If you thought the first half of Hemlock Grove’s final season was intense – you clearly weren’t ready for the trauma we experienced from the emotionally devastating second half of the final chapter. My first review covered the initial five episodes of Hemlock Grove, and this review will complete the series (episodes 6-10) with major spoilers regarding characters, the ending, and all things Hemlock Grove. Now that I’ve done my duty of giving fair warning, let’s talk about the gut wrenching final episodes of one of the best horror series I’ve seen. After the death of Andreas in episode four, the risk factor of survival seems to increase for all residents of Hemlock Grove who find themselves facing their demise at every turn. The first few episodes took time to reintroduce us to the characters’ and where they stood in the previous season’s fallout – and the second half of the season really kicked things into overdrive like more than ever before.
Lets begin with the best character of the series shall we? Roman, oh sweet misled Roman. Roman Godfrey has always been the tainted character of Hemlock Grove. He has noticeably had a darkness residing within him from the earliest episodes of the supernatural series, and those close to him have even noticed it in pivotal moments. The second half of this final season only pushes Roman further into a villainous role – but in my opinion, it’s once again a circumstance thrust upon him. Circumstance have been something I’ve always felt was prevalent to Hemlock Grove, with characters reacting to situational issues that are often from actions of others. (People’s attachment to Nadia, Miranda’s arrival, and Letha’s pregnancy/death). No message of unfortunate circumstance is shown clearer than the downfall of Roman in the final arc of Hemlock Grove. His relationship with Peter has been speculated as best friends by some and soul mates by others, and when he decides to take on Peter’s troubles – he finds himself in the center of danger and conflict. Roman takes the initiative to dispose of Andreas and make the 911 call that Destiny begins to catch on to. In addition to that, Peter perpetuates a story that involves Roman when he wasn’t even present for his demise. After being targeted by Spivak, and fending off his antagonistic sibling Annie, Destiny arrives to Roman’s, questioning his involvement. Things become quite heated (such a well acted scene between Bill Skarsgard and Kaniehtiio Horn) and she hits him in a rage, with Roman hitting back. Unfortunately for her, Roman’s punch is super-strength induced and Destiny falls through a glass table with massive trauma. Feeling he could never explain the situation, Roman breaks her neck in seconds to erase her fleeting life from existence. This moment was meant to solidify Roman as a ‘bad guy’ but had he not been dragged into this by Peter in numerous ways – her death could have been avoided. This alone triggers the major battle that is bound to occur between the formerly close men. He hides the truth from Peter (much like Peter hid the truth from Destiny) and they go on to torture and kill a Croatian mob boss that is used as the patsy for the murder. Roman goes all out to hide the truth from him, showing how much he cares for his relationship with the wolf – and things are cast aside long enough to locate Spivak and Nadia. When Peter learns the truth behind Roman’s actions (because of wretched Annie) he makes it his goal to take down the Godfrey. Roman seemingly kills Peter in an off-cuff attack from the wolf, but because he hasn’t been beheaded, he returns. Before his rebirth, Destiny visits her cousin and advises him to finish off Roman for his crimes against humanity. While Roman hasn’t been an ideal citizen as of late, Destiny seems to disregard her cousin’s actions and involvement in her demise – which is an unjust judgment after other events. When confrontations take place, they both deliver hurtful (and truthful) criticisms about each other’s decisions in the last year that has been noticeably building. That moment in particular was well written to take a toll on viewers who enjoy their connection, while acknowledging their mistakes. They agree for an epic finale showdown, and with the unfair help of Destiny, the savage Vargulf Peter (who is stuck in wolf form forever) rips the heart from his former friend, ally, and companion, that felt representative of the fans reactions and the significance of where their relationship has taken a dark turn. Seeing Roman killed – especially by someone he was so close to – felt like the ultimate betrayal by Peter. I can understand his devastation from losing his cousin, but not taking responsibility for her demise in any sense seems irresponsible and passive of the Rumancek wolf.
Roman’s demise in Hemlock Grove was the most unsettling part of the entire series; after spending three seasons fighting to prove that he won’t fill the evil role people have assumed he is reverted back to that position. Roman was the character who carried the brunt of the weight in Hemlock Grove, having been manipulated, lied to, emotionally hurt, and experienced drastic losses, it would have been beneficial to see the Godfrey find his own path with a shot at thriving outside of the family name, but his time is cut short. I should have realized sooner that Roman was bound to receive a tragic fate, but at the hands of the person he felt closest to makes this loss one of the most horrifyingly tragic deaths I’ve ever experienced in television series. That’s a major credit to the character because Roman wasn’t created as one you can simply root for – but that additionally shows depth and that’s thanks to the writers for making a dark character so diversely interesting and easy to become attached to. Roman will be remembered by me as the strongest contribution to Hemlock Grove, and a truly gripping character unlike any other. I still maintain some hope that Roman actually didn’t die in that ending scene – he is the Upir to beat after all! (Yes, this is an unlikely wish.)
The Spivak storyline is dealt with towards the end, with Pryce helping discover the location of the cabin. When they find the hideout, Miranda is revealed to have been killed during birth (or Spivak’s slimy creatures) but an Upir based solution is found by Pryce, helping the duo defeat the creature and his offspring. Seeing Roman and Peter work side by side to save the baby they love and defeat this creature is a reminder of how important the bond between the two was to the series – and how implausible it is for them to have that happy ending fans seek. Nadia spends little time showcased in the season, but after being taken by many – ends up in the arms of Shelley and Aitor. Shelley and Nadia leaving Hemlock Grove in the ending is one of the only silver linings – until you remember she’s accompanied by that eerie older man who has an odd fascination with the Godfrey girl. Shelley is definitely taking a smaller role in the second half, mainly shaking associations to her family (which could be good) but seeing her detached from her brother is another knife in my stomach. In the series final moments, these three are the only characters with a surviving chance, and that still feels like a dire conclusion because of the heavy losses felt in the final arc.
As mentioned earlier, Destiny’s death was the catalyst for trouble in the series final moments. Once she was killed by such an involved character, you knew the grieving fortune teller would spark a battle, I just don’t know how I feel about where she stood. I completely understood Destiny’s sadness and thirst for truth, and even when she was killed by Roman I was in utter shock that it had occurred. When she returned in the form of a spirit temporarily, I would have hoped she could impart clarity to Peter, but instead continued to pin blame on Roman. Yes, like we all know he isn’t always doing the right thing, but in this particular instance it felt unjust to purely blame him for Andreas and Destiny, with Peter’s lies fuelling the entire situation. Watching Andreas and Destiny lose all hope for a happy ending was nothing easy to experience, but in her final moments Destiny managed to create conflict around a relationship I had so desperately hoped to be salvaged – and for that she’s one sneaky character who I clearly underestimated. (Not feeling to forgiving at the moment either!)
Olivia spent most of her time in Hemlock Grove as a certain villain, and her taste of mortality introduced us to parts we hadn’t been able to experience early in the series. While many hoped that the matriarch of the Godfrey’s would meet her end eventually – I actually enjoyed the complexity that she brought into the series (but not what she did to Roman and Letha.) Olivia has found herself alone in the final arc of Hemlock Grove when Shelly has left the nest to be with her creepy father-boyfriend, and Roman wants virtually nothing to do with her anymore. Olivia goes through the most unexpected transitions with a major reveal including her on the brink of insanity, and killing Isaac unbeknownst to her. After she kills him, she imagines Isaac’s presences and believes she’s finally discovered true love. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing someone feel so disconnected or detached from humanity and reality that makes her create a mental façade to ease one’s pain. If that weren’t tragic enough, Olivia succumbs to the disease that began to dissolve who she was, and her last scenes depict her final imaginative escape with a heartbreaking meeting between herself and Isaac, as well as taking a bow from the performance she never actually had the chance to show the world. “Thank you all” Olivia mutters as her body decays in front of the viewers, imagining herself on a stage taking her final bow – replicating a farewell to Olivia and Hemlock Grove. This may have been one of the greatest triumphs for Eli Roth by adding extra depth and sympathy for Olivia, giving us one of the most tragic scenes of Hemlock Grove and on television this year. Major props to Famke Janssen in the final moments of the pivotal character, and a job well done wouldn’t be enough to commend the actress’s talent.
Something that really proved the series was concluding was a surprising death – the loss of Dr. Pryce. Regardless of what went on in Hemlock Grove, Pryce was always present to pick up the pieces for the supernatural entities and provide answers to burning questions the characters and viewers had alike. Things became tragic for Pryce after one of his own creations takes a turn and abruptly ends his life, reminding us that without Pryce’s presence, the odds were hugely stacked against the survival of the others who so desperately needed him. Peter on the other hand, was one character who continued to go on a downward spiral in my eyes as the season progressed. Involving Roman in on his actions and being the reason behind his death was a completely narrow way of Peter pinning his problems on someone else – the person he was truly closest with. Yes, as I stated before, Roman killed Destiny but the entire predicament was something that stemmed from Peter’s choices to begin with. In the end, the werewolf is stuck in his own personal Vargulf prison when turning to defeat Roman, and without his companion, there is no way he can ever break free from his wolf form again. If the plan was to annihilate the relationship between them like they did, it was the most fitting to ensure that Peter wasn’t guaranteed a typical happy ending given his treacherous and revenge fueled actions.
Hemlock Grove is still a powerful example of spectacular storytelling and breaking traditional rules of series, with so many different avenues to explore. Roman and Olivia were certainly the emotional anchors of Hemlock Grove’s final season, and as someone who loved them dearly – the end results for those characters was a little less than fulfilling. There still felt like potential for growth with both characters, unlike many others remaining in Hemlock Grove, and I would guess things were most likely rushed after receiving a final season; regardless I enjoyed the second half of Hemlock Grove very much, and hope that one day the series finds a way to live on by someone bringing back our favorites to the supernatural town for more adventures of horror. Lastly, thank you to all the people who made the series a possibility for three seasons, it’s been quite the ride that I (as well as other horror lovers) will cherish for years to come. Hemlock Grove’s last 5 episodes cumulatively receives a ‘B+’
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
-All my hopes for Roman and Peter finally exploring their relationship took a much darker turn than I would have anticipated. I guess you could say the bro/romance is officially done.
-I will mostly miss Roman as one of the best fictional characters in years.
-Olivia’s final moments were proof of how evolved her character had become over the series.
-Roman’s death also showed the poor misled young man experiencing the most fear he had even encountered, so watching that final episode again is no easy task. (I may have a little resentment if you couldn’t already tell.)
-Covering Hemlock Grove has brought me joy in many ways, and I’ll miss the fictional world, actors, fans, and everything about the series that was so genuinely easy to appreciate.