Monday, July 14, 2014

HEMLOCK GROVE Season 2 Review

Article originally written for Seat42F.

Netflix’s HEMLOCK GROVE, the popular but critically derided supernatural drama, returns tomorrow for a second, shorter season on the streaming service. Season two, which will consist of ten episodes, picks up a few months after the events of season one. Events conspire to bring Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) back to the town of Hemlock Grove and into its scary, dangerous mess once more. Who will make it out alive this time?

HEMLOCK GROVE is a creepy and bloody place to live. Even though our heroes manage to take down a serial killer previously, the premiere this year opens with a new deadly menace. It might be a little hard to swallow another mass murderer in the same place, but then, it’s also apparent that HEMLOCK GROVE attracts the odd types, given the cast of players already in place. This is one area where belief must be suspended for the course of the series, as each subsequent batch of installments will likely present much the same.

It is welcome that HEMLOCK GROVE gets right back to the linchpin stories right after that first scene. Shelley (Nicole Boivin) is still missing, but she is far from forgotten. Norman (Dougray Scott) is continuing to mourn his daughter, Letha (Penelope Mitchell), who died in childbirth, and Olivia’s (Famke Janssen) absence from her big house is definitely felt. More importantly, Roman (Bill Skarsgard) continues to feel abandoned by Peter’s swift departure, and it will take no small amount of repair work if they are to be friends again.

And friends again, it seems they must be. After all, who else is going to stop the killing? Peter’s mother, Lynda (Lili Taylor, still woefully a ‘guest star’) needs their help, too, in the arc that brings Peter back to the area. Besides, while Peter has others to lean on to assist him, Roman does not, and Roman seems much less capable of coping through the tough times by himself, though he’s definitely been trying in the gap between seasons.

The relationship between Roman and Peter is key to HEMLOCK GROVE. It is shattered at the end of season one, but I’m hopeful, despite a very rocky beginning in the return, that they can fix things. They are unlikely pals from completely different worlds and with overlapping, but not completely consistent, values. They make for an interesting dynamic, and Roman’s latent homosexual tendencies only make the sparks dance higher. Whether they ever become a couple (doubtful) or not, they need to come back together with a stronger bond that cannot be broken this time. That, or they will become arch-nemeses, which feels like a much less original way to go to me.

Fans of the series will remember that of the six main characters listed in the opening credits, all three women were presumed dead at the close of the first year. One of those three has been widely reported in the press to be retaining her full-time presence, though I won’t say which one, just in case you don’t already know. Filling the other two slots are two recurring players, Destiny Rumancek (Tiio Horn) and Dr. Johann Pryce (Joel de la Fuente), both established presences earning promotions in the sophomore run, and good choices to make up for the loss of the others.

HEMLOCK GROVE is popcorn fare, to be sure, lacking real depth in the characters and more concerned with moving rapidly from one event to the next than providing growth or making you think. However, it is entertaining, enjoyable, good fun. The writers are clever enough to surprise us, including with a big twist involving a familiar face late in the second season premiere. All of this makes for a pace that is never boring, and by avoiding a lot of the vampire and werewolf clichés, taking older legends as the source material instead of pop culture, it doesn’t feel tired or repetitive of others in the genre.

HEMLOCK GROVE’s entire second season will be available tomorrow exclusively on Netflix.

Fun Fact: This review is exactly 666 words, and that happened purely by chance.

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