'Harper's Island' finale recap: I now pronounce you man and...knife!

Harpers-Island_l Last night's nonsensical yet entertaining series finale of Harper's Island was riddled with questions — just not the one I expected to have racing through my head for the entire two hours. [Spoiler alerts ahead, DVR users!] Nope, the "Who is the second killer?" mystery was pretty much solved from the "previously on" segment, where we once again got to see Christopher Gorham's Henry trying to stop Abby from taking a shot at Wakefield. And then, of course, Gorham's increasingly unhinged performance gave us another solid tip-off that his bridegroom was the one with blood on his hands.

Indeed, the true overarching riddle of the Harper's finale was this: What were they drinking in the writers' room during their last-act brainstorming sessions? The following is a (chronological) list of just some of the plot developments from last night's show that made absolutely no sense:

Why didn't everyone with a gun open fire when Wakefield was on the ground? Why did they keep Wakefield tied up with belts back at a police station that had to contain at least one pair of handcuffs? How come Shea took a cat nap before telling the group about Jimmy's arrest record? And what kind of a mother wouldn't have noticed her pre-teen daughter had wandered off to chat with a mass murderer in his jail cell? Why is it that Sully didn't shoot definitely guilty Wakefield, yet seemed eager to blow away possibly guilty Jimmy? What possessed Sully, who'd previously been ready to quit this clambake, to not get on the boat with Shea and Madison? How did Wakefield make it out of the church with a flare embedded in his stomach? Why did Abby drop the shard of glass and the telescope while trying to flee from Henry? (There's too much intelligence in Elaine Cassidy's eyes to believe her character would be all "Look, ma! No weapons!") Isn't it better to have a weapon of some sort when angering the man who hanged both of your parents? Why did Henry need a signed confession from Jimmy when he'd already pinned the murders on Wakefield, when he'd left blood and tissue samples from Jimmy's body, and when Shea, the sole adult survivor, had suspected Jimmy was the accomplice anyway? If you were Jimmy, wouldn't you have grabbed a weapon to use against Henry instead of using your own body to hurl him over the cliff? After watching most of your close friends and family die, would you really make out on the Coast Guard boat taking you off the island? (And a bonus question my husband shouted at the TV when Abby used that screwdriver against Henry: "Why on earth would you stab his f****** foot?")

Of course, this isn't to say Harper's Island was ever a shining example of great, well-thought-out storytelling. At its best, the CBS thriller was a throw-away summer diversion, and last night's episode was no exception. Madison remained impressively annoying to the bitter end, nagging Sully about the broken radio to the point that I was hoping he'd taser her with the same vicious glee he unleashed on Wakefield. Trish putting on her wedding dress right before her frantic run through the forest was pure ridiculousness, but the white fabric proved a stunning canvas for the mud and blood Jackson Pollock it would soon contain. (I actually said, as Trish ran through the forest, "If she falls, this is the worst show ever," right before Trish fell.) And Danny's death by desktop paper spike was hands down the most artfully shot murder of the series, although Trish and Sully — like so many victims before them — behaved rather ambivalently with their lives in jeopardy, despite having had plenty of time for fight, flight, or both.

And therein lies the crux of Harper's Island's biggest problem: The show's writers had dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of opportunities to elevate the series from entertaining trash into something truly memorable, especially given a truly unique premise and a pretty solid cast. But just as I can't say Harper's didn't entertain me (I stuck around for all 13 episodes, obviously) I'd also be lying if I said it didn't disappoint me. Bringing Wakefield back "from the dead" was a boneheaded move from the get-go, the kind of lazy writing that allowed the writers to pick off countless victims without ever having to explain the absence of a killer who was part of the wedding party. Wouldn't it have been great if Henry was, in fact, the sole killer, and the final episode had gone backwards in time and explained how Henry had snuck off and performed each and every murder during the series' run? And couldn't the writers have given Henry a better reason for becoming a homicidal maniac than his anger over being put up for adoption with a seemingly loving family that could afford fun summer vacations on a picturesque island? Okay, so yeah, he had Wakefield's DNA coursing through his veins, and it had to sting a little that Abby's mom gave him up, then a year later kept Abby, a girl with whom he'd had a lifelong bond, but that seems like a weak impetus to plan a mid-sized destination wedding during which you'll slaughter every person on the guest list, no?

Hindsight, I suppose, is irrelevant in this case. Harper's Island may not have been a commercial or critical slam-dunk, but it had its moments — the denouement featuring video footage from the boat was a nice testament to the show's solid cast, though where were Uncle Marty and Trish's dad and step-mom? — and I'm hoping that its low-rated run doesn't scare off the networks from tackling other limited-run, non-procedural-style programming in the future.

What did you think of Harper's Island's full run? Were you disappointed by the finale, or did it live up to your expectations? And someone help me out: I've played Sully's death scene a half dozen times, and I still can't tell what Henry said to him: "You never should've dug/dogged/done Trish." I'm voting for "dug," but if enough of you disagree, I'm happy to change my mind!

More on 'Harper's Island'
'Harper's Island': Which cast member is destined for stardom?
'Harper's Island': Who's the killer? And who needs to die?
Breaking: 'Harper's Island' made me feel something! (Other than ennui.)

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Comments (419 total) Add your comment
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  • Anna

    When Henry spoke to Sully, the closed captioning read “dogged”.

  • mocoloco

    We were also wondering what Henry said to Sully as he killed him. As for my satisfaction with Harper’s Island, I enjoyed it even though it often didn’t make sense. My biggest problem with the show was bringing Wakefield back and how impervious he seemed to attack. Not only does he have a magical shotgun deflecting forcefield but he also took a kick to the groin and smashing to the head from Danny and it didn’t even make him flinch. It cheapened the whole experience. And…am I the only one who felt kind of bad when Henry died? He looked like a hurt puppy dog.

  • Gooshi

    I have stuck with show all along and I was extremely disapointed in the finale!! It was a flimsy ending; very quick. I wish they would have used flashbacks to show Henry killing his victims. It had so much potential. They could have devoted the last half hour to a solid ending. It made me so mad that I spent the time watching this all along. I thought the cast was great, the story line ruined it though. But I hope a network makes another attempt at something similar. It should have been a 3 week miniseries as opposed to stretching it out all this time only to be bummed out.

  • joe

    I was so in to harrpers island and the end was bull!!! sh*& I am mad. I spent the time even watching this show! also it was to short! the end came way to fast and with out better truth! I am asking for a remake or #2!!

  • Andy

    I think Henry said “You should have never dumped Trish.” I took it as, if Sully would have kept dating her none of this would have happened.

  • Sammie13

    I loved the series and would like to see more of this genre. And Christopher Gorham is a fantastic actor. However, like you, I did not care for the 2 hour finale and also felt the show spiraled downward when Wakefield was revealed…the program changed directions at that time from a whodunit mystery to a slasher film. Still, the Island was great fun to watch with fine actors and a wonderful setting even if the writing was uneven. Henry was telegraphed as the accomplice for so long that I simply figured it HAD to be someone else because he was so obvious.

  • Casey

    Best ending ever!!!
    Thats EXACTLY what I predicted!

  • futuredirect

    We thought it was Jimmy mid-way through, because of the irony of being close to Abby, but when everyone suspected him, we knew it was someone else (I feel really bad for the main suspects for some reason, especially J.D). We then thought it was Henry because no one would suspect him, being the victim of a destroyed wedding and all around nice guy. I hate being right. What was creepy was his sweetness about it all, apoligizing to Trish and Sulley and “saving” Abby. I felt really sorry for him but terrified at the same time, which is a testament to Gorham’s acting. I was sad when he died, too. Oh yeah, did the writer’s drop us a hint naming him Henry, as in “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”?

  • alex

    You never should have dumpped trish. sully and trish dated before Henry

  • Samantha

    I’d like to see this sort of format again. It was nice to watch a show with the promise of a definite end and answers all tied up, even if I still have some questions. And while I was disappointed because I suspected Henry for a long time, what kept me watching were little twists along the way – minor characters outlasting major ones (I didn’t think Maggie or Beth would outlast J.D., for example, even if it was only by half a day in Harper time); the Sherriff and Cal recovering from major injuries only to die soon after; and then I started watching for characters to “redeem” themselves…because they’d usually get it soon after (Malcolm burning the “blood money”, Richard caring only about Madison in a divorce, Wellington seeming to accept Henry at the rehearsal, etc.). While I wasn’t thrilled by the ending, it was a nice break from all the usual summer reality programming.

  • alex

    You never should have dumpped trish. Sully and trish dated before Henry got with her

  • Lauren

    I think Henry said “You never should have DUMPED Trish.” Which kinda makes sense, because if she’d been with Sully then Henry wouldn’t have anyone to “marry” to drag Abby back to the island. It’s a stretch, but I tried to make sense of it last night because my fiance was agruing with me about it. I had to support my theory. :) I was kinda disappointed just because I had Henry pegged as the killer since about episode 2 or 3. Overall, I was very impressed by the series. I was enthralled from the beginning. My life stopped every Saturday for those 13 weeks, which is kinda sad. I adore shows like this, I hope that they create a new one. It was a very good idea, with an interesting viewer involvement concept.

  • james meadows

    When I watched it my closed captioned popped up and said you should have never DITCHED Trish.

  • Caroline

    My friends and I screamed the exact same thing when Abby stabbed Henry in the foot. That was ridiculous. At least stab him somewhere that would cause damage. But overall, I loved the show…the finale was the only thing I had a problem with. Oh, and how anyone who had a gun only managed to have one bullet and literally shoot in the opposite direction of Wakefield. Once the credits started rolling after the finale, my friends and I sat in silence for about two minutes because we honestly did not know what to say. It was nothing special, when it could have been so much more. And I thought that Henry said “You never should’ve DUMPED Trish,” but none of my friends could decide. What would he have meant if he said dogged?

    • Greg

      Henry said you should have never “dogged Trish” it is slang for saying you should have not tried to sleep with her. I don’t really understand the confusion

  • Nick

    He said that you should have never Dumped trish. which they did have a brief nonexistent fling going on for like 2 seconds off the camera before the wedding

    • taylor

      actually it’s “dogged”. before the wedding rehearsal Sully was talking to Henry about how he tried to get with Trish while they were broken up. Henry just told him it was okay, and said he already knew, and kind of just forgot about it, but when he stabbed Sully and said “you never should have DOGGED Trish” I guess he was just giving himself a “legit” reason for killing Sully…even though that’s not really a legit reason to “kill” him just legit enough to kick him in the balls or something.

      • kelly

        I liked the series despite the obvious things! And I almost cried when Henry died! And when he kills sully it says you should never have given out on trish! He says this because he had to sully trish still heny not have anyone to marry, and none of this would have happened!

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