Hemlock Grove S1E1 Jellyfish in the Sky (5 stars)

There will be spoilers in this review, please be forewarned before reading more.

This episode is described with the following info on Netflix:
A teenager is murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove. Evidence points to an animal attack, but suspicions soon fall on Peter, the newly arrived gypsy.

I grew up in the 80’s with Reading Rainbow and I can’t help but hear the theme song when I read “Jellyfish in the Sky.” My brain automatically fills in afterwards “I can fly twice as high…” That may be a short in my wiring, but it’s a true fact. After talking about that with my boyfriend I realize it’s because part of the real song has the words “Butterfly in the Sky” and then “I can fly twice as high…” So, not a short, just something I have heard enough times that I can’t forget it.

To be fair I have already seen the first season, but I can still remember the first time I saw the title on Netflix. I thought about how hemlock is poisonous and was instantly interested to read more about the show. I’m dark and into weird things, it’s not out of character at all for me that this was a point of interest. Seeing in the first episode description that there would be gypsies and the hint of something supernatural, well that was enough for me to say “I don’t mind if I do.”

Within the first couple of seconds of the show starting it is instantly weird, arousing, and then unsettling. The transaction with what must be a hooker was awkward after it was hot because she isn’t into what he likes (blood play) and knows his name. You can’t tell yet but it seems like a small town.

The attack happens not too far into the episode, but to be fair without commercials it is only 45 min so it had to happen somewhat early or there wouldn’t be a lot of time to explore what happened.

It is terrifying, believable, and gut wrenching. Let me just say I have watched my fair share of horror movies and tv shows and this was more terrifying by not being able to see what was attacking the victim then it would have been if I could see it. It was done so well that you can tell some money changed hands to produce this. I was pleased to know that this wasn’t going to be a let down by introducing terrible cg or bad props. I can say with authority, of course only with the knowledge of the entire first season under my belt, that even when there is cg it is smooth and entertaining and not hooky. Thank goodness because I would have been very sad to see a great idea die due to funding issues as so often happens with horror and Sci Fi movies and tv shows.

The gypsy’s enter the picture and it turns out to be some random unknown male actor, he may have done a few things (I didn’t check), but to me he was new and totally alluring. He is hairy, sexy, and mysterious. I felt bad for not checking if I have seen him before so I checked and I have seen a straight to video (at least I think it was straight to video so don’t quote me) movie called The Howling: Reborn. His face was unfamiliar, but still very much enjoyable and completely believable as a gypsy – at least in the way that Hollywood portrays them.

The mom happens to be one of my favorite actors who for all the things she has been in will always be known to me for her role in Mystic Pizza. By the way if you like small town movies that is a great one, it really captures the feel of how small small town life is. She has always felt like a free spirit, hippy, gypsy type to me so she was cast very well in the role of the mother to Peter.

Jellyfish in the Sky turns out to be about a dream Peter has. And enter the creepy, but completely awesome, Harriet the Spy character. We learn about Uncle Vince who died from alcohol poisoning. And Harriet the Spy just keeps getting more awesome with her questions.

“Are you a werewolf?” Really? Because the index and middle finger are the same?! “Are you a retard?” Is the retort.

Ok some of this is lost in my sharing of it because without watching this you cannot understand, or enjoy, the banter between these two characters. Trust me when I say it is flawless and magical.

Back to the weirdo who paid for sex, and we find out his mom is Famke Janssen whom I always associate with the X Men movies. I have seen a great many of the movies and TV shows she has been in, but the ones that stick are X Men movies. She is too skinny, but still manages to be breathtakingly sexy. She is for lack of better words very classy. This also was a very well cast role because Famke seems like a cold hearted rich bitch. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way towards her as a person, although it seems like it. I just mean that she embodies the role perfectly.

Weirdo is angrily fitted for a suit, hooray. And then his mom spoils him with renting the local theme park Pennsylvania. Can someone say “buying your love?” Also, feels like a hint to Vampires with the name.

Enter the girl whom is his cousin. There is a distinct feel of not having a normal relationship between cousins. I don’t say that because I have seen the show, I say that because they have every appearance of being on a date instead of two teenagers who are related and enjoying a theme park that was rented out for solely their entertainment. I don’t like waiting in lines either, but I can only imagine how weird it would be to be the only patrons surrounded by workers at a theme park. All of the noise and excitement of other patrons really adds something that would be obviously missing. I can remember being in line and hearing the enjoyment (or terror) others were having from riding the ride I was waiting for, or one close enough that I could see and hear. That effected how much I wanted to ride said ride. Without that it would feel dead and boring. Probably mostly creepy. Music can even lose the impact it would have otherwise have had when it was just background instead of the only thing you can hear.

Now for the “meeting” between Peter the gypsy and the weirdo. They don’t so much meet as stare at each other and try to assess their competition like animals. It’s awkward and feels like a hint as to future dealings between the two. It also feels just short of smelling each other. It’s hard to say if they like each other or not, but I can say the tension is palpable.

Harriet the Spy re-enters the picture and is cutely referred to as “Hemingway” which for an aspiring author is quite the complement. She doesn’t see it this way, which is a shame, but gives her more depth because she has yet to embrace who she is. It’s a teenager thing, even when you are good at something and love it with every fiber of your being you still worry others might think you aren’t cool. It takes a while to learn that coolness is something that may be out of reach forever for some of us. So save some time and heartache and just be yourself. It is a struggle trying to hide who you are that frankly isn’t worth the time spent doing it.

Now we meet the girl who I can’t help but refer to as Frankenstein. Which is also backed up by how the other characters react to her, not because I want to spoil anything we may or may not learn later about her. She turns out to be weirdo’s sister and one of my favorite characters. There are a lot of great characters in this show, but she is one who instantly commands me to like her. Lights flicker as she walks, her hands are bandaged, her hair covers her face, and she is uncommonly large. Not fat, but tall and very large in her frame. Add all of those items together and she is an immediate target for cruelty. And even though she could literally kill anyone with her bare hands (or so it would seem with her size) she is timid and resigned to her fate of being a freak. This makes me sad because it feels like she doesn’t really get to live, rather she just passes from one place to another hoping to not be noticed but knowing it will never happen.

Peter tells his mom that the weirdo is a Lupier and doesn’t know it. I admit I had to look this up and found that it does in fact refer to a vampire.

Ok, so we see that we have a modern setting and references to things that were born, invented, or at the very least very popular in classical literature. For example: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Bram Stokers Dracula (Vampires) and although I don’t have a reference that comes to mind… Werewolves. It feels very much like watching a YA version of Grimm. That could have been carried out really well or very poorly. Thankfully it is fucking spectacular in my opinion.

I find all of these supernatural things to be fascinating and scary. Almost like learning about them could be dangerous. Granted I don’t expect to ever meet a person who can become a wolf, a person who “wants to suck my blood,” or one who was resurrected with electricity – but the mere thought that perhaps, even if only in our imaginations, these things could be real, is satisfying. Life outside the imagination is boring and stale. These things offer escape and are just plain fun to read about or watch. That is as long as it doesn’t feel overdone. There is definitely a point with these subjects where personally my bullshit meter goes off the charts and I lose interest.

This show never made that alarm go off and I loved every minute of it. I’m not even ashamed to say that like I am about the first and second movie for the Twilight books. I went to each of those and was completely caught up in the absolutely unbelievable romance. I wanted it to be true that love could be so breath taking and powerful, but in my own experience it’s pretty normal and not earth shattering, which is why I am embarrassed and angry that I liked an unrealistic view of love. I worry that it will set young girls up for a lot of pain because the movies show us how we all would like love to be, but through experience / the hard way, we have to learn it is not at all like it is portrayed.

Hemlock Grove does a really good job of keeping it real as far as showing that life is messy and intertwined and our desires don’t always make sense nor are they always placed on the right person. That is very true to life and love.

It freaking rips through you and catches you unaware. It’s the worst when you desperately feel it for someone and they don’t even know you exist. This feeling of being hopelessly in love and not understanding it and sometimes not being able to share it doesn’t go away with age. It’s not a passing feeling to be angry that you can’t always have what or who you want. That’s just life. It doesn’t make it easier knowing that, but the best part about life is time makes the hurt dull around the edges until something or someone takes our fancy once again and begins the cycle anew.


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