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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Few Thoughts about Heroes

Frankly, I don't think I have the energy to do a weekly "Heroes" post this season. I still watch the show, but I find a hard time caring about it much, especially since it's become clear that the producers want to create a show drastically different from the one I want to watch: they're creating a show about ordinary people trying to live a normal life despite having super powers, whereas I'd rather watch a show about ordinary people realistically figuring out how to live a life with super powers. It's a subtle distinction, sure. But, for example, in my show, the characters would be using their powers more instead of pretending they're an addiction that needs to be controlled.

That said, last night's two hour premiere of the fifth volume, "Redemption", did spark a few thoughts and opinions I'd like to share.

Super-hero Peter
Peter is easily the character with which I have the least problem. He is essentially doing what he should have been doing from at least the beginning of the third season, if not sooner: acting like a super-hero. Sure, he doesn't have a costume or codename, but he has a regular job that he uses as a means to notify him of people in need and then he uses his power to help those people. Plus, he has a police scanner in his apartment, which as Dr. Bitz pointed out, is another sure sign of a super-hero. Peter, at least in last night's episode, is an example of what "Heroes" should be doing more often: strip away the less-realistic conventions of a superhero comic book story (secret identities, code names, garish costumes) but still telling superhero comic book stories. 

Evil Carnies
Evil Carnies are always a-okay. Hopefully, some of their vague powers (I'm looking at you, Weird Tattoo Making Guy) get better defined along the way, but this being "Heroes", they probably won't.

Clunky Carnival Retcon
The whole "carnival that changed their lives" business was an obvious, clunky retcon (why have we never heard of it before?) but at least Ando's infatuation with Hiro's sister was established back in season one, and ultimately, it seems the carnival business was just a means to get Hiro off on his latest quest. 

*Sigh* More Hiro Antics...
Ando rolling a frozen Hiro through an office building while strapped to a hand cart after the duo rescued a friggin' cat had me rolling my eyes and flashing back to other asinine Hiro storylines of past volumes (like ten-year-old Hiro), but the idea of Hiro going back in time to right his personal wrongs is probably one of the least ridiculous "Hiro Quests" ever, and the one that offers the most potential for an interesting storyline while preventing Hiro's inescapable comedy routine from spiraling into buffoonery. That is, of course, damning with faint praise. It also runs the risk of completely isolating him from the main story (like the Feudal Japan story of season two) but hopefully the interest of the Evil Carnies will prevent him from straying too far from the main narrative.

Bring Back Bennet!
Not a fan of this new conflicted, directionless Bennet: he is supposed to be, as Angela said, the man with a plan. The character and the actor's performance (both, at different times, were often the sole redeeming element of many episodes) have built up enough goodwill that I'm not terribly worried, but hopfully he pulls it together and returns to his quietly bad-assed ways soon.

Remember the Haitian?
Nice to see the Haitian again. Where's he been at? And since Parkman is a twat and won't help Ma Petrelli with Sythan, couldn't she just have the Haitian work his mojo on Sythan instead?

Danko's Demise
"Heroes" once again dusts off that hoary comic book device of having your new villain take out the old villain to show how awesome the new villain is by having Darth Maul knife up Danko. It was more irksome when they did it last season with Adam, but that's mainly because I liked Adam a heck of a lot more than Danko. Still, if they're going to keep freakin' Sylar around forever, why not Danko, a villain with some untapped potential left in his story? 

...Parkman.
So Parkman's a twat, which is nothing new. He's always been the character most reluctant to embrace his power, which has always made him the most frustrating character (if you have a super power, USE IT). That said, having Sylar inside his subconscious is perhaps the most interesting storyline with which Matt's ever been involved (again, that's not saying much). The previews for future episodes seem to be suggesting that Sylar will be attempting to take control of Matt (or at least, turn him evil) which, I have to admit, could be fun to watch. Also, the only way Sylar is going to be at all interesting is if he's NOT the driving antagonist of the story yet again, while trying to blow-up New York or become the President or whatever. Hopefully, this storyline with Parkman will keep him a part of the cast without him dominating the story.

Video games r da bomb!
Look kids: Your favorite Heroes play Guitar Hero! We're hip and cool, we swear!  

Sythan
Adrian Pasdar did a lot with his few scenes and little dialogue. His discussion with Ma Petrelli in the sushi restaurant exhibited some of the glee we've seen from Sylar when he comes across a new power or life direction, and his later reaction to the discovery of some of his varied powers was also well done.

Finally, a fight! 
Credit where credit is due: when Bennet and Peter were in the vault and Darth Maul showed up before cutting to commercial, I turned to Mrs. Teebore and said "how much do you want to bet that when we come back from commerical, that fight will have happened offscreen and will be completely over?" Thankfully, Mrs. Teebore isn't a gambling woman, as it turns out I was wrong. We actually got a cool little super-speed fight scene. Hopefully it didn't blow their effects budget for the rest of the season.

Water Effects
Also, in terms of hopefully-not-blowing-their-budget, the scenes of Tracey turning to water when Darth Maul sliced her were pretty cool.

Oh, yeah, Claire.
Um...her storyline is, thus far, neither interesting enough nor bad enough to care about too much. Which, for Claire, is a marked improvement (though after Parkman, Claire is the most frustrating of all the characters when it comes to powers: why, oh why, does she want so bad to be normal? The show has never given us a satisfactory answer to that question, other than the unstated one: because ordinary people with extraordinary powers not using them is loads cheaper and easier to write than ordinary people with extraordinary powers USING their extraordinary powers). 

Oh, and where's Mohinder?
Who cares!

There's definitely a lot of potential here, even if the inherent problem of the creators' approach to the show still exists (people NOT using their powers and wishing they were normal will ALWAYS be more boring than people using their powers) and the story seems to be written already (the various characters come together as a result of the Evil Carnies and then band together to stop the Evil Carnies in an anti-climatic and unseen fight scene, with Sylar, per usual, as the wild card in the equation).


The key question is, as Dr. Bitz asked, are they writing checks their butt can't cash with this premiere? Given "Heroes" past history, that certainly seems likely (remember, the first episode of last season was somewhat promising too, before devolving into the debacle that was "Villains"). Heroes, after all, seems to love nothing more than to build mood and set up interesting ideas, then never pay anything off.

7 comments:

  1. baroness van bitzenhoferSeptember 22, 2009 at 5:37 PM

    I'm surprised you were able to pull out a full-length paragraph about Parkman. Good job. ;-)

    Also, I don't find the Carnies too impressive, but I know I'll be sticking around to find out why the compass is so very important. Dr. Bitz's first thought was that it responds to people with powers, but I feel there has to be something more to it than that. What that something more is, I have no idea, though.

    I'm pretty sick of the Ando/Hiro shtick too. Especially now that Ando and Kimiko are all googly-eyed over each other, there will be more opportunity for corniness.

    Finally, Paramedic Peter is hot. Nuff said.

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  2. To be fair, if it wasn't for all the "Sylar's in his head" business, my comments on Parkman would have amounted to "still a frustrating twat."

    I definitely think the compass reacts to people with powers in some way, but I think you're right and there's more to it than that. I'm also curious as to why and how Danko had it and got it, but knowing "Heroes", even as we find out more about it, I'm betting they're going to want us to forgot that it essentially came out of Danko's belly.

    I understand the writers see Hiro as their comedic relief character, but just for once I'd like to see him in a storyline that goes several chapters without reducing him to a buffoon. The actor is certainly capable of it, and some of the best Hiro moments on the show (the scene with his mom last year, the ending of his Feudal Japan story where he has to battle with his childhood hero) are dramatic, not "comedic" ones.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure even *I* think Paramedic Peter is hot...

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  3. So I missed the entire last half of the last season. Should I catch up on that before watching this season (which I am currently DVRing so I don't miss any), or is it going to be easy enough to fill in the blanks? Feel free to spoil me if need be.

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  4. I think you can fill-in the blanks, with a few key pieces of information.

    That said, the second volume of last season, Fugitives, (the last 10-12 episodes, I forget exactly how many) was a marked improvement over the first volume of the season (Villains). Which, granted, isn't saying much since Villains was so horrid. But it would be worth watching, at some point.

    But if you want to just dive into the new season without taking the time to catch up, I think you can.

    Important things to know (consider yourself spoiled):

    1. In "Fugitives" Nathan headed up a government task force assigned with identifying and capturing people with powers. His main agents to that end were a bald dude named Danko and Bennet, though Bennet was working with Ma Petrelli to bring the whole thing down.

    2. Eventually, Nathan saw the error of his ways and worked w/Bennet, Peter and his mom to set things right. In the meantime, Sylar gained a shapeshifting power and decided he was going to replace the President. In the process of stopping him, Nathan was killed but Peter managed to knock Sylar out. So Ma Petrelli and Bennet decided to have Parkman use his telepathy to shift Sylar into Nathan's form and make him think he was Nathan. Ma Petrelli did this out of grief. Parkman was bullied into it. Why Bennet agreed to such a monumentally stupid idea is unknown.

    So basically, in season four, Nathan=a Parkman-whammied, shapeshifted Sylar.

    3. Peter has his powers back, though he can only mimic one power at a time, and he must make contact with someone to copy their power.

    4. Danko killed Tracey but she got better, mainly because her ice powers are also water based (so she melted and pulled herself back together-think Hydroman) and she's pissed.

    5. Fed up with the lies and whatnot, Bennet's wife filed for divorce.

    6. At the end of the volume, the Petrellis and Bennet decided to start up a new Company, but one with different methods than the old one.

    7. Hiro got his powers back, but he can't time travel, just stop time. And using his power is slowly killing him.

    8. Parkman remains a twat.

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  5. Thanks!! Sounds a little interesting except I agree the whole Sylar/Nathan thing seems a little unnecessary. I am sure I will watch the last half of that season at some point I just figured I needed to get caught up so I am not confused as all heck when I pick up on this season.

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  6. i gotta say, reading all of that makes me glad we dropped it from our tv list. It will never live up to the potential it had in the beginning of season one.

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  7. The problem is that the show never lives up to its potential, period. Every season there are things going on that COULD be cool, but they never payoff. The show is great at setting things up, not so good at paying them off well.

    As for the Sylar/Nathan thing, it's lame not only because Angela, Bennet and Parkman aren't taking the rare opportunity to destroy an unrepentant killer, but because it shows just how desperate the show is to keep Sylar around, and how afraid they are to move on without a character who really shouldn't have stuck around this long (or at least, shouldn't have become a main character appearing in every season).

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