Premiering April 29, The Puzzle Maker’s Son follows the story of David Harding as he explores the mystery following his father’s death…and as the title states, his father was a creator of complicated puzzles. When a mysterious package arrives postdated just days before his dad’s supposed car accident, David knows his death could not have been as innocuous as it seems.
Creator Michael Field has been writing and directing independent short films for fifteen years and is very familiar with the film festival circuit having won awards for many of his films. This is his third crack at a web series, the first “ended mid-shoot when I realized my vision for the project did not equal the reality of the production and the second attempt ended like most projects end. There was no money,” says Harding. Harding also explained in an interview that this project started as a short film and was then flushed out to create a 10-episode web series.
I had the opportunity to preview the first four episodes and was very much excited to do so, as I am extremely fascinated with mind puzzles of all kinds. I’d say I’m relatively skilled at solving them, having played several Alternate Reality Games that included elaborate puzzles that would take days (and lots of manpower) to solve. Perhaps this history biased me when in the second episode, David solved a complicated Ceasar cipher in about 10 seconds flat.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the episodes because of that, I more saw it as a missed opportunity for community involvement. To allow the audience a sense of helping solve the mystery by offering them a chance to solve the puzzles along with David, a sense of ownership in the show could be achieved. On the other side of the coin, though, having David be a puzzle-solving genius progresses the show in a faster manner, so viewers that enjoy a much more passive viewing will feel satisfied.
Another thing that helps with that feeling is the fact that visually, the series looks great. Shot on the Red One—and exclusively in Connecticut—it used local cast and crew to keep it a truly Connecticut-based production. In this vein, David is played by creator Michael Field himself, a decision that he explained in an interview was as much a matter of convenience as it was the fact that who else would know the character better than the person who wrote him? At times, David felt a bit flat, especially when it came to showing emotions about his father’s death (it didn’t help that there was a scene very early in the series in which David and his mother are having a conversation about the death and neither of them seemed particularly moved at all…they might as well have been discussing that they were out of toilet paper).
All and all, the story is sound and worth a casual watching. Again, I only watched up to episode 4 and was intrigued enough to want to see where the story is headed…and to get out there and do some mind puzzles (why should David have all the fun?). Catch episode 1 of 10 on Thursday, April 29 on the show’s website, with episodes being released weekly after that.