The series becomes bogged down with too many characters and too many unlikely plotlines, including Hiro's second childhood, Sylar's good deeds, and Claire's and Tracy's self-analysis
Ali Larter, Noah Gray-Cabey, ...
Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

Heroes (TV series)

‘Heroes’ recap: Who are these people?

There’s a term that’s used in TV writers’ rooms — usually in those of sitcoms, but it applies to almost any type of serialized storytelling. Legend has it that it was invented by Hank Azaria when he was on the Fox sitcom Herman’s Head. He would often, as that legend had it, ask the writing staff, ”Who’s carrying the idiot ball this week?” In other words, which character was doing the incredibly stupid, completely atypical thing for the sole purpose of advancing the plot? You know it when you see it.

Mohinder Suresh had been Heroes‘ undisputed master of the idiot ball. But not this season — even with his back-asswards injection of an untested gene-modifying serum. No, for the third season of Heroes, Hiro is cradling the idiot ball like a newborn.

After the ridiculous stuff he did last episode — in case you forgot, it involved opening a safe he was explicitly told not to open and letting half of a formula that ”could destroy the world” be stolen by a superfast rave chick — Hiro once again acted like a man who hadn’t once saved the world from Armageddon, endured a doomed love affair, and buried his father. Rather than conduct himself like, you know, a mature human being, he minced around a movie theater trying to stop the Haitian from getting the other half of said world-destroying formula, while flirting with his hyper-nemesis, Daphne.

But, you know, let’s not let Hiro’s inanity derail our discussion of another episode of Heroes that was way better than last season but still not all that great. Why? Here’s my theory: There are just too many damned characters. For ships and diddles, let’s list them, shall we?

Claire Bennet. Noah Bennet. Hiro Nakamura. Ando Masahashi. Matt Parkman. Nathan, Peter, and Angela Petrelli. Adam Monroe. Elle Bishop. Mohinder Suresh. Sylar. Maya Herrera. Micah Sanders. Dead Linderman. Molly Walker. Monica Dawson. Niki/Jessica Sanders.

That’s 18 people, all main characters who’ve carried the bulk of at least one episode. And we’re not even talking about the peripheral players who’ve bounced in and out (or the new iteration of Niki, Tracy Strauss). And, really, that’s too many for any one show to serve. As a result, we never truly get to know any of these people — with the possible exceptions of Sylar, Noah, and Peter — because there just isn’t time.

”One of Us, One of Them” had two real stories to tell: the collision of the Evil League of Evil Escapees and the new power couple of Noah and Sylar, and Claire’s coming face-to-face with the reality of her assault (thanks to some sweatbox time spent with her mother). Both of those stories are eminently worthy of 43 minutes of television — I’d have happily indulged the writers and producers as they explored the ramifications of either of those strands. How great would it have been to live with Peter for a bit as he’s stuck in a hostage crisis, inhabiting the body of one of the robbers? Why not take the opportunity to let him work his way out of that situation by himself? Show us how smart he is without any powers. Explore what it must be like to be trapped inside the body of one of the worst criminals to walk the face of the planet. Don’t end the promising ”villains on the lam” story just as we started it.

NEXT: Claire’s mother sweats out the truth

And maybe it’s me, but I just didn’t buy that Noah would work with Sylar at all. I don’t care what kind of pressure Angela Petrelli put on him. This is the man who mindfrakked his daughter. Put yourself in his position: Would you be willing to sit in a car for God knows how long with someone who violated your child? I didn’t think so.

As for Claire and her biological mother, Meredith, who had spent all of 10 minutes together before slipping away to a cargo container for ”training,” how exactly did Claire’s mother become this fire-spouting blend of Mr. Miyagi and John Locke? How did she know precisely what Claire needed to experience to face her fears and desires? Had she, too, been assaulted? Had she found her way through to the other side? If this is going to be a major turning point in Claire’s life, why not invest in it, rather than having it be simply another cutaway in a series that has tried to make a virtue out of its patchwork ensemble but, more often than not, ends up making a really ugly quilt.

Which is a shame, because if every episode didn’t feel so scattershot, then those times we did take a detour for another story, it’d feel that much more important. I love the idea of there being a whole bevy of Ali Larters, each a twin/clone of the other, and each with separate powers. Who is this Dr. Zimmerman, the man who seems to have created the Blonde Brigade? Who’s he working for? What was the plan?

(Still not in love with Visionquest Parkman, though I’ll take him over Mohinderfly any day of the week. That said, I would like to know what kind of music makes you see the future. I’d totally buy it from iTunes.)

I really hope that at some point, and some point soon, there’s a massive event that separates some of the Heroes wheat from the chaff. This cast needs to be reduced to a manageable size. It’s worth remembering that the X-Men started with just five members.

So, do we think Mama Petrelli’s telling the truth about being Sylar’s biological mother, or is that just to manipulate him? Did she just feed that poor girl to Sylar? Wouldn’t it be awesome if Micah turned into a villain? After all, here’s a kid who lost both of his parents, is being raised by the secretary of a starship, and just found out that he might be the son of a science experiment — that’d be enough to push me over the edge. And Hiro and Ando are imprisoned in Level 5. I’d like to say they don’t deserve it, but stupidity has its rewards.

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Heroes (TV series)
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