Haven: The Complete First Season DVD Review

By David Wharton 2011-07-14 13:07:56 discussion comments
Haven: The Complete First Season DVD Review image

If you came into the Haven television series expecting a faithful adaptation of Stephen King's short mystery novel The Colorado Kid, then you may have been a little surprised, and possibly even disappointed. But if you come into it with an appreciation for the world-weaving and characters that make up the entirety of Stephen King's work, you should be more than pleased with the quirky little Maine town that's been created for your viewing pleasure. The show pulls off all the small-town charm and personalities that fans have come to expect from King's stories, but more importantly it infuses the town of Haven with more layers of mystery than you can imagine.

As the series begins, the supernatural abilities that most people in town seem to possess, and have successfully suppressed until now, are starting to emerge and become a problem for the community. This, as we come to learn, is a sign that "the troubles" are back. This has happened before, but why are they back, and what does it mean?

The heart of the series is ultimately at the heart of the biggest mystery. She's also new to town, thus providing our outsider's view. It's a lot to put on one pair of shoulders, but Emily Rose proves more than up to the task as FBI Agent Audrey Parker. It may have been a routine case that drew her to Haven in the first place, but there's something else that's keeping her there. Something she's not even sure about, but it has a lot to do with an old photograph of a woman named Lucy who looks remarkably like her.

Audrey knows nothing of her own past, so this surprising link to a woman who could be her mother is enough of an impetus for her to ultimately set up shop in Haven and start helping out local law enforcement with these pesky weekly supernatural phenomena. There she partners with Nathan (Lucas Bryant), son of the local sheriff, who may be more (and less) than he seems. His "affliction" is that he cannot physically feel anything at all, but the root of this is yet another mystery. The core trio is rounded out by an importer/smuggler/pirate, played with unexpected depth by Eric Balfour. It's not that I didn't expect him capable of depth, but that he seems to have pulled more into the character than he was given.

In fact, the character arc for Duke is so far the most disappointing, as you've got a great actor in Balfour and yet he's given so very little to do most weeks. It's indicative of the show having spent so long on their "monster-of-the-week" format, as if afraid any deeper interconnectivity between episodes would drive their viewers away. Syfy has found success of late with lighter and fluffier fare, and so Haven premiered with that formula firmly in place. But they also slowly revealed deeper connections, started peeling back layers to those secrets, and peaked in the season finale when they quite simply blew all of our minds. And to think it all started with that photograph. If the second season can continue with that momentum, this could emerge as one of the all-time great sci-fi/fantasy television series.

While there are commentaries on 10 of the 13 episodes, with two featuring two separate commentary tracks, the season finale track is especially fun as it was recorded after they knew they'd been picked up for a second season. And with so much of that finale feeding into the future of the series, it offers a great insight into the episode, how the actors played certain scenes, and a nice overview of the experience of creating the show. Follow that up with the five-minute sneak peek into "Season Two," and you'll be itching for the season premiere on Friday, July 15th at 10PM ET.

The remaining extras offer a fairly extensive look at the making of Haven, particularly the almost 20-minute-long "Welcome to Haven," which takes us through the notion of expanding this Stephen King novel into what would become Haven, finding the Nova Scotia locales that breathe life into this small town, and looks at the casting of the main characters. "VFX of Haven" reveals that special effects are used even more extensively than what might appear on the surface, with the creators more excited about the VFX we don't know are there than the more obvious uses.

"Mythology of Haven" teases about all the crazy ideas that have gone into the series, most of which we apparently haven't seen yet -- they're already imagining 100 episodes of this show! -- while a series of video blogs take us into various scenes as they're being filmed. A little more on the bland side are cast interviews with Rose, Bryant, and Balfour and the trailer for season one. It's a pretty comprehensive package of extra features that collectively offers so much insight into the making of the show that you can imagine yourself on set during filming, aware of all the nuances and tricks that are happening. If you're an enthusiast of how science fiction television is put together, it's well worth spending a few hours exploring these discs after you watch the season.

While season one is a bit uneven at times, we can forgive it because the same can be said for The X-Files, Fringe, and any other series that has trod this familiar ground. This is where they worked out the kinks, and while the formula may get a little tiresome through the middle part of the season, there's enough building throughout to keep you slogging through. And at only 13 episodes, it doesn't take long to get to that very well put together and compelling season finale that should finish the job of hooking you on Haven for good.

Length: 572 min.
Rated: Not rated
Distributor: Entertainment One
Release Date: 6/14/11
Starring: Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant, Eric Balfour, Nicholas Campbell
Directed by: Adam Kane, Tim Southam, Rachel Talalay, Keith Samples, T.W. Peacocke, Ken Girotti, Rob Lieberman, Rick Rosenthal, Lee Rose, Mike Rohl, Fred Gerber
Produced by: Charles Ardai, Stefanie Deoul, Ginny Jones Duzak
Written by: Jim Dunn, Sam Ernst, Ann Hamilton, Matt McGuinness, Nikki Toscano, Jose Molina, Charles Ardai
Visit the Haven Official Website
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