Heroes: An “Eh” for Effort

Not bad enough to make me resolve to stop watching the show, but not that great.

Cool stuff:

Claire escaped her evil grandmother by the simple expedient of crashing through a window and bellyflopping on the street 10+ floors below. It’s moments like these, where characters use their powers intelligently and unpredictably, that make the show worth watching.

Charles (Richard Roundtree) and Simone reappear in an interesting “is it a dream?” sequence.

Ando and Hiro’s return to the Yagamoto offices was a nice bit of circle composition, as was the reappearance of the girl Telecop saved early in the show.

If all the other characters were eaten by Sylar over the summer break and Heroes turned into The Hiro & Ando Show, that would be okay with me. Bring back Eric Avari’s character to be their Dr. X, and you have a show I would watch every week until it was cancelled some time before the Fall sweeps.

Mixed bags:

Last week George Takei’s character went from being a sonorous and sinister bore to something rather different and intriguing. This week: sonorous and sinister bore.

Telecop briefly displays some intelligence and character after being smacked over the head with a gun, then reverts to type and runs off to shoot at Sylar, even though he should know it won’t work.

I was glad to see the Nikki/Jessica/D.L./Micah/Bob/Carol/Ted/Alice plotlines resolve without any major casualties. (D.L. was shot in the chest, but we know that chest-wounds are not fatal in the heroverse.) I hope they will live together happily ever after and never be seen on the show again.

Problematic stuff:

Low-impact resolution. It’s not clear that anyone of the “heroes,” quasi-heroes or villains actually died in this ostensibly apocalyptic moment. Nathan may be dead, may not; Peter probably is not; Sylar is not; Telecop took four bullets to the chest and is not dead. Even Linderman may still be alive, if he can heal himself and if they can afford to have Malcolm McDowell on the payroll next year.

Ganging up. Somehow the pattern in film/TV superheroes lately seems to be trending toward a bunch of good guys smashing a bad guy, or a smaller number of bad guys. I find this unappealing. The X-Men against a “brotherhood of mutants” with 4 people in it: not too impressive. (I liked the movie, but this was its weakest part.) The Fantastic Four teaming up against Dr. Doom solo, a couple years ago, was even less impressive. The people who craft these scenarios don’t have any intuitive sense of what heroism is or how to present it. All the spandex in the world can’t cover that problem.

Too much power, not enough action. Hiro and Peter individually have enough ability to make a decent narrative extremely difficult to write. The writers seem to respond by boldly writing inept narrative. There was a ticking clock subplot with Ando and Hiro in this episode for instance. But you can’t have a ticking clock with a character who can move around in time. Hiro could pop into the same crucial moment fourteen times and turn Sylar into cold cuts (the “temporal fugue” from Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness), but he doesn’t. (So Hiro doesn’t have enough control over his powers to do this yet? What “yet”? There is no yet; no spoon either.) Peter could “save the world” (part of NYC) by doing what Nathan does with him: flying off. Instead he whines and chews a little scenery and waves his glowing hands and waits for one of the less powerful characters to do something. The more powers the characters are larded with, the more the writers have to rely on idiot plots to keep the stories from being resolved by sensible undramatic action before the first commercial break.

Inane writing. Pointless voiceover narration by Mohinder was slathered all over this episode. I find this stuff inexpressibly painful: instant boredom. And if I never hear “save the cheerleader, save the world” or any variant thereof again, I will consider the world, with all its flaws and unavenged cruelties, an essentially good one.

On balance: the show has created some great moments (e.g. the Videotaped Adventures of the Amazing Indestructible Cheerleader, the confrontation between Telecop and the SuperMom with Two Minds, the episodes set in the future and the past, etc.) but it really hasn’t sustained any of the arcs to a satisfying conclusion. That’s a fairly severe criticism of a show which has few if any standalone episodes and is essentially all arc.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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4 Responses to Heroes: An “Eh” for Effort

  1. I agree with all of the above. The show is infuriating, and yet I still watch it. Mostly for Hiro. I had high hopes for the finale, but the writers seemed fatigued, or rushed, or both.

    • JE says:

      I’m glad it’s not just me. Maybe they can pull something together for the second year: I still think the premise has some potential.

  2. davidcapeguy says:

    ganging up…

    In the old Republic serials, if the hero was fighting henchmen, he always fought two henchman at a time. If there were two heroes, as in “The Fighting Devil Dogs,” there’d be four henchmen to fight. And if three, as in “Daredevils of the Red Circle,” the villain would find himself six henchmen for the big fight.

    Corny and programmed as it sounds: it worked.
    A lost art.

    • JE says:

      Yes. And although sometimes one laughs when Errol Flynn (playing Robin Hood or Captain Blood) flicks his little foil and five Evil Henchman go flying backwards. But I think it’s definitely better than four or more “heroes” ganging up on one “villain.”

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