The Troubles With Haven

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To celebrate (or toe-dip into) the fact that I start teaching this week, I decided to binge-watch Haven on Netflix. The first two seasons were frustrating and that is putting it mildly. Usually I give up on a series by this time if I’m not interested. The last two episodes in Season 2 finally hooked my attention, and the show has been great since then. The writers have gotten better at their cliff-hangers.

Haven is a SyFy show loosely based of of Steven King’s The Colorado Kid. It is set in Haven, Maine, a fictional town, and is about people who have supernatural afflictions called The Troubles, and what happens when they unintentionally use those abilities. The police often have to clear up the horrible effects The Troubles unleash on the town.

I might have more appreciation for the show if I had read the book because the episodes are apparently chock-full of references. I think the real problem is the writing and sometimes the characters/actors.

audrey

Via Syfy

First, let’s look at Audrey. She’s like the boy who lived, but with no character development and awesome backstory. Her switches from a running the world boss to Doctor Phil at the drop of a hat are annoying. She’s the ONLY one who can calm people down, the ONLY one unaffected by The Troubles, the ONLY one whose touch Nathan can feel….that’s a lot of onlys. I do not see her as a strong character, I see her as a confusing character. You can’t be all forgetful about relationships, all into your work, forgetful of people’s names but suddenly all Mother Theresa when people are in trouble. She’s the epitome of a Mary Jane, G.I. Jane manic pixie. She’s the girl everyone falls in love with, she always saves the day–she experiences no struggle at all. I wanted someone to kill her off at one point because I found myself not caring about her backstory.

Backstory…let’s talk about that. Audrey has nil. This does have to do with the fact that she has multiple past lives (and is semi-resolved in Seasons 3 and 4) but for the first two seasons, it made her painfully ordinary. I wondered why the writers were telling and not showing that this girl is all that and a slice of bread. We only know her likes and dislikes when Audrey #2 shows up to bring them out and she randomly sits down to play a piano, whining about how she doesn’t know that she knew how to play. Maybe if she actually took the time to find out who she is in the first two seasons, this wouldn’t be a problem. Thankfully, the writers decided to focus on that in the later seasons instead of the typical “trouble of the week” because that is much more fun.

Via Syfy

Via Syfy

Nathan. Honestly, I have nothing against Lucas Bryant, but his character is one hundred shades of stupid. Cutting him out of the show would be an improvement. I don’t condone violence, but if you were in a punching mood and Nathan’s face just happened to be available, go for it. He has the demeanor of a ten year old. This man is in his mid-thirties and has a feud with another character over a minor prank that happened when he was eight years old. He needs Oprah on speed dial and has zero character growth from seasons 1-4. Watching certain scenes had me thinking just cry me a river Nathan and while you’re at it, just eat a 5-gallon ton of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting. Nathan is nails on a chalkboard teenage angst. He is so obsessive over Audrey. In a 4th season episode, he goes crazy  and Audrey says she’s never seen him like this. Sorry Audrey, this is how he always acts although you have been gone for six months so you might have missed half the show.  He needed to have been seeing Claire.

He’s the gruff “I don’t feel anything not even emotions” type of guy who can only feel Audrey’s touch. That has the potential to be interesting, but the show really doesn’t focus on it. I was reading a Gawker post about the series and someone was saying that if Nathan can’t feel anything, he would probably be an awful kisser, and I’m inclined to agree in his relationships with women other than Audrey. Consistency people, consistency.

Also, my main bone to pick is with the random relationships that Audrey and Nathan have. We all know they’re going to end up together people, so hurry that up. It’s not like a show like Bones where Booth and Bones learn about themselves and become best friends before getting into a relationship. We all knew it was going to happen (even though they threw us off a few times) but we were happy for the ride. In Haven, these other relationships are complete time-wasters. Chris? Awesome, but honestly, if you’re going to have the only reason he’s with Audrey is because she can’t feel his trouble and then have her be a workaholic, that’s completely unfair.

Via Syfy

Via Syfy

Duke. He had the character development that Nathan needed, and Duke was already a pretty solid character. I can’t really say anything bad about Duke except that sometimes I think Eric Balfour over-acts him in the first two seasons like he’s too cool for school. Duke should be low key but witty, with occasional outbursts of awesome. When Eric does pull this off, Duke is magic and comes into his own in the last few seasons.

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Via Syfy

Season 3 Improvements:

  • Everyone got haircuts, or grew their hair out. In the first two seasons, Duke’s hair especially kept getting into or covering his eye.
  • New people! Tommy Bowen, Claire Callahan, Jordan McKee, although Jordan was more annoying than anything.
  • More of the Teague brothers. They are buckets of fun. I enjoy their arc of going from slightly questionable old men to secret keepers and old guys with questionable pasts.
  • Figuring out Audrey’s connection to Haven instead of glossing over it
  • The “almost” relationship, although that could become a drag as well
  • Duke and character development
  • Perfect use of Boys II Men in the “Reunion” episode. Perfect.
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Via Syfy

Season 4 Improvements:

  • Three words: Sheriff Jack Carter. Eureka is one of my favorite shows and Colin Ferguson is fantastic in this season of Haven. I like my villains diabolical with a touch of crazy and once they added the crazy in, everything was awesome.
  • Lexie is way better than Audrey (that gets complicated later) but for the most part I appreciate the direction the writers went with
  • The off-her-rocker coroner Gloria and Dwight as Sheriff.
  • Jennifer and Duke

General Observations:

The show does is great when it’s not the Audrey-Nathan-and sometimes Duke show. I was reading a few reviews, and I couldn’t figure out why people were so upset with season 4. Yes, the end was anticlimactic and the writers should really just wrap up the series with Season 5, but overall the season ran well and answered a lot of questions.

These characters are supposed to be in their mid-thirties and they have the coping mechanisms and conversations of five year olds. Sometimes Audrey is more like Nathan’s mother than his girlfriend. Also, the lack of parents in the show and how all the children of the main characters are conveniently written away into the far corners of earth and other realms is obvious. It’s also difficult when we have to emasculate a man to have a strong female lead (Audrey and Nathan). Why can’t we just have two strong characters and live awesomely ever after?

As a general comment, a lot of that dialogue is just plain awkward. Sometimes the actors sound like they are reading from a script, without any inflection or over-acting and it’s completely noticeable until they hit another groove. This becomes hardly noticeable in Seasons 3 and 4.

All the minorities end up being troubled/ evil and then rapidly turning good right before they’re killed off–Agent Howard, Evi, Cornell Stamoran. The only exception was the coast guard’s nurse, but she was questionable. I wanted Tommy to be good so badly. In Seasons 3 and 4, this is almost corrected with characters like the little girl who was raised from the dead, and the woman whose troubles affected other people.

I feel like the town only consists of the police station, Rosemary’s bakery, the Teague brothers with The Haven Herald, The Grey Gull, and whoever is troubled that week. I know it’s a coastal town, but it looks huge and I wish more of an effort was made to connect the viewer with the whole town instead of making me feel like Haven is a bubble consisting of whoever is in the episode that week. This was also semi-corrected in Seasons 3 and 4.

On the flip-side, the special effects are golden. The show has some interesting story lines, it just gets tired after a while because nothing is happening with Audrey, all the main characters seem emotionally stunted or immature, and the show keeps piling on more secrets without resolving anything. For every ten secrets, it resolves one. I realize that the suspense is supposed to keep people interested (and maybe that’s why I’m still watching) but if people don’t figure some of the stuff out, they’re doing to get bored and just go to another show. Season 3 finally stopped that vicious cycle and moved in a new direction. Also, I adore the main theme song.

Someone once recommended to me that I should start watching Parks and Recreation, but that I should start watching at the third or fourth season. I think Haven is one of those shows. Seasons 1-2 are just brutal. I know some shows take a while to hit a groove, but I grade from the pilot episode and usually stop after four to five episodes unless someone gives me a good reason not to. Many of us have busy lives and can’t waste time waiting for something to get good.

Haven builds on a lot of previous events, but this is why we have summaries and Wikipedia. I don’t think viewers would be completely lost because the show explains everything, or re-explains everything, and many of the conflicts aren’t hard to figure out.  Seasons 3 and 4 almost make up for Seasons 1 and 2, but overall, Haven is an all right watch until Season 3 when the party really gets started.

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