Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Heroes - what the hell happened?

It used to be a good show.

Season one – pretty good. Season two – pretty good. Season Three – aaaaaahhhhh!!! What the hell happened?

Season Four…started out well and has ended up a confusing, jumbled, incomprehensible mess of a show.

Season Four started the same way Season One did. Character-driven, self-contained stories that promised bigger things to come but still started at a comfortable pace and didn’t over or under promise anything.

I don’t know where, but somewhere this season I got frustrated with the storylines. It could have been the ‘Sylar is inside me’ crap from Parkman (I don’t think his power includes absorbing someone’s soul), the ‘I spent an entire episode getting a power to cure Hiro but once he disappeared, life went on’ (Peter had the power to save Hiro and instead of agonizing about absorbing another power or trying to find him, Peter just moved on), or it could be the ‘I’m super-powerful and I’m creating a place for people like me but I’m so self-conscious that I need to kidnap the girl of my dreams’ (Seriously, the big bad this season was a character you could sympathize with because he thought he was doing the right thing – but when he kidnaps the girl he becomes a standard, two dimensional bad guy). As far as the girl he kidnaps, she’s resistant then seems to dig him but ultimately rejects him so he levels a town.

Heroes has a habit of letting us get to know a character, getting us interested, and then suddenly, ridiculously killing that character.

Elle was a great character, someone raised opposite of Claire. At first these two are enemies and then they find some equal ground. There was that great episode where Elle’s power is acting up and Claire used her power to heal quickly to discharge Elle’s electrical build up through her. There was a friendship there that I was looking forward to seeing explored.

Daphne was the super-speed thief who had a friendly rivalry with Hiro early in the third season. She quickly went from super-speed thief to one of the most interesting characters when she and Matt started dating. We knew from the first season that Matt was a good guy who was wrestling with controlling his gift and discovered that his wife had been cheating on him and had been for a long time. He couldn’t keep from read his wife’s mind and hearing the vile things she thought of him. We watched as Matt tried to win her back but they didn’t stay together.

Daphne seemed to be Matt’s reward for enduring all of that. She was a wounded character herself. We discover that without her power, she was disabled and could hardly walk. Then she dies during one of the most contrived, confusing, boring, frustrating story-arcs I’ve ever sat through. Then Matt discovers his wife had his kid and they decide to get back together. It sucks watching Matt and his wife trying to live a normal life when I remember what she did to him in the first season.

I can go on but Elle and Daphne are enough to make my point – and my point is this: look for Emma to die pretty soon.

Emma is a new character and watching her power develop and the interactions with Peter have been the highlight of the season. Or it was until Samuel came to visit, Angela saw a future in which she kills thousands, and Peter smashed her cello. This character is now alienated from Peter and swayed to Samuel’s side. Oh, and the episode where she’s watching Hiro do a magic show in the hospital and he shows her what his power can do was a great moment.

Oh, and to the writers: If you have Hiro half dead and laying in a hospital in one episode while people are looking for a way to cure him and he up and vanishes and then runs around for ten episodes, we don’t think the problem is urgent anymore. At first I thought there was a real chance that he was dying and now I know he’s not going to. Whenever they mention that he’s dying, it doesn’t worry me at all. The tumor is supposed to be threatening but so far it’s only led to nosebleeds and talking in comic-book gibberish (that we aren’t sure is the tumor or as a result of whatever Samuel’s goon did to Hiro’s mind). Plus we saw a super-cool, confident Hiro jump back and talk to Peter in the first season and Hiro’s never been super-cool or confident yet so of course he survives (something Peter should have known when Hiro came to him dying from a tumor). And I didn’t need the special cameos from David Anders or George Takai at the ‘trial’ for Hiro’s life. Boring.

Okay – let’s talk about time travel, the most over-used, under-utilized plot device on the show. I know ‘over-used, under-utilized’ doesn’t make much sense so let me explain. Every season we’ve been treated/tortured to/over a future that’s terrible – where friend has turned on friend or an apocalypse ravages the city. Every future has been averted so every time there is a ‘future’ shown on the show, I’m not threatened by it. That’s how it’s over-used.

How it’s under-utilized, is easy: Hiro can go back and forth through time. It’s the most useful power on the entire show. A good example is when Samuel has Charlie time-jacked and hides her ‘somewhere in time’ until Hiro does his bidding. Hiro is supposed to kill Suresh but fakes his death and stows him in an insane asylum. I think, why couldn’t Hiro time-jack Samuel and stick him somewhere uncomfortable – like an ice field at the North Pole and then jump forward in time 24 hours and see if Samuel’s ready to talk. If he isn’t, jump another 24 hours in the future and see if he’s ready to talk then. Repeat until Samuel tells him. For Hiro, this would take minutes, for Samuel it would take days. Or how about you go back into the past, before Samuel gives the order to grab Charlie and teleport him to the North Pole? Hiro can even teleport to the past and take Sylar out before he becomes a threat.

Oh – and Charlie’s another interesting character killed for no reason. I know some of you will say it was to impact Hiro but really, how much has it changed or affected him. He’s back to being a careless goofball.

We get too few really worthwhile payoffs from the stories and the more the writers use the characters, the less we know about them – is Peter, Nathan, Sylar, Claire, Matt, HRG, the Haitian, Nikki, or Tracey good or evil this week?

So why watch? It’s all-new writers this season so I’m trying to give them a chance to show me what they can do with the characters, realizing that the last bunch so horribly mismanaged them that I might not return to a new story-arc much less another season. And I want so badly to see a super-hero show that’s not based on a Marvel or DC character be interesting and generate excitement for the genre like the first two seasons did.

Maybe the writers should steer away from story-arcs and concentrate on making the characters interesting again, otherwise we won’t be interested in seeing them do anything.

Wasn't Ando's power to boost other people's powers. When did it change to electricity blasts? And didn't his power manifest as red lightning?

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