REVIEW: The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair (S1 E3/10)

People up in this part of the country do a lot of disgusting stuff. So said policeman Perry Gahalowood (Damon Wyans) as he tried to warn young author, Marcus Goldman, that he was in over his head while he was looking into his friend Harry Quebert’s case.

In fact, Sergeant Gahalawood isn’t the only one to be warning Goldman off this case: the young author had been receiving anonymous notes telling him to basically stay away. Did this mean Harry was innocent of the murder of poor, young Nola Kellergan? Maybe, maybe not, but in this second episode, everything pointed to the fact that Harry wasn’t the murderer.

This installment was better than those first two, poorly scripted and poorly assembled opening episodes. The flashbacks had calmed down, renowned director Jean-Jacques Annaud‘s sometimes odd framing was kept to a minimum, and the whole thing was calmer, giving itself space to tell the story.

Which was annoying for me, because I was almost ready to throw in the towel. Now? I’m not sure – there is a story bubbling here and it’s getting more interesting by the second.

Episode three was all about the second phase of Harry and Nola’s relationship. In the present day (2008 as it is in the series) Marcus is chatting to Harry in prison, and he begins to tell he and Nola’s story.

1975. Despite his head telling him to stay well away from 15-year-old Nola, his heart was saying otherwise, which was troubling in the extreme. He met Nola’s father, the town’s preacher, and went along to the high school talent contest (where Nola wowed the crowd). He repeatedly hung out with her, and they talked about opera, books and poetry. They went away on a day trip together, where they talked more about opera, books and poetry. It was ickey in the extreme.

Thankfully, there were other developments. In the diner an older waitress (26) called Jenny had the hots for The Famous Writer From New York, and her mother, diner owner Tamara (the wonderful Victoria Madsen) encouraged her daughter to go after him. So she did, to the point where she actually took Harry a picnic over to his house on the day that he was out with Nola. She saw that the front door was open so she took a peek inside, and found a manuscript – written in it where Harry’s feelings for Nola, but Jenny thought they were about her. Oh dear.

During their day trip this was the moment, Harry told Marcus in 2008, that he decided to cool things off for good with Nola – it was just too risky. At last, some clarity. Why didn’t he do this before? For a man who craved solitude, he certainly wasn’t doing a good job of attaining it. The townsfolk didn’t help either: Tamara, Nola’s dad… they all wanted a piece of Harry, and thought that he could be either a passport out of the town or someone to boost the town’s profile. There was some manipulation at play here. Perhaps, Lolita-like, Nola was manipulating Harry, too. Perhaps.

Back in 2008, Marcus was continuing to work the case in a way the cops weren’t (they never do in amateur detective crime dramas). He met present-day Jenny, who encouraged him to write the book about Harry he didn’t want to write, and also met with Nola’s best friend from high-school days, Nancy, who revealed that Nola was being beaten by her mother and seen getting into the car of the chauffeur of one of the richest men in the area during that very same summer.

So suddenly things had opened up. The dialogue was still terrible (at one point I even played a game: guess the next line. Uncharacteristically, I guessed correctly four times), but at least the whodunit was expanding and adding suspects. Who was the other older rich guy? Who in the town was sending Harry the same kind of threatening, anonymous notes back in 1975 Marcus was now receiving in 2008? Was someone jealous of Harry back in ’75 and trying to set him up?

At least there were now were now questions that needed to be answered.

Paul Hirons



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