Reflections on Season 4 of Haven: Why Audrey Parker Can’t Survive

Screenshot of Haven DVD coverI’m always a week or five behind television serials, having “cut the cord” long ago and fitting the Hulu or Netflix viewing into my free time. All that to say, I just finished season four of Haven over the weekend. I’ve watched Haven since episode one, and I’ve been hooked since then. For those of you who don’t follow, the program is loosely based on Stephen King’s novella, The Colorado Kid. Set in a small town called Haven that is situated in Maine, a town that goes through bouts of supernatural affliction known as “the Troubles” every few years, we are greeted in the first season by Audrey Parker, an FBI agent who is in town to investigate both the troubles and the mystery of what happened to the Colorado Kid.

If you’ve never watched but your interest is piqued, spoilers follow.

We’ve watched with fascination as the supernatural tale of Audrey’s reincarnations has played out, as she searches for her identity and fulfills her calling to save those troubled in Haven from their curses. She’s the “good guy,” the superhero, if you will, to the town, one of a set of influences seemingly placed there by outside forces to keep the evil that is the Troubles as bay, to save innocent lives, to prevent the wrong from wreaking havoc on the right.

Except, in season four, the writers have taken Haven through a fascinatingly new twist in the story arc.

After Audrey seemingly sacrificed herself at the end of season 3 to save the town, we find her returning to a Haven continuously troubled this season, and with others following her back from her extra-dimensional journey, as well. One of these men is evil for the sake of evil, and claims to know who Audrey was before she was Audrey, or any of her previous incarnations. What is slowly revealed over the course of the season is that Audrey has not always been good…in fact, far from it. She and this newcomer, William, originally created the Troubles for the pleasure of watching others suffer, and Audrey is now returned to Haven every few years, without a memory, to save the town as penance for her past wrongs.

So, Audrey is still a hero…just of a sort of Ghost Rider nature, if you will.

The cliffhanger upon which we end season four, as I’m sure you know if you’re still reading, is that Audrey has been overcome by Mara, her original identity who is as evil as one might imagine for someone who made the Troubles, and makes her intention to save William, her true evil love, from the abyss quite clear.

Audrey, it would appear, is gone.

Now, she was gone at the end of season three, as well, but was brought back, and, while I was admittedly incredulous at first, the writers made it work. After all, heroes return from the dead all the time, as any comics fan knows. The writers actually wove quite an engaging web as we watched Audrey slowly re-appear, and I’ve been impressed with Emily Rose‘s range as an actor to give depth to the different incarnations of Audrey Parker as she has.

This time, however, the writers have taken us to only one end result that I can find: Audrey has to die.

I mean, really, though. She has to stay dead, too. It’s the only option.

The reason is the same that led me to be incredulous at the beginning of season three. While I can see ways to bring her back within this story arc, all of them would play a bit shallow, I think, and any of them would make this move about hooking the viewer and bringing in ratings. It would be about continuing the story in a similar formula to which the audience has grown accustomed, and wouldn’t move the story forward. The writers have taken the program in a brilliant direction this season, and have now placed themselves into a corner. They have to let Audrey die and the evil Mara continue, because to do otherwise would be untrue to the story. Television serials are notoriously flippant toward their stories for the sake of return viewers, as we know: House died a slow and miserable death, and Bones lost everything that made it worthwhile three seasons ago. What has to happen here is that Haven has to continue, but without Audrey, because the story is about Haven…just as she and Nathan place the good of their town before their own, so must the writers. The story about Haven needs to continue, and it must go on with Audrey’s death.

Not that I’m happy about this. I like Audrey Parker, and I’ll be the first to say that it’s unbelievably tricky to keep a program like this moving without its protagonist. Yet, that is the challenge that the writers now face. Given what’s they’ve done this season, I know they are up to the challenge. The question is, will they go the way that they must?

Reading, Writing, and Football

Crowd at Memorial Stadium used under Creative Commons

When I was deciding on a college after my senior year in high school, I shopped around. My grades were quite good but not the best, so it’s not like I had my choice of anywhere I wanted to go, but I did have some options. I remember looking at the big university in my state…it was down to two schools at that point…and ruling it out altogether. The reason was that it was well-known as a “party school,” and that wasn’t the vibe that I was looking for.

Blame that partially on the fact that I was the socially inept geek for a great deal of my life, perhaps. I sort of fit in better my junior and senior years, or so I thought, but in reality I had just fallen in with the theatre crowd, so it was just a different sort of geeky. Like it or not, I was simply never destined to be the popular guy with the striking date to the prom.

And, in retrospect, I was okay with that. Even then, I was pretty much okay with that.

In college I was a loner a great deal of my freshman year. Partly this was due to the fact that I just didn’t fit in with that particular school (I transferred to what would become my alma mater at the end of my freshman year), but, for whatever the reason,I was the one who generally walked to class alone. My friends were the people with whom I did shows. Even after declaring a theatre major (what would be one of a few that I would declare in my five year plan), I didn’t really go to many parties.

By the time I was in grad school, I was the one in the library on Friday nights.

While the upshot for me was graduating magna cum laude, I hit a lot of social milestones pretty late…all the way from high school on. It’s just sort of the way it worked out. To be honest, while I don’t for a moment like conformity in any way, I have often secretly been jealous of those more extroverted than myself. They seem to just have more fun in life.

That said, there’s such a thing as too much fun…and I don’t mean that from a moralist point of view. This article¬†about college athletes reading at a 5th-grade level last week was disturbing. Karen is an educator, and she has told me stories of college students so far behind in basic skills it made my jaw drop. She’s not the only one of my friends in academic professions to have told me those stories, either. That sort of makes me concerned about what it is that we’re emphasizing as a culture when we end up in this spot.

I have nothing against athletics, mind you…there was a time when my calendar was blocked off for the beginning of basketball season and I was in front of the television punctually. As horrible as I am with a tennis racket in hand, I very much enjoy playing.

I also have nothing against extroverts…they’re annoying sometimes and have too much influence on the way things are structured overall, but some of my best friends (and wife) are extroverts, and I’ve come to understand them.

I think the issue that’s presented in this article is a lack of balance…emphasizing one thing over another, one aspect of life over another, part of our collective personality over another. Where we end up as a result of this is frightening. I don’t want our daughter to grow up in a world like Idiocracy. I don’t want having read more then ten books in high school to define “well read.” I don’t want deep thought…critical thought…to become extinct. That’s a frightening potential world into which to look.

How to solve the issue? I’m no policy maker, and politics give me a headache. Behind it, though, is a cultural shift, a change in paradigm, in what we emphasize. I wish academic institutions would behave as schools, making academics primary and other activities, such as athletics, secondary. I wish we were less compartmentalized and more open to different disciplines talking to each other. I wish that we didn’t emphasize spectacle over substance.

In short, I wish there was a bit more depth to go around, because I’m embarrassed for all of us when these frightening stories become known.

Photo Attribution: Ian Ransley Design + Illustration under Creative Commons

A Review of “JLA: Liberty and Justice”

JLA: Liberty and JusticeJLA: Liberty and Justice by Paul Dini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let’s get in the way-back machine (well, the sort-of-way-back machine…okay, the one-decade machine, and you can decide whether or not that’s way-back) and talk about a one-shot that Paul Dini and Alex Ross offered, “JLA: Liberty and Justice for All.” This is an over-sized (by that I mean physical page size, not book length…you can easily read this in a sitting) graphic novel that grabbed my attention from the shelves of my local library. This is one of a few over-sized graphic novels to Ross’ credit, and my first real experience with his art, which feels much more like a sequential painting that normal comic book art. This book truly shines because of the art: Aquaman’s face, Batman’s cloak, Wonder Woman’s presence, Hawkman’s and Hawkgirl’s wings as they are in flight. I’ll be the first to say that some of the portrayals of the heroes’ faces aren’t particularly to my liking (Superman looks too old, Green Lantern too conservative), but this is a matter of preference that shouldn’t eclipse the fact that the art in this book is absolutely breathtaking. The final panel in which Superman and the Martian Manhunter hover over the Earth keeping watch is alone worth reading this.

To be fair, I’ve read other reviews that criticize the writing for plot inconsistencies. My primary negative reaction to the writing is the lack of inventiveness in some of the action sequences, an occasionally the dialogue could be more natural, to fit the realistic images of our heroes in the artwork. What I admire in the plot, though, is the fact that it explores important themes about super hero mythology. As hysteria about an alien plague begins to sweep over the world, rioting and chaos break out. The Justice League is forced to turn their powers against those that they have protected before in order to keep peace, and, while they are not violent, the writer explores the public’s feeling of betrayal and stunned silence as the superhuman powers of the Justice League are suddenly not between them and danger, but rather turned toward them. All of us who were “good kids” in school remember the unease as the teacher’s glare was turned upon us for the first time.

As the heroes stand at their press conference to defend their actions, Dini does a fantastic job of making the reader want to take their side, but feel uneasy doing so. In the spirit of another great graphic novel, I found myself thinking during the Manhunter’s closing address, “but who watches the watchmen?”

Superheroes are the powerful, the ones who stand against the evil that we cannot hope to resist ourselves, selflessly acting in our defense when we need them most. That mythology falls apart when their power is turned against us instead, and so that is our tension: we want the heroes to save us, yet we fear of what they are capable should they choose to act selfishly, to cross the line between hero and villain. What Dini does so powerfully here is to underscore that that line…the very definitions of “hero” and “villain”…can be subjective.

Keep in mind, for those of us familiar with the stories, that this is a stand-alone book, outside of the canon of the regular DC story arcs. This book is worth the read for anyone remotely interested in superhero tales and what they mean to the human experience. Any reader will appreciate the themes that are explored in this book.

View all my reviews

2014? When Did That Happen?

Remember some time ago when I talked about how I needed a marker for when one year passed to the next?

The last hours of 2013 were marked by sitting on the sofa with Karen after our daughter was in bed, watching a movie that we have seen numerous times (the fact that it was one of the original Bourne films, it occurs to me, is perhaps ironic considering I reviewed the latest film in the series soon after New Year’s Day in 2013), and allowing maintenance staff for our apartment building in and out in order to coordinate some sort of repair involving a sink and backed-up water in the apartment below us.

I realized that it was 2014 as some fireworks went off outside (New Hampshire is apparently really, really into fireworks). Then I went back to reading as the movie concluded. And, that was pretty much it. No ball dropping, Karen had gone to bed already, no family, no celebrating. Me, a movie, and a good book.

So…I’m old, I guess.

Or, maybe just tired. The thing is, I’m sort of sad that I didn’t really mark the passing of one year to the next, because there’s much to be said for the observance of new beginnings, if for no other reason than the power of hope and possibility. I’m certainly the poorer for not marking that somehow this year. I think that much of the reason is because Karen and I are still settling back into life after an insanely chaotic year of being a full-time student, followed by a career shift that has taken every spare second of my time, it seems, for the eight months following school. The proverbial dust is settling now, however, and I’m already making strides toward the new year. How do I know? I bought a book today, and I read this evening. I haven’t had time to sit down with a novel in…well, I don’t want to contemplate how long it’s been, and I was beginning to come a little unglued over it. I feel as though I’ve become re-acquainted with an old friend. I also see writing time in my future…like actual writing time to finish the novel that I began before our daughter was born and that I’ve put on hold for a year now.

All of these things together would, I’m sure, mark some sort of progress in the goals that I wrote about last year. I’ll let you go back and look at those and make that judgement if you feel so inclined. I’m going to just roll with things this year, as it’s been disconnected anyway. I know, however, that 2014 is going to bring great things.

I know it.

May your endeavors meet with success and your life be blessed in the 364 days ahead.

And next year, I’m going to be more intentional about this.