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'Hemlock Grove' recap: Adventures of a baby-killing death squad

Season 2 | Episode 8 | “Unicorn” | Released July 11, 2014

When people ask whether they should invest in watching Hemlock Grove, I plan to point them to this episode. Not only does it feature some of the best performances in the series’ run, but the convergence of storylines and seemingly dropped plot points makes this a truly satisfying outing for fans. Add to that multiple shocking reveals and a humdinger of a conclusion, and you have the recipe for a seriously satisfying hour of television!

We finally get a glimpse of last season’s powerful Olivia, not to be confused with this season’s morose version, in a flashback scene that takes us to Paris in 1884. Our matriarchal upir is held captive and dressed in a metal mask creation that would make Hannibal jealous! The scene reads both as an effective, albeit calculated, way of establishing audience sympathy toward Olivia as well as a means of fleshing out the Order’s backstory. The latter is a long time in coming, and we finally learn that the Chancellor of the Order released Olivia on the condition that she agree to be monitored and that she convince the upirs to self-regulate their feeding habits. Olivia agrees, but not before making it clear that she could rip out the throat of the Chancellor whenever she sees fit.

Roman and Peter engage in some good old bro-bonding as they attempt to bury the bodies of the masked men they just killed. Finding the ground too frozen, the men drag the bodies to the car as Roman salivates. He is only one treatment away from becoming human, a fact he shares with Peter, but he still has overpowering cravings—with those fresh bodies proving an almost irresistible snack.

Their body-burying turns even more problematic when one of the corpses turns out to be alive. While Roman wants to finish her off, Peter thinks they should bring in the authorities. Say what? Clearly, this entire turning against the moon is starting to mess with Peter’s mind. The two strike a compromise and agree to take her back to Roman’s house, where they can each question her.

A seemingly dropped plot threat from the first episode comes roaring back when Nadine (aka the Norman Bates–esque hotel prostitute) accuses Roman of ripping out the throat of her abusive pimp/boyfriend at the motel. Because he still suspects Roman of his sister’s disappearance, Sheriff Chasseur listens to Nadine’s story with great interest.

Sarah, the corpse turned survivor, reveals to Peter and Roman that she was captured as a young child by a warped prophet-like man named John Boone. Seems Boone believed that in order to bring about the apocalypse, families needed to be killed. So he kidnapped some families to be his henchmen and managed to create a more organized Manson family.

It appears that all of those questionable treatments by Pryce have had the added effect of making Roman practical, and he confirms Sarah’s kidnapping story via his trusty smartphone. While Roman is sensitive to Sarah’s plight, Peter thinks they are being conned and feels no pity for the woman, saying that she chose to kill. They decide to reunite Sarah with her family, but as they are leaving, Peter sees her reach for something and stabs her. Despite Roman’s protests, it turns out Peter’s instincts remain on point, as it is revealed Sarah was about to pull the pin on a grenade.

Naturally, this is the exact moment that Sheriff Chasseur decides to make his appearance. To his credit, the sight of these two men surrounded by bodies has to elicit at least a few questions. But all those questions fly out the window when Chasseur notices a watch with a design that gives him pause. He then tells the two to keep quiet or they’ll be dead.

Back at Dr. Pryce’s evil laboratory, the diabolical doctor successfully uploads Shelley’s brain to Prycilla’s body—but there’s a catch! She still has her same brain attached to her original body as well. Naturally, Shelley is concerned about killing off her old body for this new one, but Pryce makes the salient point that she is still wanted for murder. After sharing an emotional moment with New Recipe Shelley, Original Recipe Shelley decides she wants to go through with the transfer.

Olivia continues to garner audience sympathy when it is revealed that she has brain cancer, with only a 20 percent chance for survival. Her day goes from bad to worse when Norman and Hot P.I. break into her residence and discover a whole lot of evidence under UV light. Although Hot P.I. correctly points out that this only proves Olivia used bleach—and a lot of it!—Norman is convinced this means Olivia murdered Marie, and he vows revenge.

Roman and Peter return from their wild night out to discover that Miranda has absconded with Nadia. the two begin to strategize getting Nadia back—only to have their thoughts interrupted by a shared vision of the White Tower and masked men.

Their plotting is further interrupted by Norman, who wants some answers. Roman decides he is tired of all this nonsense and confirms that he and his family are upirs. Although stunned, Norman chooses the moment to reveal he is Roman’s father. The news is less than happily embraced by Roman, who thinks the declaration is too little, too late.

Dr. Arnold Spivak, Hemlock Grove’s answer to Dr. Huxtable, continues to be awesome as he doles out some much-needed folksy wisdom to Miranda. The poor girl is second-guessing her decision to steal the baby and is in a general state of panic when she is encouraged by Dr. Spivak to not travel her course alone. So Miranda heads over to Destiny’s house—which, come to think of it, is pretty ballsy. Naturally, Destiny takes her and the baby in, then promptly calls Peter.

In yet another dangling plot thread finally getting addressed, Sheriff Chasseur arrives to confront the priest who warned him about losing the Order’s protection. Our good sheriff lays the smack down on the priest, whose name is Francis, before showing him the watch of the dead masked man. It has the same symbol as the one in the priest’s house, and Francis is forced to reveal that the serial killers are a rogue part of the Order. While the Chancellor of the Order dismisses the problem, Francis pushes the issue and the Chancellor agrees to send reinforcements. Said reinforcements arrive in the form of masked men with some serious killing power, as evidenced by the red target dots that suddenly adorn Francis’ body.

Miranda finally learns what’s up when she gets an earful all about upirs and werewolves. And while Destiny is still not impressed with Roman, judging by the large knife she is happily wielding with abandon, Peter convinces her that he shares a psychic connection with Roman. They make a full believer out of Destiny when, after the three hold Destiny underwater, she has a vision of the masked murderers hunting down children. She also sees Francis, but he can apparently sense her too and pushes her out of the vision.

Sheriff Chasseur shows up and discovers Francis with a body full of arrows. With his final breaths, Francis tells Michael that Olivia murdered his sister and that he protected her to save the lineage of the upirs. Michael puts Francis out of his misery before heading out to find Olivia. But he isn’t the only one, as Norman takes off after his ex-love brandishing a gun.

Finally we have the answer to this season’s central mystery: Destiny says that the masked murders are looking for one child born with a caul, and they are killing off all children who fit that description until they find the right one.

This excellent episode closes out with some seriously shocking moments. Dr. Z convinces Olivia that the only way to survive her cancer is to consume the biological matter of Pryce’s most successful experiment: Prycilla! Just as she is about to take a big bite, New Recipe Prycilla wakes up and calls Olivia “Mother.” For his part, Peter finds the lair Destiny saw in her vision; just as he starts to morph into his werewolf state, multiple cultists shoot him, using the same weapons they used to off Francis.

Comments, Gripes & Observations

  • Peter’s faith in law enforcement in this episode is straight-up confusing, given his experience with Lynda this season.
  • I’m not sure I’d find the promise of Pryce’s face being the last thing I would see before switching bodies to be especially comforting. But it’s still nice to see the softer side of Pryce.
  • I love that the Chancellor is a tea-drinking femme fatale, complete with a Godfather ring!
  • Peter and Destiny’s relationship continues to be one of the best on the show. Here’s hoping she gets a major storyline next season!
  • Kudos to Norman for not only developing a personality, but a spine to boot!
  • I’m going to need an official soundtrack, stat.

Hemlock Grove can be viewed on Netflix.

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