We learn some important things in “Lost Generation.” For one: werewolf gypsies have no idea what Keurig coffeemakers are. Also, Ohio is apparently a “long drive” from Western Pennsylvania. But most importantly: if your show is struggling terminally with purpose, just throw a threesome at it and call me in the morning.
It would be reductive and borderline childish to say that getting two of its main characters into a threesome has made Hemlock Grove a better show but…getting two of its main characters into a threesome has made Hemlock Grove a better show. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact that since Roman and Peter are now physically in the same room as each other (and in practice: much closer than that) they now by default have to confront all the various mysteries that they were only dipping their toes into separately.
Even beyond that, however, the atmosphere is just different, and for the better, from the beginning of the episode. Roman and Peter are briefly believably awkward but then get right down to brass tacks, filling each other in on the various parts of the “white mask dudes” mystery that they’ve cobbled together and acknowledging that hey, it’s weird that Roman has a baby. Miranda also has her only intelligent character moment to date, correctly pointing out that “if it’s more that two, it’s ‘among.’” Ahhh grammar – the key to winning back any black-hearted TV reviewer!
The good vibes continue with the return of Shelley. Her incorporation back into the central plot is so seamless and worthwhile that it’s hard to imagine that just a few episodes ago she was given her finger to an abused little boy in a dingy basement.* Just as Shelley brings out the best in Roman Godfrey so does she bring out the best in the actor that portrays him. Bill Skarsgard’s wonderment upon hearing that not only has his sister returned but that she can also speak is so genuine that I’m positive there’s a missing seven-foot mute Skarsgard sibling we don’t know about.
*Hemlock Grove may hold the record for sentences that make it sound like the most insane thing in the universe when taken out of context. Not that context usually adds much anyway.
Dr. Pryce’s plan to move Shelley’s brain into Priscilla’s body also immediately moves to the front of the pack as season two’s most effective story. Both scenes involving Shelley and Priscilla are excellent but Pryce’s tricking of Shelley into thinking Priscilla is braindead especially so. Dr. Pryce is a hard character to nail down and I hope his devotion to Shelley serves as his character’s “true North.” He loves Shelley more than an outside shot at being the next Newton or Darwin. Though if this plan goes through and it means we’ve been staring at Shelley’s bare chest all season without knowing it, I’ll be very upset.
Weirdly enough, however, the episode that features Hemlock Grove at its best also has a side plot that’s a greatest hits of the show’s worst qualities in Norman’s continued investigation into Olivia. For a guy whose wife is missing he doesn’t seem too much concerned with her well-being, only nailing down exactly what’s up with Olivia. And that search has led to some strange, strange places.
Norman and his inexplicably attractive P.I. (I’ll learn the character’s name when she’s earned a name) visit an old woman who was driven insane by witnessing Olivia’s Upir brutalism. This woman does not speak but can still afford a live-in nurse. What nationality is this nurse? You have three guesses but you only need one. A saintly but sassy Jamaican nurse is something a writer settles on when they’ve packed it up for the day creatively. “Hey Chic, what nationality should this nurse chara…” “JAMAICAN. ROLL FILM.”
This woman also uses her feces to draw a “3” on the wall, indicating that the picture of Olivia is who she witnessed eating her family. I mean…okay? After all that, Norman has a heart to heart with his P.I., opining that she clearly means to take advantage of this case for her own purposes.
She responds with “I don’t have a bad side, I’m just Dominican.” Does it matter that she looks as Dominican as Ron Paul? Not when there’s an inexplicable joke to be made about someone’s ethnicity! Remember: this is the same show responsible for “that woman is what she says she is like a Mexican hates fireworks.” Thankfully, all of this ends with Norman in a place ready to emotionally accept that Olivia may be a monster. And even more thankfully, the episodes briskly moves past this to a final, satisfying action scene with Roman and Peter.
It’s telling the episode that begins with Roman and Peter teaming up ends with them finally confronting these villains in masks. They were clearly only separate for so long because logic dictates that putting their heads together and tackling this mystery would lead them to a confrontation quickly. That narrative frustration, aside, it is incredibly satisfying to just see both of them literally running towards a threat instead of sitting on their hands.
The white mask folks have hidden a beehive in the home of a family. Roman and Peter follow their dreams to the location and save the child then chase the assailants into the woods.
It’s entertaining that the two of them finally in action but even moreso that their season-long arcs are about to pay off. Peter’s decision to turn on the wrong moon has turned him into a more brutal wolf, while Roman’s decision to remove the Upirism that makes him special has turned him into just a guy wielding a shovel when what he really could use are fangs. Roman has Spider-Man 2-ed himself.*
*This Spider-Man 2-ing is also touched on nicely in his scene with Olivia after seeing Shelley again. Olivia tells Roman that J.R. was neither impressive, nor his father. When he tries to physically retaliate against her, she’s easily able to throw him down with her Upir strength.
Miranda witnesses this and being understandably shaken by seeing her threesome buddies murder two people, grabs baby Nadia and runs off. The episode would have done better to end on the final image of a naked, bloody Peter shivering in the snow but I suppose no episode is complete without some classic Miranda poor decisions.
“Lost Generation” is not only an unusually strong episode of Hemlock Grove, it puts the last few episodes of the season in a much better position to succeed than anything that’s come before it.