Hemlock Grove, Netflix, and the ‘Easy-bang’ of Binge-watching

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The Netflix original series Hemlock Grove, is a real honest to God horror show: It’s ripe with bloody werewolf transformations (some of the best you will see in recent cinema), self-mutilating vampires, and beautiful women becoming pregnant by way of immaculate conception. The show was co-created by Brian McGreevy (based of his novels) and directed by Eli Roth who we all mainly know from giving us the thrills and delights from the film Hostel.

To be honest, this show was good, and is good in its own right. It is hardy comparable to the very tight and sleek House of Cards, and the emotional roller coaster that was Orange is the New Black. Hemlock Grove is indeed and little rough around the edges. Like True Blood and American Horror Story: AsylumHemlock Grove takes place in a world into which a gift-basket full of supernatural elements have been dumped and hastily stirred. One of its protagonists, new kid in town Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron), is a werewolf. The other, wealthy elitist heir Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgård), seems able to control people with his will, and has a taste for blood, both his own and that of others (mainly women).

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Roman’s sister, who’s named Shelley as a wink and nod to the writer of Frankenstein, is a wordless giant with a abnormal eye and glowing veins who pays intermittent visits to an ivory towered mad scientist working in a biotech building in the middle of an otherwise dilapidated former steel town. Their mother, Olivia (Famke Janssen), is a white-clad, carbon copy of Morticia Adams( a little more beautiful and alive looking). In classic genre fashion, the story begins with a girl running through the woods getting brutally murdered by some mysterious and possibly inhuman force.

The one problem I had with Hemlock Grove, which like Netflix’s last original House of Cards was released in its season one 13 episode entirety, is that we’re never really sure how shocking or odd these revelations are meant to be to the other characters. The obvious elements aside, the show’s not particularly heightened in tone, yet the characters never ask the questions that are expected — really, demanded, when something wild occurs. The show, created by writer Brian McGreevy, really has no center — it’s a lurching amalgamation of muted delivery and crazy happenings. It’s as if all the characters on the show have acute symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome.

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One of the main motifs of the show is that of metamorphosis and the regeneration of the life-cycle.  The transformations are gross and bloody but beautiful, sort of like childbirth. The scene in where a wolf eating his own discarded flesh is a version of consuming his own placenta, the cycle of life. The whole show, however, has an oddly yellowish tint to it as if a teen on tumblr had an Instagram mishap. Although off-putting at first, the yellowish cast works to the shows advantage in terms of bringing out the atmosphere. Despite the series’ overall rickety qualities, there’s a glimmer of potential to it, a rawness to its treatment of its assembly of outsiders.

To the producer’s credit, making a successful show these days is like going to war to ask out that young hot barista chick at your local Starbuck’s: a highly questionable use of time, energy, and most likely resources for what will most likely end up being a big flop. However, this series like with most things in life happened as a result of timing and opportunity. Hemlock Grove proved to it’s self that it is not one of those shows that you will find desperately playing on Showcase at 1:00 am. It’s on Netflix, the trend- setting platform of binge-watching for Gen Y’ers and the like.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love Netflix and the binge-watching/instant gratification that it provides. You’re in, you’re out, and you’re done. You don’t have to put up with the traditional BS of normal T.V watching with all the time-wasting commercials, and the waiting around for a week while you anxiously linger and yearn to see if Walter White is going to receive a bullet to the brain by his brother-in-law. However, isn’t that the fun part of it all? Or should I ask, wasn’t that the best part about T.V shows, the waiting?

Netflix has kind of become the ‘easy-bang’ of series watching, like an F-buddy for entertainment. In the days of old before Netflix, and torrent downloading, we use to take the time with our relationships to shows: Exploring the show’s every nook, every curve, every imperfection, as well as its most valued attributes. We relished in the waiting for the series grand finale by way of discussing possible theories on internet forums, and debating with our friends, even if this meant waiting a whole week to get that dopamine release.

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Having Netflix binge nights with friends is alright, but I remember the days when we used to have Lost night’s, or my very favorite, 24 nights (AKA Jack Bauer Power Hour). Call me old fashioned, but those day’s were golden. But alas, we live in a different world now: a world of $5.00 coffees served by very hot baristas (a decent trade-off), wars and rumors of war, and the double-edged sword that is Netflix original series.

In closing, life is short, and Hemlock Grove illustrates this through the symbols of life-cycle’s/transformations in the show. One of my favorite scenes was from episode 2 S1 where Letha and Roman are in his car after she breaks the news to him about her life altering situation. Roman doesn’t say a word, he just turns on the radio and the very retro Geri by Superhumanoids comes on; everything, and every problem in the world, just seems to melt away for that moment in time.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. I sort of hear what your saying about waiting around all week for a show to air and watching it with your friends. I can vividly recall the whole dorm watching new episodes of 90210. Yup I am that old. Not sure I would trade those days for the ability to stream so many great shows and films.

  2. O almost forgot it’s my first time visiting your blog and I liked looking around a bit.

    1. cervifrank says:

      I hear what you are saying as well. I guess I am sort of torn between the two….or I am deeply nostalgic for certain experiences. Either way, like you said, I would be also hard pressed to trade away the miraculous advances in the way we get to watch shows and movies. I appreciate your comments and thank you for stopping by the blog and sharing your insights!

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