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© 1987-2017
Scott R. Larson





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Murder and mystery in Mystic

For weeks now—actually literally years—the internet and media in general have been agog over the quarter-century-delayed return of Twin Peaks. So would that make this a good time or a bad time to introduce a brand new murder mystery set in a town full of secrets?

Writer/director/actor Victor Franko seems to be betting that it is a good time or, at least, that it is not a bad time. On one hand, any series with that premise will be inevitably be compared to—and hence potentially overshadowed by—David Lynch and Mark Frost’s seminal series. On the other hand, the fresh new buzz over Laura Palmer’s home town can only inspire interest and even hunger for more of this particular television genre.

Like Twin Peaks, Franko’s prospective series, Mystic, takes its name from the town where it is set. The difference is that Mystic, Connecticut, is actually a real place. It was previously immortalized on celluloid in Donald Petrie’s 1988 romantic dramedy Mystic Pizza, which provided early big screen roles for Julia Roberts and Matt Damon. While some saw the name Twin Peaks as a (excuse the expression) double entendre (the second season put all the young female cast into a beauty pageant called Miss Twin Peaks), Mystic has the potential for a much richer double meaning.

Mystic

In a bid to attract interest to his creation, Franko has made a 26-minute pilot episode which sets up the premise and introduces numerous characters. In fact, there are nearly too many of them to keep straight in such a short span of time but, as in any good soap opera, the threads are all there to pull on and develop over time. A woman’s body has been pulled from the sea, and it looks like a homicide. The victim’s daughter is in shock, and her sister is uncooperative with everybody. We also have a taciturn police chief who may have his own agenda, a creepy young Irish clergyman, a bothered artist whose painting looks like it might be psychic, a domineering businessman, and his patsy of a councilman, who is played by Franko. There are several others as well, including the mysterious figure seen walking down a dark sidewalk at the very end.

There are definitely more than enough intriguing elements to keep a viewer interested. While obviously shot on a shoestring, the quality of the actors and of the production is quite good. Stephen Martin as the chief has a strong presence that rings true. Anthony Goes as a fisherman with some kind of personal connection to the businessman provides his character with a good shot of empathy. Visually, there are enough interesting shots—making good use of the locations—and edits to keep the eye interested.

The quality is no surprise, given that Franko is no newcomer to the world of film and video. As an actor he has had supporting roles and walk-ons in scores of projects, including Hope Springs, Grown Ups 2, Ted 2 and Oscar winners Spotlight and Manchester by the Sea. He has also directed a number of videos as well as the 2008 feature film Solitaire.

It is a solid introduction to a story with a lot of promise, but the question has to be asked. Is it essentially just a knock-off of Twin Peaks? Not really. The style is quite different and, let’s face it, there is only one David Lynch. Despite some deliberately odd touches and an air of multiple mysteries, the look and feel here are quite different from the Washington-set series. Mystic is closer to the standard crime procedural we all know and love. If I were going to make a comparison, it would be to the Maine-set web series Ragged Isle, created by Barry Dodd and Karen L. Dodd. Over time the oddities in Ragged Isle’s narrative developed into an inventive supernatural saga. I have no idea where Franko’s blueprint would take Mystic, but a number of elements—including an introductory dream-like sequence in a cemetery and, not least, that double entendre of a title—suggest it could well go in a similar direction.

So, yes, I am on board. Somebody please pick this up and put it on cable or a streaming service. Hey, after all, we need something to watch after Showtime has aired that 18th episode of Twin Peaks: The Return.

-S.L., 3 June 2017


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