Wow- first TV review in a while that’s for an English show!
This is a really rare English show where it didn’t keep going beyond season 1. Ok, so that’s not that rare, but what’s rare here is that the producers actually intended for it to end so soon. The show has a defined beginning and end, much like the style of Asian dramas. There’s no space filler episodes, everything works towards one determined end.
The plot of Harpers Island can’t be explained before you know a couple of things: the first is that this is not a show for kids, on any level. It’s gory. If it were a movie it would be PG-13 no doubt, maybe even R. So before you run off and rent it or watch it on netflix remember to get the kids out of the room until you preview it and decide if it is too gory for them or not. The second thing is that there is a secret hidden in the episode titles themselves: each title (for those of you who haven’t seen the series) is onomatopoeic.. That’s my big word of the review. Basically each title is a sound effect (I’ll list the eps for you). That sound effect describes and hints at how someone in that episode will die. For example the episode Thwack. In Thwack the victim won’t die of drowning, since the sound doesn’t correspond to someone drowning.
Ok- now the plot! I don’t want to give anything away so I’m just going to type for you the plot description online with a few adjustments as needed.
The story is about the wedding of Henry Dunn and Trish Wellington, which takes place on Harper’s Island. One of the guests, Abby Mills, is still haunted by the murders that happened there seven years before, caused by John Wakefield. These murders claimed the life of her mother and eventually Wakefield was killed by her father. Since them the island has been calm and quiet, until suddenly the wedding guests begin to die one by one, and everyone is a suspect. The guests must unlock the secrets of Harper’s Island and of Wakefield himself to determine if he is back from the dead or if a copycat is among the group.
In each episode one more from the wedding party dies, and the survivors get closer to finding the truth, and becoming a victim themselves.
The show had a pretty big budget, and you can totally tell that, but the director did an amazing job of keeping the effects where they belong. There are no useless shots in this show and the deaths are simple and quick, not over-emphasized or with too-strong effects.
The cast was good, but for the post part they were either unknowns or backup characters from other TV shows, no major players other than Richard Burgi, at least not that I recognized. They all did a fantastic job with their characters, and you really get no hints as to who the killer is from the actors. But there is a reason for that: none of the actors knew who it was either. The director the single greatest thing a director can do when filming a show like this: he told the actors nothing. Each week of the shoot they were given their script and they found out that week who was leaving the cast and who was still employed. Only Richard Burgi knew when he would die, and that was because his death was seen as a turning point in the storyline. Christopher Gorham and Katie Cassidy (Henry Dunn and Trish Wellington respectively) revealed in an interview that each week the cast would place bets on who would be the one to die in next week’s shoot, and who the killer would be at the end.
If the actors don’t even know if they are the killers then they can’t drop little hints which give away the ending. You really don’t get any hints whatsoever, and that is why I like this show. After watching the first few episodes you can’t say exactly how it will end, you might be able to predict an episode ahead if you’re clever, but you can’t point and say “Ok, she (or he) is the killer)”.
I don’t know if you can tell from my review, but I’m giving this probably the highest recommendation of any English show I have reviewed. I absolutely LOVE this show, even though frankly if it were a movie I’d never watch it. People die, but it isn’t a shock fest. It is a very thought out and planned story, and I think it is the best to ever appear. Making it a one season wonder was probably the best idea ever, and I don’t know how the producers talked CBS into funding it, but they should go for more things like this.
I read somewhere that there was a plan to make a kind of sequel to Harper’s Island. Not necessarily with the same characters (those that survive) or in the same location, but the same type of murder mystery storyline. There was something similar in the works, and if it pans out I hope they stuck with the same writer. I’ll post a couple of fan-made trailers below, they’re really the best work I’ve ever seen as far as summing up this show without giving it away and they give you a great feeling for how things progress. You can get it on iTunes, and I think it’s the only show I have in my iTunes where I bought every single episode, not just one or two.
I’m going to ruin the end for you: the dog in the trailer doesn’t die in the show (I know, I totally blew the ending, sorry!). That’s for those of you who, like me, get really nervous about cute fluffy pets dying in movies or shows.
This is the best fan-made trailer I’ve ever seen