If you have not seen Happy Town, “I Came to Haplin for the Waters” or “Polly Wants a Crack at Her” you are advised to stop reading now as this is an analytical review with many revelations about where the story is going and where it has been. You have been warned.
This is not a series easily jumped into mid stream, but it is possible. Therefore I would also suggest that if you have not yet seen a Happy Town episode and are located in the USA, to go to ABC Dot Com’s Happy Town page by clicking almost any image in this analysis review and watch the series from the beginning. This will aid the viewer in capturing the exquisite essence of what is being depicted in Happy Town.
We include a short video presentation (below) about Happy Town from WonderCon 2010 San Francisco for your enjoyment before commencing this review. Being a fan of Amy Acker and Sam Neill I very much enjoyed this panel after the premiere episode was shown to the WonderCon audience at the Moscone Center in “The City”.
The theater room at the WonderCon 2010 convention was packed all day long and we arrived early as Press to ensure we could provide extended coverage of Happy Town and the other packed panels all day long. All images here are courtesy of Comic-Con International, Warner Brothers and ABC. We thank both organizations for their professional courtesy. You should also visit ABC to see behind the scenes interviews from WonderCon not included in our brief video shown below.
This review contains reflective analysis regarding the Happy Town series created by Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec, and Scott Rosenberg. The focus of this review as are most of what I write about, a subject that has fascinated me since my earliest days of reading and acting on stage.
What subject? The Single Effect of “the work” and how each episode or chapter contributes to the development of the continuing story within any dramatic presentation. Without a proper Single Effect the work no matter how much money is invested will surely fail. As is my preference, this review is not pure recap. Instead I delve into various areas of the story arcs that are created in Happy Town. It is these factors that make Happy Town a truly enjoyable experience in the opinion of this reviewer.
A lot happens in Happy Town and it happens very quickly much like a great horror mystery novel. My current grade for the Happy Town series so far? There is much joy in Happy Town, but here is also much of a retrospective reflective nature. For these portrayals I give Happy Town an “A”. Please Read on and find out why.
My comment on the Human Condition in my first Happy Town review is what I believe this series and what life is sometimes is all about. People in real life do horrible things to each other in this life as we all observe in the news and see first hand on a daily basis. Murder, rape, terrorism, uncalled for attacks, often of a sickening nature. The Happy Town bad boys, the Stivileto’s in the series portray these types of trouble makers and malcontents we often find in real life. Perhaps most frustrating of all is that our team here at WHR have observed people hating each other and even directing their frustration at each other provoked by a group that attacks an entire television series and worse entire entertainment networks when a series is non renewed. Unbelievable!
What such people often fail to understand is that entertainment is a business not a constitutional right or obligation when it comes to continuation of an entertainment series. Entertainment is a business made up and run by people just like you and I. If advertising and other revenue sources are not sufficient, it is time to move on no matter how much we love an episodic series or a movie series. Business is business and we all must remember this simple fact. Get over it trouble making people. Period.
Back to the point being made that is inherent in Happy Town and such real life situations. The WHR team will NOT mention these web sites, each with the word something “sucks” or other such words, all designed to incite trouble in their intent. And sadly yes, we must report there are many of these sites. Each dedicated to launching personal attacks against the creators of television series, the cast and even against the families of the actors and actresses. All are designed to evoke a response and stir up trouble causing people to lump all who disagree with their point of view into an easy category of “haters”. This is not fact, but when emotions flair people sometimes make the mistake of “painting everyone with the same brush”.
These are behaviors we all must avoid as friends, professionals and or as we acquaint with each other on the internet. What these “sucks” type of web people seek is attention and we must deny them what they seek. We must tilt our heads like the “RCA Victor Dog” and do a double take in disbelief. Simply move on and either learn or continue to be respectful of each other. This is key to cordial and professional behaviors.
Therefore WHR asks that everyone not frequent such places and deny them the web hits they seek for what should be obvious reasons. These malcontents seek (want) to cause trouble as they sit back and laugh at us all when we react to their cattle prod techniques. Do not let them do so and learn to ignore them.
To jump ahead into the review and comment on this aspect of the Human Condition, Sheriff Conroy the senior (while laying in a comatose state in the hospital), is heard saying “In my younger days I felt sorry for myself when I had no gloves until I met a man that had no hands”.
Avoid feeling sorry for yourself when you encounter such places even if you are the target. Instead revel in the fact that you “are on to them” and know what they are really up to leads to no good! The fact is that well rounded individuals have “two hands” and a brain to discern that none of us will be their “victim”.
As the Mayor of Haplin so eloquently puts it “We must not let rumors run out of control and take on a life of their own”. We therefore beseech you; Do not let these evil “sucks” types of webs sites make their “rumors become reality” in your life. Believe me, it is simply not worth it. I repeat, just ignore them and enjoy life for the wonder that we all can make it! Thank you.
Before proceeding with this two episode review, let us reflect on what remains to be seen. Will he Happy Town the series will be renewed beyond the first eight episodes? I hope that it is. Happy Town resumes presentation this evening Wednesday at 10:01 PM Eastern and Pacific Time. I for one will be tuning in and following this series through all eight episodes and suggest you do as well. Let’s all hope that Happy Town will be picked up for a full season 20 episode run in 2010 or 2011.
I Came to Haplin for the Waters:
As has been observed here previously, Happy Town is family entertainment with a streak of science fiction and horror. It is about a seemingly innocent small town where a murderer, The Magic Man, and his minions are running loose. This is much to the detriment of Haplin and their characterizations therein. I often see a Stargate event horizon “Gate” shimmering in a lot of shows and Happy Town is no exception with the mysterious “Blue Door” referred to by Sam Neill who portrays Merritt Grieves in Happy Town, a man with unusual knowledge and answers or keys to the mystery.
The episode opens rather blithely with a sequence depicting flowers being arranged as the characters are mostly unaffected yet by the terrible events which have unfolded surrounding Jerry Friddell’s head opening murder. Much like in real life, life must go on no matter what and Happy Town is no different.
In “I Came to Haplin for the Waters”, we witness Amy Acker and Geoff Stults at the hospital (illustrated below) looking talking with the staff about senior Sheriff Conroy. As you may recall Sheriff Conroy went crazy and chopped off his own hand in the first episode after being afflicted by what appears to be a mental break from his previous encounters in dealing with the Magic Man some six years previous.
We also observe the great character actor Sam Neill talking to Lauren German who portrays Henley Boone about the famed movies including The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and with special focus on Casablanca in his “little video shop of horrors” yet t be revealed. Henley says “I’d like to get these on the top”. Several lines from Casablanca are then recalled much to the delight of this reviewer. The wonderful character interaction between these two fine actors will no doubt continue and I definitely approve of these more light moments.
As I mentioned in my previous Happy Town review and analysis this is part of the Human Condition here on planet Earth. Life goes on. We must continue with our lives despite the impact of events no matter how horrific they may be in the real world. We all do this even if we are not aware of doing so. Such is part of our internal defense mechanisms to be able to isolate ourselves mentally from terrible events and be able to continue on. Happy Town does an excellent job in this regard hence my “A” grade for the series to date.
We move to a lovely sequence with the song “Never Miss a Beat” by Kaiser Chiefs plays in the background discussion we see Henley making wax figures which are then illustrated being created. We also see the lovely Sarah Gadon who plays Georgia Bravin in the series. Georgia appears oblivious to what is happening around her. We segue to Sam Neill dancing with Mrs. Meadows (Lynne Griffin) to the sound of a 1930’s song, a title that I cannot quite recall.
We then observe Mayor Haplin announcing Tommy Conroy as the new sheriff. Geoff Stults tries to not take the job, then to making a light hearted reference to “”Jaws” and “catching the whole damn fish”. Acting Sheriff Conroy is referring somewhat to something. He means catching the murderer loose in the town. The audience in the town hall is not entirely amused and we can see his discomfort in his new position as Tommy is thinking about his father lays in the hospital having ongoing nightmares.
Several things affected me most in this episode. All were turn about events. I had expected that we would get clues to the murder of Jerry Friddle. I had hoped we would learn more about the mysterious Magic Man. Well we did learn something about “dough” but this is NOT what I thought would be and is discovered by the investigators!
In a plot twist of epic magnitude, we find out the initial horrendous murder of Jerry is instead to be an act performed by Big Dave from the Haplin pizza parlor. Portrayed by actor (Abraham Benrubi), Big Dave was sure that Jerry was the Magic Man. He is dead wrong. I very much enjoyed this twist in the story line!
Much to the chagrin of Geoff Stultz who portrays the newly appointed Sheriff Conroy, series character, this shocking discovery about Jerry Friddle’s murderer is another revelation at its very core. What makes Tommy’s discovery after Big Dave’s admission so terrible is that Tommy actually finds out that it is his friend of many years since third grade committed the first act of violence!
We experience a nightmare sequence in the “dream” elevator with music “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon is truly frightening. We start in a restaurant with discussion about tapioca, then we hear the song first in slow motion and then at normal tempo while the victim (Georgia) cowers in fear beneath a character we will learn about later. Is this character the incarnation of evil? Is he the Magic Man himself? Is he even “real” and central to the story? Yes he is and we will learn more about near the episodes conclusion.
After this we find Tommy Conroy talking with Big Dave in Dave’s basement (shown above) about the railroad spike he drove into Jerry’s head. Big Dave is trying to justify his act by stating to Tommy that he found and killed Jerry because he is the “Magic Man”. In his misguided belief Dave states “That he knows where all the bodies are buried”! However he forced the information out of Jerry under duress before killing him. Another incorrect conclusion by Big Dave’s “investigation” of some years, acting Sheriff Conroy says “We got to figure something our soon”.
We leave these two in their conundrum for the final sequences of the episode; A visit to the third floor of the boarding house where we see and hear the sounds of birds in the darkness when another clue is found, a live bird wrapped in a cloth.
To the return of “You’re So Vain” music by Carly Simon, we end the episode with the arrival of a State of Minnesota investigator in Tommy Conroy’s office and it is none other than the nightmare man from the elevator now known as Agent Farmer! Looks like lots of trouble lies ahead.
After Henley make her discovery on the forbidden third floor, she decides to get the heck out of Haplin. Would any of us not follow the same course. Henley leaves on a bus to a nearby town to purchase a used car and get away.
Finally we witness a horrific car crash scene when a huge black crow slams into Henley Boone’s windshield! She was planning on “Getting out of Dodge” (Haplin) after her discovery but obviously will not be leaving us at all. We are left at this point in a state of cliff hanger bewildered state of shock.
All we hear is the sound of an evil screeching vulture like bird somewhere overhead as Henley faces her fate!
Polly Wants a Crack at Her:
Things begin to move much quicker in this episode. Quicker you say? How could that be possible? Well as we observed in the previous episode after the black crow slammed into the windshield of Henley’s newly purchased used car it caused her to be involved in a very nasty car crash. The event leaves our poor Henley Boone, who is trying to get out of the area, unconscious in the middle of the road, trapped near the environs of Happy Town which is precisely what the evil Magic Man desires to occur in this reviewer’s opinion.
In the previous episode we observed flowers being prepared for the Haplin “Thaw Festival”. In the background we hear that danged black crow hovering overhead screeching ominously. No doubt this character represents the agent of the evil “Magic Man” keeping an eye on Haplin. This reviewer must ask you to recall that Merritt Grimes knows that the Magic Man can make people and things disappear. No doubt he can make them re-appear as well and the crow MUST be his agent!
A new character comes to Henley Boone’s aid. A somewhat handsome devil, this man introduces himself as “Aidan”. He rouses and takes Henley to the nearest medical center. The doctor finds no sign of a concussion only a few contusions and cuts. Of course, Henley may want to get a second opinion considering the fact that Aidan brought her not to a human doctor, but to the town’s local veterinarian!
One of the things that is enjoyable is the humor dovetailed into various sequences so that all is not simply dark and foreboding. Our new hero, Aidan feels much like a fool but is obviously taken romantically with Henley. Heck He decides that she needs some rest and takes her to a local motel where nature will take its course! So no rest for Henley!
This fits the story line since Henley in not going anywhere since the black crow ensured that her vehicle was totally wrecked in the crash. Every story needs a hero and being a lover to boot, handsome Aidan will do rather nicely as Henley will soon discover. It is this switch to lighter moments that makes “Polly” rather enjoyable while other sequences of a more bizarre nature become manifest.
We then segue to a terrible scene where we observe Sheriff Tommy Conroy and Big Dave (from the pizza shop) digging for the bodies in the location where Jerry Friddle indicated before Big Dave “took care of”the not so “Magic Man” Friddell. Naturally there are no bodies at the location and Tommy later tells Big Dave not to come to his house anymore and to change his tires (since agent Farmer has identified the tread pattern as unique). The discussion of tires part occurs later in the episode, but fits the review with a bit more analysis of what makes Happy Town what it is, real life depictions. Below the mysterious and evil Agent Farmer.
Because of Tommy covering for his friend Big Dave I was a bit disappointed at first that as a law enforcement officer he should have arrested Big Dave on the spot. Then I looked at real life and realized I was being altruistic having witnessed myself when people “provide cover” for a guilty party, often to mask their own shortcomings. This is precisely what Tommy is doing. He is motivated in part to determine what has happened to his father as well as figure out what part the Magic Man has in all this. In the meantime, the Thaw festival is underway!
We zoom back to the sheriff’s station. State Agent Dan Farmer believes they’ll be able to track down Jerry Friddle’s murderer with few if any problems. During the process Agent Farmer had deduced that killer is a large, strong man (obviously Big Dave but they do not know that, only Tommy does at this point) They also analyze some tire tracks from the crime scene currently at the science lab. As previously mentioned Tommy has already told Big Dave to change his tires to provide cover.
We then witness Andrew Haplin played by Ben Schnetzer go non linear when he attacks Georgia’s father believing that he is beating his daughter after her horrific nightmare in the elevator in the previous episode. And yes Andrew is the grandson of the mayor, Peggy Haplin (Frances Conroy). This factor will play an important role a bit later in the episode.
Of interest is the fact that the Stiviletto brothers, the town’s evil malcontents, filthy dirty as seen previously, show up with an attorney and they are in suits for goodness sakes! They subsequently file a criminal complaint against Sheriff Tommy for the beating he gave them for their suspected role in the alleged abduction of Georgia.
Deputy Sheriff Hobbs (Robert Wisdom) believes a fifth conspirator is involved. Hobbs is sure that Greg (or Greggy) Stiviletto may have convinced his siblings to press charges to obtain revenge for Greggy being put in prison some five years previous by the sheriff. The question becomes what is the motivation of his seeking to extract his revenge now? Are they simply the evil minions of the Magic Man?
Another great clue planting scene takes place with the series anchor Sam Neill playing Merritt Grieves where he gives the young Emma Conroy (Sophia Ewaniuk) a magic notebook where the “writing erases” when “to do” things are completed. This is sure to play a critical role later in the show as you will read. Amy Acker as Rachael Conroy is unaware of this development and is distracted when she takes a call when she goes outside the shop. She speaks with Georgia about Andrew being hospitalized after he attempts to beat up Georgia father after being egged on by his young friends. Later Rachael tells Tommy about this detail. Emma excitedly tries to tell Rachael about the magic notebook, but Rachael’s mind is on other things.
We then move back to the motel room where without even knowing his last name Henley and Aidan have a passionate love making sequence. Henley what the heck are you doing getting a bit “randy” with this handsome fellow?
Well these things do happen in life and the sequence accurately reflect another Human Condition “All You Need is Love”, even the physical type in the absence of something more meaningful. We hear the song “Teenage Love” by the Magic Wands playing in the background as they attend to business of human carnal knowledge at hand!
Oh! I forgot to mention in the previous episode that Henley had stolen an odd looking hammer from the boarding house where she is residing. She then remembers this and places the filched hammer she swiped from Dot’s boarding house into her rather large purse. Naturally the smitten lover of the moment Aidan asks if they can continue to see each other again. Well of course they will!
And here is where real life politics enters the story once again. There is no doubt Andrew not only tried to beat (Stephen McHattie) who plays Carl Bravin but he also used a crow bar to smash his grandmothers car as an excuse to cover his failed attack on Carl. We all know stories where people distort the situation as an excuse for their own wrongdoings. In a short scene Mayor Peggy Haplin knows without a doubt her grandson is lying and tells him so in no uncertain terms. Ah for the wisdom of age identifying the transparency of youth.
Unfortunately in life we see all too often that even adults who should (and do) know better will cover for others telling falsehoods or “looking the other way” rather than deal with an unsavory situation. It is here that Happy Town once again excels. Tommy figures it all out after suspecting young Andrew and he does the right thing for a change and arrests Andrew Haplin.
As the episode winds down Tommy confronts the Stiviletto brothers and admits his error in accusing them. Naturally they are no longer wearing two piece suits and taunt Tommy rather than be civilized. Here again we see that the Human Condition rears its ugly head. The Stiviletto brothers are evil white trash and will do anything do further their own ambitions as we often observe in real life when people justify their wrongful acts claiming to just be “getting even”. What people forget is that doing wrong things seeking revenge are never justified no matter what the circumstances.
In the final moments Rachael Convoy is found to be “erased” or disappears after she takes the “magic book” from Emma that was given to Emma by Merritt Grieves. All we find is her cell phone after Tommy tries to call her cell. They find her cell displaying one missed call, the magic book with the pages all blank, but Rachael herself is gone!
And guess who went to the Thaw Festival a bit earlier in the evening? None other than the nightmarish Agent Farmer whom apparently find Emma is found calling “that man”. Or is it?
In closing we see the evil vulture screeching in the trees as Tommy flashes back to what his father, Carl and others have told him, I saw the Magic man” once! Where is Rachael Convoy? Nowhere to be found and this is the cliffhanger of “Polly Wants a Crack at Her”. It is here that we know that the story arc has been faithful to the precepts of the Single Effect.
Each sequence has contributed to the next scene in a cascading scenes of Single Effects, one after the next. Tune in tonight to ABC on Wednesdays and watch the effect in the next five episodes of Happy Town and we all may just find out what has happened to poor Rachael and the entire town of Haplin.