Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hemlock Grove – season 3 – review

Director: various

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

Hemlock Grove is a Netflix exclusive and I was very impressed with season 1, it was interesting and a new spin on old tropes – especially as, at heart, it was a Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfman, Vampire rehash. However, when Season 2 was released I was less impressed. I felt it was missing a vital element that season 1 had carried and had side-lined its more interesting characters.

Famke Janssen as Olivia
As Season 3 starts the daughter of Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgård), our resident vampire or upyr, has been kidnapped by the reptilian Dr Spivak (J.C. MacKenzie, Dark Angel: Love in Vein) and Roman and his gypsy (and werewolf) friend Peter (Landon Liboiron) are desperately searching for her. Peter has also given the family blessing to Andreas (Luke Camilleri) to marry Peter’s clairvoyant cousin Destiny (Kaniehtiio Horn, Embrace of the Vampire & Being Human (US)). Shelley (Madeleine Martin), our Frankenstein’s Monster equivalent, has been released from custody due to lack of evidence in the murders she was accused of, however – to Roman’s ire – it is into their mother’s custody. Said mother, Olivia (Famke Janssen), seems back on bitchy form if destitute as Roman has cut her off from the Godfrey fortune.

despondent and suicidal
So that is how we begin and the series follows several threads. There is the gypsies using the wolf pack (there are more wolves than Peter in town) to hijack caviar and sell it to the Croatian Mob and the subsequent fallout when Andreas tries to rip the Mob off. There is Shelley, despondent and suicidal, finding friendship and love amongst Hemlock Grove’s homeless community. There is the search for Spivak and the attempt to get Nadia back. The season concentrates more than it has done on mad scientist Johann Pryce (Joel de la Fuente) and give the character space to really shine and develop.

Camille De Pazzis as Annie
There is also the arrival of the mysterious Annie (Camille De Pazzis), an upyr who comes into Roman’s life. Through her we discover that there is a vast global community of upyrs and Roman is able to discover more both about himself and about Spivak, who is actually a creature from upyr myth. Later we discover that they were evolutionary competitors that the upyr virtually wiped out. At the same time we see people attacked, and, through the attackers POV, we see they have a strange visual function that highlights their prey.

felt like zompire
Eventually it becomes clear that it is upyr being attacked, the assailant ripping the victims chest open and eating the heart, and when Roman and Annie kill an attacker they discover that it is a diseased upyr. The disease is a parasitic tumour that invades the central nervous system, causing irrational madness and a hunger for their own species’ flesh (and heart particularly it seems). The tumour wraps around the optic nerve causing the visual tell by highlighting upyr but also giving the infected a massive intolerance to light (they freeze when caught in bright light). They are diseased, rotting, (fast) zombie-like and ultimately self-consuming. I’d say they can happily be called zompires. Olivia develops the disease but why she takes so long to lose her mind when others seem to turn almost instantly is unknown.

Pryce and Roman
This season was excellent. Famke Janssen was on fine form as Olivia and the Shelley storyline was marvellously handled with subtlety and just a dash of the Beats. I mentioned already the Pryce storyline and I have to say the promise from one of the promotional posters of "no happy endings" was (mostly) not stinted on. After a disappointed mid-season this left Hemlock Grove on a high. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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