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Heather’s 2012 TV Goodness All-Stars: Haven’s Eric Balfour 

Photo credit: Syfy
Photo credit: Syfy

Y’all know that Haven is near and dear to me. I’m usually the first person to flail madly when TPTB on a show switch up something that isn’t broken, and this season, Haven did that but I didn’t flail. Nathan and Audrey were the core of the first two seasons, nearly driving Lucas Bryant and Emily Rose into the ground in the process. So, this season, they added a few new characters to round out the workload, and Duke moved more front and center, especially as an ally to Audrey when plot developments kept her away from Nathan. In doing so, TPTB finally took the reins off Eric Balfour and let everybody see how awesome he is.

I’ve been a fan of Balfour since the Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot, way back there in 1997. Unfortunately, Balfour wasn’t a regular, but the upside is that he did get to go off and build an impressive range of pretty fearless film and TV work and I was so happy for him when he landed at Haven. While Duke wasn’t written for him, he’s made the character wholly his own, and in real life, he’s a super chill friend to the fans, taking to Twitter to live-Tweet episodes and holding video chats. He’s also an avid marine life activist, publicizing efforts to save dolphins in Japan. Win-win-win as far as being an actual human being goes.

But back to Duke. I’ve had the good fortune to sit in on two press calls with Balfour and he’s been charming and goofy and funny and genuine in his love for Haven and Duke. He’s found things out about the show and the character as we did. There’s been no bible of past events, and every reveal has been just as refreshing for him as for us. And Balfour is game for all of it.

In “Burned,” we found out Duke has a daughter out in the world, something we’d never previously had reference to. Last season, his wife turned up. And biggest of all, we found out that Duke could absorb a Trouble and wipe it out entirely for a family line, making him a powerful weapon or savior. Balfour has played all these nuances as if they’d just always been so. And he still plays Duke as human–bewildered by the town of Haven and rolling with it at the same time.

The first two seasons had Duke as a bit of the comic relief when things got heavy, and this season, he’s had as much emotional toil as the rest of the crew. Duke had the key reveal at the beginning of this season in “Stay,” when he had to tell Audrey she had a clock on her. It was a delicate, weighty moment, and it was a piece of information that was going to affect her, him, and Nathan, so he knew it was a loaded conversation before it ever started, but he told her quietly and without any smartass overtones, and he wanted to fight to change it.

Photo credit: Syfy
Photo credit: Syfy

One of the most powerful scenes for Balfour this season came in “The Farmer,” when Audrey ambushed Duke into killing a Troubled man who was harvesting organs from his bloodline. He was horrified at the request, refused to do it, and then walked away, but we saw in a flashback later that he went back and killed the man after Audrey left. At the end of the episode, Duke, halfway through a bottle of scotch, tells this to Audrey wordlessly, with the grief and rage and sorrow about what he’s now become all over his face as he weeps. It was an amazing, amazing scene and Balfour was perfect.

When Duke went back in time in “Sarah” and met his grandfather, and then unwittingly orchestrated his death, Balfour played disbelief and happiness and loss in 44 minutes. And he was the voice of reason to try to warn Nathan off getting involved with Sarah. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in “Magic Hour, Part 1,” Audrey took Duke to Colorado to search for the Colorado Kid and a flirty chat over beers turned romantic for a moment until Audrey dialed it down.

Duke didn’t weird out on or turn against her. He laughed it off with her as a near-miss between friends. No harm, no foul. And Balfour sold it with his smile and his eyes and the easiness in his shoulders. He made Duke genuinely OK with it. It’s apparent that Duke has feelings for Audrey but he’s not going to step on Nathan, with whom he’s finally realized a truce, or his friendship with Audrey, to act on them.

This is why Eric Balfour is so good—why he’s a 2012 TV Goodness All-Star. I’m so glad we’re getting a fourth season of him playing Duke.

Haven returns with a two-hour season finale on Friday, January 17th, at 9 pm/8 c.

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