Syfy, Fridays, 9/10 PM
“The Tides That Bind”
Written by Gabrielle Stanton
Directed by Paolo Barzman
“Your father and Lucy helped a lot of Troubled people. Looks like we’ve been following in their footsteps.” – Audrey
Isn’t it cute when the kids grow up? We’ve pretty much figured this out, oh, back in Season One, but here Audrey Parker sidles up to Nathan and delivers herself of this insight. Wow, what depth of understanding. At the best of times, Haven can be witty and eerie. Then there’s last night: boring and predictable. The only real twist is that the folks who started out as the bad guys wind up as victims of the Troubles – but then, this is Haven’smodus operandi anyway, so it’s not a big surprise.
“For generations, when the Troubles come, all Glendower men lose the ability to breathe air.” — Cole
We do open with a great moment, right out of classic Stephen King: a bunch of kids stand at the end of a dock, chanting. Suddenly they grab one of their members, tie him to a concrete block, and toss him into a lake. Too many re-runs of The Sopranos? Or just a boyish prank gone wrong? A grown man calls them to supper, then stares thoughtfully into the water where bubbles rise and break. This was always the sort of thing King did best – take a Norman Rockwell moment like boys gathered at the edge of a lake in the summertime – and turn it sideways into something terrifying and creepy. I had high hopes. Alas, the grown man is discovered washed up on a shore, Audrey and Nathan quickly discover he’s a member of a reclusive family, the Glendowers, who live in their own compound, and then things just degenerate into a standard police procedural. There’s a tug-of-love between the dead man’s widow and his reclusive family over custody of their son, Daniel. There’s a long-buried secret about Rev. Driscoll and his runaway wife. There’s the shocking revelation that Glendower men are Troubled — like everyone else in Haven. Theirs is a sad mutation that turns the men of the clan into mermen every time the Troubles come around. (The upside of this is that I finally got a link to the mer-people in the credits to the show.) The murder of the drowned man is solved as an afterthought, as Nathan perches on a rock with Audrey and muses on The Nature of Things as the Glendower men, clad in black robes, enter the water.
“Our unity triggers the final Transformation.” — Cole
And not one word about Selkies. In the lore of Celtic lands, a selkie is a mythical creature who takes the shape of a seal in water and a man on land. While ashore, he usually engages in amorous dalliance with a human woman, usually one unhappy with her husband, and then returns to the sea. Recent treatments of the theme in movies include John Sayles’ incomparable Secret of Roan Inish (1994), Neil Jordan’s more modernOndine (2009), and Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989). In this episode, we have a similar theme, with the idea that the Glendowers are descendants of such an encounter, which left the family with a Y-chromosome-linked tendency to turn into sea creatures every few years. My first thought was that the Glendower women had better warn the local fishermen that they may be catching more than cod in their next outing.
“Not what I expected.” — Nathan
This could have been a marvelous and thrilling story, holding all the enchantment and mystery of ancient myth. The elements were there: classic story, supernatural overtones, the ever-changing sea, the dark woods around Haven—boy, what could have been done with that setup. But somehow the writers have reduced these magical elements to the most mundane police procedural ever. All the drama happens off-screen: the discovery that Leith was murdered, his son’s confession to Audrey, and most especially the abduction of the Glendower children. People stand around and deliver lectures to one another: Cole to Nathan, Penny to Rev. Driscoll. The most exciting and riveting action moment is the opening scene. And the writing is dull. What are you going to do with lines like:
Nathan: What are you doing?
Cole: What needs to be done.
Real people don’t talk like that. Well-written fictional characters don’t talk like that. Only soap-opera melodrama characters talk like that. It’s a way of writing dialogue that tells the audience nothing whatsoever, not even the emotional temperature of the scene. It’s paint-by-numbers dialogue, a way to stall for time, filtered through hours and hours of cheesy dialogue from cheesy TV shows. Haven has done better in the past, and should do better again. Apart from a few bizarre action shots of men jumping straight out of the water onto the docks, most of this story was a collection of people talking to one another, or rather, talking to one another without really saying anything. That gets old really fast.
“What you do here today isn’t about the Troubles. It’s about you.” — Penny
I am really getting tired of Stephen McHattie’s character. The dilemma faced by cliché-prone TV writers is almost funny: you want the religious figure to be the bad guy, but you don’t want to offend the religious members of your audience. The solution is, as usual, to have a preacher who never mentions God even once, who spouts philosophy no church would publicly endorse, who confuses the fundamental beliefs of sects as different as Catholicism and the Amish. His Rev. Driscoll is painted as the bad guy in the most clichéd way possible: he’s religious, so he must be a fanatic. While I appreciated that someone was making an effort to explain Driscoll’s actions (anger at being deserted by his wife decades ago), it fell flat. Driscoll came across as confused, not self-righteous, but otherwise undeserving of Nathan’s scorn.
Haven held steady last week at an 0.5 adult share, with 1.7 million viewers. Like this episode, it went nowhere.