Hemlock Grove – Season 1 + 2 Review

Hemlock Grove – Season 1 & 2 Review

Have you ever wondered what a bromance between a werewolf and a vampire would look like?  Well, look no further, because a paranormal bromance of epic proportion is alive and well on Netflix’s Hemlock Grove.

…but is the show worth watching?

Well….it’s complicated.  Let’s take it in steps and note, there are spoilers in here, but I’ll warn you before.

Season 1: One-liner summary –  Boy with blood obsession seeks moon-inspired wolf for angsty bromance and solving murder mysteries.

Peter is new in town and has a secret – on a full moon, he walks as a wolf – a change he treats the viewers and a new friend, Roman to watch.  The two bond over  a series of terrible shared dreams – dreams that can lead them to a serial killer targeting teenage girls at their school.

What’s nice about this show, is that each season is dedicated to solving one major mystery, all while allowing the viewer to slowly delve into this town, where the paranormal live along side the blissfully ignorant normal.

Non-spoiler comments –

  • Roman and his mother are Upir (Vampire-like creatures who can walk around during the day), but Roman is unaware of his paranormal nature until much later.
  • Roman has a sister, Shelley, who was brought back to life by a doctor who…let’s just say he likes to push the envelope.  I’m thinking they named her Shelley in honor of Mary Shelley & Frankenstein.
  • There’s an interesting character who is a writer and goes around explaining that because she’s a writer she has to ask questions to understand motives and experience things so that she can write great stories. lol
  • Since this is a paranormal story with vampire-like creatures and werewolves AND angsty teenagers, there is of course a love triangle.  Although this one is extra wrong, because two sides of the triangle are related.

I enjoyed the first season a lot, I’d give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.  It was fresh, paranormal, and there were mysteries to puzzle through.  I recommend it, however, I’m a little torn about season 2…

Season 2:  One-liner summary – last time we had a triangle, this time an awkward, angsty, paranormal three-way (team Jacob and team Edward fans can now unite under one banner).

At the end of Season 1, Peter and his mom leave Hemlock Grove, as it is filled with too many bad memories and sadness.  Season 2 starts with Peter’s mom getting arrested and then jailed.  Where? Hemlock Grove.  Why?  Because of plot.

And the Roman-Peter bromance is severely damaged.

But no fear!  More mysteries are here!  Yay!

Soon our bromance is back in business and more angsty than ever as they try to determine who is behind a string deaths and also navigate a strange three-way relationship.

This season, while weird and a little less strong than the first, wasn’t really annoying until the last episode.  I’d probably give this 3 out of 5 stars.  And now for spoilers, because it’s the only way I can accurately explain my beefs with season 2.

But first, my favorite line from this season has got to be after Norman breaks up with Olivia.  Olivia says: “Fuck me….No, fuck you.”  And later she literally rips his heart out.  Awesome.

Okay…my biggest issue with season 2 was the season finale (SPOILERS!):

  • Item 1 – Miranda jumps off the building with the evil baby who then tries to kill her as she has with others, by looking at her with the crazy baby demon eyes.  While Miranda’s eyes begin to bleed, she magically doesn’t die…probably because something flies down and saves them.  Which brings me to item 2…
  • Item 2 – The dragon and a whole lot of wtf.   This dragon was the doctor from previous episodes in the season.  How do I know?  They put his face on it, in case I was confused and somehow didn’t pick up what they were putting down.  Additionally, this dragon doesn’t really look like a dragon, but like a manta ray with talons and a weird dude’s face.  My response upon seeing this – a whole lot of wtf… will I watch season 3?  Ah, this remains to be seen…

Office worker confessional – Paid Parental Leave

Office Worker Confessional #3

I want paid maternity, paternity, and adoptive parent leave.

Why?

Because taking responsibility for another life is a pretty big deal, especially if you have to squeeze that life through a small opening in your body…


For those of you who didn’t know, the U.S. is the only developed country that does not offer guaranteed paid maternity or paternity leave for their workers.  Additionally, there have been studies and articles that have highlighted that paid maternity, paternity, and adoptive parent leave would not cause a negative economic impact, as many opponents of the idea have claimed.

And because there’s often truth in humor…and sometimes it takes a comedian to make people realize the ridiculousness of the situation, check out John Oliver’s Mother’s Day bit, which highlights the issue of paid maternity, paternity, and adoptive parent leave in the U.S.

Still don’t think it’s important?  Well, don’t be surprised when people start looking for jobs at businesses that grant their employees for paid mat/pat/adoptive leave.

Bates Motel – Review

TV Series Review – Season 1, Bates Motel

Let’s take a moment and appreciate how creepy this picture of Norman Bates is…super creepy, right?  And I picked the least strange of the series poster type ads.

Series 1 Synopsis  – Norma Bates wants a fresh start for herself and her teenage son, after her husband is killed in a freak accident.  So, they move to a small sea-side town to run a small motel and start over.  Except nothing is what it seems – not this small town, Norma herself, nor her favorite son, Norman.

Thanks to the joy of tv series of Netflix, I powered through the first season of “Bates Motel” this week. And it was awesome – a seamless blend of creepiness, teenage angst, mysteries, rich characters, and a very interesting town…all while filling us in on a backstory of one of the horror genre’s most notorious, well psycho. If you enjoy mysteries and horror, definitely check it out – not only are there mysteries/creepiness lurking everywhere, all of the characters are flawlessly acted.

For those of you who have watched, will watch, or are watching, just a few interesting tidbits I wanted to bring up –

  • Norman talks with his mother a lot, even when she’s not there – As the viewer, we generally follow Norman (though often enough we follow Norma and Norman’s bother, Dylan) and as a side benefit of that, we also get to see what goes on in Norman’s head through dream sequences, quick visual fantasy type events, as well as his conversations with his kind of second personality – a really angry version of his mom.  Sometimes he remembers these conversations with his other personality and sometimes he doesn’t.  What’s interesting is that this lays the ground work to what Norman eventually does in the movie Psycho (i.e. attacking a woman while dressed as his dead mother and no, that’s not a spoiler..if you haven’t watched psycho you most likely know what happens anyway).
  • Norman has “black out” moments – I won’t ruin this for people, but it’s an interesting concept for a character who seems to have two very extreme sides to his personality.  It also raises interesting questions about “black out” moments – is he blocking them out after the fact (for self-preservation) or is it another side of his personality taking over?
  • The town is really, really interesting too – We all know the final fate of Norman Bates, and while a backstory is interesting, that can’t be the only thing happening if you’d like an engaging and long-running series.  Answer?  The town is crooked!  Crooked, I say!!  And filled with mysteries!  Yay!  Also, this town is run by Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) who is quickly becoming one of my favorite side characters along with the quirky Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke), Norman’s only friend.

Predictions for season 2?  Methinks murder shall be afoot….also, I’m betting Norma and the Sheriff are going to have a complicated relationship that will no doubt lead to romance.  Why?  Well, romance is everywhere…even in horror stories. ;)

A to Z – Z!!! (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

ZZ is for Zoological 

Okay, work with me on this one.  Z is for zoological, which I am using to discuss how/when authors give human traits to animals in books/tv/film…and also sometimes on this very blog.

There are the typical attributes given to animals – dogs are loyal and cats are generally cranky.  But it’s equally fun (usually more so) when animals have their very own unique personalities and characters.

The beautiful thing about these kinds of characters, is that while we loved stories of animals having human traits as children, many of us never outgrew this love.  There are tons of stories that feature pets as prominent and developed characters – and they can be more than just campy or silly, they can be beloved characters.

There are also stories of pets playing a prominent role (with no fictionalized character development/internal pet monologues) in a person’s life.  I love these as well, and if book/movie/tv trends are accurate, a lot of other people do as well.  I even have one of my own –

When I left my ex, a little more than a year ago, I took my dog with me.  (Side note: She was a present to me from my ex when we were still newlyweds and since my ex was never a dog person, I was the dog’s main caregiver/trainer/person.)  So many people – family, friends, coworkers, and also random strangers – comforted and propped me up in my time of need.  I don’t know what I would have done without the so many wonderful people in my life (the kind things they did, the healing words they said, and the support that they lovingly gave) and I don’t think I can ever repay this debt to them.  I know I was and am blessed to have such amazing people in my life. :)

And my dog, though it sounds kind of silly to say, was also helpful in getting me through those hard times.  I remember the first nights after I left my husband – away from the home I shared with my ex for over seven years, without the sounds of someone sleeping next to me.  There are so many hard parts of going through any kind of divorce (whether someone pulls the rug out from under you or whether it was something that builds up over time)…and one of the worst things (there are a lot of them) is not being able to sleep because of the emptiness of a room at night.  But I was lucky.  When I couldn’t go to sleep some nights, I could listen to the sounds of Bella snoring softly from her pet bed or the sounds of her walking around the room.  Those noises were strangely comforting, especially when I moved into my own apartment, in reminding me that I wasn’t alone.

My dog even helped stave off depression – I never had to come home to an empty house (and had an enthusiastic greeter at the door), she took me for long walks several times a day (making me get fresh air + exercise), would drop her toys at my feet to play when I got too pensive, and was glad to cuddle on the couch when nothing seemed to be going right.

And that’s why I suppose pet and other animal characters are always so endearing – for the connection we have with them and how we can take care of them almost as well as they can take care of us (yep, I know super cheesy, but there it is).

Notable animal characters:

  • Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino in Bolt
  • Doug in UP!
  • Marley
  • Lassie
  • Flipper

A to Z – Y (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

Y is for Youth 

Many novels favor the young characters.

My genre (romance) nearly specializes in young heroines, aged from about 18-26 years old.  Heroes of this genre, however, have the luxury of being older, some as late as their mid 40s.

Why are so many stories focused on younger characters?

Maybe some of it has to do with the road to self discovery, loss of innocence (yes, that’s sometimes literal in romance novels), and bucking our family’s or society’s ideals of how we should be.

But authors shouldn’t turn their back on older characters and should use them for more than just guiding forces for the younger characters.  After all, characters – like people – don’t stop on the road to self discovery or stop facing down obstacles simply due to the aging process.  If anything, some obstacles can cause more turmoil when we’re older than when we’re younger.

I enjoy reading stories with characters of all ages and all backgrounds – as any character, regardless of their current lot in life, can be relatable and interesting…and more, they can have a story to tell. ;)

Y

A to Z – X (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

X is for (e)xtraterrestrials

This one may be sneaky and not really an “x” word, but I’m running with it anyway. :p

Aliens have been popping up in stories for quite some time now. But how do you write them?

Do you follow the same formula that writers have been following for ages – little green men, with dark eyes, who travel here on flying saucers? Or do you try for something different?

I think a story can be enjoyable either way.  The more interesting question is – do you give them an actual character complete with character development?

Aliens, historically, were treated as one of the many monsters in the monster sub-genre of horror or sci-fi.  This has changed recently, and I think it’s a good thing.  As a reader, I enjoy the development of all characters in a story – both the protagonist and the antagonist.  Though at the same time, there are several aliens in literature/movies/tv who are not developed characters and are still interesting and/or terrifying.

What works best?  Well, I’d say it depends on the genre, the story, and the author’s preference.

Notable extraterrestrials in moves/tv/books

  • Aliens in the Alien series – mostly monsters and not super developed, but still scary (with the exception of the Engineers in Prometheus)
  • Predators in the Predator series – again, not super developed and mostly monsters, but we do glean some information on them, like their moral code (not killing unarmed people or pregnant women) and that there is some tension between the different kinds of predators.
  • Most of the cast of the Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Thor, Loki, and Asgardians
  • E.T.
  • Reticulans (Mulder’s little green and gray men in the X-files)
  • Trafalmadorians

X

A to Z – W (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

Yep, my post is late and yes this means in a short time I will also post on my x word for the month….but hey c’est la vie.

W is for Wholesome

There are a lot of characters (a large majority in the romance genre) who are wholesome, pure, and innocent…when the story starts at least. ;)

But do you want your character to remain wholesome for the entire novel?  And can a character be too wholesome?

Alas, this is a choice that many authors have to make (assuming you don’t write children’s books).

I am more of a fan of multi-faceted characters, who have both light and dark within them.  I think the internal struggles of characters, and even characters that are anti-heroes and later become heroes, make for the most interesting/engaging/enjoyable stories.  I even enjoy romance novels when the hero starts off as quite the devilish rogue (like in the Devil in Winter) or has bad intentions.  Why?  Well, I like the brooding, the evolution of a character, and the war within the self…and so do a lot of other readers. ;)

 Notable Wholesome Characters:

  • Spiderman, except for those commitment issues ;)
  • The daughter in “Taken” – side note: OMG, watch this movie again and notice how overly childlike they make this teenager..the way she walks, the way she embraces family, even the way she talks.  This is a prime example of over-wholesomeness in a character which, in my opinion, should be avoided.
  • Many romance novel heroines, especially those from the historical romance sub-genre

W

A to Z – V (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators. 

V

V is for Vengeful Characters

Distilled down to their most basic form, stories of any kind are all about the struggle.

Does your character have a perfect life, with no flaws, no money problems, no obstacles, and everything their heart desires?  Well then, chances are it’s not a very good story.  But you already know that, and you know that there has to be a conflict for it to be interesting….otherwise, what’s the point in reading it?

But what do you do when you have a character with fire in their belly and anger in their hearts?  It doesn’t matter if it’s your hero/heroine, the villain, or a side character – how do you write them so that your character isn’t caricature?

Answer: Same way porcupines mate…very carefully. ;)

People with vengeance on their mind tend to be dramatic, prone to making bad decisions, and broody over their plans/repercussions of their actions.  Play one item up too much (like evil laughter in the corner with handles steepled in maniacal glee) and your character is chewing the scenery in your carefully constructed play (unless of course you’re writing a comedy, and then by all means go for it).

I have yet to write a vengeful character well…partially because I have trouble maintaining an overly dark atmosphere in my novels for a vengeful character to thrive in and partially because, well you know, we’re all our worst critics and can’t help but tear our own work to shreds.  :p

Notable vengeful characters:

  • The punisher
  • Liam Neeson’s character in Taken
  • Ruth (Roseanne Barr’s character) in She-Devil – by the way, this is also an amusing book (The Life and Loves of a She Devil)
  • Porter from Payback

A to Z Challenge – U (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

UU is for unreliable narrators

“Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see”

We know that there are people who lie and chances are, you know of a person who deals primarily in lies.  But for whatever reason, when we read books our automatic assumption is to believe the narrator (or at least mine is, but hey maybe I’m naïve).

How could we not trust our narrators?  They are our eyes, ears, and entrance into a world we cannot see.

So we listen to them and depend on them for information.  But we shouldn’t always.

Sometimes it’s obvious at the start that we’re listening to an unreliable narrator – the author gives us a smirk and a wink right away by revealing in a bit of dialogue with another character that our narrator likes to embellish or perhaps the narrator him/herself will tell us straightaway that they like to fudge the facts.

There are some stories where you begin to have a sneaking suspicion that the narrator isn’t on the up-and-up.  Then there are other stories where the unreliability of the narrator is key to the plot of the story, and so the big reveal comes either at the end or a big turning point in the story.

But the art of the reveal is key in these matters.  Do you want the readers in on the reveal halfway in and allow them to see the truth for the second half?  Or do you want the reveal at the end, and have them wondering if anything they’ve been told is true?

Tricky, tricky, methinks.

My feeling is that it depends on the genre.  My favorite genres, romance and women’s fiction (if they indulge in unreliable narration, which is rare), would let the reader in on it at least halfway through the story.  But if you’re writing general fiction/literature, drama, or mystery – you’ve much more flexibility on when/how you decide to reveal your narrator’s true nature.  But be careful – if you haven’t left at least a few breadcrumbs along the way, your readers could be hurt or annoyed that you didn’t give them ample information to figure it out. ;)

Unreliable narrators/characters (and ummm…spoiler alerts):

  • Verbal, The Usual Suspects
  • Amy, Gone Girl
  • Natalie, Running in Heels
  • Narrator, Fight Club
  • Pi, Life of Pi – though honestly, I like his unreliable version way better, which was kind of the point.

A to Z Challenge – T (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

T is for Tragic

Not all characters have happy beginnings, or happy endings for that matter – these are the characters, the tragic and tortured souls, who pull at our heart-strings for years to come.

I’m the kind of author who likes to give her characters a happy ending.  But some stories and some characters, are not meant to have them.  No matter how hard you try, some events are not meant to work out.

Roman Holiday,” for example, while not a tragic story, has a tragic component – a romance that was never meant to work out.

 Audrey Hepburn is a princess visiting Rome, who plays hooky from her duties and Gregory Peck is an enterprising reporter, who first plans on publishing an article with pictures on the Princess’ shenanigans but finds himself falling under her spell.

*Spoiler alert* At the end of the movie, Audrey returns to her role as Princess and gives a press conference, which Gregory Peck attends.  After making a brief speech to the crowd, she takes questions and of course takes one from him.  He coyly slips her photographs of her visit and then the press conference ends.  Audrey leaves the room and so do all but one of the reporters.  We’re left in the room with Gregory Peck, waiting for Audrey to come back and tell us she loves him.  But she doesn’t come back.  Because she can’t and it wasn’t meant to be… and that’s exactly what it’s like to have a tragic component or a tragic character in a story.  No matter how much you’d like it to work out, even when you’re the author, you know it can’t end any other way.

Notable tragic characters/tortured soul characters:

  • Julián Carax, “The Shadow of the Wind” (if you haven’t read this novel you should – it was so beautifully written and such an interesting story…but seriously tragic character, you’ve been forewarned)
  • The Punisher
  • Quasimodo
  • It’s not a character but it still made me sad, so I’m listing it – the romance in Roman Holiday

T