Kristen Bell's debut as an electric-powered investigator fails to give the show a needed jolt; meanwhile, Matt Parkman tries to get even with dad
Credit: John Russo

Heroes (TV series)

”Heroes” recap: Kristen Bell’s shocking debut

Hey, gang. Before we get into this evening’s episode, I just want to clear a little something up. Last week, I was kinda rough on Heroes. (As was my colleague, Gillian Flynn.) Now, I’m not going to try and soft-pedal what I said to appease the great many of you who left comments suggesting that I ”hate” Heroes. Or who were lobbying for EW to ”hire someone who actually likes the show.” Heck, I wish they’d ”hire” me — I do this for free. And why do I do it for free, you ask? Because I love this show. My love for this show is on the record. Make no mistake, my feelings for this season’s Heroes episodes can’t be categorized as anything as extreme as hate. Or even its milder cousin, dislike.

I’m disappointed. I know this show is capable of so much more than it’s giving me. And that’s what pisses me off. Notice that I use ”pisses” in the present tense — this week’s episode didn’t exactly get us back on track.

For hardcore comic-book fans, Heroes has never been the most original show on the air. So many of the powers, the dynamics between characters, could be found in the funny pages. Sure, 70 years’ worth of superhero fiction will leave very little virgin territory. But this week was the first time I’ve been so struck by how familiar it all seemed.

For example: While I dug the idea that Matt Parkman’s mind-reading powers could ferment over time and become ”something more” — and the power to trap folks inside a mental cage of their own devising is pretty sweet — it just felt like Papa Parkman was Freddy Kruger with slightly better skin. Interesting that Parkman’s fears involve both prison and abandonment. A little obvious, given his pop and his job, but interesting. But why does Nathan feel guilty about destroying a city that didn’t get destroyed? (I also didn’t get why Parkman was suddenly such a wuss about confronting his father. This is a dude who was willing to face down Sylar with a handgun last year. Now he doesn’t want to go talk to his dad?)

Also on the I-could-swear-I’ve-seen-this-before front: Jessica-Niki and her Terminator 2 moment. In the middle of another boring conversation between Bob and Mohinder, Jessica-Niki slammed into the scene — looking exactly like Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Conner, complete with tank top and scrub bottoms — tossed the good Dr. Suresh into a wall, and hoisted Bob up by his neck. There’s an old storytelling maxim: Enter the scene as late as possible; leave it as soon as you can. For the first time, the absence of a character from the main plot for a couple of weeks has worked to Heroes‘ benefit. We completely lost track of Micah’s mom, so for her to literally burst onto the scene was a pleasant surprise. If only her dominant personality hadn’t been so neutered.

NEXT: The new kids

And, finally, the most familiar piece of this week’s puzzle: Kristen Bell. Let’s see…a little slip of a blond thing who talks like a sorority girl but turns deadly serious when its time to get down? Where have I seen this before? Buffy, perhaps? Or — wait for it — Veronica Mars. What’s even more frustrating is that she didn’t do anything. She tracked Peter from the docks to a bar. Toasted an Irish thug (off screen). Called ”Daddy” to report her failure. (My guess: Daddy is Bob. But wouldn’t it be cool if it was H.R.G.? So cool, it won’t happen.) This is what we were waiting for? She was supposed to summon the cool from thin air like a bolt of lightning. Where was it?

As my colleague Joy Piedmont noted, last season’s fifth episode was where Hiro delivered the ”Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” directive. And with that, the show got focused. Pieces began to fall into place as characters were inexorably drawn together to save said cheerleader. This was the fifth episode of this season. Do you feel the same way? Do you sense a mission driving everyone to action? ‘Cause I sure don’t.

Here’s the thing: We were fine with giving the first season of Heroes those five episodes before the plot kicked into gear because everything about it felt new. Not only were we meeting these characters for the first time; we were learning what the show would and would not do. It was like the first couple of dates. Now, we’re on our 28th. Gotta try something to keep things fresh. Maybe a little role-playing, perhaps.

Don’t waste my time with Hiro’s consistently ridiculous story line. Even at a scant couple of minutes, it just doesn’t work. Peter is just spinning his wheels. At least they’ve dropped that nonsense about his not wanting to know who he is. (Who doesn’t want to know his own secret identity?) But why didn’t Peter pick up a phone and dial New York City information for a Petrelli phone number? Break out some Google-fu? Something tells me you’d get a hit off your brother who ran for senator.

The Monica and Micah show. WTF? And don’t even get me started on Mohinder showing up at Monica’s door. By making him so complete a tool, in every sense of the word, the producers have managed to make a marginal character even more so.

”Maybe we’re supposed to be doing something with these [powers],” Monica said to Micah.

You said it, sister. Because sitting around definitely isn’t working out.

What do you think? Were you disappointed with Kristen Bell’s debut? Are any of the other new characters working for you? And can you see the various characters’ plotlines coming together again?

Want more Heroes? Don’t miss EW’s Ultimate Heroes Fan Guide, where you can join with other members of the Heroes community to fill in new details of season 2.

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