A starter guide to Haven

Feature Rachael Kates 4 Jul 2012 - 08:45

Rachael gets us up-to-speed with the first two seasons of Haven, Syfy's underrated supernatural show that's set to air its third season this autumn...

This article contains spoilers.

Back in 2005, Stephen King published a novel called The Colorado Kid. A few years later Syfy aired Haven, loosely based on the story.  Almost impossibly, the show managed to be even better than the book, and two seasons later, Haven has become one of the best but most underrated supernatural shows on TV.

Let me give you a little bit of background to get you started. The idyllic town of Haven is on the rocky coast of Maine because, as I said, this is based on a Stephen King story and the man loves writing about his home state more than any author since William Faulkner. The setting has the added bonus of giving the show some truly gorgeous scenery.

Haven is just like any other small town except for the fact that it's subject to the sort of creepy craziness which puts it squarely in the lead for the title of America's Next Hellmouth. This is because some of the citizens are plagued with supernatural powers passed down through family lines known by the locals as the Troubles. The Troubles are many and varied and can range from things like a useful ability to read minds to deadly poison sweat (no, seriously, his sweat kills people). In addition, we discover that the entire town has been touched by the Colorado Kid murder, an event that took place twenty-three years before the pilot with no resolution.

New to Haven is Audrey Parker, played by the gorgeous and talented Emily Rose. She's direct, strong, capable, funny, and self-sufficient (if a little isolated). First introduced as a former orphaned foster child and current FBI agent, Audrey's a true believer and soon is sucked into the town mysteries. When she finds clues to her unknown past in Haven, Audrey leaves her big city life to investigate her history. While she chases her past, she also devotes herself to helping the people of Haven, to whose Troubles she is strangely immune. Audrey does this by joining the Haven PD as a detective where she kicks butt and pulls no punches with her partner Detective Nathan Wuornos.

Nathan is played by Lucas Bryant and is the son the (deceased as of the finale of season one) police chief. We meet Nathan when he snarks at Audrey and then pulls her out of a rental car poised to go over a cliff. That pretty much sets the tone of their relationship for the rest of the show.

Nathan is tall, dark, handsome, and well liked by the community where he's lived most of his life. He has an acerbic wit and is broody but with good reason. Nathan has a Trouble of his own: a total lack of tactile sensation misdiagnosed as "idiopathic neuropathy". This sounds cool as he can't feel pain but means he can't feel anything else either – heat, cold, sharp, soft, or pleasure. To quote Nathan in one of my favorite episodes, "I can't feel my skin." This is both an asset as a cop – since he can't feel getting shot, for example – and detrimental as a human being. Since he can't feel pain he is at risk to severe injury and can't experience so many of the things we take for granted. One of the very best things about Nathan's Trouble is that the show treats it like it would any other disability. They show how he compensates with his other senses – having Audrey taste his coffee for him to check if its too hot, for example.

In addition to this, Nathan is also fiercely loyal to Audrey and trusts her implicitly. Where other shows might play up the believer/non-believer angle, Nathan and Audrey make up a solid and affectionate unit and their dynamic is the better for it. Audrey's immunity makes her touch the only thing that Nathan can feel which adds an element of intensity to their growing romantic chemistry.

Helping the pair in less than conventional ways is the morally questionable Duke Crocker played by Eric Balfour whose previous work includes the Buffy pilot and Six Feet Under. Duke is Nathan's former childhood friend and a smuggler-turned-restaurateur as of halfway through season one. As a person, Duke is sarcastic, morally ambiguous, charming, but a really good guy deep down. He also lives on a boat, knows how to network with a criminal element and can use a gun – all of which come in handy from time to time.

Along the way we meet people like Vince and Dave Teagues. The two are a pair of friendly, geriatric brothers who are the historians and secret keepers that run the Haven Herald newspaper. They sometimes call in Dwight Hendrickson who cleans up after Troubled messes. Season 2 also introduced us to Duke's estranged wife Evi Ryan, a con-woman with cloudy motives and bad luck. Spewing vicious rhetoric against anyone with the Troubles is Reverend Driscoll. He makes destroying them his person mission, setting himself squarely against Audrey and her allies. Meanwhile, other townsfolk weave their way into Audrey, Duke, and Nathan's spheres in a freak-of-the-week style. Underneath it all are the mysteries of Haven that only drag the characters deeper as time goes on.

In season 1 the background and basics of Haven were established but in season 2 the mythos kicked into high gear. From the season premiere onwards we're hit with a one-two punch with the introduction of Audrey 2, a woman with all the same memories and experiences as our Audrey. From there, even more questions are raised. Who is Audrey really? What is her past and why is she immune to the Troubles? What causes the Troubles in the first place? Can they be stopped and how?

All the relationships of all our characters grew and changed as well, driving the story even more than the plot twists. Audrey and Nathan's relationship shifted from partners to something more complicated. Nathan and Duke stumbled back into friendship. Reverend Driscoll rose as an enemy, and the Teagues' motives have become divided and cloudy. The season finale left all of our characters in a place that was far from where they started.

The effects aren’t always the best. The CGI can be kitschy because, after all, this is a Syfy production. Yet the greatest thing about Haven is that, unlike many shows, the drama doesn’t depend on its characters lying to each other – either with falsehoods or by omission. Duke, Audrey, and Nathan all talk to each other. Trust, understanding, and connection is what makes the show work. The drama comes from good writing and when the plot hits a place where any savvy viewer would raise an eyebrow, the show almost always acknowledges it. Haven is a show with a lot of heart and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

According to Eric Balfour's tweet back in May, the premiere of Season 3 airs on September 21st at 10EST/9CST. That's plenty of time to play catch up with any episodes you might have missed. Trust me. It's worth the watch.

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