I didn’t know what to expect when I saw Hemlock Grove in my Netflix recommendations. At first glance, I thought: “Werewolves are cool.” Then I remembered the Underworld movies, which I turned off before finishing. Netflix productions were in their infancy, and I didn’t yet trust them to make anything remarkable. But I kept seeing it there among my other choices, and my curiosity got the better of me. I turned it off partway through the first episode, but I later returned to it and saw something I’d missed the first time. It was good, better than good. I binge-watched the rest of the first season before I knew what I’d done.
I talked to somebody at work about it. They asked some questions. Is it like Underworld? No. Like those Twilight movies? I don’t know. I never saw them, but I don’t think so. True Blood? Not as overtly sexual, but it definitely had sexually mature themes. Still no.
It was hard for me to compare to other shows or movies. There were elements from all of those in Hemlock Grove. The visceral violence of the Underworld movies was there. A bit of the eroticism and dark humor of True Blood were evident. There were werewolves and some teen angst, so I guess that made it like the Twilight movies? Nobody sparkled.
There are also plenty of differences. Eli Roth, of Hostel fame, is an executive producer. While I’m not a huge fan of his other movies, or its copycats, it made me realize that his influence might have made all the difference between what Hemlock Grove strove to attain and what I found dissatisfying about the Underworld films.
Despite mostly teenage protagonists in the first season, Hemlock Grove never fell into tropes better left to early CW Network programming. I kept waiting for characters to stagnate within the confines of their templates, and that never happened. The writing, especially the dialogue, fit the dynamic characters that suffered damage from traumatic events and family backstories. There was romance, but it was a driving force in the plot and character development. I suppose it made the series resemble Gothic horror, but romance never took center stage in the plot. It was there in the jealousies, in the bravery it inspired, and in the crimes that were committed. It certainly made for good conflict, but it was never overly exploited.
And there were plenty of conflicts, both those I expected and those that surprised me. Some were set up at the beginning, only to take unpredictable paths. Others arose from the protagonists’ best intentions.
I stopped watching at the end of the second season. The first felt stronger in its character development and writing. Perhaps the love interest in the second season was the reason for my flagging interest, or maybe the absence of characters I liked from the first season was to blame. Regardless, the second season left me wanting. I guess it’s only to be expected after such a compelling and entertaining opening, and I hope the third season draws me back in. The season finale promised more horrific weirdness to come.
Fans of horror will enjoy Hemlock Grove’s tension, violent action, and twists on old legends. Fans of drama will appreciate the intricate relationships among the characters. I bet fans of romance will find some nuggets of sweet heartbreak and passion to appeal to them as well. I highly recommend the series for all of the above.
Let me know what you think of Hemlock Grove by leaving me a comment.