Haven: The Complete First Season Review

Syfy’s new series Haven has a lot working for and against it. On one hand, it’s a supernatural serial based on a Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid” in the vein of X-Files and Twin Peaks. On the other hand, it’s beginning its run on "The X-Files" legacy just as Fringe, which got off to a rocky start, has officially come into its own and has proven it can be great. Running up against Fringe while attempting to honor the legacies of the X-Files and Stephen King’s particular brand of eerie, Haven has big shoes to fill, and it succeeds more often than not with some decently fleshed out characters and penchant for matching its tendencies to ask and answer questions in equal measure.

FBI Special Agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) arrives in the small town of Haven, Maine to investigate the death of an ex-convict only to set off a series of events that reveals the town’s hidden history of freak occurrences. Pyrokinesis, musically-triggered psychosis, killer shadows, shapeshifters, and other unexplained phenomena begin popping leading Audrey to take an extended leave of absence from the FBI to hang around Haven and work with Police Officer Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant) to solve each case as she investigates the existence of a woman who could be her mother at the center of a famous photo of the huge event that has since informed the town’s approach to all things out of the ordinary: ignore them. Helping Audrey and Nathan is local smuggler Duke (Eric Balfour) and post-mortem examiner Julia (Michelle Monteith).

Just as X-Files had an overarching mythology of an alien invasion conspiracy and Fringe has one based in concepts of an alternate universe, Haven’s long-form story is about a series of happenings nicknamed “the troubles” the cause of which is unknown, but manifests in unexpecting souls who choose to use them for purposes of varying moral justifications. Audrey’s involvement with them initially seems as simple as a predilection for the supernatural in a job where the cases never enter the realm of the strange, but as her connections to the town of Haven become more clear her motivations shift.

Unlike Fringe, Haven had Stephen King’s novel to inform its overall direction from day one and the result is a much more focused chain of events and a much more intricately connected web making each episode’s references to past events increase the impact of future events. The downside of Haven’s structure is that its overarching story necessitates each episode being a monster-of-the-week episode, whereas Fringe and X-Files had formulaic episodes that served as interludes between the heavier mythology episodes. It’s not until the final episode of the season that it strays from its basic formula, but it offers a promising future for the series and seems like it will rely less on the repetitive nature that carried it through its 13-episode setup season.

Haven’s tone has a prevalently playful tone to it. First, Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant and Eric Balfour have a great chemistry, with Balfour and Rose playing the comic edge to Bryant’s icier straight man. Second, the show isn’t above to insinuating that it exists in the same universe as both the X-Files and all of Stephen King’s other novels, with references, both subtle and overt, popping up repeatedly. In the case of the King references it’s just straight out fun and a good easter egg for fans of his work, but the X-Files nods feel like a requisite show of respect for the show whose fingerprints will forever shape every show like it to follow. In terms of King references, the Misery wink was easily one of the best.

The series is shot beautifully and certain scenes look absolutely pristine when viewed off Blu-ray on a great screen. The show has a great aesthetic to it overall, and it uses special effects sparingly because its budget isn’t so high as to give them the option of top-shelf effects, but even then, they’re never so glaringly bad in HD as other films or series with bad effects have been.

Haven is like X-Files- or Fringe-Lite, but with a greater emphasis on entertainment. It’s worth seeking out if you’re looking for another paranormal show to fill out your weekly TV quota, and the Blu-ray presentation definitely adds to the allure.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

All but four of the episodes have audio commentaries, and some even have two. The featurettes include a look at the town of Haven, the show’s evolving mythology, and the special effects used to create “the troubles” and the mysterious cracks that appear all over town. Cast interviews and behind-the-scenes videos with the primary trio round out the more substantial extras, with a look at the ideas floating around for the second season serving as a sort of sneak peek.

"Haven: The Complete First Season" is on sale June 14, 2011 and is not rated. Drama, Sci-Fi. Directed by Tw Peacocke, Tim Southam, Rachel Talalay. Written by Jim Dunn, Sam Ernst, Stephen King. Starring Eric Balfour, Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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