Can HEROES Bring Back the Awesome?

by Chris Bujold

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, so Heroes didn’t make the Geek Force Five this week. But Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia was interviewed by Newsarama at the New York Comic Con this weekend, and we are covering the NYCC. So, don’t tell me I’m cheating by posting this awesome article by Chris Bujold. I am not cheating. I am not!

When I was bartending at a certain chain restaurant, there was a certifiable Geek that worked in the kitchen. We would talk at length about whatever fancied us at the time—comics, horror movies, pop culture—and I truly enjoyed talking with another kindred spirit.

When Heroes debuted, I thought for sure he would be into it. We were both excited for it to begin—a primetime series about superheroes! What is there NOT to love? It reminded me of the short-lived series from the eighties, Misfits of Science—and I love being reminded of my childhood.

This momentous event, however, resulted in a fork in our relationship. I fell in love with Heroes; he hated it. I remember being so angry—How. Dare. He. We got into a heated argument over the validity of the series in terms of comics mythology. His opinion was, “it’s a rip-off of X-Men. Period. End of discussion. It sucks.”

Whether or not Heroes is a rip-off of X-Men is moot point. Honestly, I don’t really care if something is a “rip-off” of something else. If it is engaging and entertaining, I’ll read, watch, or listen to it. In my opinion, most art is automatically indirectly inspired by something else—something always comes from something, unless you are creating art in a bubble, cut off from the rest of society.

At any rate, the new episodes of season 3 of Heroes started this week, and I was excited. There are many people who believe Heroesjumped the shark last season. It is generally agreed that season 1 of Heroes was Awesome, and it is generally agreed that season 2 was Not Awesome. This happens a lot with television shows (and come to think of it, books and music as well)—the first product finds immense success and critical acclaim, and then there is the “sophomore slump.” I’m sure it is very difficult to live up to expectations of awesomeness—imagine millions of people adoring what you did, and then you are offered A LOT of money to reproduce success. It isn’t to say Heroes didn’t try to do justice to the awesomeness of season 1—they just tried too hard. Season 2 started off promising, but then just got ridiculous, convoluted, and forced.

Well, at this point in the show’s life, I’m still in. To make a lame sports analogy: I still love David Ortiz even when he’s going through a batting slump, because I have hope. Hope for the magic to rekindle. I’m too invested to give up now.

Which brings me to the mid-season 3 premiere, “A Clear and Present Danger,” where Nathan Petrelli is rounding up people with powers (to imprison them for the “greater good”), and Sylar is dealing with daddy issues. I like that they didn’t make us wait to see if Sylar is still alive—yes, cut to the chase, good. I also liked the fact that I’m not getting jerked around—Get all that exposition out of the way, set up the rest of the season. I know what to expect: The Heroes will be chased the entire season, Sylar will unravel some mystery about his father, and then both plotlines will combine in some climax where someone will betray someone and an unlikely hero will rise.

Is the plot going to be cliché? Yeah, probably.

Was the dialogue of the premiere stale and was the acting bad? Yeah, it was—Sylar actually said, “Who am I?” and Peter actually said, “”What advice can I give, except to kiss my ass, Nathan?” He also actually said, “I should have been stronger. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN STRONGER!” Gimme a break.

Don’t try to be something you’re not—okay, I get it, you want to explore the nature of paranoia, government control, the human spirit, daddy issues, brother against brother, trust—but honestly, I just want superheroes battling super villains. The best parts for me are when the super-powered humans actually USE their super-powers. Hey, I like shows and movies that speak to larger themes as much as the next guy—that’s why I watch Lost. But I also like popcorn entertainment—things blowing up, people beating on each other, and general badassery. The best part of the episode was when Sylar was being attacked by the hunters, and he showed them what’s what. YEAH! I don’t care who your daddy is (although, my girlfriend has a theory that Claire and Sylar are brother and sister—that’s why Claire’s eyebrows are getting inexplicably darker. This sort of intrigues me).

Aside from the bad acting, stale dialogue, and predictable plot, it’s a good start. It seems like it is going to be an action packed rest of the season, which I feel would be Awesome. I want to see people fly and shoot electricity out of their hands and turn invisible and blow up buildings. My advice to NBC—stick to the Hollywood formula. That is how to Brink Back the Awesome. You’ve already dealt with all that other crap. Let’s blow some stuff up.