Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/Netflix
A lot has changed since Hemlock Grove debuted on Netflix last year. The Eli Roth-produced series (based on a novel by Brian McGreevy) received mixed reviews for its story of supernatural happenings in a small town. While there were critics who leaned towards negative reviews, viewers latched on to the intertwining struggles of the wealthy Godfrey family and the mysterious, working class newcomer Peter Rumancek and his mother Lynda. Now back for a second season, Hemlock Grove comes armed with a new show runner, Charles “Chic” Eglee, whose credits include The Shield, Dexter, and The Walking Dead. New actors have joined the fold and Madeleine Martin—who played Becca Moody on Californication—has taken over the role of Shelley Godfrey from Nicole Boivin. The biggest change, though, is that the plot of the show now goes beyond the book upon which it is based.
Season Two of Hemlock Grove premiered in its entirety on Netflix at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning. A little more than half a day prior to that, members of the show’s cast and creative team turned up at Hollywood’s Redbury Hotel for a press junket. During roundtable interviews, Roth talked about how picking up where the book left off has changed the show. He acknowledged that, at certain points, the show strainied to stay on track with the novel. Now, the creative team has freedom to take the characters where they need to go. This is clear in Famke Jansen’s portrayal of Olivia Godfrey, the ruthless matriarch of a powerful family with her own dark secret.
At the end of Season One, Olivia appeared to be a goner, body bag and all. SPOILER ALERT She didn’t die. She’s recuperating from a violent attack at the hands of her son and it’s brought out another side of her personality.
“The interesting thing is what happens when you take the control away from a control freak,” says Jansen. “She’s more vulnerable. She maybe shows more anger at certain points, but it’s not an ice queen kind of control personification of a character before. There are different layers and we’ve been peeling them back throughout this whole season.”
Roth liked the possibility that Olivia, who has been alive for centuries and has theater training under her belt, took her personality from someone else. While that may explain her demeanor in the first season, now, we’re seeing her at a transformative point. “In Season Two, you start to strip away and get to the core of who this woman is,” says Roth. He goes on to say that they can “show a much more human side now that she is more vulnerable.” Or, it should be said, it’s about as human as you can get for someone who is an upir.
Madeleine Martin enters the show during the second season as a familiar character. Shelley, who was already ostracized in town for her deformities, is on the run after last season’s big werewolf battle. She doesn’t speak. Instead, Shelley communicates through text-based messages and written correspondence. “I feel like she’s afraid to express herself because she has no friends,” says Martin. “She doesn’t get any affection from anyone, especially at the beginning of Season Two.”
Shelley’s closest confidants have been her uncle, Norman Godfrey, and her brother Roman. In the second season, Roman is going through serious changes after the loss of his sister. The heir to the Godfrey fortune recently learned that he’s an upir. It’s sort of like being a vampire, in that he needs to feed on humans to survive and he’s partial to blood. Roman, however, does not want to be an upir like his mother. He doesn’t actually want to kill people. He also has no one to turn to for help. His relationship with Olivia is beyond strained. Shelley is gone. His cousin Letha is dead. He was once close friends with werewolf Peter Rumancek, but that relationship is over for now.
“We don’t like each other. We’re enemies,” says Landon Liboiron (Peter), of the two characters. “You’re really kind of waiting for them to reconcile and come back together.”
Still, there’s a new girl in town, Miranda Cates (played by Orange Is the New Black actress Madeline Brewer), and she might be the one who can help Roman.
“Miranda has a very tough outer shell and she likes to kind of give a big middle finger to the world and act like she doesn’t need anyone,” says Brewer. “But I think Miranda really wants acceptance, a place where she feels most herself and most at home and most loved.” Whether or not that place is with Roman, we’ll have to binge-watch to find out.
One of the standout characters of Season Two is actually someone Season One fans will recognize. Dr. Pryce often appeared last season dictating notes. He’s featured more prominently now, as the one person who can help both Olivia and Roman. In a town stratified by class, Dr. Pryce practically, literally exists in an ivory tower.
“I’m trying to think if I’ve seen Pryce outside,” says actor Joel de la Fuente. “You may not have. You may never see him outside… he’s operating on a completely different game board.” Indeed, he’s an incredibly complicated character, one whose loyalties are hard to discern. de la Fuente add, “He’s not a good guy or a bad guy.”
You may also notice slight differences in the look of Hemlock Grove this season. Todd Masters melded practical and digital effects to make the supernatural aspects of the show more seamless and raw. This includes Peter’s unusual transformation sequences.
“I really wanted to make this feel like you could sense the guy’s skin was really shifting, the bones were really moving, you’re actually getting this pushing flesh,” Masters explains.
With its new outlook, Hemlock Grove is shaping up for an impressive second round on Netflix. All ten episodes are now available to watch.
Liz Ohanesian writes about pop culture from her base in Los Angeles. For updates, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.