Syfy, Fridays, 9/10 PM
“Audrey Parker’s Day Off”
Written by Nora Zuckerman & Lilla Zuckerman
Directed by Fred Gerber
“You’re stuck in my second favorite Bill Murray movie.” – Nathan
Yes, it certainly looks like Audrey Parker is stuck in Groundhog Day, the Murray farce about a man who keeps living the same day over and over. But that’s comedy, and this is horror. The story I was reminded of most frequently while watching this episode of Haven was The X-Files episode “Monday“. In that first-class story, a woman lives the same day over and over, unable to stop the disaster she knows is coming. It’s an old trope of science fiction but a powerful one; we’ve all experienced the same helpless feeling in nightmares. This time, Audrey is prepared for the bizarre and unexplainable in her life — at least intellectually. She is helpless against the emotional impact of seeing her friends, her lover and her partner die – and then live again the next morning. Emily Rose finally gets to show us an emotionally vulnerable Audrey, one who opens up more than she usually does both to her friends and to her audience.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen that way!” — Audrey
We start with a day in which a child is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Just as Audrey arrives at the scene, she wakes up in her bed again. The day repeats, and Audrey realizes she’s in a time loop. One of the refreshing things about Haven is that the writers dispense with the usual routine in which the heroine must persuade everyone else that she’s not crazy, that what she is experiencing is real, if weird. By now, everyone in Haven is inured to the outrageous becoming commonplace, so Nathan and Chris (Audrey’s lover, as of last week) don’t argue with her tale. But their efforts to prevent the accident backfire when it repeats – with a different victim each time. Audrey learns all too painfully that forewarned is not necessarily forearmed, and by the time the last victim dies in her arms she is at the breaking point.
“We could be stuck in this day forever.” – Audrey
Audrey eventually realizes, as she should have all along, that she can’t stop this Trouble. Only the person with the Trouble who is causing it can stop it. So she finally identifies Anson Shumway (Ari Cohen, My Babysitter’s a Vampire), a father going through a custody battle, as the perpetrator. Newly diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he’s convinced he is responsible for the original accident that killed his daughter. So he is re-living it over and over and over, as an OCD sufferer would, hoping for a different outcome. All these deaths are burdening him with guilt and grief and anguish he cannot bear. Audrey tries to persuade him he’s not responsible, but it’s obvious she’s not getting through. She “inadvertently” tells him when and where the hit-and-run car will come speeding through next, then leaves him. She could not have been more obvious if she’d left him alone with a loaded revolver in the study, warning him to do the right thing. Which he does, to no one’s surprise but Audrey’s.
“This is the only way I know how to do this.” — Audrey
The writers telegraphed this ending almost from the moment Audrey identified Anson as the Trouble. I hoped for a less obvious ending, one that didn’t reveal how tightly the writers had painted this story into a corner. There really was no other way out, and showing Audrey as ineffective and oblivious does not help us appreciate her talents any more. Perhaps it’s an appropriate tone, however, since the entire episode is about helplessness and frustration. Writing that helplessness into the main character is a little riskier than I would normally expect, but Haven breaks rules all the time anyway.
“The only thing I feel is you.” – Nathan
The writers have been slowly (glacially) pushing the Audrey/Nathan relationship into the foreground, but with the usual reluctance of TV to commit to love. Chris gets his walking papers from Audrey in this episode, which is jarring but perhaps just as well. Having crammed this relationship down our throats (perhaps to give Emily Rose a love scene the way Lucas Bryant got one last year), the writers whisk Chris away just as he got mildly interesting. According to the usual rules, Audrey’s true love should now reveal itself to her, as she realizes she could not bear to see Nathan die. But the execution of this cliché fails utterly; in their respective death scenes, Audrey cries more over Chris’ death than Nathan’s. Audrey still seems to feel no chemistry at all towards Nathan. On the other hand, Lucas Bryant was at his best twice in this episode, giving us broody, yearning looks at Audrey that tell us more than words. I know everyone is tired of hearing me say this, but I really, really, really hate these long, drawn-out relationship arcs. I’d be far more interested in Nathan and Audrey as a loving couple, focusing their talents on the Troubles that drive this series. There’s enough supernatural weirdness in this series that we don’t need the added distraction of soap opera.
“You’ll tell me again.” — Nathan
Audrey seriously needed more words. Nothing reveals the seams in a plot more than a character who refuses to explain to another character what’s going on “for lack of time”. Audrey fears Chris is in danger, so she warns him not to leave the Grey Gull – but does not tell him why. This is stupid storytelling. She claims she doesn’t have time, but she manages to find some, in every iteration, to tell Nathan what he needs to know. Perhaps we’re supposed to see this as a great big obvious clue that she likes and trusts Nathan more than Chris; instead, it makes her look callous and stupid. One moment between them did ring true: the morning after Nathan “dies”, Audrey walks into the police station and sees him testing the temperature of his coffee. We’re reminded of his inability to feel pain (or heat) as he hands his mug to Audrey. She sips it, tests the temperature, and hands it back, in a gesture that says more about intimacy, friendship and trust than any words between them so far. We could use more moments like that, not strained bedroom scenes.
“The world’s not gonna end because Audrey Parker took a day off.” — Chris
Friday’s episode came in 1.7 million viewers, which is pretty much the same as last week. The show is holding steady at a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49. This is higher than the average rating of 0.4 which earned Haven a renewal last year, so I’m hoping that the numbers will be enough to warrant a return. While this was not one of their better episodes, it’s still a show I enjoy watching.