Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hemlock Grove, Season 2, Episode 1: Blood Pressure

We begin in Easthampton, Massachusettes, apparently. A masked man wanders around a house, seeing the family all tucked in their beds, then goes downstairs, turns on the gas and sets up a candle – he leaves and there’s an explosion. He then goes into the woods and whips himself bloody.

To Ohio and a Rroma gathering, (put together out of a few clich├ęs and stereotypes and looking a little dated but it could have been a lot worse) outside a house. There’s a party going on, it looks like a funeral by the way a dead man is propped in a chair and people stop by him to whisper in his ears. Peter, his mother Lynda and his cousin Destiny attend since the new the dead man, Joe, and they take the time to catch up. Destiny meets Andreus who flirts heavily and I assume will be relevant at some point. They have sex in the kitchen which is just rude (people want to eat) and unhygenic

Peter’s still all heartbroken from last season and Letha’s death. And he gets a lecture from an older man about how young Rroma are forgetting their past – before the police cars roar in – a large number including a police van. The police move in en masse while people scatter and run

Lynda is arrested and the cop hits Peter when he tries to stop him – Lynda drops an envelope on the way out which the police, for some weird reason, doesn’t see.

Peter and Destiny speak to a lawyer who describes the many many crimes in Lynda’s history – and adds that the police are making the case that Romani are a criminal group and Lynda has been arrested for racketeering (organised crime). She’s also being extradited to Hemlock county. Peter’s also worried about how she’d manage in prison: she’s not going to get in Black or Latino gangs and Aryan White gangs just want to “finish what Hitler started.” And the lawyer has a $20,000 bill for them.

It’s a bill they can’t pay – but Destiny does remind Peter he has friends in Hemlock Grove.

Speaking off, to Godfrey Industries and their improbably large skyscraper and a board meeting about how awesome they are and Roman being, well, Roman. He’s his unpleasant self and finds all this medicine for old people dull and would rather make young people sexier. On a less useless front, he also questions Dr. Johann about a large amount of money being spent on very unspecified research. Johann smugly says how everyone is far too ignorant to understand – which doesn’t impress Roman because that just means millions of dollars are being spent on stuff none of the board understands – neatly making the point that with his mother gone, he’s in control and won’t be fobbed off. And it’s just the beginning of the power struggle between Peter and Johann.

Olivia, Roman’s mother, isn’t dead, she’s recuperating (impatiently, apparently having had her tongue sewn back on) in Johnann’s care unbeknownst to Roman. They seem to agree that Roman poking around the books is a bad idea – and wonder how he is satisfying his hunger.

Roman has found a way to feed in, perhaps the most disgusting way possible. He’s paid a man to attach leeches to his body and Roman then eats the leeches. Well, that may be the least romantic portrayal of vampirism there has been since sparkliness.

Peter visits Roman who isn’t exactly thrilled to see him nor eager to help – not after Peter just up and ran when Roman needed him last season. He kicks him out!

To Norman. Remember him (Olivia’s brother-in-law)? I barely do – anyway he’s all sad over Letha and Shelley . He visits Olivia and pokes her into coming on a drive with him, the implication being she doesn’t get out much any more. We’re also reminded that Norman is pining for Olivia

Looking for money, Peter decides to sell something called “St. Sebastian’s arrow” to some shady types – apparently a drug known only to the Rroma. He’s completely playing on the ancient knowledge angle (including the ignorant medieval idea that Rroma came from Egypt – hence the slur “gypsy”) He gives them eye drops and, to prove his drug is working, he partially shifts and is ultra creepy in front of them.

This also reminds us how horrendously incredible the wolf-shifting is on this show.

He’s definitely impressed them and gets his $20,000, only barely covering how much shifting hurts and takes out of him.

Destiny isn’t impressed, especially him pulling off the con in her house. Also, it wasn’t a full moon – turning on the wrong moon is apparently very very very bad – he could become a Vargulf.

To remind us that Johann is creepy he and a Russian scientist sidekick are growing a woman in a jar – I think it’s Letha

Peter gets a job very easily as a tow-truck driver for a man who is a taxidermist on the side (because this show misses no chance to be creepy. He also doesn’t hire, “atheists, nancy-boys, communists or jews.” Among others. So let us hope something eats him. I can’t even think why it was necessary to include this line). For some reason he’s very distracted by a news story of two people found dead in a gorge

Roman, having eaten all his leeches, goes clubbing looking at all the pretty women. Being Roman, he hones in on a woman with a date who he happily smacks down before he leaves with her. During the drive he focuses on her pulse and eventually stops the car and kicks her out. Presumably to stop himself from biting her.

He goes home and dismisses a miscellaneous bored servant who was in a locked room with books and a Rosarie before going into a super secure soundless room inside which is… a baby.

That’s some extreme steps to go to because you hate the sound of babies crying.

I actually quite like the idea of Peter playing on “ancient woo-woo” to con people out of money in a way – because it shows how ridiculously these stereotypes and tropes are; so ridiculous that even the victims of them can use them to get money out of those ignorant and prejudiced enough to believe them

I also think a point has been made of police persecution of the Rroma – but it was clumsy. I think more could have been made of mistreatment and them raiding a funeral than this rather bizarre treating Rroma as Organised Crime – but I want to see how it develops. It also makes a good point of both the lack of numbers and persecution Rroma face (and general lack of any kind of confidence in the system) with Peter’s worry about Lynda going to prison.

The flip side is that the Rroma we see on this show ARE generally thieves and con artists. Lynda isn’t innocent. Peter is a criminal (and with woo-woo). Challenging prejudice doesn’t work so well when you also conform to stereotype.

Other inclusion, well, I wait after the first episode of a season generally, but Roman smacks a Black guy before walking off with the woman he was with and a pair of women kissing for some Roman eye-candy both don’t bode well for the future. Johann is also back in case the Asian Evil Scientist trope is in any danger of dying.

What we're missing in this season 2 opener is any real indication of plot - which worries me because coherent plot was never Hemlock Grove's strong point (nor was good acting, decent inclusion, or, well, much of anything). We have more an indication of everyone still being alive and where they are - what hints of issues we have show no indication of them crossing paths; do any of these characters have a motive to be involved in anyone else's plot line?