TV Talk: Heroes
Starring: David Anders, Kristen Bell, Jack Coleman, Dana Davis, Noah Gray-Cabey, Greg Grunberg, Ali Larter, James Kyson Lee, Masi Oka, Hayden Panettiere, Adrian Pasdar, Zachary Quinto, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Dania Ramirez, Milo Ventimiglia
Series Creator: Tim Kring
As always, this post will discuss details about episodes that have already aired, so if you don’t watch the show as it airs, consider this a spoiler alert. There are no spoilers for future episodes (or even major spoilers for the first seven episodes of the second season really).
A little under a year ago, I wrote a post raving about how much I loved this show and how I looked forward to seeing it more than any other show on TV. What a difference a year makes. I really can’t think of any other show that I’ve watched that has so quickly gone from must see, appointment television to making me consider dropping the show altogether than has Heroes (and, no, Lost didn’t drop this fast in terms of quality or interest, although the two are comparable in this area, as they seem to be in so many areas).
Yep, count me in as one of the many, many viewers that has grown disillusioned by this season of Heroes. I will say that I sorta saw it coming before the season ever started, and was worried that the massive popularity of the show along with an incredibly bloated cast could wreak havoc on the show, forcing it to try and live up to the lofty goals of its network and fans had for it. In this way, Heroes has once again lifted from the comic book world that inspires it, turning in a second season wrought with the troubles that made Spider-Man 3 such a disappointment.
If there’s anything positive to be taken from the poor showing of the series second season, it came today in an interview with series creator Tim Kring with Entertainment Weekly, where he himself admits that the show hasn’t been very good. So at least they know there’s a problem, and if the writer’s strike doesn’t go on for long, they might get a chance to fix it (if not, they’ve re-shot the December 3rd episode so it will serve as a season finale instead of the planned volume break that it was to be).
But I’m less interested in how they’re going to fix Heroes (especially since that could be a year away), and more focused on how they broke it. I won’t get into every problem with the show so far, because I’m sure we’ve all read the same complaints in a lot of places, and had a lot of them ourselves. Instead, my main concern is that what’s wrong with this season of Heroes isn’t all that different from what was right from the first season of Heroes, and thus this might not be so much a case of a good show gone bad as it is the revelation of a bad (or at least mediocre) show once the freshness wore off.
Here’s the thing: as much as I loved watching the first season of Heroes, I was well aware of its many problems. The dialogue is workmanlike, the acting is average at best (basically, if you take the medium performance of the whole cast, balancing out the strong performances of, say, Jack Coleman and Zachary Quinto with the less-than-strong performances of, say, Noah Gray-Cabey and Sendhil Ramamurthy), the plot development is slow, and the build-up to big moments was always cooler than the actual moments (didn’t the final battle with Sylar that you had in your head prior to the finale seem much cooler than the final battle with Sylar that we were actually presented with? Or “final” battle, as it were).
This was true then as much as it is now, but I didn’t mind that much then, because everything was so fresh and fun. Sure the concepts and ideas of Heroes were lifted from comic books, science fiction, and movies that I had read or seen before, but they had never been presented to me before as a television show, and that was thrilling. So it may have been annoying to see Matt’s (Greg Grunberg) boring storyline with his wife play out, or frustrating to wait all season to figure out what exactly was Nikki’s (Ali Larter) power, but it was still exciting to see how the world and characters of a television show deal with being able to read minds or tear people apart.
Now that thrill is over, and I’m bored to tears watching Matt play house with Mohinder (Ramamurthy) and Molly (Adair Tishler) and I really don’t want to watch another season of Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) trying to figure out his powers. There are many things that they’ve done wrong this season, including the introduction of the boring Toxic Twins (Dania Ramirez and Shalim Ortiz), Claire’s (Hayden Panettiere) stupid high school problems, Hiro’s (Masi Oka) lame feudal Japan adventure, and Peter’s amnesia trip in “Ireland”, but the biggest problem is that they no longer have momentum and novelty to power through the flaws of the series.
Viewers forgave the slow development of the first season because the concept was fresh and we saw where they were going (these developing heroes would eventually prevent a bomb from destroying New York). Once that was taken care of, we wanted to see the heroes move on to bigger and better things, not reset back to where they were (Matt’s in a boring domestic situation, Peter doesn’t know about his powers, Nikki is running scared from her problems, Claire is trying to fit in at high school while her dad covertly protects her, Mohinder is still a hopeless dupe). Worse, they’re trying to slowly develop new characters like Maya, Alejandro, West (Nicholas D’Agosto), Kensei (David Anders), and Monica (Dana Davis) the same way they slowly developed the original set of characters, and we’ve already done that as viewers. Yes, the experience of new powers is new to these characters, but it’s not new to us, so shit or get off the pot with them, because I don’t want to wait 15 episodes for Maya and Alejandro to become relevant (actually… I don’t really want them to be relevant at all, no matter how many episodes it takes. And I don’t believe for a minute that Alejandro lasts that many episodes anyway).
If you’re going to introduce new characters, first, don’t introduce so many that we lose track of both them and the established characters for long stretches of time, and second, introduce them like you did Elle (Kristen Bell, yay!), as someone who already knows her powers and has a purpose (even if we don’t know it yet). Instead, everything until this most recent episode (the seventh, “Out of Time”) has felt like a show stalling for sweeps week, resetting its storylines and familiar tropes because it doesn’t know what else to do. In doing so, it not only produced a disappointing follow-up, it also revealed the possibility that the show was never that good to begin with.
What do you think? Have you been satisfied with the season so far? Do you think the first season holds up to scrutiny? Do you think things will turn around? Are there any storylines that have you as excited as you were for “save the cheerleader, save the world”? I’d love to read any feedback or Heroes discussion in the comments.