Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"You've been here for a few months, Butler. I think it's time I saw some commitment to excellence from you.": Heroes

(David is blogging this show for House Next Door, and Erik will be doing second opinion articles in weeks to come. Trust me when I say that those two may do a better job with this show than I will. -- ed.)

In its second season, Heroes increasingly resembles what would happen if director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu took on an adaptation of Justice League of America. It's superficially serious, somewhat interested in conforming to its genre and overly impressed with itself for bouncing from country to country, language to language, barely a care in the world. The second season premiere exacerbated the most-criticized thing about the first season, by jumping from storyline to storyline heedlessly. What could seem exhilerating in the first year is starting to seem a little overdone.

One of the things I find fascinating about Heroes is that series creator Tim Kring is not the show's best writer. On most series, the creator is the person most in tune with the voice of the show. Here, Kring often seems really impressed with the bargain-rate Joseph Campbell stuff that Mohinder spouts, while the other writers (at least last season) were more interested in telling a big, sprawling serialized story.

Anyway, what happened?

The best storyline was probably Noah (formerly HRG) having to deal with working at a copy shop. Maybe it was because it indulged a rarely seen penchant for humor that made the whole thing work. Maybe it was because Jack Coleman is a strong actor, no matter what you throw at him. And maybe it was because I really, really want to see the spinoff, where Noah and the copy shop guy work together and get into petty conflicts over their office-based drudgery. But I liked this subplot! More copy shop!

I wasn't as sold on the Claire storyline, but that probably worked about the second best here. The problem here is that this is all a foregone conclusion -- we know that Claire won't keep herself from saving the world OR from being a cheerleader forever, so this is all a bit perfunctory to watch (and what was up with that rival cheerleader girl, whose California accent sort of sounded like her mouth had been numbed with Novocaine?). Still, the story's pretty serviceable teen angst stuff, and it was cool to see that guy hovering outside of her bedroom window, even with the whiff of "been there, done that" in it.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, a couple of people we've never met are yelling at each other in Spanish, and it's not horribly interesting or involving.

Nathan's not dead, but he's feeling bad about Peter and sure that the kid will come back (this IS television, after all, and maybe Nathan is suddenly growing aware of his role in a serialized narrative -- "Hey, this stuff happens to me every week!"). Nathan's grown a beard, apparently from eating lots of Dominos Oreo dessert pizza (hat tip to Libby for that joke), and he sees a deformed version of his brother in the mirror (in one of the episode's coolest moments).

Peter, of course, is living in a box in Ireland and has forgotten everything (of course! amnesia! no one will see that coming!).

Mohinder, meanwhile, is fielding an offer from Stephen Tobolowsky, and Matt is living with that little girl who can find any hero and dealing with all of the issues of being her pseudo-dad and the creepy drawings she makes of giant, flaming eyes. It's all interesting enough, but it doesn't ever ignite.

Finally, Hiro is stuck in the past, delivering exposition in Japanese. Keeping the show's breakout character separate from everyone strikes me as a bad idea, even if Masi Oka is an entertaining actor, and it's always nice to see David Anders. And in the future, Ando is working with Hiro's dad, only to find that he's being killed by a shadowy figure (who will it be? I'll say Invisible Man Claude for now). Hiro and Ando's chemistry is one of the best things about the show, and the episode suffers for keeping them apart.

The biggest problem with the premiere is that it doesn't really tell a coherent story. The best episodes of serialized television both advance the overarching storyline AND tell mini-stories that work in and of themselves. Lost's season two premiere (since we're going to be comparing the two shows until the end of time) featured both a story that introduced a new mystery to the island (there's a DUDE in the hatch? What?) AND gave us the self-contained stories about the characters entering the hatch for the first time and Jack's first meeting with his wife (in flashback). This Heroes premiere doesn't do anything beyond setting up a lot of storylines, so it never feels like it goes anywhere. It's just, "Hey, look, we're back. Didn't you miss us? Look where everyone is now? SPOOKY!"

So here we are. Heroes season two. Will any of this coalesce? Or are we doomed for a season of subpar television?


Carrie said...

Things I cared about in this episode:

1. David Anders using his British accent instead of his real voice. Hooray!

2. Peter Petrelli's haircut. And amnesia.

Things I didn't care much about:

1. Everything else.

When Heroes is good, it's SO GOOD. When it's mediocre, it's really hard to give a crap. You're so right about Kring being the weakest Heroes writer. Do you think that's awkward in the writer's room?

I'll still be watching this season, because I know at least two or three episodes will blow me away. I just wish it was more consistent.

Bianca Reagan said...

Is that NPH in the featured picture, or is an NPH lookalike?

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