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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hemlock Grove: 2 Episodes In

I've been a Netflix member for years.  I've stuck with Netflix through the dumb times and the stupid times, the asinine times and the 'they're-changing-what-now?' times.  And throughout those times, I've had very few complaints.  I guess what I'm trying to say without sounding like a paid advertisement for the Netfilx service although I'm totally open to that if someone from Netflix would like to contact me and get me on the payroll, is that I kind of love Netflix.

I am especially intrigued by this newfangled original series direction Netflix seems to be headed in.  Like any comedy nerd worth his novelty salt, I'm obviously excited for the fourth season of Arrested Development (May 26), and I've heard good things about House of Cards.  But it's Netflix other new show, Hemlock Grove, that I was looking forward to last week, not because I was a fan of the book, a book I didn't even know existed until Hemlock's opening credits, or any particular members of the cast, but because I'm pretty much always game to give a new horror series a try.  Also Eli Roth is involved and I liked Hostel or whatever.

Horror series typically vary in quality.  Some are great.  I am a big fan of AMC's The Walking Dead, mainly because of its great characters.  I like zombies all right too, but, I mean, what more can we do with zombies, really?  I'm hoping this summer's World War Z provides a satisfying end to the modern zombie craze and gives us all a much deserved break.  

And not for nothing, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my favorite television shows of all time.  And I really enjoyed the first season of American Horror Story for all its campy and insane bullshit.

Some were great.  When True Blood premiered, I was all in.  It wasn't perfect, but there was enough weird, gory shit going on to keep me interested.  Then it kind of lost its way for a bit, leaving me feeling exasperated and betrayed.  Then I kind of imposed a trial separation period between the two of us.  Nothing permanent, I just needed some time apart to weigh my options.  Then it suddenly got very interested to me for a hot second.  Then I didn't care.  Then we dropped HBO from our cable plan because it was too expensive and we now had an extra mouth to feet and butt to diaper.  I find that I don't even think about True Blood anymore, nor do I care what's going on in Bons Temp.

And some are bad.  Hemlock Grove might just be bad.
I'm not ready to declare that definitively just yet however.  I am, after all, only 2 episodes in.  I guess that's one of the problems.  When I see the words "Eli Roth" and "new horror series" together, I instantly expect 13 episodes of something that I won't be able to pull myself away from. 

I watched the first episode ("Jellyfish in the Sky") Friday night, later than planned as I got inexplicably caught up in NBC's coverage of Boston Marathon bomber Suspect #2's boat stand-off (They got him though, so, yea!), telling myself, "I know you're tired, but you've got to be ready to go all night with this thing, Matt.  I mean, c'mon, how is this not going to be completely awesome?!?  Brew some coffee, because we are going to powerwatch the shit out of Hemlock Grove tonight, son!"

So, there I was with my fresh cup of coffee and my high expectations and then...


I hate writing that, but seriously, meh.  The episode ended and I didn't know how to proceed, Wii-mote pointed at the screen, the onscreen arrow hovering above the 'Play Episode 2' button.  In the end, I decided I'd get more enjoyment out of going to bed, and that bothered me a little.

What's Hemlock Grove about, you ask?  Well, that's the problem.  It's kind of about a lot of stuff, so much stuff, in fact, that it kind of feels like it's about nothing, and not in the fun, Emmy-winning way Seinfeld was.

Ostensibly it is about a high school girl who is brutally killed by an animal of some kind in the small, quirk-filled town of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania.  It's sort of like Twin Peaks if Twin Peaks wasn't especially interesting.  But the dead high school girl is really the only thing Hemlock Grove has in common with David Lynch's classic, early 90's TV creep out.  Well, that and the fact that if Hemlock Grove was on network TV it would almost assuredly be canceled post haste.

Ugh.  I hate being so harsh, because I wanted to like this so much.  I just don't at this point.  I mean, sure, Hemlock Grove needs to have a little bit more than a dead girl mystery to make it stand apart from the Twin Peaks-s and The Killing-s of this world, so here's what it adds to the mix, and keep in mind that I've literally seen two episodes: 

A gypsy boy who is also a werewolf; the second-coming of every rich asshole character James Spader played in the 80's who possesses the Jedi-like ability to control people with his mind; a hulking, mute beast girl with a weird reptile eye on one side of her face and hands wrapped in gauze; a teacher/student secret lesbian affair; a virgin who has been impregnated by an angel; something about genetic experiments; and Famke Janssen speaking in a ridiculously bad British accent.

I'm going to keep watching Hemlock Grove because I want to find something to like in it.  So far, I do like Roman, the James Spader-clone I referenced above.  The actor is just as bad as everyone else, but at least his character is semi-interesting.  I feel like the show really wants its audience to love Peter, the gypsy/werewolf/quip machine, but I can't, in fact, that might be the very reason I hate him.

On the acting: I don't know if it's the actors or the writing that is the problem.  I'm not sure America's finest working actors could make this dialogue sound any better.  I'll lay off the actors for now.

As I continue to watch it, I sincerely hope this grade changes, but for now, I'm giving Hemlock Grove a solid D+

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