Hemlock Grove: “Blood Pressure”

Episode 2.01

TV Reviews
Hemlock Grove: “Blood Pressure”

Steve Wilkie/Netflix

Hemlock Grove, the Netflix original series about a host of supernatural beings in a quirky, sometimes hostile town, crawled at the start of its first season. More than the slow pace, the writing and acting was often inconsistent and overpowered by its moody backdrop. While the show’s quality picked up at the end of the first season, it was almost a case of too-little, too-late. Fortunately, the second season of the series is off to a great start. Maybe it’s the new showrunner. Charles “Chic” Eglee has had his hand in a number of TV faves, including Dexter and The Walking Dead. Maybe it’s the freedom that the writers must have now that they aren’t confined by Brian McGreevy’s novel. Or maybe it’s just because practice makes perfect. Regardless, Hemlock Grove is shaping up to be a compelling Netflix marathon-watching experience.

Death marks the first episode of the new season. Out in Easthampton, Massachusetts a shadowy figure creeps up a staircase, peaks into a couple of bedrooms and heads back down the stairs. Head covered with a hoodie and face concealed with a mask, the figure then opens an oven and lights a candle.

Following the boom of the first scene, we move to Ohio, where Peter Rumancek and his mother Lynda are attending a memorial before heading to their intended new home of Seattle. Peter is grieving, though not for the deceased, seated in a family room chair. He’s still feeling the loss of Letha, his love back in Hemlock Grove, who died during childbirth. Family members want to play matchmaker, but he’s not having any of it. A new girlfriend wouldn’t help matters right now anyhow. Peter’s life is about to get much more complicated. Given that he’s a werewolf, this is all pretty serious.

The FBI raids the family gathering and takes off with Lynda. She’s facing a litany of charges, including credit card fraud and counterfeit handicap placards. There’s talk of this being a RICO case. Lynda is extradited to Hemlock Grove, which means two things for Peter. He now has to return to the town that holds so many awful memories. And he also has to come up with $20,000 for his mom’s legal fees.

Back in Hemlock Grove, Roman has taken over as head of Godfrey Industries. He’s a mess whose first order of business is to brag about the girl he hooked up with in Maui. After that, he wants to know where the money in the family company is going. Roman and Dr. Pryce have a confrontation in the bathroom and Pryce reminds his young boss that he’s holding a few secrets.

At the end of Season One, Roman’s mother, Olivia, seemingly ends her reign going out in a body bag. At the start of Season Two, we learn that she’s not actually dead. She ended up in a coma for a little while. Fortunately, Dr. Pryce was able to reattach the tongue that her blood-sucking son violently ripped out of her mouth. After the ordeal, Olivia emerges with a new American accent. In spite of everything, she still seems to harbor some concern for her son, wondering aloud how he’s “satiating” himself. Roman is struggling with his urge for blood. He has hired an old man to wear leeches. Roman devours those leeches like a child eating birthday cake.

By the end of the first season, Peter and Roman’s friendship had deteriorated. Right now, though, Roman is Peter’s only hope at helping his incarcerated mother and he must beg his former friend for the $20,000. Roman, though, won’t lift a finger. Peter reminds Roman that he saved his life. Roman reminds him that Peter’s life was saved in turn by his beloved sister Shelley, who has since disappeared.

Norman Godfrey has said goodbye to his daughter, Letha, and her child. He sends an e-mail to Shelley, his niece, believing that she is gone, but needing some kind of closure. He goes to visit Olivia, as their love affair is not over, and tries to talk her into seeing a seizure specialist, thinking this is how she lost her tongue.

With Lynda out of commission, Peter relies on his cousin Destiny for strength. He’s also set on securing the funds for his mom’s defense and comes up with an impressive con. He tells two drug dealer henchmen that he can brew St. Sebastian’s Arrow—“It’s more like a biomorphic portal into another dimension,” he says. Peter makes a batch, drops it into their eyes and then forces himself to turn into a werewolf, giving them the impression that they’re hallucinating. Destiny is concerned. Aside from the fact that he just conned criminals, he transformed under the wrong moon, which could totally screw up his powers. She fears that he might turn into a vargulf, like Christina did last season when she left a string of dead bodies across town.

As the episode concludes, we see how hard it is for Roman to resist his upir urges. It’s a little different from being a vampire, but he still hungers for blood. He wants it really badly, but seems to use sex as some sort of substitute. Roman heads out to a club, picks up a girl and heads home with her. When he can’t handle the temptation of going after her blood, he kicks her out of the car. Once Roman is home, there’s one more big reveal for the audience. Letha’s baby—the one that Roman (her cousin) fathered—is alive and being kept in a secluded room.

There’s a lot squeezed into this season launch, enough plot points to support a couple episodes, but the flow works well and it’s a good introduction into the new, post-novel world of Hemlock Grove.

Liz Ohanesian writes about pop culture from her base in Los Angeles. For updates, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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