Heroes: Season 2

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.

Note to ABC: Noah Bennett is not Jack Bauer.  Dont use him to pander to the 24 audience.

Note to ABC: Noah Bennett is not Jack Bauer. Don't use him to pander to the 24 audience.

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.


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 1.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Heroes: Season 1

Here’s the story…

For a long time, people have been telling me and my wife about this show called Heroes.  “It’s kind of like X-men,” they would say.  Friends would tell us how good it was, how new and different and interesting it was, and how much we, being fans of Star Trek, Firefly, and sci-fi in general, would really enjoy it.  But we were always caught up in DS9, Enterprise, 30 Rock, or some other such show that found its way to our door or computer screen courtesy of Netflix.  Heroes sounded interesting to us, but never a whole lot more, despite the glowing reviews from so many people we knew.  Nevertheless, we dutifully placed Season 1 in our Queue and let it sit for months on end…

Ah, how things can change…

After moving to a new town, without any Netflix discs on our kitchen counter, my wife and I decided to take a stroll through our Instant Queue and see what might strike our fancy.  Sure enough, Heroes popped up, and we decided to give it a shot.  “After all,” we thought.  “What’s the worst that could happen?”

And oh, what a ride it has been.  Heroes has gone from odd curiosity to one of the best shows I can recall watching in recent memory, even though the end of Season 1 had several failed attempts to reach the bar that was set so high early on.  It’s an extremely compelling mix of sci-fi and personal drama, set against the modern, post-9/11 backdrop of New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and a few other towns as well.  The plot of Season 1, revolves around a half-dozen or so main characters, each with his or her own struggles, trials, and backstory, who are slowly realizing they have powers and abilities that are, well, super.

Sylar, a brilliantly-conceived villain played impeccably by Zachary Quinto.

Sylar, a brilliantly-conceived villain played impeccably by Zachary Quinto.

What gets me about Heroes so far is how well everything is executed and realized.  Each character is intertwined in an epic storyline about saving New York from being exploded by a shadowy figure known only as Sylar.  After several episodes these individuals start to realize that they have powers and abilities such as flight, regeneration, time-control, and others, but don’t necessarily know how to control them or, more significantly, what to do with them.  As viewers, we know that each of these individuals will play a key role in saving New York, but we are unsure exactly how.  And neither are they.  In fact, each character has his or her own storyline that is, in most cases, entirely separate from the others.  It’s as if we are watching several entirely different stories slowly unfold, but it’s actually one story woven from a myriad of threads, of which we are only seeing bits and pieces at a time.  What I find remarkable about this type of multi-threaded storyline is that it rarely feels contrived.  The way in which characters do eventually cross paths seems entirely organic and believable–entirely the opposite of so many shows and movies wherein a cheap plot device is invented solely for the purpose of bringing characters and events together (worst offender of all time:  The Little Mermaid II.  The villain had been killed off in the first movie, but out of nowhere “Ursula’s crazy sister,” as Sebastian the crab shouts when she first shows up, comes to wreak havoc on the seadwellers).

The cast of Heroes includes a slew of veteran TV and film actors, the most surprising of which is Ali Larter, playing a role that is one of the most difficult in the entire show.  Milo Ventimiglia, well known for his role as Jesse on “Gilmore Girls,” turns in a very

Claire Bennett, a cheerleader who has no worries about being accidentally dropped.

Claire Bennett, a cheerleader who has no worries about being accidentally dropped.

strong performance as Peter Petrelli, the gifted but troubled central character around whom much of the storyline revolves.  A Japanese comic-book-loving man named Hiro (get it!), played by Masi Oka, lends some much-needed lighthearted relief to a show that is often very dark and dripping with blood-soaked themes of betrayal, revenge, and murder.  There’s even an extended appearance by none other than George Takei near the end.  The villain Sylar, though, is a triumph of writing and good storytelling:  for the first third of the season he is a being, a presence, shrouded in mystery and darkness–much like the Xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece Alien.  His motives, his backstory, and his raison d’etre are slowly and carefully revealed throughout the course of the show so that by the end his sinister plans are even more horrifying than when he was only a shadow.

Near the end of Season 1 it becomes apparent that things will not wrap up neatly, as I had hoped earlier on, and several holes are deliberately left open for follow-up storylines in Season 2.  While I understand the desire to grow and nurture the seeds of a franchise, I actually felt a little cheated at the end of the season–expectations

Noah Bennett.  Hmm...I wonder if his first name carries any symbolism...

Noah Bennett. Hmm...I wonder if his first name carries any symbolism...

had been set, endgames had been established, and things were thrown into the mix that had no bearing on earlier, well-established plotlines.  Superfluous characters started showing up, most namely a shapeshifter who also has the entirely gratuitous and never-utilized ability of (I kid you not) engaging in online AIM chats using only her brain.

Still, Season 1 of Heroes does a good job of establishing a very compelling set of characters all woven into one brilliant, if at times poorly-realized, plot of epic proportions.  With loads of homages and out-and-out references to comic books, science fiction movies (my favorite being when Hiro, in utter disbelief of the weight of what lies before him, borrows a quintessential exclamation from “Back to the Future”), and classic hero/villain tales, it is a far deeper and more mysterious show than it has any right to be.  Morpheus once offered Neo the chance to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, and in Heroes we have a rabbit hole that is far deeper and more complex than anything I have seen on TV in a long time.  A very long time.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 3.5/5 (2 votes cast)