Television Tourniquet: 'Happy Town' Episode 1.1


"In This Home on Ice"
Written By: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, and Scott Rosenberg
Directed By: Gary Fleder
Original Airdate: 28 April 2010

In This Episode...

Welcome to Haplin, MN or "Happy Town," as the all-too-perky real estate agent calls it.  Henley Boone has just moved to town, planning to open a candle shop with some inheritance money.  She chose Haplin because her mother always spoke highly of her vacations there.  She moves into Dot Meadows's boarding house inhabited by four old biddies and the mysterious Mr. Grieves, another newbie to town, who runs a movie memorabilia shop, the House of Ushers.  The third floor of Ms. Meadows's establishment is "strictly off-limits," but as we discover at the end of the episode, Henley specifically came to town to see what is on that third floor.

There are the Conroys: Griffin, the town sheriff; Tommy, his son and deputy; and Tommy's wife Rachel and daughter Emma.  Their babysitter, Georgia, is a good kid but from "the wrong side of the tracks," which makes her romance with Andrew Haplin forbidden.  Andrew, you may have guessed, is part of the founding Haplin family, led by matriarch Peggy and her son, John.  John runs Our Daily, the local bread factory that perches at the top of the hill, silently keeping watch over the town.

John's daughter -- Andrew's sister -- was one of the victims of the Magic Man.  Over the past decade, a dozen people have gone missing.  They vanished without a trace or a shred of evidence left behind -- almost as if by magic.  The Sheriff believes that the missing left on their own accord, but John refuses to believe that.

Dig It or Bury It?

I try to reserve judgement on any pilot.  Pilots usually have a lot of information to give you, and not enough time to do it.  So yes, it felt kind of stilted and choppy.  All the characters had to be introduced, and there is no elegant way to do that.  Especially obnoxious was when Tommy explains to Emma all the reasons why it was silly that her mommy wanted them to move to Los Angeles: I'm the deputy in a town with no crime, mommy has an important job at the bread factory, and Emma is the brightest bulb in her first-grade class.

The beginning murder was a great way to start off a series - not for the victim of course, but for the audience.  The weirdness at the end shows a lot of promise for episodes to come.  And who doesn't love Sam Neill?

Vis Major

As the Sheriff explains, vis major is a latin term which means "an unavoidable catastrophe that interrupts the natural course of life."  The episode opens with the brutal, torturous murder of Jerry Friddle, town lecher.  He is soundly beaten and waterboarded until he tells his assailant "what he wants to hear" (which we do not get to hear, of course).  The shadowy figure thanks Jerry by driving a spike through his forehead.

Lynchian Moment

Happy Town is already being compared to Twin Peaks, and while Sam Neill swears it is not as surreal, it sure feels that way.  Randomly, throughout the episode, the Sheriff drops the name Chloe, even though when called on it, he has no memory of the name or the person.  We don't find out until the last minute that Chloe is the name Henley goes by outside Haplin. 

At the end, the Sheriff goes into a sudden fit, babbling nonsensically (backwards-talking midget anyone?).  My favorite line: "If you touch the baby Jesus I will make you wear the cow suit."  Now that is a lesson we can all live by.

Another Piece of the Puzzle

Throughout Haplin, graffiti appears mysteriously: a question mark with a halo above it.  This symbol has been adopted by the survivors of missing loved ones so that they will never forget.  Henley has this same tattoo on her shoulder.  Is she one of the missing?  In cahoots with the Magic Man?  Or is she simply trying to conduct her own investigation?


I am looking forward to Happy Town.  Now that we have the introductions out of the way, I think there is going to be some nice helpings of weirdness spiked with violence (pun intended).