Heroes (S03E01/02) “The Second Coming/Butterfly Effect”
Holy overload, Batman. The only thing I can definitively say about the double-sized premiere of Heroes’ third season is that it can’t be faulted for being boring. Every minute is crammed with action, overstuffed with new revelations and there’s a deadly strain of “Plot-Twist-Itis” running rampant throughout, with no apparent cure.
A warning: This turned into being less a review and more of a general rant. I skipped the detailed summary (because it was a lot and it’s been done elsewhere already) and really just felt the need to let loose with all of my random thoughts. So read on for impressions of this episode as well as my thoughts on this series in general–a show that once sat at the top of my list only to have fallen off it entirely in less than a year.
When Heroes first hit the scene, I was one of the first hooked. This super hero soap opera was always exciting and, unlike LOST, answered just as many questions as it posed. Then the second season came along and pretty much blew (though whether it would have improved or not will never be known, thanks to that little strike thing). Now Heroes is back and recharged for a third go, and while it’s not a return to the first season’s glory, it’s still an improvement over the mess from last year.
For anyone wondering if this is a good point to pick up the show if you’ve never seen it before, the answer is a big, fat no. I’ve watched the show from the beginning and still found myself having trouble keeping up with everything that went down in these two hours. There are so many characters running amuck in the Heroes universe now, not to mention the alternate timeline versions of said characters, that it’s almost a challenge to wrap your head around everything (Note: Wikipedia is your friend).
There is a good bit to like in these two hours, even if the sum of it’s parts left me feeling underwhelmed. Claire’s brush with death at the hands of Sylar and the aftermath of that incident are compelling (Is it bad that I was disappointed, though, when we didn’t actually get to see Claire run down by that train?), though Sylar obtaining her healing ability gives off a foul odor I just can’t shake and seemingly gives a big middle finger to the whole first season, in a way. Oh right, I was talking about the good stuff. Sorry. I’m intrigued my Matt’s dessert exodus and the strange African man he meets there, who seems to have the ability like the late Isaac to paint the future. Mama Petrelli’s leap back into the spotlight was nice, and I’m interested to learn more about her and her increasingly sketchy past, as well as more about the Company. Also Nathan is not dead, if anyone didn’t figure that out just by knowing the nature of this show, and his brush with death leads to some pretty intriguing new possibilities for the character, even if I am skeptical what direction they’ll go in. Finally, while Hiro’s story was mostly boring (and for the first time I didn’t much care for his character and the immature way he was being written), the introduction of the speedster thief was nice, and I like her sassy attitude and geeky, sexy vibe.
So I did enjoy parts, and overall it’s such an adrenaline ride you can’t really help not getting caught up in the action and excitement a little bit. Yet for every good moment there was a groan worthy one, and all my mental groaning ended up totally killing my mood for the show on multiple occasions, like making out with a hot chick only to have her let out the biggest fart 5 minutes in. Mood killer. You want details? Read on.
As much as I was intrigued by Nathan’s storyline, I’m worried an equal amount. He has a head-Linderman only he can see, which screams rip-off of Battlestar Galactica, and his sudden infatuation with God comes out of nowhere, feeling forced. Mohinder has always been one of my least favorite characters, getting in one mess after another, but his latest misadventures have made him sink even lower in my eyes. Essentially, he discovers how to give normal people super powers, and he gets super giddy about it, even though the consequences of such a formula could be terrible. But Maya, the hot chick who bleeds terry black “stuff” from her eyes, seemingly convinces him to do away with it. He contemplates it, and after much thought decides to just shoot himself up with the stuff (that he discovered hours before, with very little testing). The results? He’s Beast, from the X-men, meets the movie The Fly. The character of Beast is a scientist with inhuman strength who once looked human, but sprouted blue fur at some point, and whose hobbies include hanging upside down from various places as casually as one might plop on a sofa and watch TV. Mohinder is a scientist who has now acquired super strength who once looked human but is now sprouting strange, scaly thing son his back, and whose hobbies include hanging upside down in his laboratory and ripping shirts off hot, vulnerable chicks. The winner is Beast, because at least he doesn’t bone poor girls from South America who came to him for help. On that note, if you really look hard, Heroes has pretty much snatched plotlines from a lot of comics out there, jumbled ’em together, and called it original. I’m beginning to think the writers on here don’t have a whole lot of original ideas.
Then there’s the plot twists. What once made Heroes gasp-worthy every episode has now turned into a device overused and abused. The twists may still make you gasp, but they come so far out of left field and convolute the plot even further that my only reaction was an old-fashioned eye roll (or twenty). For instance, the final moment of the second hour has Mama Petrelli sneaking into Sylar’s holding cell and revealing she is his mother. So this could play out and be interesting, but it comes across as melodramatic fodder that could easily win a daytime emmy award. Having a complicated storyline with complicated characters is one thing, But Heroes could use a lesson in simplifying things a little rather than muddying the waters because you have a surpluss on clay that you needed to get rid of.I can’t help but feel that a large part of season one’s success was due to my TV idol, Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies). The fact that he wrote and produced in the first season, but departed after that (when the show started to decline in quality) doesn’t seem, to me, like much of a coincidence. Though I must say I’d much rather him stay over on Pushing Daisies (the best show airing right now, hands down) than to come back and try to make sense out of the Heroes mess.
Another issue is the dialogue. A lot of it was just plain bad. Comic book writing has always had its own flavor than when translated from page to screen comes across as hokey and unnatural. So while it works in the pages of comics, it just sounds silly coming out of a real person’s mouth. There’s a balance in there somewhere, which I think some of the superhero movies like Spider-Man, Iron Man etc have found, but Heroes is still struggling, according to my ears. Instead of coming off as quirky comic book writing, many of the lines just read like sloppy writing. Some of the more dramatic moments were spoiled for me by dialogue that forced me out of the moment and other lines meant to be funny made me react as I would to a terribly bad pun–with an eye roll.
As I see it, there are two main problems plaguing this series and forcing the writers into many of the scenarios being played out. The first is the issue of overpowering characters so early on. Both Peter Petrelli and big baddie Sylar are, essentially, invincible. Sure, this is a show based on comic books, who old an old tradition where no one is ever really dead. There’s always a loophole, somewhere, somehow. So when characters pop back up in Heroes, in strange moments that seem to cram comics and soap operas momentarily together, I can buy it, because that’s the kind of universe these characters are living in. The problem, however, is that these two dudes have this laundry list of abilities, so not only are they seemingly unstoppable, but they can find their way in or out of any given situation. Since they appear in every episode of the show, there’s never much surprise as to how things will play out. It’s just a matter of guessing how these guys will do it, not if. And now, to make it worse, Sylar can also heal himself. Sure, down the road I bet the writers will find some loophole around the apparent immortal nature of some of our characters, but for now we have these overpowered guys prancing around, able to do whatever they please, and I can’t help, but feel the wriiters blew their load a little early on and must now write around that. Sylar should have been a big presence in the first season, but him continuing to be the main villain throughout is getting old. I only hope that since this arc of Heroes is called Villains that he is pushed to the background and some other, new villains will take center stage. But even so, who can be deadlier and more dangerous than Sylar? He has multiple powers, including the ability to defy death, and can continue to acquire more. So what could be worse? Another case of the writers unloading the worst first and not leaving a whole lot of room to up the stakes as the show goes on. The new villains introduced to us so far have been ANOTHER guy with fire powers (that makes at least three so far, I think) and a German guy who has the ability to open car doors! Well, actually he has the power of magnetism, which is quite similar to Magneto’s powers from X-Men, who just HAPPENS to also be from Germany. Way to go writers–another rip-off.
The second thing I take issue with is the extreme overuse of time travel. In the beginning we had Hiro and his space/time exploits, and all was good. Now, there are multiple characters slipping as casually into the past and future as they would make a hot pocket for lunch, and as a result the plot lines are growing more and more convoluted. The past is being tampered with, so it effects the present. The future is bad, so they have to go back to the present to fix it. These are storylines that have been overcooked in many different mediums, and the resulting headache of trying to put together the logic and work out the loopholes/plotholes are just as annoying here as always. Time travel is a cool concept, and obviously many people are fascinated by it, but Heroes’ handling of it is just downright poor, in my opinion, and so far this season feels like it will be relying on this plot device more than ever before.
I see potential in Heroes still, in spite of finding a lot of negatives here at the start of season three, and I hope that those small flashes of good will evolve into a great season. However, I have some big doubts, but I’ll continue to watch and hope that the writers get on track.
(Screencaps from http://www.heroestelevision.com)