As of late, Netflix has really gotten into original programming. In 2012, they brought Lilyhammer, a crime comedy. In February of this year, they presented House of Cards (read my review here ), a political thriller. In May, they will have brought back Arrested Development, a continuation of the critically acclaimed comedy series, and soon they will bring a host of new shows to the table. There will be Derek, a comedy-drama, Narcos, a drama, Orange is the New Black, a comedy-drama, Sense8, a sci-fi drama brought by the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas), and Turbo: F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team), an animated series. To say that Netflix is changing television, making it more cinematic, is not an exaggeration. I mentioned that more than once in my House of Cards review.
When I reviewed House of Cards, I watched the full season, then reviewed it as a whole. I am going to try something different with Hemlock Grove. I will review it on an episode-by-episode basis, as I go through it. At the end of it all, I shall do a complete write up on the whole show, and how I think it did. This article will serve as an introduction to the process (these past two paragraphs), and a review for the first episode “Jellyfish in the Sky” (everything that follows).
When a relatively well-known director works on an episode for a TV series, it is usually apparent when watched – for example, Rian Johnson’s (Looper, Brick) episodes of Breaking Bad, or David Fincher’s first two episodes of House of Cards. For Eli Roth (Hostel, Aftershock) as the director of Hemlock Grove’s first episode, this is not the case. Sure, it may be horror. Sure, there may be quite a bit of blood. Sure, there is a bit of the humor that accompanies his films. However Hemlock Grove is very constrained, never overbearing. This is not to say it seems like the director did not know his way around the camera, but there are not that many of his stylistic flashes. I do not know if this is good or not, but as I view more episodes, I may learn.
Hemlock Grove’s biggest strength may also be its biggest weakness. The pace of the first episode seems to drag – what happens in the first five to ten minutes of most shows seems to carry on for thirty-five minutes. A murder occurs and the cops go investigate, which gets the proverbial ball rolling.
Although irritating, this lengthy intro allows a wide-variety of characters ample time to develop. I hate in some horror flicks when there are only superficial, hollow characters. Yet because of the time invested introducing its protagonists, this show may be different. Another positive side to the drawn-out introduction is that atmosphere is created. In fact, thus far, the series may be described as purely atmospheric. It is completely unique in that aspect. A new world where werewolves and other creatures of the night roam is created, and It makes me believe it is really there. So for now the show could go either way. Using its time to build and come together, or if it continues at this pace, becoming boring and empty. Only the following episodes will tell.
The first shot of the show is of Roman Godfrey, a rich kid, holding an ice cream cone. The design of the parlor is bright and happy, like one might expect an ice cream store would be. The kids around are filled with joy and are enthused to be there (probably because Eli Roth gave them sugar [or meth]). But what about Roman Godfrey? Is he enthused? Is he happy? No, he is not enthused, nor happy. He looks like the goon on the poster of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, except without the makeup.
If you do not know what the poster looks like, either A.) Go here: or B.) imagine Tyra Banks on a Sunday morning coming off a hangover.
It is a very effective beginning, and perfectly sets up the feeling one will feel for the rest of the show, and how I hope it continues.
Is some of the dialogue sketchy? Yes. Is there a plot? Not really, yet. Are there characters? YES, AND THANK THE DEITY OF YOUR CHOICE! I love the fact that there are characters. I LOVE it. That is what makes me recommend this episode, really. That, and the strange atmosphere. For now, this is all I write. I hope it gets better, the plot starts really moving forward, and the characters creative go somewhere. Also, I hope werewolves maim some cops nose off. That would be cool.