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.

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