Monday, 25 July 2011

Haven Fear and Loathing: What a difference a week makes

Dear writers of Haven

I apologise profusely for last week’s rant. After the awesome season finale last year I was, I’ll admit, slightly disappointed in the big sloppy mess you served up to me last week. But this week you’ve really come through and have given us one of the best episodes of the show so far.

Firstly, Evidence was not in it (hallelujah), you had both a victim of the Troubles and a villain of the Troubles, which was a welcome duality, and your main plot was gripping, compelling and not marred by a sudden inexplicable insight by Audrey at the end (e.g. I know, it’s reading!).

Fauxdrey was so well used in this that I hope she sticks around for a whole season. She and ‘our’ Audrey work really well together and it’s amazing how convincingly the actors are playing the same character.

Duke was well-integrated into the plot and we finally got some payoff from his tattoo assassin (you remember Duke… he’s the character you didn’t know what to do with last episode).

As for Nathan’s quiet and pragmatic sacrifice that was ultimately truly heroic, brava. We’ve seen Nathan’s struggle with forgiveness; the natural repression caused by his condition leading him to be insular and slightly self-absorbed. We’ve always known he has the potential to put this behind him and start to live life again. Now we know he’s also willing to sacrifice his own wellbeing for others.

All in all, this episode was tight, enjoyable and expanded our knowledge about Audrey’s past. I would probably appreciate a little more mythology being worked in to keep the momentum from last season but hey, I’m not complaining.

Keep making more like this and I’ll be staying tuned.

PS - Oh, and Dave Teague's revelation that his worst fear was the return of a so-far unmentioned third incarnation of the Lucy/Audrey line was just great, even if half the internet misunderstood this as him fearing Lucy (just look at the clothing and awful hair - she's from the 60s or maybe the early 70s). I've often wondered if the show were setting up Nathan/ Duke as the new Dave/Vince and this adds weight to that theory. Hope they develop this more soon.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Haven starts second season off with a clunk

So, Haven is finally back on our screens and the first episode can be summed up in one word. CLUNK.

Not to say the first season was a thing of wonder and beauty because it certainly wasn’t. It had its flaws but they weren’t the mythology, direction, acting and characterisation. Plotting? Yeah. But the fundamentals of a show - the things we tune in for every week even if an individual episode is bad – were all there.

So, the main plot of the first episode of season two was poorly-conceived and executed (It's biblical plagues caused by literacy! Quick, stop teaching people how to read!)  but… whatever. That’s not why we’re here.

The problem, for me at least, was that there was almost no payoff on the reasons we were there and most of the revelations in the last episode weren’t mentioned at all or were totally glossed over.

So, let’s recap: the end of the first season left us with a blast of twists and turns to navigate that left us on the edge of our seats waiting for them to be resolved. This episode picks up exactly where we left off last year in a standoff with the real Audrey Parker. And here we have my first nitpick.

Firstly, they reshot the scene. Why? I have no idea but it looks disturbingly like they had to because they wanted the actors to wear more makeup and because whoever directed this episode can’t handle a shot wider than a closeup. Honestly, if I had to watch one more scene of bunched up actors trying to make hand gestures in a box I was going to have to jump through the screen and tell the cameraman to pull the f**k back.

And I can only assume it was the director who insisted that everyone deliver their lines rrrreeeealllly sloooowwwly, so they all had to drag their words out and pause inexplicably in the middle of sentences.

Secondly, this entire episode happened in one day; by definition the same day that the whole of the last episode happened in. Now, I’ve never been to Maine so I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty confident that even that far north they don’t have 40 hour days. And that can’t be blamed on an idiosyncratic director or a poorly-conceived freak of the week: it’s just plain sloppy.

So, here we have a day where: Max Hansen showed up and died; Nathan found out he’s his father; the Chief has exploded; Nathan and Audrey had a massive fight and fantastic reconciliation; Audrey admits she thinks she’s Lucy and Nathan admits he can feel her; and we’re supposed to believe, only ten minutes later and after the appearance of another Audrey Parker, that Nathan’s response is “So, lunch?”

Duke’s revelations were no less painful and we last saw him scribbling names on a blackboard like some sort of half-deranged conspiracy nut after finding out there's an entire graveyard of headstones with the tattoo. But now here he is bouncing around between the boat and the Gull like he wasn’t cooped up terrified with a shotgun that morning. Or afternoon. Or whatever the hell time of day it was supposed to be when Max Hansen managed to have at least two meals in the first half of the last episode.

This is the same day where he ran careening to Audrey in terror the minute he saw Max Hansen’s tattoo, had a belligerent Nathan accuse him of murder and expressed quite a considerable amount of jealousy over Audrey’s relationship with her partner… but now, on seeing the blood outside the church, it’s Nathan he calls and his reaction to Audrey is “oh hey, bud!” *not his exact words*. 

“You could have told me about your Dad,” Duke says in the otherwise-lovely last scene between the two. It’s a shame we have no idea of when Nathan was supposed to pull off this miracle of communication. I was hoping Nathan would point out that he only died two hours ago and he’d been kind of busy since then but the writers seemed insistent that the ten seconds between last season and this lasted several weeks.

“You could have told me about your wife,” Nathan countered, a nice little segue for me to launch into a rant, for a total of only one paragraph I promise, on the bizarrely named Evidence Crocker.

Maybe if she’d been introduced later in the season I would not have reacted so strongly to her but honestly, there were so many things they needed to do with Duke’s character this episode (the tattoo, Julia Carr, his desire for Audrey to confide in him, his investigation of the Colorado Kid murder) and instead we had him mouldering away in a painful B plot with his annoying, improbably pneumatic, totally miscast, con artist ‘wife’. (Dear Duke – it’s called divorce. People do it all the time).

The fact that she’s obviously been introduced so they can kill her off and drive Duke to the Rev’s side is as contrived as… well… the Rev’s whole part in this episode. Knowing that the Rev sent Max Hansen to shake Duke up so he could recruit him was obvious from last season and done with a great deal of subtlety. Having the Rev state his plan to recruit Duke outright after ranting about God and sinners and lions and lambs for 45 minutes? Like I said… CLUNK.

I can handle a lot from this show, particularly when Emily Rose's last scene with the 'real' Audrey Parker was emtoinally pitch perfect and wonderfully acted, but there comes a point when even those of us who are genuinely intrigued by the mystery behind Haven start to get annoyed.

We sat through approximately ten episodes of mediocre television last season because we were intrigued, the interactions between the characters were spot on, and they got the Audrey/Nathan/Duke pairing exactly right. If you lose that... you got nothing. It's certainly not the 'freak of the week' that we're tuning in for, even if your guest star's performance in this episode was extraordinary.