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January 7, 2009

2

TV Review – Heroes Season Two (2007)

by Master Pillow

Heroes Season One, while it had some rough spots, was not only a shining example of science fiction done right but had enough thrills, chills and plot twists to rival the best TV has to offer. It deftly juggled a multitude of characters all the while infusing them with enough humanity and gumption to keep audiences enamored as fans lit up forums in an attempt to decipher all the show’s mysteries. In this sense it was a phenomenon very much like the first season of Lost, another science fiction ensemble show that premiered to great acclaim. Although the season ended with a rather clunky mishandling of the cliffhanger, hopes were high that Heroes would continue to present compelling storylines in its sophomore season.

The unfortunate answer is that it did not. In fact, it took just about everything commendable and established in the first season and proceeded to tear them down one by one leaving audiences aghast at some of the poorly implemented story elements and stylistic choices that did nothing but confuse and frustrate. Some of this can be blamed on 2007’s writer’s strike that basically paralyzed Hollywood and led to many shows having truncated seasons. Originally scheduled for a full season run of 24 episodes, Season 2 of Heroes became stunted and forced to end at episode 11. This gives the season an incredibly off kilter pacing as storylines are forced into premature resolution.

Still, this constitutes only part of the problem. It is evident from the season premiere that creator Tim Kring and his writing staff have tried to generate more intrigue by basically fast forwarding the show four months after the end of Season One. That, in of itself, is not an inherently bad idea but in doing so, instead of adding to the building mythos it totally deconstructs and resets whole character arcs so much so that it becomes jarring and adds too much confusion for the audience to grasp or follow. Some of the main characters are not even introduced until many episodes into the season while others are unceremoniously written off the show entirely.

While the entire narrative thrust of the first season culminated in the heroes all converging on a specific location and acting in concert to avert disaster, season two callously rends them apart once more. It’s a bit of a stretch that these neophyte heroes would even go their separate ways on their own accord once they find others who, like them, are becoming more at ease with their super powers. You would think the first reaction would be to stay together to try and figure out their collective place in the universe.

All the characters undergo some truly odd and awkward transitions in their new storylines. Season one standouts Hiro and Claire actually suffer the most by being saddled with pointless meandering plots that, especially in the case of Hiro, seem totally disconnected to the main narrative of the season. Admittedly, there is a surprise in his narrative arc that attempts to bring disparate plots together but it comes off as wholly manufactured and, even worse, totally unconvincing. Claire however, spends the season reenacting almost the very same storyline she had in the first season as she perpetually butts heads with her dad while suddenly finding love at her new high school. What follows is a silly teen romance ripped from the pages of The O.C. with an added dash of Smallville. Why? Because her new boyfriend has the power of flight. You’d think his name was Clark Kent although he lacks any sort of sense whatsoever as he decides to fly around in broad daylight even though he does not want anyone to discover his secret.

Other core characters don’t fare much better such as super-powered Peter Petrelli and Sylar both of which are again saddled with arcs that take forever to get going. In Peter’s case the writers seem so bereft of ideas that they pull out the oldest trick in the book by making him lose his memory and then shipping him off to Ireland to fall in love with a local lass. Season one supreme bad guy Sylar comes off even worse. Stripped of all his powers he does nothing but glower menacingly at newcomers Maya and Alejandro who are some of the blandest characters ever to be introduced on network television. This trio spends the entire eleven episodes on an exasperatingly dull road trip from Central America to New York. We barely get to know them at all and even when we are given a hint of a back story the writers decide enough is enough and off one of them in one of the most anticlimactic fashions ever devised.

Both Mohinder and Niki are almost criminally underused in season 2 but this is not such a bad decision since when they do appear they seem to have lost all sense of logic and, even worse, been infected with a virulent strain of the stupids. How else would you explain Mohinder cozying up to The Company and betraying his friends? Niki is a whole different story as it is painfully obvious that the show runners have little inkling on how to move her character forward. This stance is ultimately revealed when they finally decide on a direction during the season finale.

Another new character is introduced by the name of Monica who so happens to be related to Niki and her son Micha and although her power to mimic anything she sees shows signs of progress, again the execution falls far below expectations.

About the only character who actually shows promise from season one is Matt Parkman who begins to expand his powers while finding the time to raise young Molly. He becomes the most humanistic caring figure and one can easily identify with his struggles especially when he soon comes to heads with his father who abandoned him when he was a mere pup. The other plus is the inclusion of ex-Veronica Mars alum, Kristen Bell who plays a character much unlike the chirpy teen sleuth that gained her fame. Her character, Elle, comes off as being playfully sadistic and seemingly lacking a moral compass. It’s a shame she is so underused. One can hope we see more of her interacting with the other heroes in the next season.

Making matters worse is that the season contains a wide variety of plot holes, strange logic and a lack of overall tension. Season one worked so well in part because it distilled every plotline into the simple catch phrase of, “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” Nearly everything revolved around this giving the characters a razor sharp motivation to extend their efforts. Season two squanders many hours before revealing the major narrative thrust of a virus that would be released with the potential to wipe out 93% of the world population. However, this is revealed much too late and then, because of the writer’s strike, all together truncated so it never feels anywhere as calamitous a proposition than the nuclear bomb going off in season one even though the stakes are higher.

As everyone knows I am a big Star Trek fan. As Trek grew and grew and grew and more series were made the show runners realized that the amount of Trek lore, technological jargon and history was beginning to become unwieldy. In order to attempt to keep errors to a minimum they had a team of people whose only job was the make sure new episodes did not contradict older ones. The team sought out these problems and informed the writers if any violations were found.

Heroes only had one full season under its belt but it is amazing how the show runners run smack head first into problems with their own mythology and guidelines. In fact, there appears to be no such guidelines in place. Part of showcasing a super hero is also showing their Achilles heel (i.e. for Superman it was kryptonite) or at least thoroughly explaining the extent of their superpowers. The show doesn’t even bother to create boundaries leaving the viewer constantly scratching their heads wondering, “I didn’t know it worked like that.”

Looking at new character Monica is one such example. Here you have a character that can mimic any action she sees. Therefore, if she sees a wrestling match she can suddenly replicate the complicated move with precision. We see her later learning martial arts and this finally culminates with her receiving a video iPod filled with many useful moves just in case she gets into trouble.

The problem is we, as the viewer, have no idea how her power actually works as it is never explained in any detail. Once she sees it does she always remember or does she naturally forget? It might not sound like a major problem but the show doesn’t even make an attempt to enlighten us.

Later in the show Monica has a chance to basically illegally enter a house and steal a stack of valuable comics. We immediately see her turn on her iPod and watch video of someone doing parkour up to the second floor of a house. This gives Monica the ability and she proceeds to follow suit. However, we run smack dab into a conundrum. Her power is absolute mimicry yet the house in the video is not the same house she has to burgle. As the episode progresses she is captured but this raises another issue. If she only has to see something once in order to mimic it then why didn’t she watch the whole wealth of video on the iPod before she did anything? Wouldn’t it make more sense to be totally prepared? After all, it is quite clearly shown that many hours pass before she has the guts to do the deed. This is what occurs when you don’t write firm rules and it gives the impression that the writers are just winging it and making it all up on the spot.

That’s not to say that season two doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. The production values are still excellent and some of the story elements are decent but there are unfortunately more misses than hits. Take for instance poor Ando, Hiro’s best friend and constant buddy from season one. Just about everywhere Hiro went Ando was with him and part of the charm was watching the duo get into and out of tough predicaments. Season two keeps both friends apart by sending Hiro back in time and keeping Ando in the present. This is not so bad until you realize that all Ando is doing this time is sitting in his office or lab and reading out loud about Hiro’s exploits in the past. Talk about a waste of a character.

There’s also the problem with Claire’s blood which suddenly has become the Holy Grail of cures. Although we know she has regenerative powers we see her blood becoming a massive plot point and even in some cases, being able to bring people back from the dead. I don’t know about you but if someone were ever found to be like Claire everyone in the world would be clamoring for drops of her plasma. This also complicates the story since it gives the writers an easy way out to explain horrific injuries to major characters. Not to mention, you’d think some villain or evil country would want to capture her and just hook her up to a blood extracting machine for the rest of her life to manufacture this miracle cure. Hmmm, maybe a plot for a future season?

Season one was blessed with a wonderfully sadistic villain in Sylar but due to his loss of power he’s reduced to window dressing. His replacement is the enigmatic Adam Monroe who is one of the least threatening villains ever to be conceived. This brings us to another issue with Season two in that many heroes find out they share the same super power. Anyone who reads comic books will realize that there is some overlap in this regard but for a show entering only its second year the extreme lack of imagination is glaring as there’s not even a hint of difference in some cases. Take Nathan Petrelli who can fly and then Claire’s new boyfriend, West, who, also can fly. How about Adam Monroe’s regeneration skill which is the exact skill Claire is endowed with? In this case why doesn’t anyone capture Adam and use his blood instead? This strips away some of the allure from these characters and gives the impression that these traits are common amongst all these enhanced humans.

In the end, Season two is a huge comedown in quality from season one so much so that it almost completely torpedoes the franchise. Thankfully, the characters, although damaged, still retain their inherent qualities that endeared them to viewers. It will be up to Tim Kring and his writing staff to hopefully think things through and get the show back on track for season 3. If not, viewers will continue to turn the channel and Heroes will end up being a one season wonder. At this rate you almost hope they pull a Dallas and tell everyone that last season was just a dream.

*1/2 out of ****

2007, USA
Created by Tim Kring

Peter Petrelli: Milo Ventimiglia
Nathan Petrelli: Adrian Pasdar
Hiro Nakamura: Masi Oka
Claire Bennet: Hayden Panettiere
Mohinder Suresh: Sendhil Ramamurthy
Matt Parkman: Greg Grunberg
Ando Masahashi: James Kyson Lee
Niki Sanders: Ali Larter
Noah Bennet: Jack Coleman
Sylar: Zachary Quinto
Angela Petrelli: Cristine Rose
Sandra Bennet: Ashley Crow
Micah Sanders: Noah Gray-Cabey
The Haitian: Jimmy Jean-Louis

© 2009 The Galactic Pillow

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. evie
    Jan 9 2009

    Yup, season 2 of Heroes has lost its charm. There is no discrete ‘direction’ for the plot. The heroes are supposed to save the world from destruction from the deadly virus and the only cure is from Claire’s blood?? That’s weird. Why can’t they find a scientific medical cure or something??And why would Adam want to annihilate humanity? Just because Hiro made out with his girlfriend? Gah! It was only a light kiss on the lips! There are many reasons why people want to destruct the world or kill anyone in particular. A light kiss on the lips does not cut it. Sarcastic remarks, lost of face, money, are more convincing reasons for wanting to kill someone! Hopefully, the continuation of the season will be better, eh. :-))

    Reply
  2. Jan 19 2009

    The last time I looked overall viewership for Heroes is plummeting from a high in season one of 14.3 to around 8.6 for the current one. You’re looking at around a 40% loss of audience from the stellar first year which is not a good sign. However, I haven’t seen a single episode of season 3 yet so I can’t really comment on the quality.

    Reply

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