Friday, 17 December 2010

Haven - the plot thickens...

Being a sci-fi fan, I watch Haven.
I'm watching it pretty much as it airs on Syfy, although it tends to get recorded on the Sky+ box and we watch it if and when the kids have gone to sleep.

I enjoy Haven as a monster-of-the-week series but I really expect more of good tv. We've all gotten used to larger casts and convoluted plots, even involving travel through dimensions of time and space. We can follow long plot arcs with mysterious hints scattered throughout every episode.

Haven just didn't deliver that. Audrey fairly easily drops into her role of local cop / x-files investigator. She's an FBI agent, isn't she? She could find out about the mysterious photo in the 27 year old paper without quitting her day job. She could at the very least use her powers as a federal agent to find out who her birth mother is, and track her down. Instead she chooses to stay in a rural backwater solving local mysteries in the hopes it will shed some light on her own past. Why? I don't quite believe in her motivations. Be that as it may, I'm willing to go along with it. She stays in Haven so we can witness some nice mysterious little horror stories. Fair enough. But why is she so ready to believe in supernatural explanations for the things that happen around her? Even the locals, most notably Nathan, aren't as easily convinced the 'troubles' are real, and they've witnessed them for years.

If we are meant to simply accept that Audrey just easily believes in the supernatural, and stays in Haven (and is she still on FBI payroll or what?) to find out about her past, then I'm still often left wondering why she doesn't get on with it. Every episode contains a tiny little - and badly embedded in the story at that - hint about the elusive 'Lucy' from the photograph, but how many times has Audrey let the subject drop in a conversation, and even allowed the person with the information to just walk away? Not really dogged pursuit of her stated goal, is it? If I was her, I'd be seriously interrogating some people, not least Duke, and the two newspaper men. And apparently, there are extensive police and forensic files on the Colorado Kid after all. Did she not even think to check the archives?

For a town full of people, the main cast is actually pretty small, and very few of those are presented with any depth. Compared to other recent tv-series, it seems to underestimate the capability of the audience to keep track of multiple deeply complex characters and their individual story lines and development. Give us more. We can handle it. There is some attempt to present the characters' emotional and social development in the form of several stilted romances and Audrey's attempts at making friends, but these are very episodical as well. Duke nearly died of supernatural old age, but this has brought about no lasting change to his outlook on life. Nathan can feel Audrey's touch, but it doesn't make him much more or less broody than he was before. Generally, the most shocking things happen to a lot of people, and they barely flinch. If they do, they're certainly completely over it by next week. After the doctor's death, her daughter just slots into her job as if she is an understudy in a play. I find I start to care less about the characters because they're just not real.

The monster-of-the-week format also contributes to this feeling of shallowness. Audrey and Nathan have locked up several monsters, killed some, driven some off... but they never mention them again, or visit them. It would be nice to see all the monsters continue to be part of Audrey's daily life. They could be present in the background as a duty, for example to check on whether they're still safely locked up. Or they could come back as the solution to a new problem. Instead, they're like the monsters in a children's cartoon where nothing that happens really matters and everything is reset to default by the start of the next episode. There are so few consequences for most of what anyone does in this series.

However, we have just reached an episode where Audrey finally does undertake some investigation of the elusive Lucy. She tries to get more information out of Duke and his former babysitter, to no avail. Conveniently, all involved in that incident seem to have either no memory of it, or have gone mad to the point of dancing about in their underpants. Still no resolution, but at least she tries harder than usual. There are some interesting arc-shaped hints like the tattooed arm. Currently, my theory involves time travel. The girl in the picture is in fact Audrey herself, but she has instructed everyone no to tell her future/past self about her, or possibly even done something to wipe their memories. Both the Colorado kid and Duke get killed by a tattooed arm, the one known owner of which is dead in this timeline, but possibly was alive to kill 27 years ago. Or are Duke and the Colorado Kid one and the same somehow?

I can but hope that the real resolution of the series will be at least that interesting or even better. Surprise me, Haven!

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