Penning a worthy second act to a fantastic story, whether in print, film, TV, theatre, or other storytelling medium, is always a tricky business. When writers strike paydirt and resonate with their audiences on such a fundamental level as the first season of Heroes, the question so eloquently put by Nigel Tufnel is obvious: where can you go from there? After the mind-bending, high-concept first season of Heroes ended, viewers were left with several questions to ponder and a few cliffhangers to mull over during the summer months. The writing team, in crafting the storylines that would show up in Heroes: Season 2, were faced with not only the dilemma of answering those questions but creating new threads to follow, crafting more intricate conflicts, developing more interesting characters, and generally ratcheting things up a notch or two in order to follow in the footsteps of the mostly brilliant Season 1.
Unfortunately, like Neo on his first jump off a building, Season 2 mostly falls flat on its face.
I suspect the underlying problem comes not from trying to create characters and conflicts that are inherently interesting and compelling, but pulling a “24” and trying to knock everyone’s socks off just for the sake of outdoing the first season. What we are left with is a slew of new characters that feel hollow, special abilities that are contrived as all get out, and to top things off, a writer’s strike in the middle of the season that effectively stopped the show in its heroic little tracks.
Things start off on a bit of an interesting note as we see what amounts to the aftermath of the events at the end of Season 1. Mohinder is lecturing on super powers and human DNA, but is brought to work for Primatech by a shady guy named Bob (note to screenwriters: never use Ned Reyerson as your main villain. He’s just not that evil.) who apparently runs things over at the company. Parkman broke up with his cheater wife and is helping Mohinder raise the telepathic girl Molly from Season 1. Two new characters, Maya and her twin brother Alejandro, are fleeing South America because Maya accidentally kills people when she gets stressed about stuff. Old favorites like Nikki, Micah, Noah, Nathan, as well as various supporting characters, are all back to join in the fun, whether they have a purpose in the Season 2 storyline or not. Worse yet, Peter was apparently not killed and (can you guess the cliché?) wakes up with amnesia (I knew you could!) far away from home.
All these characters had a purpose in Season 1, as there was a story arc that was brilliantly and carefully laid out for almost the entire show. But now with Season 2, the cast is all dressed up with nowhere to go, and apocalyptic scenarios seem passé by this time: instead of a city-destroying explosion, there’s a world-destroying virus (like we haven’t seen that before). Abilities go from inventive and horrifying to silly and absurd: characters in Season 2 can learn any skill demonstrated on TV, shoot lightning from their fingertips, and create portable black holes that suck stuff in really fast. Subplot upon subplot is thrust upon the viewers, some with connections to earlier events, some that foreshadow future happenings, and some that have no point whatsoever.
At the end of Season 1 we knew that two key characters, Sylar and Hiro, had both survived. One of the highlights of Season 2 is seeing Sylar repair himself from a severe case of PTSD, come to develop his powers all over again, and watch his character become much more fleshed out than in Season 1. However, without question the worst part of Season 2 is the protracted subplot involving Hiro, who is stuck in medieval Japan, and the childhood hero of his dreams who turns out to be more of a crackpot than an actual hero. What seemed like a good idea at the cliffhanger ending of Season 1 ended up being a boring mess that took some fantastic leaps in logic to become even remotely connected to the rest of the Heroes storyline.
Perhaps the biggest sin of Season 2 is when it falls back on brief moments that worked in Season 1 to try and redeem itself. Hiro shouts “Great-o Scott-o” at one point, and while this worked as an awesome sci-fi in-joke when he said it in an episode of Season 1, but here it feels like a desperate attempt to recycle once-solid material. Same goes for the out-of-nowhere guest appearance by Nichelle Nichols, whose character is entirely extraneous. It was cool when Star Trek alum George Takei appeared in Season 1, but throwing another Trek veteran in a show doesn’t automatically make the show cool.
I don’t mean to be so harsh on the show, and in a way I feel kind of bad writing so many negative things in this review. The season wasn’t all bad, and there was enough to keep me at least interested until the premature end, which came about as a direct result of the writer’s strike. But it felt like the show was getting too big for its britches. It had become a Bryan Singer show suddenly trying to appeal to a Michael Bay audience.