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Ragged Isle Season Two Review

on Fri, 10/05/2012 - 00:00

“I have survived the recent tragic events on Ragged Isle and am more determined than before to uncover her secrets,” journalist Vicki Burke declares during the opening moments of the second season of the supernatural web series Ragged Isle. “That which has disturbed this island has been brought partially into light, leaving it more vulnerable than before. There will be those who come to this island looking for earthly explanations for what has happened. But they weren’t there, they didn’t see what we did. The only hope lies with ourselves.” The event that Burke refers to occurred at the annual Lobster Festival on Ragged Isle, a picturesque community off the coast of Maine. During the proceedings, a number of the attendees suddenly dropped dead after touching another resident. The official cause of death is determined to be drowning—an impossibility considering their inland location.

Ragged Isle consists of three seasons and like all good trilogies, the first two “volumes” contain a specific focus that gives each season a standalone quality while likewise adding to the overall mystery of Ragged Isle. Season one, for example, features a darker undertone that utilizes the internal forests and surrounding sea, and effectively conjures the feeling of impending doom. The episode “The Unforgettable Fire” adds to this atmosphere when bar owner Rachel Moody relates a story of forbidden love and murder from decades earlier. When Mac Lee falls into the ocean during an illegal fishing expedition, he seemingly becomes possessed by the male lover of the tale, making the initial installments of Ragged Isle a supernatural ghost story of revenge.

Season two, by contrast, has an overall brighter quality with more daylight and sweeping scenes of the Maine landscape. While season one invokes memories of the ABC drama Twin Peaks, meanwhile, the sophomore effort is more akin to another classic sci-fi television series, The X-Files. It seems that the events on Ragged Isle have drawn the attention of the US government and teams of Homeland Security agents descend upon the small enclave during the initial episode of the season. “This is a potential terrorist incident involving the use of a biological weapon,” Agent Allison Thorne (Kathryn Perry) declares upon her arrival to the island. “Have you ever heard of a disease that transmits instantly by touch and causes immediate death, death that simulates the effects of drowning?”

Local Sheriff Rick Dalton (Rick Dalton), however, has a different theory and enlists the aid of Dr. Brian Hoffman (Greg Tulonen) of the Maine Center for Disease Control in his own investigation. “I’ve been in the sheriff’s business a long time,” Dalton explains to Hoffman. “I hear things. You’re supposed to be someone who doesn’t always play by the rules. Someone who investigates odd occurrences.” The characterization of Dr. Hoffman immediately evokes similarities with Fox Mulder of The X-Files, an FBI agent who could likewise think outside the box while investigating his own cases that were filled with “odd occurrences.”

Although The X-Files was ostensibly about fellow FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigating the supernatural, it also contained an overarching mythology surrounding a government conspiracy regarding the existence of extraterrestrials. While there are no aliens on Ragged Isle, the web series contains its own conspiracy that is more fully explored during season two. Recent journalism graduate Vicki Burke (Meghan Benton) and Ragged Isle resident Paul Soucey (Ian Carlson) not only develop a romantic attraction during the narrative but share a determination to uncover the truth surrounding recent events on the island. Their investigation leads them to a group of the more prominent members of the close-knit community, including deceased businessman Harrison Shaw, newspaper publisher Vance Trundle (Denis Fontaine), successful novelist Gertie Kendrick (Suzanne Rankin) and council member Rose Fuller (Beth Saufler).

“All rich, inherited from mentors who had no families, and none of them have families either,” Paul Soucey explains to Vicki Burke in regards to the aforementioned quartet. “No wives, no husbands, no daughters, no sons. But all of them have protégés.” A meeting between three of these elite residents of the island, meanwhile, gives added focus to the overall Ragged Isle mythology, and in effect declares that the web series is more than mere ghost story. “What does this all mean?” Burke later asks Soucey. “What are we dealing with? A cult, a secret society, what?” Suffice it to say, the answer lies in the same supernatural realm that Ragged Isle has already established for itself.

According to co-creator Barry Dodd, Ragged Isle was partially inspired by the 1960s soap opera Dark Shadows. Elements of Twin Peaks run through season one, meanwhile, and season two is influenced by The X-Files. References to other sci-fi classics also find their way into the narrative, however, including the ABC drama Lost. “I’m not talking about your job,” psychic Madame Clelia (Kathryn Coccyx) tells the protégé of Harrison Shaw. “I’m talking about the life that was planned for you by the others.” The term “others” was a dominant part of the Lost narrative, and the scene in which the line is spoken on Ragged Isle ends with a brief musical fade reminiscent of the ABC drama. Lost consists of six seasons that were often described by the show’s executive producers as volumes in a longer narrative, and the same can also be said of Ragged Isle and its trilogy of seasons.

“Ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent of the strange things I look into as part of my ‘hobby’ turn out to be perfectly mundane,” Dr. Brian Hoffman tells Sheriff Rick Dodson. “Lies, hoaxes, local legends. I’ve developed a very skeptical gut when it comes to unexplained mysteries. My gut is telling me that what you have here is part of the point zero one percent.” While science fiction may be a popular genre, not every new creation necessarily stands up to the classics of the past—but just as the mystery of Ragged Isle falls into the small percentage of actual unexplained occurrences, so it is with Ragged Isle itself as the web series can be considered a successful and worthy entry into the realm of the supernatural.

Anthony Letizia (October 5, 2012)

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