Episode 3.12 Writers: Gabrielle Stanton Director: Lee Rose
THE ONE WHERE A troubled man turns his old high school nemeses back into teenagers when murdering them, and the Skinwalker is revealed to be Arla, the Colorado Kid’s troubled wife.
VERDICT In the arc-heavy second half of season three, Haven has a little pause on the eve of its finale to remind us that its used to be a more formulaic freak-of-the-week show. And while this makes “Reunion” a slight disappointment after such a great run of episodes, it’s not a complete relapse. Not just because the story’s structured in classic Smallville style (wrapping up the freak-of-the-week plot up with 10 minutes to go, allowing for the arc plot to kick back in and set next week’s events in motion) but because if this particular procedural plot had been in season one or two, it would have been one of the better episodes.
To be honest, the central conceit is no great shakes: the troubled guy’s power to revert himself and his victims to teenagers seem irrelevant beyond the fact that he suffers from amnesia after it happens, which handily means he has no idea what he’s doing*. He could just as easily have killed his class mates without all the teenage-reversion shtick, but then Audrey and Nathan wouldn’t have known he was troubled. The power’s not even consistent; the first guy becomes a teenager after he’s been killed and the two potential victims in the boiler room don’t become teenagers before the boiler explodes, so presumably victims only become teenagers when killed… but Duke becomes a teenager and he survives. But this is Haven where logic laughs in the mirror at the face of logic, then transmogrifies into a dream-shitting giant snake or somesuch.
(•Incidentally, the “he’s not really responsible for his own actions” get-out clause allowed for the reintroduction an old bug bear with this show: Audrey is so sympathetic to the plight of the troubled she often lets potentially dangerous people off the hook at the end of an episode, with little more than fingers crossed that their trouble won’t kick in again… But as we said, this episode is almost nostalgic in the way it embraces old-school Haven, so we’ll let it slide for old times sake.)
But the investigation itself is handled well, and once again, some good casting of the guest characters helps. Jeanine is a great character, and her daft Trouble – all food she touches turns to cake – is a lovely instance of the show gently sending itself up. Teen Duke is lots of fun, there are lots of great lines (“Mean girl, class dork, prom queen, although it looks like she’s gained a few pound – Haven High’s own little Breakfast Club”), the school reunion clichés are cleverly given a bit of a twist and the “culprit” – although obvious from about three scenes in – is made slightly more memorable than usual by making him an irritating motivational lecturer (which also means Nathan and Audrey can raise the odd sarcastic eyebrow for cheap but value-for-money comic effect).
In other words, what the show seems to have learned is that instead of treating its absurd central premise with pompous seriousness, it can be a hell of a lot more fun if it embraces the weird and ups the quirky ante.
As far the arc plot goes, it’s pretty much one MAJOR REVELATION at the starts and an infodump of multiple mini-revelations at the end. So, the Skinwalker is actually Arla – James’s wife – and she’s been creating that pick’n’mix skin from the faces of various murdered lasses all season so that she can look like Arla again. It’s a great idea, and the sequence when she puts the Arla mask on for the first time is well achieved. But that makes Audrey Arla’s (sort of) mother-in-law, and like in all great British sitcoms, they don’t exactly get along like a house on fire.
The long scene at the end with Arla filling in Audrey about her past and revealing that James is in the teleporting barn may drag on a bit, but it’s packed with “oooh” and “aahh” moments, so we’ll forgive it. Along with the final shot of Agent Howard and James emerging from the barn, it makes sure you’ll be tuning in to see what happens next.
TRIVIA The two songs we hear playing at the reunion are “Lovefool” by the Cardigans and the ghastly “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men.
TEENAGE KICKS Jake Stern puts in a great performance as the young Duke despite looking nothing like we expect Eric Balfour looked as a teenager. He has the mannerisms so spot on, you soon stop wondering what’s happened to Duke’s signature Bruce Forsyth chin and just accept that this is Duke.
THE UNTOLD STORY The newspaper report Vince is reading reflects what’s going on in the plot in the first column, but seems to morph into another story entirely by the second column – something about a girl being raped and then poisoned to induce a miscarriage. Does this rings any bells with anybody? Something from Stephen King? The phrase “at the end of the series” makes us wonder if it’s an episode guide to something?
TIMING IS EVERYTHING There’s a bit of a return to old school Haven with a really syrupy speech at the denouement with Jeanine revealing she actually always fancied class geek Robbie. Cut to teen-Duke looking like he’s about to throw up, which you momentarily think is some post-modern comment on the schmaltz you’ve just had to witness. But no, he’s just changing back into adult Duke.
CRUEL DUKE How mean is Duke to Jeanine? When she was a prom queen he used to flirt with her. Now she’s put on a few pounds he comes across really shallow. “That’s the good thing about reunions – the chance to make some new memories,” she says, hoping to rekindle the flame. “But the old ones were so nice,” moans Duke. Sizist! She’s still pretty cute!
CALLOUS NATHAN Nathan decides that the reunion should go ahead, even after he and Audrey have worked out that the killer is murdering his old class mates. Which basically means Nathan is using the partygoers as human bait. The rotter.
BEST LINE Nathan: “What’s your trouble?” Jeanine: “Cake.” Nathan: “Excuse me?”
Haven season three currently airs in the UK on Syfy, Tuesdays at 9pm