Wondercon Recap : Happy Town Pilot
Wondercon kicked off Saturday with a special screening of the pilot for Happy Town. One of the first things the producer did when he walked on stage was to say the influences for his show were Twin Peaks and Stephen King novels. The idea to have Haplin as a small town came from King using small towns in all his books. In shows with murder and mystery, big cities can’t hold the same small town paranoia of, you know everyone; so you know the person who is committing the crimes.
The rest will contain spoilers, but its all things that the panelists had no reservations telling us.
The pilot starts out with a teenage girl sneaking home from a teenage boy dropping her off in the woods. She passes a pond. The camera changes focus to the pond where we see a man being murdered. We then have the opening credits and a change of pace. Haplin is shown. It looks like a quiet and quant little town. A girl named Henley is moving to the town. She says her reasons for choosing Haplin is that her mother used to vacation there when she was young. She also says her mother recently passed away. She is shown around by a very happy lady who tells her the sweet smell is the big bread factory in town and it often earns the town the nickname “Happy Town”.
The Conroy family is introduced, Amy Acker as Rachel, the wife and mother; Geoff Stults as Tommy, the husband and father; Sophia Ewaniuk as Emma, the daughter; M.C. Gainey as Griffin Conroy, Sheriff. They are a happy family eating breakfast together. Rachel suggests she wants to move to California the daughter says she doesn’t want any “earthcakes”. Tommy describes Haplin as the perfect place for them. He is the son of the Sheriff and they live in a town with no crime for the past 5 years. Tommy also wants to put his boat in the water and says it’s always done on the first day of spring, but everyone tells him it is too cold. The Sheriff pulls up and takes Tommy to a crowd of very upset people downtown. There is a banner some of the citizens want to have up that says, “Remember to never forget”. There is a symbol of a questions mark with a halo over it and a few people pictured, one is a little girl. Her father put up this banner and he wants it up, but the sheriff tells him they all agreed to leave this behind. The Magic Man is mentioned.
We cut back to Henley who is being introduced to her temporary residence at a boarding house. There are six other boarders;one runs the house, five are elderly widows and one is a Merritt Grieves (Sam Neal). The widows all lust after Merritt, and their main purpose on the show seems to be the comic relief . Henley is warned to never go to the top floor, or she will be immediately kicked out.
The murdered man is found. He has a clean hole through his head. The sheriff spaces out and mentions a Chloe, but no one knows a Chloe, and the sheriff does not remember saying it. They head to the bread factory where Rachel is giving a tour to some children, and Tommy and another deputy tell the woman her husband has been murdered. It is revealed he is the town pervert.
The teen girl from the beginning, Georgia, is at school and being made teased about her “drug dealer father” by a popular boy. It is revealed a minute later when they are alone that he is the boy who dropped her off at the beginning of the movie. She has heard about the murder and wonders how she will explain being by the pond at night. They have a Romeo and Juliet type of relationship. The boys family runs the town and the bread factory; while her family is poor and drug dealers.
The sheriff goes to the main eatery in town and sees Merritt. He tells Merritt to leave town and he has told him before. The sheriffs wedding ring falls to the floor (he is widowed) Merritt holds it in his hand before giving it back to the sheriff. Later the sheriff is in his office throwing a fit. Screaming about a Chloe and then eventually ends up cutting off his finger the wedding ring is on with an axe. He says, “Now that blood has been spilled he will be back.” A girl says her name is Chloe and she is on the phone with her mother. She has a tattoo on her back of the question mark with a halo. This girl looks like Henley. Henley is seen in the next scene walking to the third floor.
The panel was cut very short, but three of the main questions that were asked were: The uncovering of who murdered the main character in Twin Peaks was really the demise of the show, if you’re going to have a big reveal, how will you keep the audience interested? The answer was, they plan on revealing the Magic Man in the first season, which is 8 episodes, and it is someone you know. When this is revealed there will still be hundreds of unanswered questions, so people should come back for a new season on wanting answers to those questions.
The second question was to Amy Acker stating that we didn’t see very much of her in the pilot, would she have a bigger role in the episodes to come. She assured everyone that each character gets an episode focused on them, but overall the show is about the town and she is just a small part of that town.
The third question was about the dialogue. A man asked how old the writers were because some of the writing had old fashioned words, but Georgia, the teenage girl, used the word “dude” and it wasn’t the best choice of words. The writers responded with, we aren’t that old, it’s just a small town and they are old souls.
Overall the pilot was entertaining and has a lot of potential. There is an overwhelming amount of characters introduced in the first episode, but the writers guarantee that each person/plot point will be addressed gradually throughout the series, they just needed to get everyone in so the audience could say in episode eight, that they knew the Magic Man from the beginning of the series, and they can look back and see the clues.