‘Heroes’ recap: A brand new day
Hey, there. How’ve you been? And the kids? Yeah, I know, they get so big, and right under our noses. Good, good.
So, Heroes is back and, to be honest, I was more than a little nervous to sit down with this season premiere. I don’t think, at this point, it’s geek heresy to say that the truncated second season left much to be desired. (And by ”much” I mean coherent plot, consistency of character, and general watchability.) And the strike can’t be blamed for how bad it started?if anything, it saved us from more of the same. So, given that Tim Kring and company had some time to retool the master plan, have they redeemed themselves and put the Heroes train back on track?
I’ve come to realize that Heroes is never going to be what it was in that magical first season. Because back then, we were all flush with the heady thrill of discovery — of learning who these people were and figuring out the rules of the world they lived in. (It’s the same reason why A New Hope is my favorite Star Wars flick, even though I know that Empire‘s a better movie, or why I love the first Harry Potter most of all.) One can’t ever replicate that rush of ”the new,” and that’s, ultimately, where season 2 failed. It tried to reintroduce us to characters we already knew, with the same deliberate slow-burn pace, and we bucked. (Check out our gallery of the best and worst moments from last season.)
But I’ll say this for the first two hours of season 3, ”The Second Coming” and ”The Butterfly Effect”: They weren’t glacial. In time-honored superhero-wonkery fashion, I’m gonna break this down as if it were an entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe — according to strengths and weaknesses.
Somehow, he’s a character that continues to work, no matter what they do to him or what fresh silliness the producers invent for him to do. Remember the South American road trip, which gave us both a neutered Sylar and Maya and her eminently forgettable dead brother? (So forgettable I forgot his name, and because I hated him so much, I’m not looking it up, journalistic ethics be damned.) The fact that Sylar survived that ridiculous run for the border only speaks to the character’s resilience. ”It’s all behind me now, like a long night after a bad taco.” And, is it me, or is Zachary Quinto the only member of that cast who looks like he’s having any real fun? While everyone else is looking so glum and constipated, Zach is reveling in Sylar’s skeevy awesomeness.
NEXT: I need a Hiro
All too often, the characters behave not as they should, but as the plot needs them to
”I don’t want to be a sentinel. I want to be a hero,” says Hiro Nakamura, a man who has endured much — the deaths of family members, the loss of his first true love, the precipice of Armageddon — and should know better. That’s what experience does: It teaches us. Instead, with his late father’s company at his beck and call, and the world at his fingertips, he’s pouting like a bored rich kid with a dead DS. Our greatest heroes of fiction are that great because they never want to be heroes. They don’t want glory; glory is forced upon them. They rise to a challenge, not recklessly wobble about looking for one. And when their quest is done, they’d be pleased as punch to return to a normal life. All they want is a normal life. There’s a fine line between looking for a destiny and coming off like a petulant lad with ADD.
And, speaking of knowing better, if Hiro’s dad didn’t want what was in the safe to be molested, he never should’ve told Hiro about it. Or left the access button on his desk. Or made the combination Hiro’s fingerprint. Or, more to the point, put the most important thing in the world in that safe. Kaito Nakamura was a smart cat who shouldn’t have been prone to doing dumb things. (And why are fathers in this show incapable of keeping their goodies hidden? Kaito leaves his Ragnarok formula in the wall safe, and Noah Bennett leaves the files on the worst superpowered criminals in the world…in a cardboard box in the kitchen. Gadzooks.)
Now, on to Claire. Why would our indestructible ex-cheerleader, when faced with a marauding Sylar loose in her house, choose to hide in the closet, like a stereotypical blond girl in a crappy horror flick? Why not run headlong into a window to get out? A pair of Venetian blinds can’t stop someone with both no fear of injury and the unquenchable desire to escape. Why didn’t she try? Because the story needed to make her a victim in five minutes or less. And, honestly, that’s just not a fair thing to do to, to both the character and the audience.
The mind-rape story line
Despite the ham-fisted manner in which we got there (see above), I’m kind of impressed with the restraint the writers showed in dealing with the ramifications of Claire being victimized by Sylar. He took something precious from her, by force, and he taunted her the whole time. And now her powers seem to have changed. She doesn’t feel pain when she’s hurt now. ”If you can’t feel anything, do you still have a soul?” It’s only when she verbalizes it to Future Peter that the carefully modulated allegory gets clumsy — and he doesn’t help matters by acting like a tool. But this was a mature beat in a show that, when dealing with relationships, can feel very juvenile.
NEXT: Travelin’ men
Back to the future. Again.
By my count, this is now the third time in three seasons that a character has seen a future apocalypse that the world needs saving from. And, really, that’s two too many. It’s almost like watching The A-Team but if every episode had them fighting the same corrupt land developer.
And all of this time travel makes things a wee bit more confusing than they need to be. For example: Peter shot his own brother so that he wouldn’t reveal the truth. Okay, why not just go back in time before Nathan was gonna give the speech and tell him the ramifications of his actions? At this point, the only good thing to come of all this future hopping is that everyone in tomorrow land wears these awesome black outfits.
Band (of villains) on the run
Given my future fatigue, it’s good to know that there’s a threat to our heroes that comes from the here and now: the superpowered escapees from Level 5. And, since future Peter trapped present Peter in the body of one of the worst of these criminals — where’d he pick up the consciousness-embedding power, anyway? — present Peter is on the lam, literally walking in another man’s shoes. It seems as if Peter’s job in this show is to be trapped: In the first season, he’s trapped by his destiny to destroy New York; in the second season, he’s trapped by the absence of memory; and now he’s trapped in some other dude’s body.
I get that Nathan Petrelli’s a politician, and that taking the opportunity to blabber is second nature, but that religious conversion oratory was kind of ridiculous. Suddenly, he’s Moses, a man raised in a practical, hermetically sealed environment who sees the light and decides to lead people to their salvation. ”Save ourselves, save the world.” Yeah, okay.
But that’s nothing compared to Mohinder’s leaden reading of Yeats’ ”The Second Coming,” with its ominous passages like ”the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” It just felt so…on the nose. Why not choose something more surprising, like ”Welcome back/Your dreams were your ticket out/Welcome back/To that same old place that you laughed about./Well the names have all changed since you hung around/But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around/Who’d have thought they’d lead ya/Back here where we need ya?”
Even Kotter can be profound, if read with a stilted faux-British accent.
NEXT: A fly guy
Apparently, David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly was stuck in the DVD player in the writers’ room. The Good Doctor Suresh — after getting a very convenient stroke of genius thanks to that black-eyed piece, Maya — concocted a serum that’d give anyone powers. So, adhering to the rigorous mandates set forth by the scientific method, Mohinder tested it on himself. And turned into a crazy-horny Spider-Man, put the sweaty moves on Maya, and woke up with scales (feathers? really thick hair?) sprouting from his back?
Here was a guy who was like the Batman of the Heroesverse: a completely normal, baseline human who just happened to be really smart (even if he rarely acted like it). He was our way in, our viewpoint character, and now he’s power-mad and possibly degenerating? O-kay.
(You know what I’d like to see? A totally useless power. If, as Mohinder says, there are an infinite number of permutations to the powers people could receive with this shot, I wanna see the dude who gets stuck with the awe-inspiring power of lightning-fast alphabetization.)
I think I’m gonna like her as the head of the Company. She’s got big brass ones, and it’ll make for a nice set of complications for the Petrelli boys. (Even though she’s yet another person who’s got an eye on the future.)
Was this a great two hours? Not quite. Matt Parkman wandering around the African desert, only to encounter yet another Magical Negro — I guess the Haitian was busy — seemed like a waste. And I couldn’t tell if the casting of William Katt was just a nod to The Greatest American Hero, or if that pesky reporter will have a bigger role to play, even if he’s melted.
But there were enough moments to put me back on the side of hopeful: Linderman’s return, Ando with Force lightning, Bruce Boxleitner’s gravel-voiced Governor Malden, Ali Larter’s newfangled Ice Queen, Daphne the thieving speedster, and Kristen Bell bringing the house (and Sylar) down. As Doc Jensen told me, ”It’s definitely become a show I ‘like,’ not love. Which is inherently disappointing, because I used to love it.”
What about you? Who do you think is behind Tracy/Nikki’s memory holes? Is Linderman just a figure of Nathan’s imagination, or is he like a dead Jedi, there for those strong with the Force? Will Hiro’s wrong-headed mistrust of Ando end up being precisely what causes Ando to turn to the dark side?
More Heroes and EW links of the day:
‘Heroes’: Season 2’s Best and Worst