(not so) happy town

So I’ve held off on posting about this new show since I was kind of on the fence about it at first. I’m used to watching anime and charged stuff like Dollhouse and V, where things happen quickly and powerfully. Happy Town is more of a mystery/drama, where the real happenings are hidden in each scene and interaction rather than put all in the open. The transitions from one set of characters to the next are meant to mask what you should notice, rather than enhance its meaning. I’m pretty bad at rating movies and TV shows. Generally, things either belong to categories of “I like this” or “I don’t like this.” Sure, there’s a gradient within each category, but it’s nothing I can really express in degrees. So, all I can really say is that Happy Town is in the “I like this” category.

Two video game stories I really liked were Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII. Somewhere along the line, every “take over/destroy the world” story gets old, but you can still do it right, and my favorite approach is through politics. Unless you’re a narcissist, why declare that you’re a superpower and paint a target on your head when you can do it from the shadows and exploit existing conflicts? Happy Town, as a television show, takes the same approach. In Joss Whedon’s shows, you’re meant to root for a specific side and you can figure that out, even if the lines aren’t 100% clear.

In Happy Town, I think there’s the same sense, where you can figure out who the “good guys” are, but… this show is much, much darker, so rather than having good guys, bad guys, and the majority of the remaining cast be bystanders, you actually have half-good guys, a couple bystanders, and then, by-and-large, the remaining characters are all in contention for bad guys. Tommy Conroy seems to be the clearest protagonist. He’s the easiest character to relate to: raised in the town, the sheriff’s son, has a wife and kids and maintains pretty good relationships with the rest of the town. He has reasonable flaws and insecurities, but he really seems to just want to figure things out while not shattering his perceived reality. His family, Georgia Brevin, and Andrew Haplin, and some of the police force seem to be the “good guys.” I might even put Henley on that side, even though her actions are clearly shadowy right now. She seems more like a Catwoman/Black Cat-type character though, kind of riding the edge of law to possibly charitable/well-intentioned ends.

Everyone else, though, is a major contender for antagonist/villain. The Stivilettos probably aren’t the masterminds, but they are completely opposed with the protagonists. The detective guy who drugged Georgia has definitely raised the “I am very suspicious” flag. Sam Neill the cinema-man has “Event Horizon” written all over him, and episode 3 really puts him over the edge with the journal. Tommy’s friend, the pizza/bar guy, might not be evil, but he’s certainly got the zeal and density to be an antagonist. Carl Brevin and the Haplin dad (the guy from Wings) aren’t really “evil” either, but they definitely seem to have their own agenda and a “fuck off” sign pasted on their backs. The apartment manager for Henley’s place is incredibly sketchy, although she might be more “the guardian of the goat-hammer” than a bad guy. Last, there’s Peggy Haplin, the mayor, who completely has an agenda that does not line up with everyone else’s goals.

I will keep coming back to this show because I love the ambiguity. Some political-like stories hint at the bigger plot and give you a scapegoat, but don’t reveal the villain until the end. This show interests me because all the villain candidates are out in the open, and they all seem pretty villainous, but the real puzzle is figuring out which one is the real deal. It’s definitely a much slower show than I’d normally watch, but hopefully it’ll keep my interest until the end.

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