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Wednesday, October 15, 2008
TV Round-Up: Heroes
I Am Become Death, Angels and Monsters
There are some weeks when I wonder if I shouldn't just give up on "Heroes." I'm resolved to the fact that it will never be quite as decent as it was in season one and that the days of the show, at the very least, delvering a nice hook at the end of each episode are over. But yet, just as I'm about to completely give up, there's enough of a nugget to keep my interest up just enough to tune in again. It's sort of the same thing with "Smallville." Despite promises to myself, I still find myself drawn into the show by the promos or epsiode descriptions, hoping this will be the week they finally pull it all back together and surprise me.

Also, I'm a sucker in that I won't give up on a show after a truly terrible episode (if so, I would have stopped watching "Next Generation" after the horrific "Imaginary Friend.") So, while a lot of the Internet was willing to give up after last week, I decided to stick with it, hoping something good might come of it.

So far, I'm not so sure. Last week's episode took the new "Heroes" cliche of jumping around in a time line to a new level. Peter goes forward four years to see how badly things will turn out if the stolen-formula is allowed to go mainstream. Apparently, you inject yourself, you get powers. So now everyone has abilities and I'm reminded a lot of this storyline when it was done on "The 4400" not too long ago, except that show never showed us the implications of thing. "Heroes" has this interesting habit of jumping forward in time, showing us different variations of characters we know in the present and then teasing us with wondering just how they got to this point. Case in point is Sylar, who goes from all-around monster to dad making waffles and fairly well-adjusted. He even seems to like Peter, telling Pete he'd have whipped up more waffles if he knew Pete was coming by.

There's some intrigue to wondering how Sylar could get this point, but it's not nearly as alarming as seeing what was once the biggest bad-ass character on this show defanged a lot. I think one of the bigger mistakes any show or series can make is to help us understand why a bad guy becomes a bad guy or defanging them. "Star Trek" did that to the Borg, who were really scary and unstoppable when we first met them and slowly became just your standard alien menace by the end of "Voyager"'s run. Same thing with Sylar, who should have been killed to end season one, thus eliminating that threat. Instead, he's still around and the writers have to come up with lame ways to keep him around each week, all of which remove the threat and menance that made the character work in season one. Plus, that range of being odd and icky working for Zachary Quinto, who is showing more and more he just doesn't have the range to pull of Sylar as anything more.

The other thing with the four year jump is that it is supposed to provide us with some sense of a mission and yet it doesn't. I am still not sure why Peter took himself to the future or what exactly current Peter learned and took back. Except that he's now as bad-ass as Sylar or at least he wants to be. Again, this is a case of a character who is simply too powerful and removes a lot of the drama surrounding him. If he's as strong as we've been led to believe, he's simply too dangerous to have running around. And you add in that his character arc seems to be "Hey, I want to be bad-ass now" and it just doesn't ring true. Does anyone recall what Peter used to be like?

What I do find interesting is how the Papa Patrelli seems to be assembling his own sort of Legion of Doom, some of whom may be old friends. The concept of just what makes a person a villain and who is good and who is bad is worth exploring. I just wish the show weren't doing it as hamfistedly as it is here. You want to see a nunaced exploration of shades of gray, you need to check out "Battlestar Galactica." Here, not so much. This week we had a guy who can create wormholes and accidentally kills someone. The Company hauls him, locks him up and he loses everything. His desire is get out and find his family again, to reconnect with what he's lost. And yet the Company treats him like a criminal because he can't control what he has power-wise. Instead of helping him, they lock him away. So, who's the bad guy here?

Add in that HRG is willing to use Vortex Man to kill off Sylar and you've got what could be some interesting moral relativism exploration. But it still feels forced and too obvious. There aren't any nuances to it like we get on "BSG" where you can see both sides and see that both sides have some legitimate arguments and maybe neither one is "right." If "Heroes" could somehow channel that and work with it, it might have the chance to be the show it wants to be instead of the show it is.

But I doubt very much that it will ever break out of that mold.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/15/2008 04:00:00 PM | |
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