Small, sleepy town. Odd folks. Strange doings. Smokin' hot FBI agent. Yeah, count me in. I'm not sayin' HAVEN is the best show on television, but it's certainly kept me tuning in. HAVEN draws its roots from Stephen King's novella, THE COLORADO KID, and the ironic bit is that this novella has closer ties to the mystery genre than to horror fiction.
Cracks on the road, holes in her past. Deployed to Haven, Maine on a routine investigation, FBI agent Audrey Parker stumbles onto sudden fissures on the road and onto the puzzle of the Colorado Kid, an unsolved, decades-old mystery which may or may not shed light on her murky orphaned past. Agent Parker is intrigued enough and hopeful enough that she opts to bide a while in Haven. She rapidly susses out that this little town hides its fair share of secrets. What makes Haven special is its status as refuge for those with paranormal attributes. The townspeople, in hushed tones, label those with extraordinary abilities as "Troubled" or "Afflicted." Sometime in the past, a plague of supernatural horror - or the Troubles - swept over Haven, and then eventually went away. Today, dormant powers are reviving; there's a strangeness in the air. the Troubles are back. And Agent Parker, with her training and her natural bump of curiousity, may just be Haven's best hope.
The picturesque seaside locations - mostly shot in Nova Scotia - lend texture to the show, serve as an effective counterpoint to the town's dark underbelly. The Troubles are a widely accepted urban legend in Haven, and you often have characters dropping remarks such as "It's the Troubles, isn't it?" or "The Troubles are back, aren't they?" or in Audrey Parker's case, "The FBI never trained you for the Troubles." Season One unveils thirteen episodes which are predominantly stand-alone stories, although recurring sub-plots and themes do run thru the entire season. In the unraveling of Haven's mysteries, Agent Parker regularly comes face to face with otherworldy phenomena, and she's open-minded enough and thinks outside of the box enough that she doesn't get too much ruffled, even though the foul play involved is often of the staggeringly preposterous sort. I don't know that Emily Rose makes for an entirely convincing detective - she's a bit too pretty and glib and breezy - but damn if you don't get drawn into her exploits. Emily Rose is a capable enough actress that she sells her moments of vulnerability, and then there's her intriguing chemistry with Lucas Bryant.
Bryant plays Nathan Wuornos, a local cop who becomes Audrey's partner. Nathan is one of them wounded souls. He's afflicted with idiopathic neuropathy, a condition that prevents him from physically feeling anything. As one may expect, this has made Nathan a detached, almost painfully shy character. Except that he's very sympatico with Audrey Parker. And matchmakers that we are, we start hoping for them to hook up. Now if only that charming rogue and smuggler Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour) would beat feet... He's threatening to steal Nathan's thunder.
When not wallowing in flirtatious moments, HAVEN dives right back into the supernatural procedural. There are some really nifty episodes featuring phenomena such as rapid aging, dream murders, a homicidal shadow, living stuffed people, a person whose moods influence the weather, shapeshifters, a pyrokinetic, an artist whose drawings affect reality, et cetera... not to mention, an assortment of folks sporting ominous tattoos. All of these crazy bits of hoodoo, by the way, are given life by - for television - pretty excellent special effects. I like that Agent Parker, often times, resolves a case without resorting to violence. On the other hand, the way she handles the unrepentant pyrokinetic demonstrates a certain ruthless streak on her part (in "The Hand You're Dealt"). If you're a Nathan fan, then "As You Were" showcases him saving the day. If you're a Duke fan, what the hell's your problem?
Season One is chary with the reveals but we are treated to several big ones, with Audrey, Nathan, and Duke each either unveiling or discovering a huge secret about themselves. Nathan's discovery would make him even more attached to Audrey, the poor sap. For Audrey, curious orphan, it's all about her digging into her blurry past, her search galvanized by a mysterious photograph shown her by those two odd newspapermen when she first arrived at Haven. What she learns in the Season One finale is a humdinger and nicely dovetails into the startling season ending cliffhanger. Favorite episodes are: "Welcome to Haven" (the pilot); "As You Were" (basically a taut "killer-in-the-midst-while-trapped-in-a-confined-space" murder mystery; "Sketchy," because how can you not love an episode in which a guy gets his limbs brutally twisted like pretzels and another bloke has his eyes and mouth cold vanish on him?; and "Spiral" - the very good season ender in which several plot threads come together. Now, in Season Two, if they can only escalate things a bit further and maybe develop these Troubled incidents so that they feed into a more cohesive overarching threat, why, that wouldn't suck at all. HAVEN's biggest problem is that it's harder to connect to the stories when the format insists on these creature-of-the-week stand-alone episodes. And, in fact, "Spiral" does a good job of changing the status quo. So, again, HAVEN may not be the best show on television. But, damn, you cannot keep me away from watching it week after week after week.
HAVEN - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON contains all 13 episodes on 4 discs, with the following bonus stuff:
- 12 Audio Commentaries with the cast & crew on 10 episodes, and it's a treat that the lead actor, Emily Rose, is very prominent in these commentaries
- "Welcome to Haven" featurette (00:18:11 minutes long)
- "Visual FX of Haven" featurette (00:05:05 minutes)
- "Mythology of Haven" featurette, and how the writers' being inspired by Stephen King's works ties into it (00:05:58)
- 6 Behind-the-Scenes Video Blogs: "What is Haven to You?" - the cast's reflections on HAVEN (00:4:26); "Let the Good Times Roll..." - Emily Rose guides you thru the making of the giant rolling ball scene in the "Butterfly" episode (00:03:58); "Location, Location,Location" - Emily Rose guides you to several scenic spots in Nova Scotia that were shot for the show (00:01:53); "Emily Rose Q & A (00:03:21); "Stephen King References in the episode "Spiral" - which, in retrospect, aren't that many (00:03:08); and "Sci Fi Wire Interview with Emily Rose (00:02:18)
- Cast Interviews: Emily Rose (00:02:31); Lucas Bryant (00:02:08); and Eric Balfour (00:01:57)
- Season 1 trailer
- Season 2 Sneak Peek: Inside the Writers' Room (00:04:46)