Heroes for One Season

17-Oct-07 5:37 PM by
Filed under Television; 6 comments.

In the course of the last six days, I watched all 23 episodes composing the first season of Heroes. It was a perfect application of the DVD medium: uninterrupted, commercial-free broadcast of a continuous narrative with no waiting. It was difficult for me to ever turn the television off, as the story never disengaged its audience long enough to warrant such a break.

It's true that perhaps this series about ordinary people who discover they can do extraordinary things may be unoriginal; in comic book format, we've see similar powers in the X-Men, and on television, it's been done by The 4400. I'm not familiar enough with those efforts to say how Heroes stacks up, but I definitely enjoyed this particular take. I appreciated that it was set in a modern, everyday world, free of aliens and mysticism, while still incorporating the staples of science fiction, such as genetics, time travel, and samurai.

Having engorged myself on a half-year of story in less than a week, it's almost dizzying all the details and character development I've witnessed. (I usually hate it when bad guys turn good, as it leaves me with undirected angst — but they handled this one well.) Though I didn't find the depth and breadth hard to follow, I did think it unlikely that all these disparate threads would weave together. I'm willing to chalk it up to the "destiny" they were always talking about — even if all the secrets and misunderstandings between the characters sometimes made it seem like a soap opera.

There were so many characters that I felt their specialness was diminished by the frequency with which they met people like them; what are the odds that everyone in the Petrelli and Sanders families would empowered? (Must be genetic.) Yet I'll contradict myself by saying Mohinder was the least interesting character. Except as "guardian of the list", I don't feel he played a very important role in bringing the characters together or providing them with vital information. Though an interesting person, he was, in more ways than one, underpowered.

The tapestry of which he was a part was a rich one, and anyone looking to further explore its mythos need not look far. Many of the show's key people and places have their own Web sites, most notably Hiro's father documenting the legend of Tazeko Kensei. NBC has also produced nearly five dozen short comic books detailing the background and side events of the show, available for download as free PDFs. (Or pick them up as a single $30 hardcover this November 7th) I'll be consuming these shortly, as it probably won't be until this time next August that I'll get to watch season 2. That gives me a full year to contemplate the many questions with which the final episode left me:

  • Sylar's final battle with two foes was anticlimatic on both fronts. All of Peter's powers are ignored in favor of plain old fisticuffs? After all the training Hiro received from Sulu, and all the swords Sylar snapped, ultimately Sylar simply stands there and is run through? How could he allow that; is it because Peter had weakened him?
  • Why did Peter explode? He was able to control Ted's powers before; why not this time? The only reason I can think of is that he also absorbed all of Sylar's powers, and that many abilities all at once was too much for him to handle. If that's the case, it wasn't demonstrated. Also, was it just Ted's power he couldn't control, or all of them? If the former, I imagine he could've flown himself, without needing Nathan.
  • Future Hiro worked to prevent Sylar from exploding — but it was Peter who was the bomb man. How then could Future Hiro's actions have had an effect?
  • We also observe from Mohinder's recollections that this future stems from a past in which Future Hiro has already gone back to deliver a message to Peter. Something else must've happened to derail Future Hiro's timeline. What was it?
  • More important, Future Hiro thought that Sylar survived impalement because of his power of regeneration, and that saving the cheerleader would keep that power from Sylar's hands. But then we see Claire alive and well in that post-apocalyptic world. In what way was she not saved in Future Hiro's timeline? And how could saving her in this one have had any impact? Except maybe how she demonstrated to Nathan the value of family, prompting him to save New York…
  • From what we've seen of Hiro both six months in the past and four hundred years (and Future Hiro five years), it seems that, even if the future isn't written in stone, history is. And all of Isaac's other paintings came to pass. What happened to make the explosion he'd seen be untrue?

Finally, the cliffhanger in which Hiro found himself was predictable, IMHO. Perhaps it comes from my having read too many comic books, but when the legend of Tazeko Kensei was first detailed mid-season, I thought it sounded too similar to Hiro's quest to be a coincidence. Ah, well — I hope they play it out quickly and get him back to Ando. Those two roll well together.

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6 Responses to “Heroes for One Season”

  1. peterw adds:

    I have two comments to make.

    Firstly, some your of questions are based on things you only think you know! ;-)

    Secondly, about Mohinder: I keep adding up 2 (his sister had the disease, implying she was empowered) and 2 (there seems to be a strong genetic link), and getting 4 (Mohinder will turn out to have an as-yet-unknown power).

    After all the training Hiro received from Sulu

    I wish I could berate you for calling him "Sulu", but that would make me a hypocrite! (Talk about type cast…)

  2. Ken Gagne adds:

    Peter, thanks for respecting that the answers I seek may not be found until season 2, which I won't be seeing any of for another year. I'm curious to see how many existing threads will continue and how many new ones will be woven into the plot.

    Right now, the only explanation I can think of for the first season's conclusion is alternate timelines or parallel universes. That'd also explain Isaac's fallible paintings (the bomb, the Oval Office). But what did he mean when he said, "Now I've shown them how to stop the bomb — and how to kill you [Sylar]"? All I saw he did was draw a picture of Hiro impaling Sylar, which wasn't very helpful; nor did it address the bomb issue…

  3. Ken Gagne adds:

    Apparently the aforementioned graphic novel won't be the only literature with which I'll be able to fill the coming one-year void: a literary novel entitled Saving Charlie comes out on December 26th.

  4. Cockroach adds:

    Just did the same thing–week long marathon

    To answer some of your questions, here is my take:

    1. Many of your questions with time travel seem to assume a singular linear timeline. This is not the case. Most science fiction works, including Heroes, that involve time travel postulate multiple alternate timelines that all diverge off from the "main timeline." In Heroes, the "main" timeline is the first future experienced by Hiro: Sylar kills Claire and absorbs her power; Hiro stabs Sylar; Sylar regenerates; Sylar explodes.

    The first divergence from this timeline (or second timeline) occurs when Hiro goes to the future the second time (Heroes are terrorists; sylar is nathan, etc.). In this timeline, Hiro sucessfully goes back in time to warn Peter to save Claire; Peter saves claire and Sylar does not absord her powers; Claire lives and becomes a waitress; Peter–not sylar–turns into the atomic bomb in this one. However, Nathan does not rescue Peter, allows him to explode and follows Lindemann's plans for a "better future".

    Finally, the "third" timeline (or the second divergence from the main timeline) occurs after Hiro returns from the future the second time. In this timeline—which is what we see as the "present" in the series—Hiro returns from evil future and warns Nathan that he will become president after the bomb but will become a very evil man. Peter has already saved claire so sylar doesn't absorb his powers; Hiro is able to kill Slyar; Peter explodes; Nathan decides to rescue Peter and fly him away based on Hiro's warning about him becoming a villian and Claire's pleas to change the future.

    –So all the time travel actually makes sense when you view it from the perspective of like a tree with a main trunk and many branches.

    2. Why was Hiro able to kill Sylar so easily. Sylar did not have Claire's power of regeneration and just took an a$$ whooping by Jessica and Peter. Jessica smacks him in the face with a parking meter while standing next to Peter; Peter absorbs Jessica's "extra strength" and gives Sylar a good ol' wholloping–If you listen to the soundtrack closely the same sound effects for Jessica's superpunches are used when Peter goes fisticuffs with Sylar.

    3. The tough questions for me is why did Peter explode; did he absorb too many powers and couldn't control them all? Not likely, being in close proximity to sylar, he must have assumed sylar's ability to quickly control his new powers. My best explanation is based on Charles' comments to Mrs. Petrelli about how emotional Peter is and Peter's revelation to the invisible man that he can only use a given power when thinking about the person who gave it to him. Given the level of emotions running at the climax, it is easy to see why he would explode. Alternative explanation is that after the death of Simone, Peter "lost his ability to love" and thus lost control over his powers

  5. Ken Gagne adds:

    “So all the time travel actually makes sense when you view it from the perspective of like a tree with a main trunk and many branches.

    That's as logical an answer as I could arrive at, per my earlier comment. It seems like a lot to expect from the typical TV viewing audience, though.

    Peter absorbs Jessica's "extra strength"

    Ah! I hadn't picked up on that. Thanks!

  6. Ken Gagne adds:

    The hardcover novel Saving Charlie, mentioned above, came out today!