Television Tourniquet: 'Happy Town' Episode 1.2


Happy Town Episode 1.2
"I Came to Haplin for the Water"
Written by: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, and Scott Rosenberg
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Original Airdate: 5 May 2010

In This Episode...

The sheriff has severed his hand completely, and this episode opens with him being wheeled into surgery.  He is still rambling about Chloe being the only girl he ever loved.  Docs reattach his hand, but regaining movement will be a long process.  They also run an MRI to explain his Chloe-ranting, but it reveals nothing.  While his father recuperates, Peggy Haplin decrees that Tommy step in as sheriff, a job he does not want.

Henley is inexplicably flummoxed by the locked door to the secret third floor.  Why is that such a surprise?  Anyway, Dot leaves her keys unattended and Henley dashes off to the shed -- now converted into a temporary candle workshop -- to make a quick mold.  She melts down Casablanca figurines she purchased from Mr. Grieves for this very occasion.  Grieves almost seems to be in cahoots with Henley.  He dances with Dot to distract her from her missing keys, and gives Henley a secret smile when she returns.

Up on the magical third floor, Henley discovers an attic loaded with dozens and dozens of birds in cages.  Prying up a loose floorboard, Henley finds what she is after: a fantastically ugly hammer with the head of a goat.  On a phone conversation, Henley explains she is on her way to buy a used car so that when she reveals herself, she can "get the hell out of Dodge."  Driving home, hammer by her side, Henley's car is attacked by a hawk.  It hurls itself through her windshield.  Henley loses control and crashes her car into some trees.

Georgia, in the hospital cafeteria, borrows the creamer from a stranger at the next table.  When asked, she says she is there visiting the grandfather she never had.  Back up in the sheriff's room,  he is still unconscious, yet he suddenly seems to be speaking telepathically to Georgia.  Suddenly, she freaks out and stumbles down the hall.  I think she is supposed to be having hallucinations and paranoid delusions.  Eventually the camera angle tilts and the lights change color, so we know she has been drugged by the stranger with the creamer.  He appears looming over Georgia, who then passes out.  When she finally wakes, still groggy, she is on the floor at the Stivaletto household.  She runs screaming before the hillbillies can lay a hand on her.

Georgia runs straight to the Conroys, who assume the Stivalettos drugged her.  Tommy heads straight for the Stivaletto farm and beats the crap out of the lot of them.  The beatdown is interrupted by an urgent call from the crime lab.  It seems that the flour that Jerry Friddle was covered with was not from the town bakery, but it was part of dough made with water from New York City.  The only person who would have NYC water is Big Dave, who ships it in for his pizzas.  Tommy pokes around Big Dave's basement and finds a secret "lair" with obsessive clippings and notes on the Magic Man murders.  Big Dave is convinced that Friddle was the Magic Man, and when he sees that Tommy has discovered his secret, he confesses to killing Jerry.  Though furious, Tommy seems to have decided to keep Big Dave's confession a secret.  He won't be able to keep the secret very long: the state police have sent detective Dan Farmer to help with the Friddle investigation.  But Farmer is the one who drugged Georgia.

Dig It or Bury It?

About halfway through this episode, I decided I was officially hooked on Happy Town.  It started off with more small-town garbage, and had a bit of trouble getting itself into the weirdness, but enough intriguing storylines were presented to leave me looking forward to the next episode.  The pacing still leaves something to be desired, and subtlety is not strong in Happy Town.  The sound editor is very fond of using dramatic musical cues to let us know that a character is far more menacing that he appears.

I really, really had a problem with the drugged Georgia scene.  She's fine, chatting with the unconscious sheriff.  Then he seems to be speaking to her telepathically -- but just one sentence.  Suddenly she's running down the halls, trying to escape an imaginary evil.  The lights start to blink purple and green, and the stranger from the cafeteria appears menacingly.  It was very sudden, with no real precursor to the drama -- no wooziness, no voices, no paranoia.  The scene reeked of either network notes or producers who had never written the surreal before.

Folksy Wisdom

Detective Farmer promises that when it comes to homicide, his team is "snap-sharp."  When the sheriff telepathically speaks to Georgia, he says something about lamenting his lack of gloves until he met the man without hands.

Vis Major

Georgia.  Stranger.  Creamer.  Drugged.  Menacing music.  Flashing lights with a Joker color theme.  Despite the inelegant portrayal of the scene, it definitely piqued my curiosity as to what Farmer's interest is in keeping Georgia quiet.  How is he connected to Friddle's murder on the pond?

Lynchian Moment

A hawk -- or some other giant bird -- nosedives right through a plate glass windshield and flaps around inside the car.  Okay, that might be more of a Hitchcockian moment.  Whatever; it was weird in its abject normalcy.


I don't think that Friddle's murder is as simple as Big Dave makes it out to be.  Maybe he is covering for someone else?  Had an accomplice?  Was possessed?  It was just too quick and simple.  Farmer clearly drugged Georgia because he thinks she saw something that night at the pond, so he must have an interest in this.