Nerdy TV: What the Hell is Wrong with Heroes?

Heroes Volume 4 – Ugh

Heroes is a troubled show. Moreover, it’s been a troubled show since episode 1 of season 2, and it doesn’t really appear that’s about to change. Tonight I finished catching up on the Season 3.5 (or if you prefer, Heroes Volume 4) episodes aired so far and I’m more convinced than ever that this show has lost its way, probably forever. Like most seasons, it started off in a somewhat interesting way-with the “wave with the wind” politician Nathan Petrelli turning on the Heroes and convincing the president to create a task force to round them up and–do something with them, though it’s increasingly unclear as to what the plan was.

Meanwhile “Claire bear”, the most worthless character on the show, continues to whine about how she “should be doing more”, while Nikki-Clone continues to flip sides with her rat looking face, just like her good buddy Nathan. Meanwhile Parkman–who’s inexplicably gone from being a cop to a detective to a security guard and now to nothing–somehow has the ability to paint the future. I was so glad when they took away Hiro’s ability to go into the future and see what’s coming while simultaneously killing off the remaining ‘paint the future’ character, and now they’ve done what? Given the ability to the second most worthless character on the show. In all honesty I’m becoming quite tired of this routine, and unless the writers do something to fix this show they’re going to flush it completely down the toilet. But where did the laundry list of mistakes with Heroes begin?

Luckily that question is easy to answer: Heroes, Season 2, Episode 1. From the beginning of its second season, Heroes took a massive plunge in quality, creativity and interesting use of its characters. Starting us off several months past where we’d just left at the end of Season 1, with all our characters in wildly different locations and situations and no explanation why, was a mistake. Nathan’s sudden hardening as a “good guy” was welcome, but proved to be quite short lived as he returned to jackass form later in the season–a process he repeated in the first half of season 3. While I’ll give the writers credit for creating a believable politician-because let’s face it, most politicians living today are nothing more than opportunists and poll followers-in a TV show character who’s ostensibly one of the good guys, this behavior is just plain annoying.

The mistakes kept coming. Season 2’s trek through Mexico with Sylar and his new illegal alien pals was boring and their powers were stupid (“I cry mascara and people die!” “I grab her arms and bring them back! Together we do nothing at all!“). Blissfully they killed off half that pairing and sent the other away without powers, but by then the damage had been done. Beyond that, the reliance yet again on someone travelling to the future to find something terrible’s coming and they have to stop it was irksome at best, but let’s call it for what it really was: Lazy, incompetent writing. This trend continued for the first half of season 3, as Sylar’s alleged redemption was laughable at best. They never for a moment pulled off the illusion that this character was going to become a Hero, it was transparent from the outset that he would revert to villain at some point in the season. His inevitable reversion at the end of the Villains volume was cool and really well done, but completely predictable.

Speaking of Villains, talk about a misnomer. The best bad guys they could come up with were a bunch of thugs with super powers and a mysteriously alive Arthur Petrelli with a plan to give the whole world super powers? WTF? And of course, we yet again had a visit from the future telling us about terrible things happening if X, Y and Z didn’t change. And like the time travel in season 2, it failed to live up to Season 1’s time travel story because it lacked the complexity and depth of that story. Not that Heroes has ever been the pinnacle of narrative or character depth, but at least Season 1 pulled off a competent story, a feat that the series has yet to do a second time.

And this brings us back to the the current Heroes Volume 4: Fugitives tale. It has some good moments. There’s a pretty good sense that this terrible and large thing has begun to happen in Nathan Petrelli’s plan to round up everyone with powers, and that has a genuine feeling of tension to it that’s at times palpable. Luckily nobody has travelled to or from the future to convey any messages, though I still think that the “paint the future” dynamic needs to go; it’s boring and it’s been done to freaking death on this show. Some elements, though, are already obvious. We’re already seeing Nathan begin to waffle on his plan. We’re already seeing Bennett looking out for some of the Heroes he knows and acting against his better judgment both as he works for the team trying to round them up while simultaneously betraying them ever so slightly. These are bone-stock behaviors for these characters, and we’ve seen them time and again. I can already see that Nathan will end up having a change of heart, come around to being a “good guy” again and turn against this “hunter” character.

So, what needs to happen for this show to get back to a place that makes some semblance of sense? First off, let’s clean house. Kill Claire in Heroes Volume 4 or disappear her from the show. She’s boring, she’s useless, she’s annoying. Second, kill Nathan. Seriously, no reprieves for this guy, somebody blow his damn head off. Sylar, where are you when you’re needed (and why are you, the Villain, the most interesting character on a show called Heroes?) Nathan is a boring character who does nothing but flip and flop with the wind. It seems to work for real life politicians, but it doesn’t work at all for shows about good guys fighting bad guys. Third, decide what the hell you’re going to do with Peter. He’s an interesting character, second only to Hiro, but he flips and flops from being King Bad Ass to being mega-wuss. Either give him his powers back or don’t, but make a freaking choice and stick with it. Fourth, kill off or get rid of all these half-developed characters in the periphery. Mohinder should probably go back to India and stay there. Parkman needs to either become a badass mind control guy or get lost, because his whining is boring. His girlfriend got shot in the shoulder and apparently died, and all I could think was “thank god“. Last but absolutely not least, pick your core characters–maybe 4 or 5 of them–and develop them, stick with them, and play them together. It’s impossible for these characters to develop relationships with each other that we care about if they’re constantly traipsing off to all corners of the planet. There’s some level of evidence that this might be starting in Fugitives, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it pans out.

Heroes is a show I desperately want to like. I enjoyed the first season immensely and thought they’d finally cobbled together a good sci-fi/superpowers series, but every season since then has been a disappointment. Heroes, sadly, can’t hold a candle to such great shows as Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even its much worshiped Star Trek. It’s a shame, really, because it really could be something special if they just handled it better.

Perhaps they should fire Tim Kring and hire Joss Whedon for Heroes Volume 5.

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