It is difficult not to like a show that starts its third season, as Hemlock Grove does, with a truck driver who has a mannikin in his cab that he has a “thing” with. Said thing being “oral sex” something that he says, to the mute plastic female beside him, is not really sex at all. The president says so. This little simulation is stopped when he hits a naked man with his vehicle.
As he rushes to the victim’s aid, the struck man changes into a werewolf and other shape changers arrive to surround the driver. This hapless man, with his plastic girlfriend, then begins to pray:
“Our Father who does art in heaven…”
It is not apparent whether this poor chap is so rattled that he messes up the Lord’s Prayer or if he is, perhaps, a bit “limited.” It could well be the latter, after all, he was about to partake in simulated oral sex with a store dummy.
In Hemlock Grove, things are weird and wonderful. This little opening scene in the first episode of season three (the final season as Netflix will not be bringing the show back) proves that in terms of misdirection this series is master. The poor man who is convinced he will die, has his truck stolen by the werewolves instead of being eaten.
The humor in this episode, titled A Place to Fall belies the darkness of the series. Famke Janssen is the matriarch of the Godfrey clan of Ipirs, Olivia, who has an almost incestuous love/hate relationship with her son Roman (Bill Skarsgård) and whose daughter Shelley (Madeleine Martin) she keeps around for her trust fund.
Granted, the “keeping Shelley around” has just recently transpired, as Roman’s bid to be her guardian has failed at the court hearing.
Hemlock Grove has a fascinating cast of characters, an incestuous and warped familial set up that consists of gypsies and the clan Godfrey. Olivia has another love/hate relationship with Dr. Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) who is a mad scientist type who, in this opening episode, put his stored consciousness into a Greek deliveryman and then prompted an argument that ended with him slapping “himself.”
There is a flying lizard man; Dr. Arnold Spivak (J.C. MacKenzie) who kidnapped Roman’s daughter, a genetically created replacement for Shelley, a vat full of liquid human parts for Roman to imbibe, instead of eating people to get his nutrients and all sorts of nefarious, and illegal, activities going on with the gypsies.
Spivak, is missing and being looked for in earnest by just about everyone…
The series feels a little like a dysfunctional and hopped up Addams Family mixed with a twisted Dark Shadows reboot. Granted, Dark Shadows was about a pretty dysfunctional family with all sorts of secrets, a vampire, werewolf, witch, ghost, etc but Hemlock Grove has the added fillip of incest and a mother that makes “Mommy Dearest Crawford” look like Mary Poppins.
Anyone who watched the previous two seasons will remember that Olivia has cancer, or had cancer that Dr. Pryce refused to treat for ages. She gets her revenge in this episode in another humorous scene. Pryce believes the feds are there to raid his illegal and unethical research labs. Panicking he tells everyone to destroy everything, including Roman’s liquid libation of people parts.
When he goes to meet the “agents” he learns that they are investigating a paperwork impropriety, nothing to do with the lab work at all. Olivia tells the doc that, in essence, payback is a b*tch. The entire exercise had to do with his not treating her cancer, even though he had the means to do so and making her wait.
The third season has started with a mix of comedy and black humor. It is also maintaining that weirdness that Hemlock Grove does so well. Famke Janssen looks nowhere near her reported 50 years and is deliciously evil and self centered as Olivia Godfrey. The entire cast delivers, and as well they should, living in their characters’ skin for two seasons.
This is a complex verse. It is highly recommended that new viewers take a trip down memory lane by watching the prior seasons to see who is who. The journey may be confusing and require note taking to keep everyone straight, but it will be worth it. While not quite Grand Guignol of the small screen, Hemlock Grove is eclectic and skewed entertainment.
Netflix released the entire last season on October 23. Watch the whole thing in one setting, or, take a moment to refresh the plot via a bit of binge watching and take it one step at a time.