Hemlock Grove: Review

Three episodes in and Hemlock Grove has no discernible plot in sight other than something is killing girls in the quiet Pennsylvania town. However, the vague "mystery" seems like a thin device to parade its cast of over-the-top characters. So far there's a lurch with a weird bug eye and glowing skin, a brooding werewolf gypsy, a yuppie upir (a daywalking Polish vampire), a mannered mad scientist in the small town's only towering skyscraper, an sadly underused Lili Taylor, an overused Famke Janssen sporting a questionable accent, and a teen impregnated by an angel. While there's not much to propel this motley crew, it's still somewhat fascinating to watch. I admire it's offbeat Twin Peak-ish tone – at times grim, funny, and odd – but it's set in a Twilight-esque universe with bratty tweens as the centerpiece. It's unclear if this series will ultimately be a train wreck or if something more meaningful will develop. Since all 13 episodes are available at once, it's not going to be a long-term commitment, so for that reason alone I'll keep watching. 

Having finished the first season, I am glad that I stuck with it. The structure of the series is unlike a standard series where every episode has a beginning, middle and end. Instead, the structure is more like a 13-hour movie chopped into chapters that often end in the middle of a scene. There are three major acts (just like a movie): the somewhat tedious first 3 episodes serve as the exposition that set up the colorful characters; act two sets up much of the conflicts as well as several peripheral story lines; act three is where most of the action (and surprises) happen; the epilogue resolves almost all of the major story lines and sets up what will be a thrilling second season. My expectations of what a series should be was the real problem, and from a storytelling perspective Hemlock Grove is an interesting experiment. Being able to see the entire first season within a few days was helpful. And yes, it's not entirely successful. There's some hammy acting, occasionally weird writing, and it's not altogether original. It doesn't have the sophistication (or pedigree) of some of the other genre shows out now, but horror fans will definitely be entertained.