From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Unbreakable Habits: Heroes Returns

Around this time last year, I and millions of other fans were excited about the Heroes season two premiere. The first season was pretty amazing, usually well-written, sported a great cast, and generally convinced everyone it was made of awesome. The season-long storyline, the inclusion of many women and people of color, and the geeky X-Men homages made the audience eager for more.

But what we got in season two was a steaming pile of crap. It took most people a little while to realize it, as each episode revealed more horrors and systematically dismantled much of what was good about the first season. The writer’s strike put an early end to the mess and creator Tim Kring seemed to recognize what was not working. So it was with cautious optimism that I began Heroes season three, which premiered on Monday. We were treated to two episodes — a whole two hours of Heroes.

Two hours I will never get back.

Season two ended on a dramatic note — Nathan Petrelli shot by an unknown assailant! Season three began with another shocker — the unknown assailant was Peter Petrelli… from the future! Oh here we go again. And the heart-wrenching scene where Nathan dies in the hospital and Future!Peter kisses him goodbye would have been more tension-y had the audience not known full well that Nathan was not going to be dead. We were mostly tipped off by his picture all over the promotional materials. But even if that had not been so, this is Heroes, the show where white male cast members never die for good.

Think about it. Who died in season one? Issac Mendez, Simone Deveaux, Eden McCain. Simone’s death was particularly egregious because it happened because she was an object of jealousy and it was quickly tossed aside. Essentially she was there to further the emotional development of Peter (a white dude) and to push Issac toward fulfilling some destiny by sacrificing himself to Sylar (another white dude). Why did Issac have to die? Eden had mostly run her course as a character, true, but so have Peter and Sylar and Noah Bennet…

Season two brought us the deaths of D.L. Hawkins, Alejandro Herrera, Candice, and Kaito Nakamura. All of these people are dead for good, never to return (except on video). The anger I felt at the way the show discarded D. L. in yet another pointless death cannot be conveyed in words. And I wonder why Maya gets to stick around when Alejandro does not?

The people of color who made it out of season two alive should hope they don’t stand near any important white people (like Claire, Peter, or Nathan), otherwise their lives are in danger. The only characters that seem immune to this are Hiro, Ando, and Mohinder. Hiro is too popular to kill, though I worry for Ando. And Mohinder is the show’s grounding character, so he can’t go anywhere. (Plus, he does all the cheesy end monologues. Who would do them once he’s gone??)

The only two major white and male characters to sleep the permanent sleep were Ted Sprauge and Linderman. And, oh look, Linderman has returned to us! In ghost/hallucination form, at least. Man, white guys never really die.

Still, if that were the only annoying thing about these episodes, it wouldn’t be so bad. I was really hoping that Heroes would get its mojo back what with the many, many months they had to think about ways to make the show better. But the problems just kept coming.

Overall, the episodes did not strike a good balance between creating mystery and a desire to learn more and confusing the hell out of the audience. For example, the last time we saw Nikki Sanders she was all blowed up in New Orleans. Given that she’s such a popular character, I did not expect her to be dead. But a woman who looks just like her has, apparently, been hanging out in New York for quite a while. She can’t be Nikki. Plus, she has a different power. Is she Jessica? Is she a third twin no one knew about? Is she just a look-alike? I really can’t bring myself to care. The way everything unfolded was too messy and did not evoke mystery, just annoyance.

Once again, we’re going to get a whole storyline focused on how “special” and “unique” Claire is with bonus stuff about how her blood is “pure” and full of “light”. My eyes roll forever, people.

The secret formula that could destroy the world? Should have been much, much harder to find. And Hiro’s naiveté, though once charming, has now become ridiculous. There’s no reason he couldn’t have taken the formula back from that girl the first time except that the writers made it so he did not. And yet again, Hiro pops into the future, sees a great cataclysm, and pops back to put an end to it. (yawn) Wake me when season one ends?

On top of the plot weaknesses, there’s the bad characterization. Matt gets teleported to the desert (in Africa… readers, I groaned aloud) and meets an enigmatic black man who knows more than he lets on and will possibly become key to the plot but will probably never get a name of his own. They’ll probably keep referring to him as “The Shaman” or something.

Mohinder injects himself with a magical serum and gains the power of super strength, super agility, and SuperFly. Seriously. I thought I was watching Spider-Man 3 what with the evil venom taking Mohinder over, causing him to be reckless, stupid, and ready to shag the first woman who walks in the room. They even made a point, early in the first episode, of showing Mohinder chastely remove his hands from Maya’s arms even though she clearly had no problem with it. The writers were obviously trying to build up some sexual tension. But you know those brown men, they are either very carefully celibate or raging horn dogs!

One thing about this show I started to understand at the end of season one and now fully grok at the beginning of season three is that it’s really about two people: Peter and Sylar. Sadly, these are the two most boring people on the planet. Peter is either emo, or angry and emo. He is forever whining or looking pouty and trying to fix his past mistakes yet refusing to learn from them.

Sylar is the most banal evil dude I’ve ever seen on my TV. And to discover that all this time he hasn’t even been eating the brains? That’s the only thing that made him vaguely interesting. Ever since we leaned his backstory he has gone downhill in the scary, menacing, and interesting departments. Now his continued presence is just gratuitous, and I don’t think there’s any way for the writers to salvage that. Yes, even the shocking! reveal that Angela Petrelli is his mother indicates nothing more than desperation.

I get that Peter and Sylar are meant to be mirrors of each other — one who passively absorbs power and is good enough not to use it for evil and one who takes power by force, making him more and more evil in the process. That was interesting for one storyline. It’s over now. Let it go.

Heroes season three is DOA. But just like a handsome white guy, it will keep coming back again, and again, and again.

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