We Are Not Who We Are
Syfy, Fridays, 9/10 PM
“As You Were”
Written by Jose Molina
Directed by Rob Lieberman
“Do you trust me?” —Nathan
Boy, how I love a good house-party story—a bunch of folks stuck in a remote house, preferably large and creepy, with a killer among them. Agatha Christie refined the idea with And Then There Were None, about a bunch of people stuck on an island, being killed off one by one. Harper’s Island reprised that theme recently. John W. Campbell’s seminal 1938 novella, “Who Goes There?”, added a shapechanger to raise the paranoia level, and became the basis for both the 1951 Howard Hawks movie Thing from Another World and the 1982 John Carpenter re-make The Thing. One of my favorite episodes of The X-Files, “Ice”, was a remake of The Thing, complete with the defining statement of paranoia: “We are not who we are.” Stories like this give us the best of a haunted house story, a mystery, and an unreliable narrator. So there is a rich vein to mine here; the trouble is, we’ve seen it all so often.
“Are you crying? Crying will not be tolerated.” —Duke
We start with a motif straight from Stephen King’s The Shining—the isolated, huge white hotel. In this case it is situated on a remote island off the coast of Haven. Duke takes Audrey out there with some vague report of something he has to show her—it turns out to be a surprise birthday party. Most of the characters we’ve met already have gathered to fête Agent Parker, and she finds herself overwhelmed by this sign of the town’s affection. Within moments, the creepy caretaker is found not just dead, but “empty”. The coroner, Dr. Carr (Mary-Colin Chisolm, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter), gazing down on the deflated balloon-corpse that was their host a few minutes ago, sagely nods and says, “Moult.” Chief Wournos (Nicholas Campbell, Unrivaled) immediately chimes in with some awkward exposition: he recognizes the signs of a shapeshifter, a chameleon. Apparently this critter absorbs the essence of a person, kills them, and assumes their identity. In fact, Chief Wournos’ partner was taken over by a chameleon 27 years ago, and Wournos was forced to shoot his own “partner”. Now the Troubles are back, and have forced the chameleon out of hiding.
“Somebody right here in this room is a chameleon. Which means one of us is a killer. One of us is dead.” —Chief Wournos
Panic ensues, and the story plays out with the usual suspicion, false suspects, misunderstood clues. We get a raging storm, with lightning. Naturally, cell phones are out. A boat is found, but the Chief shoots holes in it to prevent the monster, whoever it is, getting off the island. Could it be the coroner’s daughter Julia Carr (Michelle Monteith, Murdoch Mysteries), newly returned from Africa (and wearing a red shirt, no less)? Could it be one of the two Teague brothers, Vince or Dave? Maybe it’s Nathan—he went wandering on his own before the storm hit. While the characters search the hotel, spy on one another, and spit accusations, the producers work in a few sly references to Stephen King’s other works: one of Audrey’s birthday gifts is a copy of the sequel to Misery “signed by the author just before that lady chopped off his foot” . References to The Shining are everywhere—long shots of empty hallways, empty bathrooms, the large, rambling white hotel. Duke not only carries an axe around, he stumbles over a red tricycle during his search. All we needed was a pair of creepy twins and a young boy muttering, “Redrum”.
“Are you crying? Crying will not be tolerated.” —Audrey
The twist, when it came, not only brought us full circle to the Chief’s experience 27 years before, it linked us to last episode’s great revelation: Nathan can feel Audrey’s touch. It’s that clue that proves to him that what we thought was a remarkably inefficient Audrey (none of her suggestions made sense in the context of finding a murderer) was actually the predator. Nathan proves it in a way that works only for him—he kisses Audrey. When he cannot feel her, he repeats his father’s action—he shoots his not-partner. Not only was this a completely satisfying reveal of a classic unreliable narrator, it gave us a few moments of Nathan Unleashed. Like the original Mr. Spock, he shows us a seriously repressed man, out of touch with himself (literally), who now and then lets enough of the mask slip to show us the passion behind it. It’s a wonderful moment, perhaps because it’s the only surprise in the episode. Nearly every single scene in this episode could have been lifted directly from some earlier version of a stalker movie; only the twist that Audrey is the monster, and Nathan’s method of revealing that fact, held any originality. We got a tiny tidbit more about the mystery woman Audrey has been pursuing: the woman’s name was Lucy Ripley (believe it or not!). At which point we discover that everyone on the island knew that, but somehow failed to mention it to Audrey. Oh, and Duke was the boy in the now-iconic photo—is he the “Colorado Kid”?
Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy this story. I enjoyed the fact that Molina gave us a “monster” who apologizes, though that doesn’t excuse murder. Lucas Bryant put some real feeling into the few opportunities he was given. Emily Rose pulled off a wonderfully nuanced fake-out; she was particularly good in an early scene with Duke where her social awkwardness turned a potentially intimate moment into a cringeworthy and wholly believable “oops” moment. Eric Balfour once again blows hot and cold in the charm department—from some shouting and flailing scenes in the dark, to a quiet scene at the end where Duke establishes the best connection with Audrey he’s had all season.
“You don’t know me. I’m nothing like you.” —Nathan
Unfortunately, Nicholas Campbell’s Chief Wournos was all over the map, emotionally speaking. This is a confused and unlikeable character—in one scene he cold-cocks his own son without a second thought. When Nathan discovers that “Audrey” is the chameleon, he’s broken up, because it’s been hammered home that that means the victim—Audrey—is dead. But when the Chief is convinced his own son is the chameleon, that knowledge doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. Talk about your unfeeling men.
I enjoyed this story, though it was pretty run-of-the-mill, largely due to a few revelations about characters I’ve been watching for several weeks. Anyone coming cold to this series, though, will probably find this episode a yawnfest. I underestimated this show in the beginning, and it is growing on me, but I’m not confident about its long-range prospects. The continued evocation (perhaps involvement) of the master, Stephen King, is adding dimension to this otherwise middling series. I only hope it will continue to improve, because the end of the season is fast approaching and so far, this show has not lived up to its potential. Or if it has, it’s a matter of too little, too late. I hope Syfy will renew Haven, but I’m not holding my breath.