Outsider. Monster. Are they the same thing? In Hemlock Grove, it sure looks like it. No one is who they seem to be. The mothers are twisted, the doctors are twisted, and now the cops — our go-to good guys — are messed up.
Dr. Clementine Chasseur (Kandyse McClure) carries a badge for the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the government. She is in Hemlock Grove investigating the possibility of an animal attacking the girls. She is also a monster hunter with the mysterious Order of the Dragon who is really in town on other business. To kill the monster. Chasseur is French for hunter. She is actually a monster hunter, but our hard-living, hard-lovin’ Clementine is just as messed up as the straight-up villains. She has major issues with alcohol, goes from woman to woman and stumbles on her path to God. In fact, she has fallen off the path and is following Little Red Riding Hood into the scary wood. So, not only do we fear the monster, but we also fear the monster hunter. It is a scary world out there.
But she is not the only one suffering personal tortures. Even if you are rich or psychic or otherwise blessed, you are still tormented. Roman and Shelly, despite their privilege, are outsiders, shunned by their teenage peers. Peter the wolf boy endures bullying in school and in town too; everyone, adults included, believe he is a werewolf. And killing the girls.
Is he? Does he even know himself? The ambiguities are driving me mad, but in a good way. I love the teasing, the sweet torture of my slow approach to the finale.
One particular intriguing piece of the puzzle that —well, puzzles me, which I cannot figure out, is the relationship between Roman and his mother, the regal Olivia Godfrey. Olivia is a mystery, her past, the scar on her back. Where is she from? Her posh accent offers no clue as to her origins. Why is she always in white, when she is clearly not an angel? But exactly WHAT is she? Drug addict? And, IS she sleeping with her son? And why is she the most feared woman in town?
No one is monogamous. The married Norman (Bates?) is involved in a love/hate affair with Olivia. Olivia picks up sexy young men like bartenders and lets them do delicious things to her in the backseat of her car.
And a bigger question I have is, why do all the great villains lately seem to have accents? Olivia does. Professor Joe Carroll from The Following does. Dr. Lector in Hannibal? Accent. Do these accents somehow represent our fear of the invader? The parasitic foreigner and ultimate outsider coming to our towns and homes and stealing (raping and killing) our women? Are we afraid of these strangers that don’t sound like us? This is why, perhaps, we think of strangers as being capable of doing heinous acts: like blowing up the Boston Marathon. We feel safer thinking that “we”, the responsible members of our communities, do not have evil impulses, monsters within us. No, that is only those dark and swarthy, albeit very seductive, types.
Creepy. Weird. Beautiful. Audacious. These are my adjectives for the series right now. I close in on two-thirds of Hemlock Grove and have been taking my time with each episode, trying to savour them rather than consuming the whole series in one gulp. For me, the episodes get stronger, the characters — loved and hated — richer and things become more intriguing. I want to know!
The themes pull me in like a magnet. Class struggles, fear of modern science and technology, anxiety about changing society and its members. And sex. Lots of sex. This show is a veritable Freudian dream come true. From all the smoking of cigarettes to the eroticised potential of vampires to teenage sex to Roman and his — ahem — attention to his lovers; why, it is enough to make you swoon. Then smoke a cigarette.
The show itself, like its characters in an outsider, misunderstood, hard to follow and laughed at. By some. Me? I want to stick with Hemlock Grove.