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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I deliberately haven't read the Colorado Kid as I'm worried it will confuse / spoil me, but I really like this show. Took a few episodes to get its feet, but I agree the relationships and characters are all very appealing, and its not too arc heavy! I know its not shot in Maine, but the landscapes are awesome and add to the overall small-town creepy. Plus, how cool is The Edge with a crossbow!

Another fan of the series here. The only thing I don't like about it is the slow pacing regarding the backstory (the colorado kid). I'd much prefer them to tie that up and create a new story arc for a new season. In that sense it is a lot like X-files... the "conspiracy" (and American's love a good conspiracy) got to the point where it just got too much.

Like the show a lot - but Nathan is 'tall, dark, and handsome'? The man is BLOND!

Out of curiosity, were you hooked from the very beginning? I'd like to love it but, while I usually like Syfy silly shows (especially Eureka and Alphas), Haven's first few episodes didn't do anything for me, at all -- it was pretty boring, slow and weirdly paced. I was wondering, does it improve later?

I love the show, but Duke was not Nathan's former childhood friend. They were not friends as kids-- Duke was responsible for some of the most traumatic moments of his childhood (the thing with the tacks in his back). Seriously, what? They were classmates, they've known each other forever, they're pretty damn involved in each other's lives (and they certainly matter to each other), but no. Not childhood friends.

I tried the first ep and was so underwhelmed with the cardboard quality that I didn't try a second. If I want to watch a show about a weird town I'll dig out Eerie Indiana :)

Haven is a weird one. It's not really that good. The acting is often flat, character motivation inconsistent, the stories are exposition heavy (usually Audrey and a.n.other standing in the drizzle explaining things through some dubious leap of logic/need to get the story finished in 40 minutes), the mythology and 'monsters' often underwhelming and not quite grounded in a common reality (i.e. backstory and investigation of the history of the troubles is minimal so far so the 'freak of the week' tends to be a stand alone incident unconnected to the other 'troubled ones'), the writing is predictable and somehow disconnected from the place it is set (i.e. it does not really explore small town rural life much), and for a show with a short season (by american standards) it has not found the right balance between monster of the week and story arc/character development.

Yet despite all that it is quite ... well charming I guess; inoffensive and, at times, even quite good. Weirdly I rather like it!

as far as I know, this show simply makes use of the setting. the colorado kid is about the frustration of the locals being unable to solve a mystery. in the book, there is nothing supernatural about the town, no 'troubles' and none of the characters from the show. king wrote colorado kid for a new noir imprint.

the show does constantly drop references to things from King novels though. a fun bit of easter egging.

i had the impression that they were friends, but Duke's cruelty drove them apart. In a small community all children will inevitably play together, but it seems, from some of their conversations, that there is a lot of history between them other than animosity or the evil tormenting children inflict on one another.

Nathan's animosity toward Duke is the outlet for us to witness his own pain and anger over his affliction and jealousy at what seems to him the easy successes of Duke's life. i find the tensions between them coupled with their obvious bond, one of the more compelling aspects of the show

i found this show far more enjoyable than it really had any right to be.

i do find it has a good balance between the weekly troubles case and the growing mythic arc of the series. The cast includes so many great Canadian actors, the main characters have excellent chemistry, and the supporting characters are all colourful without playing completely to expectations of a stock character.

The setting itself, the town, the lovely seaside old fashioned town and it's laid back folksy people are a nice respite in tvland. though you have to be prepared to expect the town to be whatever the story calls of reach week, and not to follow any consitent logic in scale. sometimes it is barely a sleepy fishing village where everyone is up in everyon'e business, sometimes it is a burgh large enough to have its own mental hospital and various industrial industries. I can live with that, though it never goes under my radar.

did someone pay you to write this?

I'm definitely a fan of this show (I have been since Audrey's line "no I am not dying to this song!" when she is about to go over the cliff, and a few minutes later as she is reaching to show Nathan her ID during a mexican standoff "What, am I going to pull out another gun?" I think I have a pretty good handle on the mythology of the show, and I like the whole "who is Audrey" aspect. Personally I think she has been in Haven since it was colonised couple of hundred years ago in various different personalities. I think that she is immune to the troubles because she is either the cause of them or was at the epicentre of whatever event caused them. Particularly interesting to me is the whole witchcraft angle (that is shown as part of Haven's history in the opening credits). Recently Duke has shown that his family has the ability to end the trouble in a family by killing one of the members afflicted with it, and hints were dropped at the end of season 2 that by killing Audrey it will end the troubles for good.

Favourite Audrey quote from season 2:
Audrey 2 - "What did I cause the shower of frogs with my magic wand, or maybe my tricorder? Come on!"
Audrey 1- "Ok first of all, a Tricorder? .... Is just for readings".

" one of the worst pieces of junk ever to spew from SyFy's hit and miss schedule " really?! oh c'mon, as much as I love syfy, they have much worse stuff than this ;)

Now, that was an awesome show! Foreverwear!

It did take me a little while to get into, it was one of those, "ahh its on, I might as well watch it" shows for the first maybe 5 episodes, but it definitely grew on me. I found Alphas a bit like that too. For some reason I never got on with Eureka, but I like Warehouse13; maybe that's just for the kooky old stuff!

Yeah, but I try to limit myself to watching as little crap TV as possible; there's so many other things more interesting, like watching redwoods grow ;)

I enjoy it, but damn some of the acting is capital B, BAD.
Emily Rose may be "gorgeous" but she couldn't act her way out of a paper bag in a rainstorm. Lucas Bryant isn't much better.

I am personally very tired of all these comments about "this person can't act". Tell me, what is acting? Tell me also, does everyone around you in daily life present themselves in a manner satisfactory to your qualifications of good acting? Because in my life they don't. People are boring, mumble, clumsy, awkward, weird, and emotionally flat and monotone. It's normal.

Took me most of the first season to be hooked. Not instantly. But with the lack of good shows like it, I stuck with it. I like Eureka too, tho Alphas did nothing for me.

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