious figure than the stock “really bad mom” character she was. I can’t exactly place why she felt the need to go to a karaoke bar after learning that her fight with Roman turned her into a mortal.  But that is not a bad thing. Not being able to nail down what a character as crucial as Olivia means the show is finally embracing some ambiguity. It’s a new trick for Hemlock Grove and a welcome one at that.

Thankfully, the show is still a master of its oldest and best trick as well: sheer stomach-churning gore. Amping up the grossness to such an extreme level could be seen as a sign of weakness for Hemlock Grove – that it has elected to shock and disgust when it can’t quite entertain. In reality it’s just the show wisely exercising a known strength. The extended fantasy sequence that opens the episode with Roman opening his mouth grotesquely wide and blood shooting out of Miranda’s neck onto Roman’s like an unholy baptism is downright lyrical. It’s excessive to the point of ridiculousness to the point of hilarious to the point of beautiful back to the point of ridiculousness before finally settling on just flat out great. The same can be said for Roman attempting a keg stand on Dr. Pryce’s chunky version of Tru Blood.

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Much like Dr. Pryce’s “Priscilla,”* Hemlock Grove is growing in fits and spurts. It’s appropriate that as Hemlock Grove‘s characters become introspective the show is doing the same, trying to find solutions for its own flaws on the fly, keeping what works and experimenting with what doesn’t. Regardless of where you fall on the success of the show’s general absurdity, you’d hope that half a season in it was further along towards a finished product. Then again: the freakish test-tube possible Letha Godfrey clone wasn’t built in a day. 

*The funniest part of this whole season is how Pryce TWICE moves the conversation away from the topic of Priscilla as if creating a new human life from scratch outside of a womb is not that impressive. First, he tells Roman not to worry about it because he’s got something much cooler to show him. Then he shouts down his “Bolshevik stool sample” for having the audacity to focus on this miracle of science instead of an enzyme inhibitor. 


Individual Episode Reviews: 

Full Season, non-spoiler review

Episode 1: Blood Pressure

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Episdoe 2: Gone Sis

Episode 3: Luna Rae 

Episode 4: Bodily Fluids

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3 out of 5