Syfy, Fridays, 9/10 PM
Written by Jim Dunn
Directed by Tim Southam
“What is in these woods?” – Audrey
About halfway through this slow-moving episode of Haven, I finally figured out why this story wasn’t working. It wasn’t just the lame CGI, or the forcing of the Nathan/Audrey storyline. It was the fact that several people were holed up in a barn, menaced by sentient trees, and all they could talk about was their love lives. This is narcissism on an epic scale, to be confronted with supernatural horror and to treat it as wallpaper while you sort out your love life. Even granting that everyone involved was well aware of the Troubles and of Haven’s dark side, it takes a high level of self-involvement to put your own imminent gruesome death on hold while hammering out a grudge from the past. The fact that the grudge from the past was causing the havoc of the present did not make it relevant; on the contrary, it exposed even more obviously the structure of the entire story. Smart people once again did dumb things in the service of a poorly conceived plot, one ripped so totally from Shakespeare that I kept thinking of the Keegans and the Novellis as the Capulets and the Montagues.
“I just pray blood won’t spill.” – Dom Novelli
Or maybe I should be thinking “MacBeth” instead of “Romeo and Juliet”. Specifically, the last act, where Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. In this episode, Audrey detours her date with Chris Brody (Jason Priestley, Call Me Fitz) to hand-deliver a marriage license. But the wedding is interrupted by a long-simmering family feud, culminating in the sudden disappearance of the bride’s father, Ben Keegan (Ted Atherton, XIII: The Series). When Audrey follows a trail into the woods (with Chris), she finds his bloody glasses and a forest full of menacing noises. There were moments – not many, but a few – when the creeping horror of Blair Witch Project was in the offing. But of course, that takes nightfall, and this was shot in daylight, so the only really creepy moment we got was a parting shot of Ben’s body trussed up high in a tree. In short order, the trees send their roots snaking out of the woods to grab a shrieking caterer and tie up the remaining characters in the barn. They also ambush Vince, Dave and Nathan on their way to the party, anchoring their ancient van to the road in a network of roots. The woods are definitely on the move in this story.
“We need to get the families to stop hating each other.” — Chris
Once in the barn, two of the storylines intersect: the Duke/Evi story and the main story. Duke and Evi have brought the antique box from last week to show to Beverly Keegan (Corinne Conley, Almost Heroes), the matriarch of the Keegans. She gives them one name that might help; otherwise, the pace of this particular secondary story is so slow it seems to be going backwards. I wish the writers would either drop it, focus it, or re-integrate Duke into the main plot. Meanwhile, Audrey rejects Chris’ quite logical attempts to find tools to chop their way out. She gives him and Beverly a nice little speech about how the Troubles of Haven reside in the people, not some outside force. That speech was a little too on-the-nose, a little too self-aware, and took me totally out of the story. Audrey is supposed to be figuring this stuff out, not reciting lectures. Eventually she and Chris persuade Dom (Sean McCann, The Front) and Beverly to rekindle an ancient romance, and the forest gives way to True Love. Oh, please.
“I don’t think Parker’s up for dating.” — Nathan
During most of the episode, Nathan and Audrey are split up, which is part of why the story seems to lag. When they’re together, the banter and the hum of sexual tension keeps us interested; separated, each of them loses a little luster. Here, Nathan initially stays behind, confident that Audrey is just having a friendly drink with Chris. Vince and Dave drop by to persuade him otherwise, but primarily to launch the newest SyFy promotional gimmick for the show. Bizarrely, the channel has decided that integrating a Twitter contest into the next seven or show episodes is just the boost the show needs. I’m old fashioned; I would have said better writing would do the trick, but what do I know? In any case, we’re offered several instances of Dave and Vince posting “follow me on Twitter” signs around town, discussing it with Nathan, and so forth. Eventually this gets Nathan thinking, and worrying, about Audrey, so he goes to her rescue. He’s a little let down, therefore, to have fought his way with fire out of the tangle of roots, only to discover that not only does Audrey not need rescuing, she has rescued the others. And she did it by getting them to all fall in love with one another.
“About Audrey. Don’t wait too long, Nathan.” — Dave
It is clear that the writers have decided to build up the fire under the simmering (dare I say, nearly extinguished) tension between Audrey and Nathan. They started by making Nathan more expressive, although this week he seems to have retreated to Impassive mode again. Then they introduced Chris the Love Interest/Obstacle, and raised the stakes by having him and Audrey fall into bed. This, of course, is classic melodrama. My sole question now is whether Chris leaves of his own free will or falls prey to one of the Troubles. My money is on the latter. The symbolism of Nathan fighting his way through a forest of thorns to rescue Sleeping Beauty was not lost on me; he’s bound to wind up as her Prince Charming (or Prince Churlish) at some point. When that time comes, I hope the writers will have a good explanation not only for Audrey’s immunity to Troubles, but her inability to catch Nathan’s feelings towards her. She seems to be extremely in tune with all Troubles but his.