Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hemlock Grove, Season 2, Episode 10: Demons and the Dogstar

Roman and Peter have a whole load of bodies to clear up after the massacre at Roman’s house while Miranda and Destiny get through several huge bottles of bleach inside, and the maid cries over her dead partner, the butler.

Aftermath – I actually like to see a bit of aftermath. Sometimes the protags leave a trail of bodies in their wake and no-one cares about the cleanup.

Miranda mention the baby’s dead stare which everyone ignores and Miranda decides she hates them all for pulling her into the murder world. Destiny tries to clam the moment by pointing out they’re all alive (the maid rather hilariously cries audibly in the background – which is such a perfect lampoon of how Red Shirts die and no-one grieves before she insists on a proper burial).

Miranda isn’t reassured, she’s surrounded by monsters and being hunted by killers – Destiny seems pretty impatient and Roman’s reassurance rings very hollow. Peter appeals to her being needed and they put her on the sofa with a spiked drink to settle her down and get her out of the way. Everyone has moments – over Nadia being the target all along, Roman saving Peter, etc etc.

Everyone leaves except Miranda and Anna, the maid – and Miranda offers comfort (Anna still hates her) then starts lactating blood. Which is probably not good.

Roman goes to the White Tower and Johann is a little annoyed. Oh, not about killing the doctor, he was probably going to do that himself – but Roman has been a bit of an arsehole to Johann for a while and now he has a truck of corpses for Johann to deal with. Johann seems to know more about the attackers than Roman though – since he knew about Francis dying (Francis also had shares in the company). Johann agrees to help – so long as Roman stops interfering.

Norman finally goes to attack Olivia – doctoring her medicine cabinet with anti-coagulants which upir hate. He’s there when she gets out the shower and standoffish – which Olivia adds to her list of things she’s been doing wrong as an Upir (bad mother, bad girlfriend…). She goes on to lay out all the things that are going to change – how she’s going to be noble and inspiring fighting cancer, how she’s going to be a better mother, a better girlfriend, better everything (including a better woman which is something to unpack later) – and Norman scoffs at it all. And then viciously describes what will happen to her as she faces the side effects of the drugs and the cancer advances and then throws in that he knows she’s an Upir.

She tries to appeal to him but he shouts her down – he’s also not going to try and kill her. He thinks watching her die slowly from cancer will be better. He leaves and Olivia seems to go from tragic to angry

About time

At the Godfrey institute, Shelley and Pryshelly discuss her funeral arrangements with Johann and double check the kid she met will be looked after. Shelly lays down and Johann starts the drip that will slowly kill her. Pryshelly can’t bring herself to stay for it

But Norman storms to the White Tower to ask what’s happening with Shelly – and Johann explains what they did and Norman is incensed; calling Johann a c*nt much to Johann’s shock. He, of course, blames everything on Olivia – which Johann has to protest since Pryshelly is actually Olivia’s cure for cancer – a cure she decided to forgo for the sake of Shelly. Norman wonders about maybe Olivia using Pryshelly (he’s melting towards Olivia?) but then hears what they plan for Shelly – he and Johann run to Shelly’s side… but she’s already dead.

He hurries to save her with drugs and a defibrillator set to over 9,000 – to bring her back to live. Alive, Shelly looks at her bandaged hands and cries – asking why.

But, good thing she is back because Olivia has decided to snack on Pryshelly after all. Looks like Norman broke her temper badly. And now she’s off to find her granddaughter

Destiny returns to Roman to find Miranda has gone to the doctors – she looks around and finds a bottle marked “post natal nutrition” but when she tastes it she has a vision of the Godrey institute and a snake.

Miranda goes to the awesome doctor of awesomeness explains everything away as just fine. Until he starts explaining more and makes it clear something sinister is up. Earlier in the season, Miranda mentioned selling blood to get by – and that blood sample allowed the doctor to get her DNA and decide she was just what Nadia needed. He was the one who arranged the road crash that got Miranda to Roman’s. He plans to leave with Nadia – and Miranda.

And Olivia arrives – and it’s fight time! Upir vs… she scratches him and he has scales? He has scales under his skin? Wait? What?! He seems to be stronger than Olivia – as they fight Miranda grabs the baby and runs – into Anna outside. Anna who blames Miranda for everything.

Both Anna and the doctor originally seem to be winning (this is the rule of TV battles, the “good guy” always has to lose at first). Before Nadia turns her death gaze on Anna – and Olivia kills the doctor – and adds a snarky line to his corpse.

Roman, Norman and Johann gather around Shelly weeping over the body of Pryshelly. Norman is back to hating Olivia again. Miranda calls Roman to tell him all about everything including that she thinks Nadia is the source of the dreams.

Peter is crashing at Destiny’s house. Why did he go back to Destiny’s when no-one else is there? Convoluted plot reasons! Yes drug dealer guy from one of the pointless early plot lines has found him. He holds Peter at shotgun point and demands he strip – as he did his own dealers. Peter strips – then fights – but Destiny comes in just at the wrong time (this convoluted story coincidences is wearing thin) and becomes a hostage. Which leaves Peter with one option – shapeshifting. Destiny tries to stop him – but he just tells her to kill him afterwards, to keep herself safe.

All such considerations end when Andreus shows up with a silenced pistol and kills the drug dealer. Well that solves that problem. He has a gun and is there for Reasons which he doesn’t explain.

Everyone to the White Tower! Shelly is so distraught the guards try to subdue her (which doesn’t work) and Johann ends up drugging her. I think he also gives his Olivia killing drug to Norman.

Nadia amuses herself exploding monkeys, which makes Miranda rather stressed and run – to where no-one knows, not even Roman (who is joined by Peter and Destiny). They start looking for her – and Olivia is also hiding in the building.

Olivia and Norman run into each other – he stabs her with the hypodermic, but doesn’t depress the plunger and she rips out his heart. Excess character is killed! She also sends a little text to Michael using Norman’s phone (since they very cleverly keep their murder plot recorded through text) that she’s going to hunt him down next.

Miranda is heading to the roof and Roman and Peter use dream vision to guide them with Destiny to the roof as well.

Miranda blames herself and her demon milk for changing Nadia into a monster (to be fair, being an Upir and all didn’t exactly make her monsterless). Miranda starts bleeding from her eyes as she steps to the edge. She tells Nadia she’s going to see her real mother – then jumps off the edge holding the baby. As she falls she releases the baby

And both of them are caught by a… a… what…? The doctor is a giant flying scaly manta ray gargoyle… thing. (The amusing part of this is that Roman, Peter and Destiny watch this without the slightest expression. There’s no shock or surprise – they almost look resigned and determined – like manta-ray gargoyles are things you have to face all the time). He flies off.

Close to Olivia singing love songs because why not?

What. Was. That? Ok there are twist endings and there’s just random weirdness for the sake of it.

On the whole, this season was better than the first one – the first one was too confused and the actors felt really uncomfortable with their roles – it was quite painful to watch at times, wooden and difficult. I think, while we didn’t exactly have a stellar performance, the whole thing flowed better and I never felt the need to laugh or cringe – it was a step up.

But things still weren’t sold to me. Roman’s angst and pain over what he was is the one that stands out – it could have worked and I could see what they were trying but I just felt a whole lot of petulance.

There was also a more focused storyline – to a degree. That’s more a comment on how disorganised season 1 was.  Over 10 episodes, Hemlock Grove had too little time to establish and properly develop any of their storylines and we had so many – so many that could have been skipped. The whole Peter and the drug dealers was unnecessary and ate a lot of time – and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why did Christina come back from the dead to then be killed so quickly? Shelly on the run didn’t really add anything. Norman, Marie and Norman’s eternal angst didn’t really add anything or go anywhere. Peter’s mother was arrested and then completely forgotten about before shifting her off to Romania.

And that leaves a lot of loose threads and undeveloped storylines. I get the doctor was supposed to be a twist (and oh by was he a twist) but he came from nowhere. The religious fanatics, Father Francis et al still haven’t been explained and were just there killing people for funsies. We have no explanation of the dreams. Michael came back for a reason but then didn’t actually do anything except show up and eat time (same as Norman and Letitia’s investigation). There was a whole lot of dead time that didn’t go anywhere or achieve anything – leaving absolutely nothing resolved by the end; especially since this show, particularly in the early episodes, spent a long time developing emotions and theme.

It was better than season 1 but it was still shaky

Hemlock Grove season 1 was bad for a whole load of representation reason and season 2 isn’t a lot better

On women this got so long that we’re going to have to do a Friday Discussion on this one. On POC we hadprecious little – Letita was Latina and just hung around following Norman around, Michael was Black and hung around being angry and Black without actually doing anything and Johann Pryce is the very epitome of an Sinister Asian scientist, a role that is beyond stereotyped; beyond that we have some bit characters (“lady lawyer” and the doctor’s assistant Pearl).

The Roma characters? Aside from the fact none of them were actually played by Roma actors, they lived and breathed stereotype. Woo-woo and crime. Thieves, drug dealers, con-artists all of them. Shiftless, fun loving and irresponsible with honest employment so rare that Peter is even shocked to hear it at a party. And with that party it wasn’t just Andreus, Lynda, Destiny and Peter – it was a large number of Roma, all of them criminal. When the police arrest Lynda and say the Roma are organised crime group – well, in Hemlock Grove they might as well be!

And having Peter laugh at stereotypes, take advantage of stereotypes and mock and dismiss stereotypes is pointless if he also EMBODIES those stereotypes. You can’t have a character protest that “all Roma are not thieves” and then depict every last Roma as a thief! That’s not a challenge, that’s a character who appears to be lying!

There were no LGBT characters in this season – but oh there was so much slashbait subtext. It wasn’t even remotely subtle.

Shelly is a beautiful character who fits many tropes of being disabled (while also being hyper able with her incredible strength) – but her appearance is always held as her flaw. In some ways emphasised by what a gentle, beautiful person she is – the implication is that she’s so nice despite being “deformed”, or she would be perfect if she just didn’t look like that. There’s no empowerment of her actual form, especially when you consider how immensely strong and tough she is.

Hemlock Grove, buried under all the fail there’s an interesting plot and some compelling possibilities. But it is buried.