Haven/Season Five, Part Two (2015)
“What about you? Are you even real? ‘Cuz I don’t think this is something the real Duke Crocker would do. He was kinda a dick.”
-One-time Haven Sheriff Dwight Hendrickson to the helpful ghost of what was once the (supposed) town ‘bad boy’ Duke Crocker
Finally. Finished. The last thirteen episodes checked off (with this fifth and last season somehow coming in at twenty-six episodes over two years – uh… by anyone’s current measure that’s actually two seasons!).
As I’ve been saying about the show from its first season, while it might have had F-all to do with the short Stephen King novel from which it stole its name (and I don’t care how many times they reference a King book, or plant an actual book of the author’s on a shelf in the background, what’s been done here is pure monetary thievery, calling it ‘based on a Stephen King novel’ with zero intention of even remotely adapting the actual book!), it certainly had promise with its evocative setting (a coastal New England fishing town) and intriguing premise (a small group of characters, with each intrinsically and mysteriously linked to the town, investigate why the inhabitants are afflicted with various destructive supernatural ‘Troubles’, an event that occurs every twenty six years, passed down within select families, rumored to be connected to nefarious Lovecraftian-like Old Ones who traverse trans-dimensional portals of time and space).
And with the “X-Files”-like narrative structure of much of the show (merging a monster Trouble of the week with the overarching “Black Oil’ like narrative, with Haven eventually settling on its very own black goo – namely Aether, the mysterious substance ultimately revealed as the very essence of the Void between worlds, as well as the deepest source of the Troubles themselves) being conceptually appealing, with the show even managing some nicely evocative imagery along the way (a group of Troubled water-breathing children disappearing beneath the waves, as their solemn parents watch from the shore comes immediately to mind, but there’s more), an admirably clever use of time travel in a number of episodes, and even two or three really stand-out (dare I say… brilliant?) eps that effectively rely on the more tongue-in-cheek aspects of the main characters, creating something approaching the best of the more outwardly amusing elements of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (the Christmas in July special episode comes to mind, by far my favorite episode of the entire show, as well as an enjoyable body-swapping episode between recurring characters Vince and Dave Teagues, two inseparable eccentric brothers who have run the town’s newspaper for years — hence, are privy to all the secrets — and all the little hidden things they learn each has been keeping from the other).
Throw in the consistent device of identity-shifting plotlines, and, geez, you’d think I would have loved the show. But if you’re the two or so people who have actually been reading my posts on each season (well, I know there’s at least two – me and the main Offscreen editor, who is kinda forced to read ‘em), you’d know better. For while the show might have nothing to do with the original tale, one thing it does share with the author is King’s gag-inducing penchant (with this leaning increased with time to the level where I’d say it pretty much has defined his work for the last three decades) for creating his characters and a world-view along the most saccharine-sweet, Hallmark Card-level of ultimately audience-pandering, status quo-sucking ‘likeability’ lines. Maybe this was always the case and I was too young to realize it, but with his black-and-white underlying Christian view of a just (and liberal) Universe, no wonder he’s the bestselling author of all time. Why wouldn’t the masses love a guy so determined to tell them how underlyingly good they all are?
I mean, every time I wilfully overcome my contempt and allow myself to enjoy, say, some more interesting development in the story, such as the desperate townspeople, all gathered at the local school, waiting with terror for the dark to come and literally devour them alive (part of a Trouble from an unknown townsperson), en masse suddenly deciding to irrationally focus their fear on ex-cop hero Nathan (Lucas Bryant, whose constant attempts at smouldering intensity constantly reveal him to be the second-tier TV actor that he is), lathering up that good ol’ deep-down very human mob desire to lynch somebody… then my contempt quickly returns, confirmed by the arrival of another hero, Sherriff Dwight (Adam “The Edge” Copeland) who delivers another of the show’s patented insipid hero moment speeches that restores everyone’s humanity. Gag. Where’s Rod Serling to introduce some Monsters on Maple Street when you need him? Oh, that’s right. His contempt for humanity was so overwhelming he drank and smoked himself to death by the age of 50. Ah, the injustice.
Even the potential masterstroke of unveiling William Shatner as Croatoan, the monstrous baddie who has been behind all that Troubles the town, a move that spoke to all sorts of wonderful potential, such as excitingly absurd tantrums from the notorious scenery-chewing ex-Captain of the starship Enterprise, ended up nowhere, with Shatner playing it all relatively subdued and even ends up like everyone else in the show, saved, in that King-favored fashion of him re-finding his humanity (and he’s not even human, for fuck’s sake), usually through ‘love’ (and I mean, barely-earned love, as I don’t believe in any of the romantic entanglements on the show – again, because the lead actors don’t really have the weight to express it to us).
It reminds of that quote above, told by Sheriff Dwight (who, by the end, is gifted, like all the characters, with the the reincarnation of his dead daughter for all his oh-so-good-guy troubles and non-rousing speeches that save the town), to the ghostly apparition of the deceased town ‘bad boy’ Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour, more second tier actors for the “Haven” collection) – and I use quotes around ‘bad boy’, because with as much as they show us Crocker has a heart of gold under that supposed rebel exterior, he might as well be the town’s Mother Theresa – as Crocker walks away (after having, of course, done another good deed), seemingly headed for the afterlife (another annoying trope that resonates with the world of King – the comfort that we have nothing to fear from death, that a Heaven-like afterlife awaits)… which had me shaking my head. I mean, everyone in the town might have said it repeatedly… but when exactly was Crocker ever shown on the show as a dick?
If there was any possibility of the show ending on a high note, leaving me with a good taste in my mouth, nope, the showrunners reminded me of all that’s wrong with their universe. The conclusion consists of an insufferable twenty or so minute (it feels that long anyway) closing narration, provided by Nathan, meant to be heartwarming that comes across as incredibly pretentious (again, King might have had nothing to do with the show, but Haven was all about bringing out the worst of his maudlin tendencies, as I believe his own self-written “Storm of the Century” miniseries – one of those horribly mediocre King television events that dominated the late 90’s into the early aughts — ends exactly this way), with the imagery showing us how happily everything is returned to the town, with true love conquering and the bad guys either vanquished or transformed into good.
Mind you, I have no problem with happy endings (and I’m not just talking about the ones at the massage parlor). Only, like downer endings, they simply have to be earned. Haven never had the depth to earn any of it. These characters weren’t Martin Luther suffering passionately and terribly with his faith in order to become a true believer. No. It’s a bunch of soft do-gooders, rewarded during their struggles, and right after as well. They all like themselves way too much in this corner of the world. For me? Give me any show, supernatural or otherwise, trying to have resonant emotional depth and If I was the writer I’d ask… what would Rod Serling do? Or William Friedkin even? And there the answer lies.
So, it’s over. Now time to get back to my regularly scheduled Stephen King retro viewing list (I know, I grouse a lot, but there’s still some gems to be found ahead! Those early SK books – and films – certainly had some grandiose and grand guignol magic in them!). And all those other retros I still have going concurrently as well… and do wanna get back to that last season of Miami Vice (because if it’s anywhere near as off-the-hook mental as the fourth jump-the-shark season, it’s gonna be a lot of fun).