There can be a fine line between long story arcs and just teasing the audience, as the fans of many famous and frustrating shows will attest. So far, an entire season of Haven plus a new season premiere (July 15, 2011 on Syfy) have gone by, and the only thing that's become clear is how much writer-creators Sam Ernst and Jim Dunn enjoy opening up new cans of worms (and locusts, and hail, and unsightly boils, and so on). Audrey Parker may have been sent to Haven to get to the bottom of things, but, if I were her, I'd be wondering if things in Haven had a bottom at all.
To a certain extent, keeping things unresolved makes good sense dramatically. Obviously the Troubles -- the local Haven, Maine term for the supernatural afflictions the locals have been succumbing to on a weekly basis -- involve a complex and strange series of events and connections, and we know that the current rash of Troubles is closely connected with the previous surge that happened a couple of decades ago. One of the pathways through the series should rightly be methodically exploring those connections and gaining progressively a richer understanding of what exactly is going on in Haven, and how it relates to the increasingly peculiar figure of Audrey Parker.
But Haven is not in any hurry; it seems more interested in adding conundrums than in penetrating them. There's an extent to which this is involving, but a show filled with questions still can't be nothing but questions.
A comparison might help. The big question left over from last summer's season on Warehouse 13 was, Has Myka left for good? (Or, perhaps more reasonably, How long will Myka stay away?) Warehouse -- which is, especially compared to Haven, a paragon of straightforward storytelling -- resolved this interseason frisson in expeditious fashion: despite the presence of a replacement partner already on board, Myka cropped up halfway through the season 3 premiere and by the end she was back on the team. Mystery solved, case closed, on to this year's stuff.
A Shower of (Not Really There) Toads
For Haven, on the other hand, there was a pile of unresolved questions -- the ones involving Duke's foretold death, the role that the sheriff had played in holding the town together, the agenda of the creepy pastor, the connections between the current Troubles and the previous ones, how Audrey was involved in the old Troubles even though she wasn't there, and, oh yeah, who this other Audrey Parker is.
Were these issues addressed in the season 2 premiere? Sure -- by making each of them more mysterious than ever. The Trouble of the Week -- in this case, the biblical plagues being visited on Haven in order -- as usual existed on its own in splendid isolation, a plot unto itself, and, counter to what would expect in an episodic series driving toward the resolution of a long story arc, they contributed not very much to our understanding of what's going on. An illusion of forward progress, at least, is necessary to the forward momentum of a dramatic series.
The biblical plagues of the season premiere also point up the other main problem with Haven, which is its difficulty communicating scale. Haven is a visible low-budget production, and unlike other shows in a similar situation it seems to have trouble escaping the feeling that making this show involves a handful of people roaming the beaches of Nova Scotia with a couple of cameras, and throwing everything else at three overworked CGI guys on borrowed Macs. Combine that with the consistently low energy of everyone in the main cast, and you have exciting things happening on screen in unnecessarily unexciting ways.
Flapping in the Wind
The most frustrating part, in the end, is that the mysteries of Haven are, in fact involving. And there are some answers on the way. The coming second season will involve connections with the late sheriff Wuornos's connections to the Troubles, via a surfacing of an old confidant. Light will be shed on Duke's story through the just-arrived Woman From His Past (who so far seems to have wandered onto the Haven sets from some other show). Over the course of season 2 some questions will be answered. At this point, given the show's track record, I nonetheless feel justified in wondering how many will be answered with more questions.
Haven is the basis for a good series, but it's past the point where the creators should be feeling their ways. The milieu of the show is eerie but also loose, relaxed, and unfocused. If the people behind Haven find a way to tighten the screws on their storylines, they might find that they have a real edge-of-the-seat kind of show going, but it's not there yet.