It's been five years since CBS launched Harper's Island, and in the words of another famous island inhabitant, "We have to go back!" The 13-episode series—a woefully underrated horror murder mystery that is now available on Netflix—followed a group of family and friends that traveled to the titular locale for a destination wedding, only to learn that there was a killer among them. At least one character got whacked in each episode, always in spectacular fashion. The show was awesome, and it got the shaft (no pun intended) when CBS canceled the series after moving it from Thursdays to Saturdays. So here are six reasons why the network should resurrect Harper's Island—and why you should (re-)watch.
1. It's fun!
Equal parts guilty pleasure and soap opera, the show has a tremendous sense of tone that makes it compulsively watchable. It's a shamelessly addictive mix of mystery, suspense, horror, gore, romance, melodrama, and comedy (oh, the comedy!), and it takes itself just seriously enough. When it debuted, Harper's Island was a refreshing departure from CBS's stable of procedurals, and with even more spin-offs on deck, the network could use the jolt of an edge-of-your-seat kill thrill ride.
2. The killer deaths!
Long before Hannibal began pushing the limits of violence on broadcast TV, Harper's Island brought grotesque gore to the small screen. Not unlike the deaths Final Destination, nearly every one of Harper's Island's murders escalates in terms of both ridiculousness and grisliness. From a character literally being halved to another being harpooned (on land!), Harper's has a sick sense of humor. Each episode title is also an onomatopoeia for the sound of the murder weapon in action that week.
3. The killer cast
There's no pretense that Harper's Island's contains any Emmy-worthy performances (or that the actors have any Emmy-worthy dialogue to recite). But with that said, the cast is phenomenal. Even when the show spirals so far into the absurd, none of the performers treat their job as a joke (but you will laugh at the show, no doubt about it). And if you haven't ever seen the show, it's a great chance to see some of your current favorite TV stars in a completely new—and campy—light. Among the Harper's elite are Covert Affairs' Christopher Gorham, Supernatural's Jim Beaver (playing a character named Sheriff Mills, no less), Arrow's Katie Cassidy, One Tree Hill's Matt Barr, Graceland's Brandon Jay McLaren, Date Movie's Adam Campbell, Desperate Housewives' Richard Burgi, Continuum's Victor Webster and even Harry Hamlin. With the exception of two actors, none of the cast was told when their characters would die and only found out when they received the script.
4. It's better than a movie
Harper's is a big-screen slasher film amplified on the small screen. Horror films have a basic set-up: The killer kills, people realize there's a killer on the loose, the killer is revealed and gets taken down. Rinse and repeat. Harper's doesn't break any new ground in that sense, but with 13 hours to play with (as opposed to being tethered to a two-hour runtime), the show does everything a horror movie does—but bigger and better. There's ample time to build characters and backstories, to explore the psychological impact of discovering that there's a deranged psychopath on the loose (which films all too often gloss over or don't have time to service), and to develop multiple subplots that all work in tandem with the overarching whodunnit. Or if you're just in it for the kills, there's a higher and nastier body count. Ultimately, it all makes for a far more earned and satisfying pay-off that can't be duplicated on the silver screen.
5. The mystery keeps you guessing
In that same vein, Harper's is so focused on developing its mythology in the beginning that the characters don't even realize they're being picked off one by one until six episodes in. That's nearly half the series! While the characters are initially unaware, you are guaranteed to go all Sherlock on it from the start (we can all binge now, but the one-week wait back in 2009 felt interminable). There are so many twists and turns on Harper's that even if you guess the killer correctly at one point, the show is likely to change your mind multiple times before you reach the finale. That's because by the time you get to the end, no one is who you thought they were. Douchebags become heroes. Dumb blondes become martyrs. And creepy children... well, they're still pretty creepy. But you get the point.
6. It was ahead of its time
Don't laugh. The first season was designed as a close-ended mystery and every subsequent season would've had a new cast and a new mystery. Sound familiar? Harper's Island was an anthology/limited event series—or whatever we're calling American Horror Story, True Detective, and Fargo—before that became a thing. Those shows get all the glory (and big-name stars) these days, but Harper's was the first spark in that modern TV flame, and frankly, with its And Then There Were None-esque premise, it was better suited for such a format than many of today's entries in the field. Anthology series force viewers to appreciate the current story and characters because they won't be back next season; in the case of Harper's, characters might not even be there in the next episode! TV wasn't ready for Harper's in 2009, but it is now.
Were you obsessed with Harper's Island? Would you want to see it return?
This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.
AIRED ON 7/11/2009
Season 1 : Episode 13