If you have not seen Happy Town, “Slight of Hand” you are advised to stop reading now. This review contains complete analysis of the episode under consideration. Thank you.
When we last left Happy Town, Rachael Conroy (Amy Acker) disappeared at the Thaw Festival and that danged evil vulture was in the trees and then swooped away after Rachael vanished. There is something “spy like” evil in that danged bird!
As suspected Agent Frank Farmer (Peter Outerbridge) has come to Happy Town in the guise of being a good guy helping to find the missing Racahel. Do not believe it! Agent Farmer is (in my opinion) an evil character who will play a crucial role in this episode.
Also of hidden human value is “Aidan” who we observed last week seducing Henley Boone after her accident. Aidan is really the very handsome Gregg Stivileto portrayed by Warren Christie recently released from prison as the ladies in the boarding house will say “he was in for murder”.
As we often see in various places, people may not really be what they seem. Beware of people who start off superficially in one persona and then display their true colors later in your association with them when the going gets tough. This is a Happy Town “Single Effect” of this chapter as the “other side” of people are revealed which contributes to the continuing story line. The effect works rather successfully I might add.
In “Slight of Hand” (notice the pun and intended meaning), the story of the Human Condition continues with Tommy Conroy crying as he seeking answers from his father, now conscience but unresponsive eating what look to be ice cream pudding or other soft food stuff. Much like in our own lives and loves of family, we seek said guidance after the fact rather than before.
Tommy is in tears because of all the time he had to love his father (M.C. Gainey), now his fathers ability to help is distant due to what I will refer to as a Psychic Effect that the Magic Man deliberately applied. Why? To take one of the most experienced resources out of the picture just when he is needed most to locate “a person of interest” as law enforcement often refers to such matters. Fortunately the senior Sheriff Conroy has a moment of lucidness and states to Tommy go see “The Englishman”.
This is where the genius of Sam Neill (Merritt Grieves) come into play as the only person who appears left standing with sufficient wherewithal to figure out what is happening and why. As indicated in my earlier reviews, Merritt clearly “collects information” about the “Magic Man” when Tommy realizes what is going on in Haplin. Clearly as he commented about the the “Blue Door” (referred to only by Sam Neill in Happy Town), he is THE man with the knowledge and “information on” the “Magic Man” that may lead to the return of Rachael before she too is gone forever like the seven victims to date in ‘Slight of Hand”. A early 1923 film is referred to by Merritt as a Magic Trick very hard to discover. Tommy loses his temper and locks
up Sam Neill.
This episode moves at a much higher rate of acceleration that previous episodes, and with good reason. The first episodes laid the foundation perfectly to allow quick story arc jumps. Before I knew it over one third of the episode had transpired.
Lauren German who portrays Henley Boone finds out about Aidan’s deception and seduction. Although some may discount the little ole’ ladies like we often do in real life, they knew precisely what was happening. After being disclosed to by the knowledgeable, Henley confronts Greggy confirming the truth of what she has been told. Like in life, the young do not believe what they are taught, but instead must find out for themselves. Such an accurate reflection and nicely done too!
Greg’s brothers snicker at Henley , but otherwise leave her alone for her second encounter with “Aidan”. I did not expect her to turn the tables and seduce Greg after his lies. However Henley wanted to get back the “hammer” as well as sow her wild oats. The hammer will play an important role later in the mystery. Henley and Greg go at it and she gets her stolen property back.
Then we see what many including this reviewer guessed, handsome, but evil agenda Agent Frank Farmer is observed with a drugged old man Carl Bravin (Stephen McHattie) father of Sarah Gadon who plays Georgia Bravin in the series. Georgia appears at the top of the stairs calling for her father while Frank is being abused and states “we do not have to drag your daughter into this again”.
Frank hides under the stairs while Georgia picks up the laundry and leaves her father in his drug induced state. It is clear that Frank has been doing this to Carl Bravin for a long time as a cover story for his fiendish antics! Should we believe that Carl Bravin has been a victim all along or someone that Frank Farmer leveraged to provide his alibi’s in the past.
Like last week, there were turn about events and there was pleasant music. Jeanne Newhall, “6th Ave. Heartache” was featured as Henley completed her seduction of Greg Stiviletto and achieved her goal of getting the hammer back. Naively I keep forgetting that in real life, people do use sex for gain as well as pleasure. Once again these little touches move the story arc in the right direction. Just what is the significance of the hammer and why was it important enough for Henley to sleep with Greg again to secure it? This becomes apparent a bit later in the series.
In the meantime, a shocking scene occurs with Tommy Conroy discovering a dismembered hand at the town bakery with his wife’s ring on the finger. A bit of misdirection leads us to the facts it is not his wife’s hand and Tommy frees Merritt Grieves realizing he was wrong about him being involved in the disappearance and needs the real information the “collector” has.
Amy Acker as Rachael Conroy is still missing and we are unaware of evil vulture although we hear the screeching as Merritt and Tommy search portions the old bakery when suddenly we witness the foul creature lurking above a crypt! The scenes are well done and add the touch of horror we need to experience in the mystery. The suspense continues as we see blurry lights coming through a glass door with a blue hue to them! Is this the famed “Blue Door”. Instead it is a effective anti anti-climax sequence where we find “Root Beer”, one of the deputies played by Jay Paulson have been lured there under false pretenses while he was supposed to be protecting Emma Conroy and Georgia Bravin. Tommy freak out thinking that the Magic man is there to strike again.
In the final moments Rachael Convoy is found cowering in fear in the the bath tub as the door is kicked in by Tommy followed Merritt Grieves and Roger Hobbs (Robert Wisdom). Obviously the Magic Man at work, Rachael recounts that she blacked out at the Thaw Festival and the only thing she remembers is waking in the bath tub. The family is reunited however we are left to wonder why she was returned, how was she abducted as she hugs her daughter Emma. Clearly the Magic Man has sown the seeds of terror, but what is his game plan?
In closing we see the importance of two sequences. Roger Hobbs asks Big Dave about some spruce saplings that Tommy lied about earlier when “muddy shovels” were found, Frank Farmer drives by Georgia Bravin who spots him and finds her father thinking he has been dealing drugs again. Tommy asks Merritt how he knows so much about the Magic Man. Grieves confesses that the Magic Man has caused him great distress and is an enigmatic figure whose “reach my be well beyond the county line”, in my mind an obvious reference to evil Frank Farmer from the State of Minnesota!
Finally, the hammer Henley slept with Greg for reveals it’s importance. Henley shows Mayor Haplin the hammer and the subsequently blackmails her grandmother asking for $250,000 to keep the “dirty secret”. Peggy Haplin says she will be in “touch and understands”. We end with Tommy and the gang back at the Sheriff’s office looking with a “Fresh Eye” to “find the Magic Man”!
This episode moved so quickly and effectively from sequence to sequence that my grade for Happy Town continues at the “A” level. The suspense and story arc as well as Single Effect are superb.
Thanks for reading!