Haven is frequently a hit-and-miss show, and it ended its season on a rather dull note—even as it made some major advances in its mythos. So why did this season's overarching story arc fall flat?
It was difficult to watch this season of Haven and not think of last season, which focused on a pair of simple mysteries: finding the Colorado Kid and learning the identity of the Skinwalker. The former was a satisfying piece of Haven lore that poked at the tragedy that is Audrey Parker. The latter was delightfully macabre and made great use of our single-season players. Plus, the two mysteries connected in a neat way that viewers could predict if they were paying attention. Sure, the whole thing ended on a Trouble-ending fakeout, but that's how we get another season in Haven land.
This season, on the other hand, ends on a possible game-changer (although who knows with Haven?), but plodded towards its various revelations with little joy and a weird mishmash of mysticism. Watching the finale, I felt as frustrated with Haven as I ever have. It was a confluence of so many of the things that simply didn't work this season, some of which include Haven's recurring problems:
Short-Term Characters Didn't Have Enough to Do
There's nothing quite like a healthy Big Bad to get a season's juices flowing, but your short-timers should complement your main cast. This season saw the rapid introduction and departure of Wade Crocker, who functioned as a device to rob Duke of the Crocker Curse. There's nothing wrong with having a mechanistic character, but Wade spent so much time relatively off-stage, hanging out mostly with Jordan, and we bade farewell to her and then him just as their stories were getting interesting.
And then there was William. Colin Ferguson spent his first few hours on Haven sitting around talking at a bar, but his appearance in the town as a Trouble-mutating monster was at least promising. But if I saw him standing around that damn field with his box of Trouble goo one more time, I was going to find the filming location and set it aflame. I got the distinct impression that the folks running the show were relying on Ferguson's charisma to carry his story arc. Yes, he got Audrey to screw up a couple of people's lives (notably Duke's) with her unpracticed Troubling, but he seemed so blasé by the end the season that it was difficult to take him seriously as the evil mastermind of the Troubles. He may have managed to release unspeakable evil, but he starts trying to save his own hide far too late in the game. Initially, I thought that he was a trickster god, but he didn't turn out too terribly tricky.
I'm glad Jennifer seems to be sticking around, but I'm bummed that she's been demoted from "charming crazy" to "gal who is led around by a mystical book and makes moon eyes at Duke."
Big CG Special Effects Moments
There were some really great moments in this season of Haven, and they weren't the ones that utilized heavy CG. They were demented character moments (such as the latex surveillance between Jordan and Wade) or well executed bits of creepiness (the child in the football helmet suddenly replaced by his stuffed animal). And the horseshoe crab with human eyes was a nice bit of CG mixed with absurdity. And, actually, this season was blissfully low on the over-the-top CG (although we did get that one episode with the killer blood), but the finale centered a pair of moments around CG. Yes, shooting Vince through Dwight's bullet Trouble was a neat move, but using that CG to highlight that moment in particular amongst everything else was an odd choice. And the "oh shit" moment when we realize that Duke is leaking Troubles felt so generic that it lacked the gravity it was trying to convey, as if the scene was written around the special effect instead of the special effect serving the needs of the scene. I suspect that the special effects budget was bigger for the finale than for other episodes, and that was really to the finale's detriment. Haven is so much richer when the writers find ways to avoid using heavy-handed special effects.
Throwing the Kitchen Sink at Viewers
I was so ready for a big Teagues reveal but when we finally got around to it, I was rather underwhelmed. It's not that I couldn't buy that Dave was adopted or that Haven sits uncomfortably close to some Eldritch dimension; it's that the various revelations didn't have room to breathe. The barn is a nice mystical force because it's a relatively simple image, and while Audrey may have dreaded walking into the barn, it felt like an indifferent force. This season, the mystical forces felt disconnected: the horseshoe crab harbingers, the glowing paperback, the Guard symbol carved into the lighthouse basement, Duke turning into a leaking wound of Troubles, and, of course, the revelation that Dave was adopted—and that he and Jennifer are from another world. Plus, there's the whole business of Audrey being kind of evil, and the fact that we spent part of this hour wrapping up last episode's crying baby Trouble.
Were these things interesting on their own? Sure. But there was just so much stuff that didn't congeal into a unifying story the way that last season's Colorado Kid story did. Of course, that's not to say that Haven's larger mysteries aren't still interesting. I'm curious about the impact of Dave and Jennifer being born in the other world and I'm more curious than ever about the true nature of Agent Howard.
The Trouble with Troubles
As far as I can tell, most every Haven Troubleshooter is consumed by two things: the Troubles and romance. I realize that battling Troubles every week is draining, but if the Buffy kids can make time for non-apocalyptic, non-smooch-related activities, so can the Troubleshooters. Our core cast is getting a bit stale in large part because they seem to have little in the way of inner lives. It's why the introduction of Lexie was such a relief, and why I was so sad to see her go; she had thoughts and concerns beyond the Troubles and her contentious relationship with Nathan was fresh. I can see why Audrey might prefer being Mara to being Audrey Parker; after all, Mara knows how to live.