Harper’s Island

I just finished watching our TiVO backlog of Harper’s Island: The DVD Edition, a “whodunit” involving plenty of bloody murder and a “mystery” to solve. While I did enjoy the show quite a bit, it felt more like watching a television version of I Know What You Did Last Summer than a whodunit. It had a delightful, soap-opera quality to it, but wasn’t as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. More below.

Spoilers Ahead.

Harper's Island
Harper's Island
  • The main problem with the show is its billing. The show was much more like a slasher movie — in which we don’t really care who‘s chopping up everybody, but we want to know why. We also know most people won’t survive. Another difference from your usual whodunit was in the layers of suspicion. While the early part of the series put lots of great suspicion on everybody, it often undid itself by killing those people just as they were starting to look really good and guilty.
  • The acting was creditable and enjoyable, and well within the genre. I especially liked the killer’s nervous smile in the last couple episodes. It contrasts brilliantly with the violence of his/her actions.
  • There were a few “duh” moments that I found really obnoxious. Leaving the killer in a locked cell but unsupervised seemed (and turned out to be) pretty dumb. Also, in the classic horror movie trope, whenever the killer gets knocked down, people run away instead of finishing him. I’d hate to ever be in such a position, but I think I’d keep hitting until I was sure he wasn’t getting up again.
  • The location for the film was perfect, with lots of scary everywhere. Forested northwestern islands make for great creepy venues. In that regard, the early sequences (in the first two or three episodes, no one realizes anything is wrong. Oops!) with the creepy traps in the forest were delightful.
  • I was intrigued when I heard that this was to be a series. The second season would apparently be an unconnected but similar style of storytelling. I’m sad to learn that it wasn’t picked up. It would have been lame if any characters had carried over, but the possibility of trying this project again with different actors and story intrigues me.

8 thoughts on “Harper’s Island”

  1. I was beyond disappointed with the series. It was never fun, episodes dragged for far too long (really it should’ve been six episodes), none of the actors ever elevated the material and most I hoped would get killed very early on, and worst of all it was a horrible mystery due to the lack of actual clues. My biggest disappointment however comes from Jeffrey Bell (“Angel”, “Alias”), the show’s showrunner, who never achieved what the show wanted to be, least of all a tone.

    I was not at all surprised nor disappointed it got bumped from Thursdays to die on Saturday nights. I’m glad CBS continued to air it, but had I been in charge I probably wouldn’t have been as merciful.

  2. I guess I decided early on that the tone fit the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER level of quality, and thus enjoyed it for what it was. The trailers certainly amped us up for a show that was far more dramatic and interesting than the show actually ended up being.

    As for the mystery element — I agree completely. By developing suspects only to kill them, we never really have a chance (aside from pure guesswork) to figure out “whodunit.”

  3. i mostly agree with everything u said…the one thing i really disagree with was that u were hoping for a second season…

    even if they did different story and characters i still feel it wood cheapen the series…for once the tv execs have gone right heres a great idea that we can make work for one season…lets make it awesome then leave it and not run it into the ground like every other show that stays on air for 10 seasons too long…i foudn it quite refreshing

  4. thc — I agree with you most of the time. I much prefer series that have an end in sight and can tell a single story. At the same time, the idea of trying to redo the show without making it stale was an intriguing idea, especially as the early marketing suggested a murder mystery more than a slasher film. In that regard, I think it had possibility.

    I agree, though, that stories should be able to end and American TV doesn’t do enough of that.

  5. i thought the whole series was wonderful! personally, i love horror movies, so to have a whole series featuring grotesque killings made me very happy. i do agree though, that it dragged on a little too long. they made 13 whole episodes, when really they could have fit it into a much smaller amount. but besides that, the show was great! i loved the traps everywhere, and the tension between everyone. overall, a very interesting series, and i hope they continue on to make another series!

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