Monday, 22 August 2011

Haven Audrey Parker’s Day Off: Best Episode Ever

For an episode that had as its premise one of the most overused concepts in sci-fantasy – the time loop – ‘Audrey Parker’s Day Off’ is probably the best episode of Haven so far. So good in fact that it may be one of my favourite episodes of television ever.
From the minute Audrey was woken by Chris at 7:32 on her ‘day off’ to the final scene of her hiding - white-faced and shellshocked - from the three most important men in her life, the writers gave us a perfect blend of drama, humour, tragedy and action.
Emily Rose’s performance as the day repeats is fantastic: giving us confusion (first repeat), determination and relief (second repeat), shock and fear (third repeat), and finally sheer emotional exhaustion. That the show gave us a resolution to the main plot that is both happy (nobody Audrey loves dies) and gut-wrenchingly tragic is a tribute both to them and to the performances of the actors involved.
I cannot pour down enough praise on the writers for integrating Chris (the increasingly bemused love interest), Nathan (Audrey’s rock) and Duke (whose man-crush on the Troubled Chris was downright hilarious) so successfully into the plot and for bringing subtlety back into the love triangle (or square as it is these days). After last week’s anvil-fest, it was nice to see Nathan and Duke’s feelings for Audrey telegraphed without being clunky and trite.
The variations of the waffle conversation were some of the funniest Duke scenes since his cupcake and shotgun dialogue from last year’s finale. I’ve been hanging out for a Duke/Chris man-crash scene and this episode gave us that in spades.
Since the show started, we’ve seen Audrey develop an increasingly-narcissistic martyr complex. This was in full force in this episode as she comes to the belief that the tragedy of the day was all her fault, simply because she took a day off. This facet of her personality is nicely represented by the Trouble of Anson Shumway: the OCD man whose need to repeat actions to stop bad things happening causes the day to repeat as he subconsciously tries to stop the deaths he witnesses.
“Just because you believe you’re responsible for these things, doesn’t mean that you are,” Audrey tells him in the episode’s climax. If only this was advice she could take for herself. As she packs Chris off to London at the end and then hides at the Gull, face white at the thought of losing Duke and Nathan, you can only hope that she doesn’t throw off the support the men give her in dealing with the town’s Troubles in some misguided attempt to protect them.
The writers, Nora Zuckerman and Lilla Zuckerman, didn’t write for Haven in their first season. The only other episode they’ve been involved in, Love Machine, was arguably the second-best episode of the show ever. So I’d like to send a personal message to the showrunners: keep these two on. Jim Dunn, while I love that you helped co-create this show, you should probably let others do the writing. Between Roots and Fur, your batting average is not looking good.
PS - And no Evi. Thank the Lord. My only problem with this episode is the knowledge in the back of my mind that she's still out there, lurking around Haven and manifestly not dead. Is it too much to ask for her to be killed soon? Please. I'll give you cookies.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Haven Roots: Worst episode ever?

There was a point during the episode ‘As You Were’ in Season 1 when I found myself contemplating whether it was the worst episode of television I’d ever seen. It turns out it was merely a small taste of the awfulness that would be ‘Roots’ a season later.
My disappointment then was minimal. After all, I’d enjoyed the show so far but wasn’t invested in it. Episodes like ‘Fur’ and ‘Butterfly’ had inured me to the show being poor and I did enjoy the interactions between the leads. Coming as it was after a couple of great episodes this season, my frustration with ‘Roots’ was somewhat more palpable. 
I’ve noted before that the writing in the show can be somewhat clunky. This episode added extraordinary contrivance to the clunkiness to leave us with some serious cranial damage from all the anvils.
Of course, the main Trouble for this week was always going to be weak. Killer plants have never worked in a storyline. Ever. And Haven does not have the budget to pull off realistic CGI roots slithering out of the forest to rend people limb from limb.
Combine that with poor dialogue, clumsy plotting and inconsistent characterisation and you have a truly abysmal effort by the writers.
When an episode is as bad as this one was it’s difficult to know where to start in outlining the depths of its awfulness. Last week, Nathan was encouraging Audrey to go out with Chris Brody, the new character played by Jason Priestley. This week he’s apparently mindlessly jealous about it. So much so that he fights his way through the plants only to be left standing alone as all the ‘couples’ exit together at the end. And that was only one of the crashing piles of metal descending on me from the sky.
Why was Audrey at the rehearsal dinner? Because she was delivering the marriage license. What on Earth does that have to do with the cops? Nothing! It was in the script.
Parker finds out she doesn’t have mobile phone reception even though they can’t be more than half an hour from town? Does she go to find a phone to call for backup? No. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
The plants attack and all the guests run. Except for Duke and Evi who stay. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
The plants attack and Audrey sends Chris to investigate the barn. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
Parker, who tells Nathan everything, didn’t mention she was going on a date with Chris. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
Nathan goes out to rescue Vince and Dave from their broken-down van and the plants attack them even though they’re not at the house and aren’t a member of either of the feuding families. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
Put on top of this the wedged-in joke about the Teagues’ Twitter feud (which would have been funny if they weren’t promoting actual Haven Twitter feeds), the clunky ‘Love Conquers All’ ending (this apparently being the ‘theme’ of this season) and the forced reintroduction of the love triangle (which I believe just became a love quadrangle), and you have the new lead contender for worst episode of television I’ve ever seen.
There were a few positives about the episode of course and this review would not be complete without mentioning them. Firstly, after the introduction of the painful Evidence Crocker, I had considerable concerns about Jason Priestley’s involvement but his portrayal of troubled marine biologist Chris Brody is excellent and I enjoy the character’s storyline. Parker can be (understandably) self-absorbed and I like that he calls her on her crap and questions her methods of doing things.  
I’m also very glad to be wrong about Evi’s storyline and, while I would still like to see her die in some suitably gruesome way that benefits from repeated viewing, having her be evil (or at least evil in a different way) is a nice twist.
This does, however, bring me to my main problem with Season 2; a problem that I hope the writers will overcome in the back half of this season. Duke, Audrey and Nathan are not just supposed to be friends; they’re supposed to be confidants. They’re supposed to be the ones working together to untangle the mystery of Haven. This episode in particular had them all cocooned in their own little worlds without reference to each other. I understand the reasons but this just feels wrong to me.
Audrey and Nathan talk to each other about their romantic entanglements. They always have. And why wouldn’t Duke tell Audrey about his investigation of the tattoo; choosing instead to confide in Evi whom he doesn’t trust? Answer: he wouldn’t.
Or, possibly, it was just that it was in the script.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Haven Love Machine: Season 2 is 2 for 3

Haven is two for three after this weekend’s fantastic episode; arguably the best of the show so far.

Admittedly the main ‘trouble’ – about machines coming to life to kill anyone who might come between them and the man who fixes them – was in some places hilariously ridiculous (the first scene had a fisherman being pelted by a load of dead fish by a homicidal boat), the rest of the episode was a nuanced and emotional study of the way in which the troubles can ruin ordinary people’s lives.

I’ve loved every bit of screentime we’d had of Audrey 2 (or the Faudrey as some, rather inaccurately, call her) and so the unexpected and poignant exit of the character was downright tragic.

Whether Howard wiped Audrey 2’s mind to ensure Haven’s secrets stay in Haven, to protect our Audrey’s cover, or for some other reason we’re not aware of, the final scene where ‘our’ Audrey realises that she’s lost not only a valuable ally but the one person who can ever truly understand her was played perfectly by Emily Rose and brought a genuine tear to my eye.

Heartbreaking too was the tale of Louis Pufal; forced to stay isolated in Haven to tend the machines that refused to let him leave lest they kill anyone who might distract him from their needs.

The image of the crockpot sitting alone in front of the locked warehouse – that single image of love and loss – will stay with me and perfectly represents the true tragedy of the troubles for the afflicted of Haven.

If I have one criticism, it’s that we once again had to endure scenes with the ludicrously-named and shockingly miscast ‘Evidence’. Not only is the character painful (no fault of the actress BTW) but the plot line is boring.

Duke Crocker is by far my favourite character and his potential within the show is limitless. Weighing down his scenes with this insipid garbage just detracts from the show, particularly when he’s the link to the Colorado Kid’s murder and the one pursuing the mystery of the Haven tattoo – seen at the end in a file Audrey 2 procured for him from the FBI. I can only look forward to the day when they finally kill her – hopefully horribly – and trust that it will drive him closer to Audrey not further away (as the writers currently seem to intend).

All in all, the show just seems to be getting better and better at the moment. Let’s hope it continues for the rest of the season and that the promised Jason Priestly episodes are better than I fear.

Best moment: Duke and Faudrey bonding on the boat. Duke declaring at the beginning of the episode that she was "not as nice as the blonde one".

Second best moment: Nathan getting shot in the back by the possessed nail gun and running around for the rest of the episode with the nails in his back.