Haven: Enter Sandman Review
So my return to Haven to finish the series and see more John Dunsworth didn’t get off to the best of starts. My Dunsworth mission actually went worse this week since he and Richard Donat weren’t in this week’s reviewed episode of Haven. Instead, Haven tightened its focus to Audrey and Charlotte in Haven and added another character to Duke’s adventures outside of Maine.
At the end of last week’s episode, Audrey was put to sleep by The Sandman. This week, we open on a very awake Audrey getting ready for her wedding.
What changed in the almost no time between episodes? It turns out that Sandman doesn’t put people into stasis but brings them into a sort of dream world in his mind. He creates it, controls it and inhabits it. With Audrey in his mind, he’s created a world where he and Audrey are getting married at a lovely home on the ocean. It makes me think that I should look for work on the East Coast… Except Maritime winters are supposed to be awful and I already hate the metres of snow I shovel annually.
So how did The Sandman go from imprisoning, so to speak, the ne’er-do-wells of Haven to taking Audrey hostage in his mind and using his Trouble to give her instant Stockholm Syndrome? Well, Audrey was nice to him and he had a crush on her and decided to trap her in his mind so they can live happily ever after. I really wanted to end that description with a question mark because I think I’m right but it doesn’t make sense on paper. Look, it’s a filler episode. At least they explained his Trouble as being a result of Duke’s Trouble bomb and his is one of the few troubles that aren’t annoyingly on-the-nose for tough times people are going through so I’ll give it a pass.
Anyway, the story kind of plays out similarly to other fake world episodes you’ve seen in other TV shows. The fake world starts to show cracks that allow our protagonist to unravel the web of lies around them and escape. The twist here is that Sandman supplements his Audrey fantasy with Grayson (who can now hear and speak) as his best man. He is the first to realize that something was wrong. Charlotte got herself into this world too thanks to a failed but still kinda successful attempted seduction of The Sandman. Failed in that he sees through it but successful in that he brought her into his mind but failed again because he wiped her memory so she was Audrey’s maid of honour.
So rather than the usual twist of the main character trapped in the fake world realizing that there’s something wrong. Grayson realizes something first and gets his brain melted by Sandman when he says something. Then Charlotte remembers that she came into Sandman’s mind to save Audrey. Even then, it took Nathan talking to her from the real world (she can hear him like TV shows happening with coma patients) to help her snap back to reality. When she does realize what’s happening and confronts Sandman about it, his whole world dissolves around him and everyone wakes up. Well, everyone except the Sandman who stays in the fake world that he created to escape the real one. It’s a poetic end to a pretty standard sci-fi trope of an episode.
Meanwhile, in Halifax, Duke is still in his shipping container. Hailie has run off and left Duke to die until Seth of the Darkside Seekers arrives to inadvertently save the day. He was filming an episode about someone who could walk through solid objects in that same storage yard. He happened upon Duke’s shipping container because a security guard saw Hailie walk out of it and the guard never bothered to look inside… That’s convenient for the plot when you look back on it but works in the moment.
However, much like everyone else, Seth doesn’t remember Haven despite multiple visits and his near death experiences there so he doesn’t remember Duke. Despite Duke’s prodding that Seth was at Haven and even filmed an episode of his show there, Seth is convinced that Duke is crazy. I should point out that it’s easy to think that mysterious town that’s vanished from existence would be right in Seth’s wheelhouse but when it’s only one slightly crazy Duke who is the only evidence of the missing town, I can understand why he’s running for safety.
Seth eventually remembers after Duke badgers him enough. The result is the two hatching a plan to go to a black tar (sound like aether) remover in North Carolina. Well, that is until Seth goes to get road snacks from a gas station and forgets everything that happened over the previous half-hour. I get that they’re trying to show how strong the Haven block is but it felt like they were padding out time since Duke basically just carjacked Seth to go to North Carolina. It just padded out the Duke / Seth B-story to add another scene. That couple of minutes could probably have been better spent on the A-story so it didn’t magically resolve itself so quickly.
Overall, Enter Sandman wasn’t a bad episode on its own. Like last week’s episode, establishing death as a possibility gave away the ending. We know that Audrey isn’t going to die and you can only suspend disbelief so much. If Sandman could force people in a permanent sleep or stasis, it opens the possibility for a later rescue / revival so it could happen. It was a beautifully filmed episode that should probably be used for tourist ads for Nova Scotia (so should most of the series) but just like the crowd at the wedding, it was a little empty.
On the other hand, I loved the Duke scenes. Sure, the couple of resets on Seth’s memories was a bit annoying rather than funny as intended. It’s this pairing of Duke and Seth that has me interested going forward as it tears into the lore of Haven (well, the TV show’s lore since The Colorado Kid novella was picked up and dropped inside of Season Three) with this trip to North Carolina. They traced Dave’s origins to there so I doubt it’s a coincidence that Duke and Seth are going there too.
As a part of the overarching story, I’m not really sold on this episode. If there’s one thing that Haven really needed to do after Season 5A, it was tighten the focus of the episodes and writing as 5A’s dependence on two-parters really dragged as those episodes didn’t have 84 minutes of TV but closer to 60 that was padded out to fill two episodes.
Power and Trial worked as standalone episodes but worked as back-to-back episodes in a mini-arc and progressed the season as a whole. Enter Sandman also works as a standalone episode but the Haven scenes didn’t fit when you try to tie them into the stories of the previous two episodes nor the whole 5B story so far. Sure, Duke’s storyline progresses as he inevitably makes his way back to Haven to help out the gang save the town and he needed that progress but this was a filler episode in Maine.
Other random points of note:
- Fun fact: Lucas Bryant directed this episode. I actually think he didn’t do too bad a job with it. I think he is definitely an actor’s director because I think he got a really good performance out of everyone. The close-ups of Nathan and Audrey might have been the only visual misses of the episode.
- Unfortunately, they didn’t get the rights to Enter Sandman by Metallica. Instead, it’s the equally appropriate Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes.
- In going back and reading what people thought about these episodes, I saw a complaint about how believable or not believable Laura Mennell is as Emily Rose’s mother. A little research shows that Laura is all of about 10 months older than Emily. It explains why I thought that Charlotte worked so well as Audrey’s maid of honour.
- Rossif Sutherland played The Sandman in the three-episode trapped in the school arc that started with Power, continued with The Trial of Nathan Wuornos and concluded here with Enter Sandman. Yes, he is a member of the famous Sutherland acting family but while he isn’t as big a name as his father or half-brother, he has picked up a couple of acting awards in Canada so it’s not like he hasn’t succeeded in the family business.
- We got many chopper shots of Halifax harbour and the city to establish the Duke scenes. We’re used to similarly framed shots of Haven (actually the shoreline of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia) when we come back from commercial or establish a new scene. However, we haven’t gotten the shoreline chopper shots of Haven in the last few episodes. It’s the exterior of the school. I wonder if that’s a way of saving money by not needing to do a CGI fog wall around Haven in those establishing shots.
Next week, Audrey and Charlotte get to work on curing the Troubles. Will it work this time? Well, it’s the last season so either the Hunter meteor storm levels Haven once and for all or they’re successful. In the meantime, Nathan and Dwight are up to some police work while the heavy detective work are up to the Brothers Teagues who are trying to find a killer.