“I Am Become Death”
October 6th, 2008
When “Five Years Gone” debuted last Spring, I was amongst those who were a bit lukewarm on the episode. Sure, it was interesting to see this potential future for our Heroes, but at that point the “here and now” drama of the series was actually quite compelling. Every time since that point, though, the future has been getting more and more attractive: with the future comes a promise of getting away from the doldrums of the present, of the slowly changing landscape actually getting around to changing before we all grow old or, worst of all for NBC, impatient to the point of tuning out.
What “I Am Become Death” does is follow in this same tradition, as Heroes plagiarizes itself in an effort to keep people interested. I would love to report that it doesn’t work at all, but the episode throws enough “Isn’t the future wacky and crazy?!” at the viewer to give them some (likely irrational) hope that the series is heading in some exciting directions. The entire thing plays out as, in combination, Future Peter ushering Present Peter into this new world, and Matt Parkman witnessing the thing while in a hallucinatory state in Africa, and while there are some interesting broad divisions being drawn as related to the key theme it feels like a lot for the future to live up to.
And Heroes isn’t good at living up to its promise.
“One of Us, One of Them”
September 29th, 2008
Is it wrong that, at the end of the day, I’m so satisfied by an episode of Heroes that doesn’t suck, acting as if it’s as much a triumph as an episode that is extremely good? My standards have certainly fallen for Heroes in the past two seasons, but that doesn’t mean that “One of Us, One of Them” isn’t still a good indicator for the strength of the coming season. There are some elements, including a smart return to the dynamic of the Company’s two-man teams and Hiro and Ando’s comic escapades, which feel like a return to a Heroes that knew what it was doing.
But let’s be frank: the strength of this episode is based on what is missing as opposed to what is really here. It’s an episode that focuses on the most interesting characters (HRG and Sylar), the most well-tested ideas (such as our new Isaac that Parkman met in Africa), and those storylines that could actually improve the show in the future (Claire training to become a hero in her own right). On those fronts, the show is smart: it’s what viewers like, what offers hope for the future, and what doesn’t outright suck.
Really, though, the reason the episode works is that the parts completely dragging the show down (Maya and Mohinder, in particular) are wonderfully absent in this third episode; when the show returns to their characters, something tells me that I won’t be willing to give them a free pass on some of the weaker execution seen in parts of the episode.
“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.