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First Impressions – Hemlock Grove Season 2

Times are changing when it comes to TV. While millions still view their favorite shows as they come on in the traditional manner, a large contingent of us get our TV fix in a whole new way. At the very least, DVR has become standard in homes, allowing us to record our favorite shows and watch them at our leisure. Many of us download episodes and full seasons from the likes of iTunes and Amazon. Many of us download our shows in less legal ways. Many others use streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video to keep up with our shows or to binge watch them when the entire season goes up after it finishes. And then streaming sites, Netflix in particular, changed the game farther. They started producing their own shows. Amazon and Hulu have both followed their lead but neither has been able to match Netflix just yet for one reason. Netflix original shows are good. Really good. And millions of people are starting to discover this. Netflix originals just racked up 31 Emmy nominations for the past year. Just five years ago, this would have been unheard of. So as the times change, so should we. We here at Free4geeks.com are no different. We have been trying to best figure out how to review Netflix originals. So far, we have had one of us binge watch a show and get a review up. But we have realized that for many of you, that’s not how you watch shows. So today we are debuting a new format for Netflix (or any other streaming site if they put something quality out) originals. Last Friday, season 2 of Hemlock Grove went live on Netflix. Today I will be giving you my thoughts on the first three episodes. Next Monday, you can hear Chuck Nalley’s thoughts on the next three. And in two weeks, check back to see what Trey Elliot thinks of the last four episodes of the season.

Okay I admit it. I have an unreasonable love for Hemlock Grove season one. It was totally my favorite guilty pleasure show last year. Does it have the best acting? No. Did it have some pretty extreme pacing issues? Sure. Was it cheesy? Yes, but it was supposed to be! The campiness of the show is one of the things that made it so great! It knows that the subject matter is ridiculous, so why take itself to seriously? It’s what makes the show it is most often compared to, True Blood, so amazing. So at first glance, you may think that Hemlock Grove has horrible dialogue. But doesn’t it make you laugh often because it is so bad? This is done intentionally and it is great. And while the first season had horrible pacing problems, with the first two episodes being good and the next seven being mediocre, the last four episodes were amazing! It was one of the best run of episodes in all of TV last year. Nobody could predict all the twist and turns that were thrown at us.

Bill Skarsgard as Roman easily remains the best part of this show.

Bill Skarsgard as Roman easily remains the best part of this show.

So enter season two, and my expectations were high. I’ve now watched the first three episodes of the season and so far, it does not disappoint. It does however feel different though. The extreme intentional camp and cheese in the dialogue has been toned way back so far. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there. It’s just not in your face with it every single second. I think this is a very good thing that well help draw in new viewers. While I constantly laughed at the ridiculous dialogue from season one, it wasn’t for everyone. The writers have done an excellent job of making the show seem much more serious in tone, while still not taking itself too seriously as a show.

Gore is one thing that never slows down in Hemlock Grove

Gore is one thing that never slows down in Hemlock Grove

The pacing issue so far has been considerably better. The gore and violence will always be a constant throughout the show, but you can only see so much without the story moving forward before you just don’t care. In season two, the story has moved along nicely and has greatly benefited from having a previous setup season. All the mysteries that we were left with at the end of season one have been touched on. Where did Peter go? What happens to Roman and Olivia now? How will Norman handle Letha’s death? What happened to Shelly? What the hell is Dr. Pryce up to?? Everything has been touched on already.  I really liked that the story doesn’t pick up immediately, but several months later. So far am way more into the main storyline this year than I was last. The mystery of who was the killer wolf last season never grabbed me as much as the mystery of the characters themselves. There was too much time between killings last year and it definitely contributed to the pacing issue. This year we seem to be focused on some sort of murdering religious cult. They are randomly (we think) selecting families with children and killing them in ways that look like accidents. They wear really cool masks which adds to the appeal. I say religious because we see one of the murders flogging himself after the initial murder. Purification through pain is practiced by some extremist religious sects, like we saw in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. Each week there is a threat of a new murder and Roman and Peter are slowly getting pulled more and more into the mystery to try and stop it. Several new plot elements have already been introduced to keep the mysteries of the characters fresh. Why are Roman and Peter having their visions? Why have they been chosen to stop these murders. The Order of the Dragon is back and suspect that we will see much more of them. With all of this, they do a nice job of continuously moving the story along and still providing at least one or two “Oh Sh*t!!” moments each episode.

The acting pales in comparison to some of Netflix’s more well know shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Yet, with the type of show this is, it doesn’t have to be great. I do think that Bill Skarsgard as Roman is absolutely wonderful. Roman is such a unique character. He has to be creepy and cruel, but also seem cool. Skarsgard pulls this off wonderfully and still gives Roman the over the top feel that he had in season one that makes you love him and laugh often. It’s very well done. Landon Liboiron as Peter continues to be good not great, but that’s really all we need from him. It’s still a VAST improvement from what we saw from him in Terra Nova (R.I.P.). Dougray Scott and Joel de la Fuente are both still great as Norman and Dr. Pryce in limited roles. The biggest surprise so far has absolutely been Famke Janssen though. She was just AWFUL last year, and through three episodes so far this season, she really has been okay. I still wouldn’t call her performance great, but it doesn’t make you contemplate turning off the show anymore. Her fake accent last year was unintelligible and they have SUPER toned it down. I don’t even care that they haven’t explained it. My ears thank you.

This show should win an Emmy just for making Famke Janssen's performance as Olivia tolerable this season.

This show should win an Emmy just for making Famke Janssen’s performance as Olivia tolerable this season.

 

Overall, I am a big fan of the beginning of season two of Hemlock Grove. If you enjoyed the first season, it doesn’t feel like the new season will disappoint. The best thing that I can say about it is that if you were on the fence about Hemlock Grove after the first season (you didn’t hate it but you didn’t love it either and didn’t know if you would continue), I would say that the slight changes to the show so far this season should absolutely win you over. But this type of show isn’t for everyone, and if you just flat out didn’t like season one, the new season hasn’t changed enough to change your mind. I for one am loving it. It’s a good violent mystery that never causes you to think too much and will provide you with some laughs. It’s some of the most fun you can have watching TV. Let the binge watching continue!

 

imes are changing when it comes to TV. While millions still view their favorite shows as they come on in the traditional manner, a large contingent of us get our TV fix in a whole new way. At the very least, DVR has become standard in homes, allowing us to record our favorite shows and watch them at our leisure. Many of us download episodes and full seasons from the likes of iTunes and Amazon. Many of us download our shows in less legal ways. Many others use streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video to keep…

Review Overview

First Impressions - Hemlock Grove Season 2 - 7.5

7.5

Good

Summary : While the story of Hemlock Grove has taken on a more serious tone, the show still never takes itself to seriously and remains some of the most fun binge watching you can do. With improved pacing and a more focused story, Hemlock Grove has started off better than season one in every single way.

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About Evan Swafford

Evan Swafford
Evan is a semi reluctant insomniac, who has used his extra time to watch way more TV than is healthy for a normal human being. All his other time is devoted to movies, gaming, and being a sports fanatic and stat geek. Evan has a degree from MTSU in Electronic Media Journalism which he now uses to grow some of the best trees and shrubs money can buy. You can hear his useless knowledge every week on the Free For All podcast.