Look, I’ve got to do this – despite my earlier rant about the television show Harper’s Island, I must confess that I did end up watching the whole thing.
My complain last time was that I was five episodes in and nobody seemed to notice or care that people were vanishing left, right and centre.
I will credit the producers – by the time they’d hid the 13th and final episode, they’d managed to kill off over 20 characters. So they weren’t kidding when they said that somebody dies in every episode.
But still, the whole thing was badly done. From now, I’m going to drop some spoilers, so either happily read on, or you can just stop right here. To make sure nobody accidentally reads something they don’t want to, I’ll put the text in white, so you’ll have to highlight to read it.
Two main problems with this show:
1. The seeming lack of care of people disappearing.This was only in the early episodes, but it sucks the suspense out of things. In fact, the only way the filmmakers could hold our interest in between killings was to stick in raunchy scenes. This does not make up for suspense, but maybe it keeps teenage boys watching. I don’t know.
2. Too many bit players and an island that was too big. The closest thing to Harper’s Island is, of course, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which brilliantly puts 10 people on a very small island. The point of that book is you realise very quickly on that there are only those 10 people, so as they start dying, the suspense is driven by the fact that it must be one of those 10 people. But in Harper’s Island, there are so many local townfolks wandering around the island (and probably a whole batch we never saw), that the suspects could have been almost anybody. See, there’s no sense of mystery, if the killer could potentially be a crazy man lurking out in the woods. A real whodunnit, to play fair, must have its killer be one of the main characters. And to do that, we must know that only a certain number of people could have committed the crime. But in Harper’s Island, any old person could have walked off the street and started killing people – thus the whodunnit side of things falls apart. Which brings me to:
3. The identify of the killers. Now having destroyed the suspense and the whodunnit mystery, it then proceeds to pick two killers (yes, two, which you’d know by now if you were watching) – and it picks the worst two people you could possibly have.
The first one is the Stereotypical Nicest Guy in the Show. I remember when I was a little kid, I’d watch Murder, She Wrote and I’d always pick the killer. I had no idea what the plots were about, but whenever you met someone nice for a few minutes, that person turned out to be the killer. (Actually, I think they picked that up from Scooby Doo.) So as soon as I started turning my mind to guessing who the killer was likely to be, he was the first person I chose. About halfway through, I started keeping my eye on him and sure enough – he was never around when killings took place, he was being really nice and supportive, etc.
And then – to throw me off the track – because I really thought it was a dead giveaway in Episode 7 – they do the unthinkable – the killer turns out to be a crazy man running around in the woods who everyone thought was dead seven years ago. Obviously, they hadn’t read my posts on what kills suspense in a whodunnit . . .
So then it turns out to be, in the end, the crazy man and the Nicest Guy. One is a cheater’s way of setting up a whodunnit, and the other is a Scooby Doo cliche . . . Horrendous, horrendous, horrendous.
Anyway, all of this has made me fix on a new literary project for the blog following on from War and Peace. I’ll take a month off in August, but coming in September, for anyone who wants to join me, we’re taking an interactive tour through possibly the greatest mystery story every written: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. More details to follow soon.