'Happy Town' - 'In This Home on Ice' Recap
by Bob Sassone, posted Apr 28th 2010 11:35PM
(S01E01) "A well man doesn't put a hole in another man's head." - Sheriff
Every single review is going to compare 'Happy Town' with 'Twin Peaks.' This isn't just because both shows involve mysterious goings on with mysterious characters in a small town, it's because ABC itself has been driving the point home in all of its marketing for the show. "From the network that brought you 'Twin Peaks ..." I don't really understand why they're mentioning a TV show that ran on their network over 20 years ago, but maybe they feel they have to connect it to something cultish and beloved.
Is it like that show? I guess. A little. It has that small town mystery vibe. It also has dashes of 'Harper's Island' and 'Salem's Lot,' but those ran on CBS so I guess they can't mention them in the ads.
If I were to summarize 'Happy Town' in three words or less, it would be this: EVERYTHING IS MYSTERIOUS. Seriously, there isn't one person in this town that is above suspicion in either the nasty murder in the ice cabin or the "Magic Man" abductions that plagued the town for many years. Someone abducted people every year for several years in a row and then just ... stopped. Is he back, only this time murdering people by putting holes in their heads?
But EVERYTHING IS MYSTERIOUS. No one in this town can be trusted, I don't care how much they smile. Everyone could be completely innocent or everyone could be completely guilty. And that's both the show's biggest strength and its biggest weakness. If everyone has a secret, then when the secrets are revealed it might be a little underwhelming and unbelievable. But at the same time you don't know what's going on and what secret is related to the murder/abductions. Some people in the town have secrets for personal reasons and some have secrets for crime reasons. Unless several people in the town are in on the crimes, which wouldn't surprise me either.
But there are new people in town too. Sam Neill is the mysterious gentleman who decides to come to Haplin, Minn., to open up a rare movie memorabilia shop (or maybe he's going to spell it shoppe). Not sure why he would want to open up such a place in a small town, even if he does explain that he wants to bring some culture to the townspeople. He's the 'Salem's Lot' element in all this, the James Mason character coming to town and opening a shop. He's so unbelievably mysterious that he's probably a giant red herring and completely innocent. Or he's the devil himself. Again, EVERYTHING IS MYSTERIOUS.
He's not the only newcomer. Henley (that's a girl) has come to town to open up a candle shop(pe). Yes, a candle shop. The nation's economy might be terrible right now, but everyone is flocking to Haplin, Minn., to open up quirky stores.
So everyone is a suspect in the town. Neill's character, who might even have some sort of power. The new girl. The nosy (and oddly horny) gaggle of old ladies at the house. The bar owner played by Abraham Benrubi (especially him -- he's a big enough guy to throw the murder victim around that shack at the beginning). Hell, I'll even throw in goody-goody couple Geoff Stults and Amy Acker. Sure, he's a lawman, but he's so good and nice that he could be a nut too. Bread company owner Steven Weber could be guilty in some way, even if his daughter was abducted. His wife could hold a secret too because she's gone off the deep end. The Barney Fife-ish deputy nicknamed "Root Beer" could be guilty too.
At the very least Stults and Root Beer should be fired for telling the murder victim's wife about his death in such a callous, public manner.
The exposition in this first episode was painful at times. There's a lot of characters and a lot of back story, and the explanations they have to squeeze in to set up everything was a little overdone. In the first scene with Stults and Acker and their daughter, the exposition was torturous. "Now, as you know honey, I'm the sheriff of this town and your mom works at the bread factory that employs a lot of people. This is a great place, and mom wants to move to California but I want to stay here, for the following reasons ..."
I gotta say though. For all of its faults -- and some of the writing is over the top and the characters more caricature than character -- I'm definitely in for the long haul. I don't get some of the real hatred that this show is generating from some people. It's really not that bad. It's probably filled with too much symbolism and oddness, but at least you get the feeling they're trying.
- Haplin is supposed to be a nice, friendly small town you'd love to live in. But what evidence is there of that? What kind of "nice" town has a person abducted every single year for several years in a row? The people are either nasty, weird, yokels, or mysterious and they argue all the time. And now a brutal murder? Yeah, it's a regular Mayberry.
- A lot of this show is predictable. It was kinda obvious that the kid taunting the girl about her meth-addict dad would turn out to be the boyfriend hidden in the car shadows at the start of the episode. But I did like the fact that Henley turned out to be Chloe, she was talking to someone on the phone who knew why she was in town, she purposely went upstairs to investigate the third floor, and she had a tattoo of the "question mark with a halo" logo used around town to memorialize the missing townspeople. That was an interesting touch.
- If your landlord tells you in a serious/evil voice that the third floor of the house you're staying in is off-limits, it's time to look for other living arrangements in town. Or perhaps out of town at the nearest Red Roof Inn?
- So at the end the killer went back to the ice shack? Why?
- The boat is named Dallas Alice, so I guess that will have a bigger meaning later. Perhaps Stults likes old CBS shows. But this is an ABC show. Couldn't they have named the boat Dynasty Angie?