Season Premiere: Heroes – “The Second Coming”

“The Second Coming”

Season Premiere, Part One

[For my review of the second part of the premiere, “The Butterfly Effect,” click here]

I don’t hate Heroes – I just find it really difficult to like Heroes.

There is a difference: there are elements of the show that I really want to like, and parts which remind me at every turn that there is something unique about what the show offers. But after a while, these can only go so far – I’m to the point where I’m the epitome of a cliche when I start prattling on about how nothing on the show will ever live up to “Company Man.”

So I don’t want to open this review with the new cliche, the understandable if overused complaining about the show’s second season. When it comes to coverage here at Cultural Learnings, the kiss of death is not outright negativity but rather sheer disinterest: I stopped recapping Heroes at a certain point primarily because I stopped caring about its characters. That was the second season’s biggest problem: not that its new characters were amongst the worst I could possibly imagine, but rather that they went so far as to render previously acceptable characters worthless. When even Hiro ends up feeling like we’re wasting time, the show is in trouble.

But as a television critic of sorts, I’ve got to keep an open mind – the end result of this is that the first hour of the evening’s premiere represents an important step forward in that the storylines we are seeing develop as part of “Villains,” in particular within “The Second Coming,” are about discovering what makes these characters tick as opposed to them saving the world. Yes, the show has every opportunity to fall off the rails, but I can understand why the Comic-Con crowd was satiated by this hour: it offers more hope for the future than the show has offered since…well, probably since “Company Man.”

…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some issues.

The best part of tonight’s episode is a scene in the house that HRG built, as Claire sits at home watching as Nathan is bleeding before suddenly Sylar shows up looking for some revenge for their last encounter. What follows is a gripping thriller, a well-shot and well acted series of events wherein Sylar traps Claire before, while distracted by a series of files, she emerges and stabs him. Yes, as GraphicMatt pointed out on Twitter, there is something extremely problematic about Sylar having the power to seal shut doors and move furniture in his mind without being able to open a simple closet door, but the entire series of scenes plays out like a suspenseful and entertaining interlude: when we learn that Sylar sees Claire as different, how she and he could now be immortal, it feels like something new for both characters to deal with.

And as far as show-changing scenes go, I found the flashforward with Claire trying to kill Peter after four years of running from camps and testing far more interesting. It revealed the quite clever turn that Future Peter was the one who shot Nathan, which is something that helps to flesh out this storyline, and it raises questions about the future that aren’t so much “The world is going to end” as much as “These characters will play a role in the future destruction of humanity.” Yes, this is a slight different, but it’s important: it means that what we’re seeing here is something that reflects the past two seasons of character development (or, in unfortunate instances, lack thereof) and not just the writers’ late night brainstorming on how next to destroy major metropolitan centers with super cool special effects.

Even Mohinder gets to introduce something with some interesting potential, as he discovers with help from useless Maya that he can develop a serum that can give people super powers. It’s a game-changing development: when Hiro travels to the future, he finds Ando with powers, demonstrating that the future isn’t just some “big bad” emerging, but actually our own heroes turning into villains (Claire turning a gun, Ando with red thunder bolts, or perhaps instead Hiro and his formula-hoarding self). The problem, of course, is that we don’t care about Mohinder injecting himself with the serum – he’s a useless character, and giving him generic strength powers does little to add to what is a flawed character. It’s one thing to watch a morally altered Peter, but Mohinder’s total 180 in a single episode from “I’m quitting science” to “I’m going to inject it into myself instead of destroying it” is contrived and feels like a character that should have been marginalized and is instead being centralized.

Speaking of Hiro, his storyline is worrisome but feels more grounded in what works for this character: he and Ando get to have a bit of fun, there’s some cute dialogue, and it makes sense that this guy who spent two seasons saving the world would get a bit bored, playing with time just for the hell of it. So when he eventually gets his big task, and we meet his Speedster enemy (Brea Grant, the first performer from a far superior show [Friday Night Lights] to debut here), it feels like something closer to vintage Hiro…but when he flashes forward to the future, I am concerned that he will be more and more about these huge destinies and not about simpler pleasures. I like the character, and the Speedster is charming, but where it’s headed feels too big.

The rest of the show’s characters are sent into transition in the first hour: Nathan resurrects with Linderman’s help and finds religion, we randomly find Niki as “Tracy” sleeping around with a Governor, and Parkman is sent out to a random desert, proving that even the show has no idea what to do with him. Meanwhile, the show’s best character, Jack Coleman’s Noah Bennett, is trapped in a cell and seen only for a single week. It feels like there is still a lot of show to be dealt with here, and still a lot of uncertainty.

And yeah, a lot of that was probably answered by the second hour – sorry to offer only limited commentary, but I’m stretched pretty thin. I’ll be back with more on Heroes tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, I’m actually looking forward to watching the second episode, which is a good thing.

Cultural Observations

  • Why did Sylar get distracted and let Claire attack him? Simple answer: he was distracted by the appearance of Marlo Stanfield in the dossier. I got extremely excited at this development, and when he showed up later to confirm my suspicion it gives me hope for some tense dramatic action…even if Marlo wasn’t exactly a broad character.
  • Speaking of Marlo, we really need to get a better sense of what Bob (Stephen Tobolowsky) is up to at Primatech – that part of the storyline is probably the most muddled for me right now, and hopefully the second hour deals with it to some degree.

3 Comments

Filed under Heroes

3 responses to “Season Premiere: Heroes – “The Second Coming”

  1. hockey_fan

    I don’t know about you but I’m getting really annoyed by the death fakeouts on this show. Whenever someone dies, they are “resurrected”. Like seriously no-one seems to die on this show, this would not be a bad thing if the writers did not insist on killing a character every few episodes and then bringing them back. It cheapens everything for me. If you don’t want to kill your character don’t pull a fakeout every few weeks. Once a while bringing back a dead character is okay… even interesting but when such thing happens all the time (3 ‘dead’ characters coming back to life in this episode alone by my count) it lowers the stakes of the show.

  2. I feel you, Hockey Fan – at this point, I think that I’m waiting to see the level to which they use the resurrections to advance existing storylines. At the very least, with Niki in particular, it seems like they are sending it in a different kind of direction.

    That being said, can’t disagree – sometimes, especially in Niki’s case, I wish someone would stay dead on this show. And to be honest, the show has been so cyclical that I’ve stopped viewing it as lowering the stakes and just presuming there’s no stakes at all.

  3. Pingback: Season Premiere: Heroes - “The Butterfly Effect” « Cultural Learnings

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