Syfy, Fridays, 9/10 PM
Written by Matt McGuinness
Directed by TW Peacocke
“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” — Jessica Rabbit, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
As a party of Wall Street brokers out for a day of fishing breaks up, one of their number literally breaks up in front of a terrified girl; his thighs break so that his legs bend upward, his arms break between elbow and wrist, at the same place. He resembles nothing so much as an origami man being folded—which is our first clue to this episode’s weird-power-of-the-week. As if stuffed zombie hunting trophies coming to life weren’t silly enough, this week we get art as a freak ability. I was immediately put off by Nathan and Audrey’s investigation: right from the beginning, they pay little or no attention to the witness’s actual description of what happened. Vickie (Molly Dunsworth, The Tenth Circle), the girl who witnessed the “accident”, her father Alec (Brian Heighton, Sea Wolf) and her fiancé Jimmy (Devon Bostick, Flashpoint) are all employed as the crew of the Captain Richard’s (Hugh Thompson, Sea Wolf) fishing boat, the Endorphin (cute). There are all kinds of attitude problems with the crew, the captain himself is surly and unhelpful, and the victim himself has plainly been broken along straight lines, like a rule. Yet Audrey persists in asking questions about “mizzenmasts”, sailing booms, or docking injuries. She simply dismisses the first-hand accounts of the “accident”. Nathan doesn’t even blink when ordered to go “talk to Wall Street”, the other partiers. What kind of slipshod investigation is this?
Having signally failed to gather any clues at all, despite having eyewitnesses available, the pair follow their investigative instincts to – Duke’s bar. Duke knows a little dirt on Richards, but isn’t dishing much, as usual. Meanwhile, another citizen of the town falls victim to this odd phenomenon, only this one is dead—sliced to ribbons, in evenly spaced vertical cuts through the body. Is there anyone left in the audience who does not immediately think “shredder”? Both victims were part of theEndorphin fishing party. Alec was a witness to both incidents. Both victims bear traces of charcoal, which Nathan recognizes as drawing charcoal. We learn, in a trip to the art store, that Nathan enjoys decoupage. Audrey finds this intriguing, and repeats the old bromide about how when one loses one sense (in Nathan’s case, touch), the others “compensate”. This belief, no doubt more comforting to the observer than the observed, persists despite any scientific basis whatsoever, but hey, since when did reality impinge in any way on Haven?
Jimmy bought the charcoal, so we go back to the boat crew. This time, even as Nathan and Audrey interview Jimmy, his mouth and then his eyes simply disappear, leaving only his nose on his otherwise featureless face. Only now do Audrey and Nathan figure out what the audience has understood for awhile now: someone is using art to inflict violence at a distance. Who can it be?
In short order, Audrey and Nathan come full circle to Vickie, the waitress on the boat, eyewitness to the first attack. This is usually the point real-world cops start at—the person who reports/witnesses a crime may very well be the person who perpetrated it. They learn that Vickie teaches art, that her father owes money to Richards, and that a drawing of Nathan found in Vickie’s studio can cause him physical harm. Vickie admits that she is the artist, and that her drawings have some strange power to affect their subject. She is being pressured, by Richards, into using her powers for evil. Audrey and Nathan confront Richards, who has stolen all of Vickie’s work and is using it in the manner of a voodoo hex doll. He’s literally holding the entire town hostage, thanks to a study of the village done by Vickie. What he doesn’t know is that Duke has found Vickie’s sketch of him; when push comes to shove the drawing falls into the water, and by the action of sympathetic magic, Richards drowns on dry land. Jimmy’s face is restored when Vickie sketches his eyes and mouth back in.
This is not smart writing. There is too little police procedure, which would be okay if there was more gee-whiz horror. But there are only two really breath-catching scenes—the original victim being folded like a letter, and Jimmy’s face disappearing. They come too far apart, and are both fairly devoid of any emotional impact other than shock. There’s no threat to our heroes or anyone they care about. Everything takes place in broad daylight. There’s just no horror here. Without horror, we need something else—like competent police work. Which we don’t get. If not police work, maybe we can get emotional drama? But there is no emotional resonance other than friendship between Nathan and Audrey; indeed, Jess Minion is back as a romantic interest for Nathan Wournos. The final scene has Duke acting as sympathetic bartended to Audrey, flirting with her in his usual ham-handed way. She says, re his charm, that she’s starting to come around. Okay, no romance between the main characters, no horror, no solid police or forensics investigation, no sense of wonder. What, exactly, are we supposed to look for in this show? Right now, it’s a mess.
But it’s still a fun mess, I have to admit. It may be incoherent, but the scenery is outstanding, Emily Rose is doing a bang-up job as the feisty Audrey, and some of the dialogue is the best I’ve heard this year. Shows with an improbably premise can be redeemed by excellent dialogue—I’m thinking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Firefly, shows that are the gold standard for characterization and dialogue. I don’t mind being handed lame storylines and rehashed plots, if we get something extra, something special. So far, Haven is giving me a fun hour every week, even if it’s a soap bubble of an episode that bursts upon close examination.
Haven brought in 1.89 million viewers on Friday night, for a 0.7 rating among adults 18 to 49. This is a drop of about 100,000 viewers overall from last week, but a gain of over 25% in the target demographic. So—more young viewers, but fewer viewers overall. Is this good news or bad? I have to say good news, since the name of the game is advertising, not eyeballs. Whether the numbers continue to part directions may depend on how much tolerance those young viewers have for the repetitious nature of this show so far.