Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Heroes flies back into our lives...

Does it swoop down and carry me off my feet or horrifically crash and burn?


Heroes returned to our screens this week, with 'The Second Coming', promising 1 a return to form after its sophomore slump. Before I start, I want you to make it clear how much I wanted to enjoy this episode!

I won't go too much into the story, but it begins with 'future Peter and Claire' having a showdown- after which he travels to the past, Hiro discovers one of his father's secrets, Sylar goes after Claire to try and restore his abilities and Parkman ends up in Africa.

Silar, now having caught Claire (in one of the most 'un-suspenseful' scenes in the series), learned her powers and announced that she and now himself can never die. In the first series, Silar's whole narrative was based around 'catching the cheerleader' to steal her powers - and now he's been gifted with this opportunity, it feels strangely anti-climatic. Couple this with the discovery he will be searching for more 'heroes with powers to steal' and it feels repetitive. Finally, now he's invincible, it somewhat diminishes the likelihood of him being stopped by anyone - very confusing. I don't even know what to say about Silar's pondering of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?".

Another character who seems to have a pention for dramatic monologues is Mohinder Suresh, who features quite prominently in this episode. His discovery, that the 'hero gene' does not exist and that is in fact the adrenal glands which are are the cause of the powers, was heavily rushed and came completely out of the blue. His companion in this episode, Maya, was again 'repetitive' (I apologise for my repeated use of this word!- speaking of repetitiveness, the Tokyo explosion scene looked slightly too similar to the New York series one explosion for my liking!) with her unheard pleas of 'please don't do it!'. It wouldn't have taken much for her to point out that for a scientist he's not being very intelligent - he wants everyone to have powers to protect against Silar- wouldn't it make more sense to concentrate on removing Silar's powers?. To top it off, his newly-enabled powers were very unimaginative, and in contrast to earlier more intriguing powers, they weren't particularly visually stimulating. Although a low point, at least Series 2 came up with some interesting and strange abilities (Monica Dawson learning other abilities and Maya's X-files-esque black oil).

Much like the aforementioned series 2, this series' premiere suggests it still lacks an overarching storyline to hold all the separate storylines together. A potential remedy for this would be to give the 'elder heroes' (Angela Petrelli, Linderman) a greater presence in the show. The whole 'formula concept' as the new major plotline doesn't work, mainly because it wasn't protected well and was lost so easily. Super-powered 'Time Supremo' Peter Petrelli in particular, attributes to this weakening of a central narrative - once you go down the time travel route along with his super powers, it gives the impression that history can be forever altered to his liking, and it makes everything that everyone does in the show seem meaningless, as though it is all temporary. Hiro's time travelling abilities were at least inhibited by the fact he was weaker and couldn't control his time travel completely. I get the feeling that the writers/creators are trying hard for their show to be 'epically good' (alongside shows like LOST) with a massive mythology and overarching storyline, where everything ties up at the end, with a big 'aaaah!'. Heroes should be content without being a pinnacle of art on tv, and just good entertainment!

I also think that the lack of 'real world' situations is hurting the show - we've lost any mention of them dealing with their 'real' (non-superhero) lives. This ties into how the show has lost its 'social awkwardness' take on superpowers (Claire trying to fit in in school, Politician Petrilli likewise, while running for office and Parkman's marriage, among others). Are we going to see Suresh finding it hard to fit in in the lab when he breaks lots of test tubes as he's supercharged? I highly doubt it. Although some of these 'social' scenes were cliched, at least they connected the show with the well known comic-book metaphor of 'superheroes developing powers' as 'puberty'. Comics are also well known for bringing characters back from the dead, but Heroes seems to be taking this to the extreme, and with so many deaths not being final, it cheapens the suspense and disconnects viewers from caring about the characters.

Now, that's not to say that the episode didn't have its strengths. I particularly enjoyed the apparent graffiti/artwork of the world being torn in two, it was reminiscent of the ingenious (postmodern-esque connection to the comics the series is based on) paintings of Isaac's, but different in style. Speaking of which, although the opening 'future scene' didn't really work in terms of acting or being particularly narratively shocking, both Claire and Peter's stark shadows brought back the frequently used 'comic cinematography' (filming the show as if its a comic) - which I felt made Heroes stand out from other sci-fi/fantasy dramas - although this was lacking in this episode as a whole. Alongside the cinematography, the speedy Daphne's 'light stream' - picked up by Hiro when he froze time as she swiped the formula from his office, was amazingly portrayed, and while similar to both the The Abyss (alien water) and Donnie Darko (time bubble) , it was still a real 'double take' moment. Hiro, although quite underused in Series 2, seems to be back to prominence and although this may not prove true, I enjoyed the potential for a twist concerning 'future Ando' Hadoukening 'future Hiro' and stealing the formula - hopefully they'll make sure it isn't a simple as it looks! One twist they definitely pulled off was 'present Peter' being trapped in the body of a 'Level 5' supercharged baddie, it was shocking enough, but tied into the whole theme of this series - Villians. I liked the fact that there were lots of questions posed - What does Lindeman want? Why is Nikki alive? But these appearances (particularly Nikki's) seemed teaser material and didn't add anything to this particular episode- here's hoping for episode 2!

I have high hopes for the subsequent episode- I'm hoping that maybe on its own this episode is a false start, and the fact that both were shown together (in the USA) is something I should take into account. I'm not giving up on Heroes, and I think with a few changes they could really turn the series around. They need to cut down the amount of storylines/characters to make sure the series is more focused with more time for character development. With so many plotlines it forces the scenes to be short, which in turn makes the acting (already not that great) seem even worse.

'Entertainment Weekly : 'Heroes creator to fans: I'm super sorry''
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20158840,00.html

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