First Impressions

Harper's Island

Aired on: CBS

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            When I first saw previews for Harper’s Island, a new murder mystery series on CBS, I thought – this is one mid-season replacement that will probably need replacing after one episode.  Perhaps that judgment was too harsh and too swift.  After all, if I have learned anything from life it is that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

            Harper’s Island stars Christopher Gorham and Katie Cassidy as Henry Dunn and Trish Wellington, husband and wife-to-be.  The story of the two young lovebirds is somewhat Cinderella in fashion – Henry used to clean the Wellington family’s boats and Trish is the daughter of a tycoon.  Henry and Trish are preparing to marry in their hometown of Harper’s Island and have invited friends and family to stay with them at an inn on the island as they prepare for the elaborate ceremony. 

            Coming home to Harper’s Island is not easy for everyone.  The island has quite the history – seven years ago, several people were brutally slain by a serial killer.  Among those people was the mother of Abby Mills (Elaine Cassidy), one of Henry’s oldest and most cherished of friends.  Her father, the town sheriff (Jim Beaver), killed the serial killer, but Abby relives the horror of the events that occurred all those years ago every time she sets foot on the island.  In an attempt to put things behind her, she vows to enjoy Henry’s wedding and to “have his back throughout the entire affair.”  We discover that Henry will need all the help he can get as Trish’s father (Richard Burgi) is none too pleased about the nuptials and is prepared to do whatever is in his power to prevent them from happening.

            But the main tale of Harper’s Island is the murders – not just the past ones, but the ones that are occurring now that Trish, Henry and their wedding party have arrived on the island.  It started with Ben, a member of Trish’s family who is seen in the very beginning of the premiere episode tied to the underside of the boat taking the party to Harper’s Island.  His head very close to the propeller blade of the outboard motor, so there is no doubt as to the man’s fate, but the blood trailing the boat was a nice little added touch.  As the show progresses through its thirteen episodes, the public is promised a murder-fest as each day on the island culminates in someone else’s murder.  Can the main characters figure out who is committing the murders and to what purpose before the bride and groom find themselves among the pile?

            I can honestly say that this show completely surprised me.  I had never before seen a television show that played out like a horror movie cut into a series of episodes.  But this isn’t just some Friday the 13th or Halloween flick – no, this series actually has a decent, easy-to-follow storyline that actually sucks the viewer in and makes him/her want to know more.  Many of the characters are a tad mysterious and you find yourself wondering if maybe one of them could be the killer…even the niece of the bride is creepy and she hasn’t even reached her teenage years yet.  She reminds me of the child played by Patty McCormick in that old film, The Bad Seed.  But it could just be the island itself that is evil and causing the murders, as I am wont to believe.

            Whoever is murdering members of Henry and Trish’s wedding party and whatever the reason behind those murders may be, I find myself captivated by the show and wanting to see more.  Although I can’t see how they could drag this series into a second season without some serious overkill (no pun intended), I do think that Harper’s Island is headed for a successful first season as a mid-season replacement.  I know that I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens in the next episode.


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