July 12th, 2009


Harper's Island - The Shocking Finale! (Not Entirely Spoiler Free)

Well, maybe not shocking, but it was still pretty good. I was able to guess the (second) killer's identity about an hour before it was revealed. Not because there were any clues pointing in that person's direction -- there weren't -- but because this character was literally the last person left that it could be, barring the Agatha Christie-like reappearance of someone we thought was dead.

Harper's Island was excellent at setting up clues, but only ever for red herrings, I found. They did a splendid job making you think Abby's ex-boyfriend was in on the killing spree, but kind of a terrible job at leaving any clues as to the second killer's true identity. Which kind of came out of nowhere, in my opinion. We knew John Wakefield had a child because of his journal, a child who literally could have been anyone except the black guy, but they didn't leave us a trail of crumbs to follow to the truth. Instead, they sprang the revelation on us as expository dialogue, with nothing we previously witnessed to back it up.

Still, the scene where the true second killer is revealed was absolutely brutal. And that was Harper's Island's true strength. In 13-hour long form, it took the time to let you really get to know the characters, something your average 90-minute slasher movie tends not to, so when characters you've grown to like get offed, you feel it in a way you don't when Freddy rakes some cardboard character with his glove and spouts a kooky one-liner. Also, though Harper's was cheesy as hell (but such delicious cheese!), there was some writing talent behind it. The dialogue was a lot better here than in your average slasher, especially in the later episodes -- again, this is probably because they had time to develop the characters instead of just giving them quick defining characteristics before turning them into puddles of goo.

Anyway, Harper's Island is over, and as an experiment in using a finite thirteen episodes to tell an entire story on American television, I think it was a success. It didn't get much viewership, but I liked it quite a bit and would love to see more horror and mystery miniseries make their way to the airwaves digital transmission system. After Harper's failure to capture a sizable audience, though, I'm not holding my breath that it'll happen anytime soon.

Still, kudos to CBS for giving it a shot, and for showing all the episodes (in order!) even after announcing its cancellation so all five of us who were watching could see it through to its conclusion.