The Fourth of July fireworks have nothing on the absurdly addictive season (and likely series) finale of the CW’s sexy summer teen soap, Hidden Palms. Debuting at the end of May, the eight episodes were filled with surreal plotlines, terrible acting, and a tiny pinch of sex. Tonight, find out who killed Eddie, however illogical and mind-warpingly stupid the conclusion is.
Creator Kevin Williamson, the man to blame for the onslaught of crappy teenage soaps and horrors films when he started with trend with Dawson’s Creek and Scream, aimed for a Twin Peaks-ian level of intrigue, and wound up with a show so trashy, Paris Hilton would need a shower after only one viewing. For those just getting into the game, let’s take a look at the major players.
Johnny, The Tween Dream Hero: Actor Taylor Handley’s blond mop-top and generic good looks are perfectly suited for the role of the sensitive, damaged hero, a character plucked from the fantasies of teenage girls. An avid photographer and shirtless, poolside sunbather, Jonnny lost his father a year ago when the old man shot himself immediately following a drunken talk with his son about Pablo Neruda. The trauma turned Johnny into an alcoholic, who is now fresh out of rehab. Not helping is the fact that his mother and step-father moved him to Palm Springs, where he now lives in the bedroom of Eddie, a kid his age who committed suicide a year ago. Or not.
Johnny’s Women: First is Greta (Amber Heard), the slutty, sexy girl-next-door who used to date Eddie, but who now is just throwing herself at Johnny the first chance she gets. Next is Nikki (Tessa Thompson), Johnny’s rehab buddy who shows up with a much more lax approach to her recovery, meaning she’ll drink paint thinner if you put it in a plastic cup. The third possible romance is Liza (Ellary Porterfield), the nerdy, oddball girl across the street who performs science experiments in her garage. But this is “nerdy” by CW standards, which means she’s undeniably hot, but just wears lots of clothes. She was Eddie’s secret best friend and recorded all her online video chats with him
Cliff, the Evil, Not Gay Suspect: Played by The OC’s Michael Cassidy, Cliff is evil. We know this because in the first episode he kicked a puppy. He also enjoys manipulating people, but his preppy, pastel-colored outfits and his tendency to act coy around Johnny heavily implied, at least at the start, there was a little latent homosexuality. The show has since done everything to prove otherwise. It’s revealed that Eddie’s “suicide” was caused by the discovery that Greta and Cliff slept together. Then Cliff begins having sex with the inebriated Nikki. Still don’t believe he’s straight? He’s also getting busy with Eddie’s mom, which is equally creepy and suspicious.
The Adults: Greta’s dad Skip (Kyle Secor) is a tomcat trying to hook up with Cliff’s mom (Sharon Lawrence). He also helped Eddie’s mom cover up the “suicide.” Nothing new for Secor, whose character on Veronica Mars also helped cover up a murder. Johnny’s mom (Gail O’Grady) and step-father (DW Moffett) have issues stemming from the fact that he was her dead husband’s best friend and they had an affair before the suicide. Last is Jesse Jo (Leslie Jordan), a sage drag queen who serves as Johnny’s AA sponsor and Nikki’s de facto landlord.
The Mystery: Eddie allegedly killed himself Halloween night after finding out his friend Cliff was sleeping with his girlfriend Greta. Cliff and Greta claim they showed up, found him dead, then left, though each claims the other arrived first. Cliff also kept Greta’s bloodied costume for reasons unknown. Cliff’s affair with Eddie’s mother was later revealed as another possible motive for either of him or Eddie’s mom to be the killer. More suspicious is a video from Eddie’s blog showing Greta’s dad placing the gun in a dead Eddie’s hand, which may have been at Eddie’s mother’s request, a way of hiding the thought that his daughter or her secret, underage lover did it. The latest evidence: a video on Liza’s computer showing her half-naked, in bed with Eddie on the night he was killed.
The season finale begins with Johnny in full-on Veronica Mars mode, minus the wit, sass and intellect. His culprit du jour is Eddie’s mom, and he enlists countless people in his fruitless effort to prove it. Eddie’s laptop is the key, because his video journal will implicate his mom, or so the reasoning goes, so Johny teams up with Cliff to get it.
Herein is the gaping flaw in his logic: if there is any incriminating evidence on the laptop, and Eddie’s mom has been in possession of it the whole time, why wouldn’t she delete it? Or, more likely, destroy the whole laptop? Maybe if she didn’t know it was there, but when Cliff begins looking through the files, she storms in and kicks him out. This, in Cliff’s mind, proves that Johnny is right.
Elsewhere, Nikki is a new waitress at the country club and doing a poor job. Worse is that Cliff is trying to win her back. The worst: she does. I suppose you can’t blame someone who has failed rehab so many times for taking back her bad boy boyfriend.
Johnny’s blabbing all over town about his suspicions, even to Liza. He also drops the bomb that he knows about Liza having sex with Eddie the night he died, but it’s not his secret to tell. Why this doesn’t immediately lift her to the top of his suspect list is unfathomable. The issue, however, is never brought up. Instead, Liza joins the “Get the Laptop” team.
In adult world, Greta tells her dad all about Johnny’s ideas. He gets angry, heads off to visit Eddie’s mom and basically threatens her poolside to leave town, or else. Not quite done with his intimidation tactics, he sits down to lunch with Johnny and explains that all these accusations aren’t good for Greta, and Johnny is hurting her. Like the spineless jellyfish he is, Johnny swallows that tripe and agrees to drop it. Once again, any mildly intelligent person would question Skip’s motives, especially when it’s discovered that he is Eddie’s mom’s lawyer. But not Johnny, he’s fine dropping it.
Not fine is Liza, who sneaks into Eddie’s mom’s house at night to find that laptop. What she finds is the floor when she trips, turns around, and sees a dead body. It’s Eddie’s mom, holding a gun! Looks like suicide runs in the family.
Heading into the home stretch, we get a slow montage as the cast gathers around the house, finding out that Eddie’s mom killed herself and left a note saying she killed her son. Um, really? Every last one of them totally believes it, which implies that something is in the water, or Palm Springs is in desperate need of some special education schools.
Liza and Greta share a moment, Nikki and Cliff are together, Johnny makes out hardcore with Greta, and all is well. Until Johnny gets home and sees that he has an e-mail, a video from Eddie’s laptop that shows him arguing with his mom and Greta’s dad about how he knows all about how Skip killed his wife and he’s going to tell everyone. A struggle ensues, and Greta’s dad “accidentally” shoots Eddie in the head. Dun dun dun! And fade to black.
To explain why this is unsatisfying and idiotic seems unnecessary, but here it goes: Why would she keep the laptop? As blackmail against Skip, but for what reason? If Eddie’s mom did kill herself (doubtful), why send Johnny the e-mail? Why was Greta’s dad allowed to take the laptop from the crime scene, which he obviously would want since it contains the video? Did he stage the second suicide? If so, who actually sent the e-mail, as Eddie’s mom had no real reason if she planned on living?
These aren’t rhetorical questions, just ones I wish the writers had asked themselves before settling on this ending. The existence of that video evidence makes no sense from any standpoint, and how on Earth did Eddie know anything about Greta’s mom’s murder?
Undoubtedly, we’ll never get these answers because the show will most likely not be renewed. Instead, we’re left with a bitter taste in our moths. After seeing countless awesome conclusions on shows like Veronica Mars, Hidden Palms proved that it had no real point. It was just mindless fluff to put on in the summer, filled with attractive people taking their clothes off and having sex. Leave the mysteries to real detectives, and let CW shows like this be content to have 20-something actors pose as high schoolers getting caught up in love triangles. The problem with Hidden Palms was that it tried to be something it could never be — good.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of the CW)