So there's this show on SyFy (ugh, that spelling) called Haven. It's pretty great! You should watch it. A LOT.

A few years ago, Stephen King published - it's technically a book? But it's maybe novella-length, so it's a *tiny* book - a story called The Colorado Kid, where a cub reporter in a small Maine town works together with the newspaper's owners to try and uncover a decades-old mystery: Who killed a stranger, known only to the town as the Colorado Kid?

Spoiler warning: they never find out. The point is the mystery, not the solution; it's a nice idea, if ultimately frustrating for most readers. (Are you gonna tell Uncle Steve he can't do that? No. No you're not, and neither am I. Mostly because if I got the chance, I'd start in on the shitty thing he ultimately did to Thad Beaumont. ANYWAY.)

So around 2009, a bunch of people - Jim and Sam Ernst, Lloyd Segan, and Shawn Pillar among them - decided to turn a tiny Stephen King book into a show, sort of. And set it in a town named for the setting of The Tommyknockers, which is one of a series of remarkably creepy King references that pop up. (Seriously. There are essays about this exact thing, which is what happens when your show's creators are King nerds. Anyway.)

***

Haven is, essentially, the story of Agent Audrey Parker (late of the FBI), who comes to town to investigate a missing persons report and kind of...moves there. If that seems sudden, you're not wrong; she comes to town for a case and really never leaves, barring a couple of trips to the mainland, which would be weird on its own. How many people do *you* know who go somewhere for business and end up moving there like three weeks later? (Hilariously, this has actually happened twice.)

It gets weirder when you realize that this particular town is peculiar. See, people in Haven - and outside, but we'll get into that later - are occasionally afflicted with what's come to be called The Troubles: mostly emotion-based, bloodline-centered, sucky superpowers. It's never anything neat like flying or magnetism; these tend to be more like "bullets love me, which I found out when I was serving in Afghanistan" or "I really wanted kids, so at night I turn into a hot 25-year-old version of myself and have a one-night-stand for the purposes of getting pregnant, only for the baby - which I have in, like, two days - to eat his or her father's life-force, turning him elderly and eventually killing him". (This would be why they're not called The Abilities or The Really Useful Things.)

Even weirder, Audrey is immune to most Troubles, making her perfect for calming people down and trying to find a way to mitigate the effects. (Most Troubles, once started, don't shut off until the Troubles themselves eventually end; roughly half can be alleviated to some extent.) Which is what Audrey - along with Deputy Nathan Wuornos, son of the current police chief and the first person Audrey meets in town, and Duke Crocker, local smuggler/small business owner/the second person to save Audrey's life in a 24-hour-period - ends up doing.

That's how it starts. It gets weirder from there. Also, for real, everyone in town owns a gun. EVERYONE. I think babies come out of their moms with teeny-tiny Derringers.


(WARNING: The following sections contain MASSIVE SPOILERS. Read at your own risk; or, you know, bookmark this and come back to it after you've watched the show. You can knock it out in two days; each season is either 12 or 13 episodes, and there've only been three. Season Four starts Friday.)

THE HOLY TRINITY

AUDREY PARKER

Audrey Parker

Audrey Parker - or is she? - arrived in Haven tracking down a former resident of the island, who'd recently escaped prison and killed a guard. Within 24 hours, she'd pulled a gun on a cop - who turns out to be the sheriff's son - almost died twice, got saved from drowning by a smuggler who looks like Eric Balfour, learned that sometimes people in Haven can do extremely weird shit like control the weather when they get pissed, and found a picture on the front page of the local paper that looks exactly like her. Only, you know, from 1983.

That's her first day. It does not get any easier from there.


NATHAN WUORNOS

Nathan

Son of the town sheriff, Nathan's Trouble manifests as idiopathic neuropathy: basically, he can't feel anything. And I do mean anything - not rain, not a paper cut, not getting shot with a nail gun in his left shoulder. You might think this is useful in a fight, and you wouldn't be wrong. On the other hand, it means any time anything even remotely dangerous happens, Nathan has to go to the hospital. (He goes to the hospital a lot.)

Nathan is fascinating, to me, for one very simple reason: he's Dudley Do-Right on the surface, but underneath all that? He is BATSHIT CRAZY. You'd think Duke is the one you have to keep your eye on when shit goes down, and you would be right - unless Audrey's involved. Then Nathan goes and does shit like shooting the avatar of a possible eldritch abomination, because...you know, it's Audrey.

(Nathan really, really likes Audrey. This is not a spoiler.)


DUKE CROCKER

Duke

Described in the show's bible as "a cross between Han Solo and Jack Sparrow", Duke is your basic ne'er-do-well: he has a boat he won in a card game, he regularly ships things of dubious legality--for God's sake, he owns a bar. (He owns the entire building, actually, making him Audrey's landlord; she lives in the apartment above the Grey Gull, since Duke lives on his boat.)

He and Nathan have a rough history. They've known each other their entire lives, and were friends when they were five and on the same Little League team, but after that, shit got...rough, mostly because A) Duke and his friends pulled a shitty prank when Nathan was eight, involving tacks and a girl Nathan liked) and B) Nathan possibly jumped to conclusions when Duke invited him to go fishing a couple of years back, leading to a fistfight that happened to C) trigger Nathan's Trouble into coming back, so. You know. There's that.

It also doesn't really help that Duke's in love with Audrey, too, though both he and Nathan seem weirdly okay with that. Haven is legit the second show, after White Collar, where if it canonically ended in a polyamorous relationship, I'd just nod my head and go, "It couldn't have ended any other way." And I would mean it.


OTHER PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW AT THE START

VINCE AND DAVE TEAGUE

Vince & Dave

Vince and Dave Teague run the local newspaper, the Haven Herald. They seem like nice, slightly dotty old men. They ride bikes everywhere! They are gentlemen bachelor brothers in their waning years!

...yeah, except for how Vince is actually the head of The Guard, the paramilitary pro-Troubled organization on the island. And how Vince and Dave were both involved with Sarah back in 1955. Or how they own about half the island between them, and never tell anyone anything, because they are SORT OF AWFUL.

Pretty much everyone wants to strangle them at one point or another, including the audience. They are great. I mean, for dicks.


GARLAND WUORNOS

Garland

Garland, the town's former sheriff - and Nathan's dad - has it rough: the Troubles are coming back, including his own, and Audrey Parker's just come to town. Which would be fine, except Audrey Parker's the spitting image of Lucy Ripley, who helped Garland with the Troubles in 1983, and who he was possibly in love with at the time of her disappearance. Oh, and he's been lying to Nathan about his parentage for basically his entire life.

You know. Little things.

Ultimately, Garland sacrificed his life to save the town from his own Trouble; he's been back twice, once as a ghost and once in an alternate reality. (Also, he is played by Nicholas Campbell, which means he is fucking amazing.)


DWIGHT HENDRICKSON

Dwight

The town's fixer. Dwight's Trouble kicked in at the worst possible time: while he was serving in Afghanistan. He found out about Haven and moved there, joining the Guard, but decided to leave when he found out they were as much about permanently handling threats as they were protecting the Troubled. That...didn't end well; during a shootout with the Guard, his daughter Lizzie's Trouble - the same as his own - kicked in, and she was fatally wounded.

He's been a vocal opponent of them ever since, in addition to being Haven's "fixer": the man who cleans up the mess the Troubles leave behind, so as not to scare the mundanes.


AGENT HOWARD

Agent Howard

Audrey's boss at the FBI. Did I mention he was also Sarah's boss in 1955? And that he's the avatar of a possible eldritch abomination? Or that Nathan shoots him LIKE A FUCKING BOSS?

Yeah, dude. Shouldn't have done the Villain Gloat (tm John Rogers).


REVEREND ED DRISCOLL

The Rev

You know it's Stephen King, because there's weird oppressive religious shit going on in a small town in Maine. ...no, but kind of.

A threat in Season 1 and the Big Bad for Season 2, Rev. Driscoll - or as he's known around town, "the Rev" - firmly believed all Troubled people were cursed by God, because he's that guy. And he's not afraid to show it, either, usually by violence or really dicky sermons. (I'm not going to lie; one of the best parts of S2 is watching a whole year of him and Nathan giving each other the stink-eye so hard it's audible through the screen.)

He was killed by Audrey, who was defending Troubled teenage girls at the time, but that didn't stop his ghost from coming back and trying to get people killed. Because he's an asshole.


DETECTIVE TOMMY BOWEN

Tommy

Tommy wasn't all that different from Audrey - he came to town investigating another crime, and ended up staying...only not really, because shortly after he arrived in Haven he was killed (and replaced) by the Bolt Gun Killer. Which is really sad, because Tommy was great. Anyone who gives the Teagues the business gets my vote.


DR. CLAIRE CALLAHAN

Claire

A psychiatrist who lived in Haven and mostly worked to help contain the Troubles, Claire because Audrey's dear friend in S3. Unfortunately for her, that made her a prime target for the Bolt Gun Killer, who killed her and replaced her.


JORDAN McKEE

Jordan

Jordan, like Dwight, moved to Haven because she was Troubled - the touch of her skin to anyone else's causes them incredible pain - and, like Dwight, she joined the Guard. And that's where the similarities end; Dwight got disillusioned fairly fast, but Jordan remains a loyal member, even creating a YouTube account for the purposes of trying to bring non-resident Troubled to Haven. Things were even looking up when she and Nathan - the only person who could touch her, as his Trouble essentially cancels out hers - started dating.

That didn't last too long, as much because Nathan still loves Audrey as because of the time Jordan (and the rest of the Guard) tried to use a Troubled girl to mind-control Nathan into making sure Audrey went into the Barn. She was last seen shooting Nathan when he made a move towards "Howard" at the end of last season, just before Duke shot her in defense of Nathan. Odds are she'll be back (said the girl who's already seen a couple promos with her in them).


TWO LADIES WHO MIGHT LOOK FAMILIAR

LUCY RIPLEY

Lucy

The 1983 iteration of Audrey Parker, we don't know a hell of a lot about Lucy Ripley. She worked with Garland in much the same way Audrey does with Nathan, trying to alleviate the Troubles; she knew James Cogan well enough that he suspected her of being the one to kill him. (So did Simon Crocker's ghost; apparently Lucy was really busy in 1983.) She's also the one who left the message about the Hunter meteor shower on the bottom of James' grave for Audrey to find in 2010. According to James, Lucy also figured out how to permanently end the Troubles.

The day she vanished, she was photographed for the cover of the Haven Herald at the discovery of James' body. She was also holding nine-year-old Duke's hand; both Duke and his babysitter, Vanessa - also present in the photo - have no memory of this.

Dear writers: pls to be telling us more about Lucy in S4, because REALLY NOW.


SARAH VERNON

Sarah

The 1955 iteration of Audrey Parker, Sarah Vernon came to Haven as an Army nurse alongside Stuart Mosley - Troubled and shell-shocked from Korea - and spent her first day in town killing Roy Crocker in self-defense (thanks, Duke) and getting pregnant with the Colorado Kid (thanks, Nathan). She was out of the barn for what looks like a year - possibly? Look, Haven math is goddamn terrible, just go with it - thanks to her pregnancy, and in that time she was involved romantically with both Vince and Dave Teague (though it's fairly evident that they were more invested than she was).

She turned infant James over to the Cogans to raise him before she returned to the Barn, effectively vanishing.


A COUPLE OF PEOPLE WHOSE NAMES ARE SORT OF IMPORTANT

AGENT AUDREY PARKER/AUDREY II

Audrey II

The original Audrey Parker - the one whose memories *our* Audrey's are based on - arrived in town trying to figure out why this blonde woman was running around, claiming to be her. The two actually ended up friends...until Audrey II went into the Barn, and left without nine-tenths of her memories. She was escorted back to Boston by her boyfriend (one of the few things she managed to remember), a potent reminder that You Do Not Fuck With the Eldritch Abomination Otherwise Known As The Barn.


OTHER PEOPLE IMPORTANT TO THIS STORY, BUT NOT RIGHT AWAY

MAX HANSEN

Max was Troubled; worse, Max was trouble: he tried to kill Vince Teague, and committed any number of crimes...before Garland Wuornos straight-up framed him for murder and sent him to jail for a good fifteen years, because A) Max Hansen was an asshole and B) Max Hansen physically abused his wife and son. And Garland said, "That's enough of that," and promptly adopted Max's son.

Always remember: Nathan's inherent sense of justice and fairness comes from Garland, but the crazy? That's pure Hansen.

He returned to Haven after he was paroled, looking for revenge against Garland (and Vince) and to reconnect with his son - who had no idea who he was, thank God - only for Garland to "accidentally" open up a crack in the earth and swallow him whole.


JAMES COGAN/THE COLORADO KID

James

James Cogan came to Haven from Colorado in 1983, trying to discover his birth mother. Along the way, he married a local girl named Arla, who was herself Troubled - though she didn't know it at the time - and ended up dead about the same time Lucy Ripley had to return to the Barn. Of course, it didn't stick, because Haven, but that's not for lack of trying on someone's part. (James thinks it was Lucy, but that doesn't quite parse, for a variety of reasons.)

James has apparently spent the last 27 years hanging out in the Barn, being pissed at Lucy Ripley and not having informative conversations with Agent Howard. Not that I blame him; for an avatar of an eldritch abomination, Agent Howard is a dick.

Oh, did I mention his birth parents are Sarah and a time-traveling Nathan? Yeah.


ARLA COGAN/THE SKINWALKER/THE BOLT GUN KILLER

Arla

As is the case with most Troubles, Arla Cogan's had a shitty emotional trigger: the murder of her husband, James, whose name was lost to history as The Colorado Kid.

And then, because fate is a dick, Arla's Trouble? Made her skin fall off.

...of course, it also made her functionally immortal, as long as she kept jumping bodies, and sort of drove her crazy enough to murder townsfolk to get body parts (including Claire and Tommy) to make a double of her old body so she wouldn't be unrecognizable on the off chance her dead husband was alive inside the Barn - but again, this is Haven. It's in the top three shitty Troubles, yeah, but you could make an argument as to who has the worst.

Also, you know, she MURDERED A LOT OF PEOPLE.


A COUPLE OTHER THINGS

THE BARN

A possible eldritch abomination that shows up every 27 years, just long enough to spirit away whoever currently looks like Audrey Parker. We have no idea why it's there, what Audrey's connection to it is, what Howard's connection to it is, or even why sometimes it lets in other people. We just know that when it shows up, bad things are afoot at the Circle-K.


THE GUARD

A mysterious organization introduced fully in season 3, The Guard exists to protect people with the Troubles, mostly from outside threats. Most of what they do seems to involve smuggling Troubled people to Haven, but they also seem really, really interested in Audrey going back in the Barn to make the Troubles go away. They're not above committing murder to get what they want, either from their members or outsiders. They're actually pretty easy to spot; all members of the Guard have a tattoo on their inner forearms of a labyrinth with four people, one at each entrance. According to Duke, someone with the Guard tattoo is supposed to kill him one day.

Its leader, as it turns out, is Vince Teague; Jordan appears to be his second, or fairly high up in the command structure, and Dwight was once a member. They all reeeeeally hate Duke, what with that whole "kill someone Troubled in a family and make the entire bloodline Trouble" disappear thing.

***

This is by no means a totally informative primer; some things are best discovered for yourself, after all. It's also not a comprehensive guide to the Troubles. Where else could a woman whose emotions control the weather live two blocks down from a man who sends people through time when he gets upset, and two miles from the guy whose house ate him because he liked it too much? This isn't even getting into the merpeople, the lady who only eats cake, and the whole "babies ate my life-force" thing. ALL OF THESE THINGS REALLY HAPPENED, OKAY.

--seriously, Haven is amazing. It's funny, smart, occasionally mean, violent (EVERYONE OWNS A GUN. EVERYONE), crazy, layered, and capable of both timeline math that makes no sense (seriously, figure out when Simon Crocker died. Just try) and emotional honesty that makes you burst out crying. The first episode I ever watched all the way through was last season's finale; didn't know half of what was going on, but I was crying so hard I couldn't see. That's effective TV.

As with any pimp post, I freely admit I could have gotten something wrong; if I did, feel free to leave corrections in the comments--or post other things you think people should know, whatever.

Season Four starts Friday, September 13 - I KNOW - at 10 PM EST. Now with 100% extra Colin Ferguson!
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