Season 2 | Episode 2 | “Gone Sis” | Released July 11, 2014
Does a horror-based television show have to be frightening all the time in order to be effective storytelling? According to Hemlock Grove, the answer is no. Instead of giving us chills, the second episode of the new season is a quiet and meditative character piece that is surprisingly effective. Not only are formerly clunky characters rehabilitated, but the lead characters also acquire some needed nuance.
But before we jump into the recap, the creative team behind this show deserves praise for the way it weaves in subtle homages to the great horror films. This episode in particular has so many references to the horror film Psycho that there is no way these moments are accidental. From the bird motif to the taxidermy to the shower peeping to that motel sign, it is fitting that this quieter episode evokes moments from Hitchcock’s character-driven classic.
The episode opens at a random, seedy motel. Still struggling with his blood hunger, Roman (Bill Skarsgard) arrives and quickly procures a prostitute. As she strips and reveals a series of bruises given to her by her boyfriend-pimp, Roman decides there may be a more appropriate buffet upon which to feast. Enter the boyfriend-pimp, who is “all about customer service” and wants to offer up another woman from his stable in order to appease his disgruntled customer. Roman, however, has other ideas and attacks the man by ripping into his throat and drinking his blood. The juxtaposition of Roman’s assault and the explicit sexuality coming from a porn video playing in the background elevates the scene from graphic to downright disturbing. It is also a subtle comment on the connection between porn and violence that is audacious, to say the least, especially for the horror genre.
Hemlock Grove newcomer Miranda (Madeline Brewer) is running from an old boyfriend and ignoring his calls, when a truck appears and begins ramming her car for no apparent reason. A chase ensues and Miranda is able to escape. But as soon as she switches the station from the aggressive punk music that has been the soundtrack to this encounter to tranquil classical music, any horror fan worth their salt knows something is about to go down. And it does, in the form of the ghost truck crashing into her.
Seemingly none the worse for wear, save for a bleeding head wound, Miranda shows up on the doorstep of Roman, who has just vomited a large portion of his dinner. My guess is that lowlife pimp blood doesn’t exactly settle well in a discerning upir’s stomach. The two share an awkward exchange before Roman decides to play host to Miranda.
Meanwhile, back at the rehabilitation solarium, Olivia is tending to the plants when a bird flies into the glass and dies. This seems to trouble the formerly unflappable Olivia and hints that her mental state may be more in need of rehabilitation than her body. We get a bit more insight into Olivia’s condition when Dr. Pryce reveals that the medication he is giving Olivia will increase her empathy substantially. As you’d expect, the cunning Olivia does not receive this news well, but it does inspire her to reveal herself to Roman, which she does by surprising him at work. The two have a tense reunion that ends with Roman devastating his mother by telling her that he would give anything not to be her son. Olivia tells her son that his desire to feed will only increase, and that she prays he comes to her before he does something from which he will be unable to recover.
Andreas, he of the funeral kitchen sex with Destiny, arrives in Hemlock Grove and takes up residence with Peter and Destiny. While Destiny is thrilled to see her paramour, Peter’s attention is elsewhere. Not only is he turned away from visiting Lynda at the prison, but his new, taxidermy-loving boss reprimands him for tardiness. Things begin to perk up for our sometime-werewolf when he meets Miranda and the two strike up a quick friendship.
Across town, Norman (Dougray Scott) has fallen into the bottle over the death of his daughter, Letha. Marie (Laurie Fortier) visits him and reveals that she is unable to move on from Letha’s passing and is planning on suing Godfrey Industries for wrongful death. Although Norman is concerned that would mean putting Letha’s memory on trial, he flashes back to the night of Letha’s death and decides to join his ex-wife’s crusade. Norman pays a visit to Dr. Pryce and warns that he and Marie will be filing a wrongful death suit and to expect a storm of subpoenas. Although Dr. Pryce appears to be genuinely sorry about Letha’s death, Norman remains unmoved and insists that he will get to the bottom of what is happening in the White Tower, which, from the variety of organs on display, is a whole lot.
Although warned by Peter to be careful of Roman, Miranda opts to stay with Roman while she waits for her car to be repaired. The two talk about their dead fathers over dinner and then visit Beautiful Dreamer, Roman’s new thoroughbred horse, in the stables. Roman’s plan to either feed off of Miranda or to seduce her—it’s unclear which objective he has in mind—is quickly extinguished when Miranda excuses herself to go to bed. From the shadows, Roman watches as Miranda takes a shower, her bird tattoos on clear display.
Things have gone from bad to worse for Peter, who is now suffering from visions of masks, broken dolls, snakes and a Gone Sis sign. He enlists Destiny’s help in determining what the visions mean. As Destiny starts to channel Peter’s dreams, she hallucinates black, snakelike swirls making their way up from the water and into her body. As she starts to convulse, Peter is forced to perform CPR. Although Destiny is visibly shaken by what happened and demands Peter forget his visions, Andreas sees a drawing of Peter’s and instantly recognizes Gone Sis as the Wagoner Oasis, a place frequented by horny truckers.
The episode closes with Roman feasting on his prized thoroughbred, Peter arriving at the Wagoner Oasis, and a drunken man being choked to death by two men in silver masks who were in the middle of a ritual when interrupted. The masks the two men are wearing are the same ones from Peter’s visions.
Comments, Gripes & Observations
- Does anyone have any guesses as to what or who is the source material for Olivia’s treatments?
- Mark down this day, ya’ll. I finally see a purpose for Norman’s character!
- I loved Olivia’s story about Roman as a child asking if she had blood on her hands, and her response that it was red frosting. It was so in keeping with the characters.
- What does everyone think about Miranda? Anyone else get the sense that her arrival to Hemlock Grove may not have been accidental?
- Loved the scene between the nanny and Roman. She’s right. They really are all cursed.
Hemlock Grove can be viewed on Netflix.