Heroes – “Cautionary Tales”

“Cautionary Tales”

November 19th, 2007

Credit where credit is due: the end of the episode showed that someone in the writer’s room isn’t sleeping, calling back to one of the first season’s most memorable cliffhangers of Claire open-chested in the morgue. However, unlike that “Holy Sh-” moment, this one wasn’t earned: another middling and poorly paced outing for Heroes resulted not in an edge of your seat conclusion, but rather a bait-and-switch near death which only cheapened the episode as a whole.

The episode as a whole was a cautionary tale to Tim Kring that, even after his apology hit the internet, his show still needs to remember what happened in the show’s first season. In “Company Man,” Claire saw her father’s true love for her despite what bad things he had done in the past. When Hiro attempted to go back in time to save Charlie, he realized that he could never do it and that there were just too many consequences. They learned these lessons, received these cautionary tales…but now here they go repeating them all over again.

The episode was not a lost cause, certainly: I actually really liked Parkman’s story in particular, outside of some cringe-worthy dialogue from young Molly. Realizing he has the ability to control minds, to push instead of pull if you will, he manages to get another face off with Angela Petrelli. Here, he faces a huge moral dilemma: he tries to pull an identity out of her, which she holds as a deep secret. If he forces her to say it, she says, he is just like his father: he’s turning too far to that dark side of the force.

When we learn that he does indeed take it from her, it gives his character a sense of dimension: after he spent last season with largely domestic concerns after the entire FBI storyline fizzled mid-season, it’s nice to see Parkman taking a key role from a hero perspective: he’s the character being written as the most human, the most complete, and the show should take advantage of this.

But they won’t, because they’ll be juggling back to their other storylines (Peter and Sylar were wholly absent this week). This week was the chance for the big showdown between Noah Bennet and the Company, and to see whether the paintings would come true. This could have been an intriguing storyline, but it suffered from a serious problem: the dialogue was amongst the most atrocious in the show’s history.

It really reminds me of Bionic Woman, in which an overly serious tone was provided to ridiculous dialogue except for when one of the actresses (Katee Sackhoff, in that case, and Kristen Bell here) chewed the scenery so much it worked. But no one else was chewing the scenery: only Jack Coleman really came through unscathed from this awful dialogue. The storyline certainly took a turn for the macabre when Noah was shot, but that didn’t keep the entire thing from lacking the levity of some of the show’s more well-written stories.

Let’s deal with Noah’s resurrection for a moment: to be honest, I wish they’d left him dead. The show is lacking consequences already (With D.L.’s death being the only one that has really resonated as of late), but if Adam’s death spree is easily curable by a little of Claire’s blood then what’s the problem? Bennet dying would have given Claire an edge she sorely needs, and it would have created a weight on Mohinder which might actually make his character interesting. Instead, we might get a few weeks of turmoil before Claire finds out the truth and everything reverts back to normal.

It isn’t a jump the shark moment: it was wholly predictable and nothing that wasn’t already in the show’s science-fiction/fantasy routes. However, it also didn’t represent anything really new for the series, and only damages part of the show’s suspense in the process.

Cultural Observations

  • Claire, honestly, sounded like a Southern Belle in a western in her “Sorry” scene with West. It was some of the worst acting the show has ever seen…until we got to the scenes (oddly) with her mother, which had some of the strangest and most urgent dialogue readings I’ve heard. It was like she was trying to say them all in one breath.
  • The dialogue symptom was widespread: Hiro’s entire “I’m going to go back in time to save my father, oh wait, no I won’t, I’ll just find out that it was Kensei who killed him, OMG!” storyline had some of the worst dialogue yet. Overuse of “hero”, sappiness which was made all the worse by its subtitled nature, and just some really bad acting. It’s also frustrating for them to not even mention Charlie, but I guess it wouldn’t be good to remind us of a time when Hiro was relevant.
  • By far the worst part of the episode was the entirely unironic small talk between Bennet and West. Couldn’t we at least had a little awkwardness? As opposed to “Aw shucks, we both like cars?” It doesn’t work that way in real life, people.

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