Based on the first episode, SyFy’s new series “Haven” seems to be the latest in a long line of TV shows heavily influenced by Fox’s 1990s hit “The X-Files.” It certainly rides the same supernatural love train toward an abyss of perpetual mystery and shape-shifting alliances. But it also offers its own fresh take. In this world (based on Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid”), character motivations and histories are murky—and that’s just as the writers intended. While the first episode (premieres July 9, 10pm ET) won’t necessarily blow you away, it certainly creates enough mystery to draw you back in for more. And if the writers do their jobs, viewers will soon get hooked to the narrative. But it will take some patience.
The show gets right to the point: In the first scene, we meet FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose), whose boss rides her for following unlikely leads but then inexplicably sends her to Haven, Maine, to find an escaped murderer. OK, we’ll bite. As she drives into town by herself (no partner?), a massive crack spontaneously forms in the highway in front of her, forcing her off the road and nearly to her death. To her rescue is local cop Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant), who shows up out of nowhere, pulls her from the car and then takes her straight to the escaped murderer who it seems has thrown himself off a cliff to his death. But our Agent Parker smells foul play and can’t resist sticking around to investigate despite the eye-rolling protests of the local police chief.
In case you weren’t tipped off when the road tried to devour our hero as she drove into town, something isn’t quite right about Haven. Two weird guys from the local newspaper keep showing up with unsolicited advice and creepily inform her that she looks familiar. One resident has strange personal-space issues that, when violated, seem to affect the weather. And our accident-prone Agent Parker falls off a pier and nearly drowns, only to wake up naked in the bed of Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour). He claims to have saved her life, but we’re not sure if he’s lying—and something just seems “off” about the guy. Rose certainly brings a fresh take to the FBI agent role. While seemingly tough and smart, she also seems imminently vulnerable and almost glib to the point of distraction. It will be interesting to see how her character evolves in future eps.
This show throws in some interesting but bizarre character complications. For example, Wuornos apparently has a form of autonomic neuropathy, which is a rare but real condition in which you can’t feel sensations such as pain. Yet the condition doesn’t have much impact on the story—at least within the first episode. Perhaps this will become a bigger factor later in the season. In addition, Agent Parker has a mysterious past as an orphan, and it becomes very clear that her long-lost mother has some connection to Haven and/or its residents. Also (and here’s your SPOILER ALERT), it turns out that a woman in town is in fact the one who affects the weather, although she doesn’t know it. But the big climax in which she creates a storm out of thin air is painfully reminiscent of the X-Men comic book character Storm, who can do exactly the same thing and is certainly well known to SyFy’s demo. The episode twist, however, is interesting in that the guy with personal-space issues ends up being there only to misdirect us from the real culprit (and it’s done well), but still… couldn’t we have led with a power not so well known to comic-book fans?
One of the last scenes of the episodes shows Agent Parker’s boss on the phone making several ambiguous statements to an unknown caller—all suggesting that he has placed Parker in the town for a specific reason that will at some point get revealed. It’s unclear whether he’s on her side or plotting her doom, and that’s of course all part of the fun. Haven has a lot of potential, but it could also fizzle. Much depends on how the show and its quirky characters develop in the next few episodes. We’ll be watching.
(Michael Grebb is executive editor at CableFAX).