Between 8 PM Friday night and 1 AM Sunday morning, I watched the entire second season of Heroes. The writers' strike abbreviated this season to only 11 episodes, down 23 from the show's launch — otherwise my marathon would've been far more demanding. Though I liked both seasons, I can see why some fans were disappointed with the follow-up to the blockbuster debut season. Here are my thoughts (and spoilers)…
I wish there'd been more integration among all the plot threads this season. It seemed like what was happening in New Orleans was tangental, and unimportant, to the rest of the world. They should've done more with muscle mimicry, which was a cool new power to introduce — unlike West (another flying man, though I'm glad he's less shy about his powers than Nathan) or a woman who makes everyone around her drop dead (too bad about her brother — paired powers would be a truly neat implementation to explore). Perhaps had the season continued, these threads would've been better interwoven?
I've finally figured out what Sylar's true superpower is: the ability to find the most gullible and naive saps anywhere. I know that as an audience member I have a more omniscient view, but still, I'm frustrated how Sylar can always get what he wants by playing innocent. Will somebody please see through this guy and put a bullet through his brain?
More so than Sylar, the most powerful character is Peter, so it makes sense that we constantly find him handicapped: fighting for control of his powers in season one, aligning with the wrong ally in season two. If Peter ever had full control of his faculties, he'd put all the other heroes out of business.
The evolution of Matt Parkman's power is interesting — and just a bit frightening. Mental manipulation could possibly make him the most powerful mutant among men, but it also has great potential for abuse, as we've already begun to see. Matt's Everyman nature, newfound abilities, and well-intentioned temptations remind me of the Brenda Clough novel How Like a God, which is the last book I can remember to be so compelling, I read it in a single day.
Some clumsy writing led to two missed opportunities. First was regarding Takezo Kensei. This character had three faces to reveal: murderer of Kaito Nakamura; Adam Munroe; and Peter's cohort. These surprises would've been more effective revealed in that order, but instead Takezo's identity as Kaito's killer is the last one we learn, at which point it is no surprise whatsoever. His connection to Hiro had been firmly established in the 17th century; it's only logical to make Hiro's family the launching point for Takezo's presence in the 21st.
The other missed opportunity pertained to Noah Bennet. His death was one of the most significant occurrences of the season — which made his resurrection all the more powerful. How did the writers let this revelation play out in their fictional world? He walks through his front door and says, "Hi, Claire Bear." Keeping his existence a secret would've created far more possibilities, such as seeing Claire come to terms with a major loss, only to discover hints that not all is at it seems as she questions, "Is my father alive?" (At least Noah, despite his questionable tactics, is clear about the Company's motives, unlike the more malleable and useless Mohinder.)
The DVD had a bonus documentary about a character named Richard Drucker (a distant relative of first season character Hana Gitelman). Yet such a person never materialized in the actual season, nor is he mentioned in even the official Heroes wiki. I think he ties into the graphic novels.
Also on the DVD are deleted scenes that show, had the season been a full one, the writers would've let the viral tube break, with the following episodes dealing with the outbreak and quarantine. That being the case, I'm glad the season ended when it did, as destroying the virus is the one break these guys got this season.
And that's my main beef with Heroes: the show is consistently depressing. Every victory is minor and usually results in major setbacks. Peter and Nathan miraculously survived the climax of the first season and 11 episodes later are finally reunited, only for one of them to be unceremoniously gunned down. Hiro imprisons himself in the past and takes as his solace a momentarily lapse of control, creating an enemy that will eventually murder Hiro's father in a quest to decimate the Earth's population. "Heroes" like Matt and Peter constantly find their powers forced to questionable ends. Can't anything ever be black and white?
All said, Heroes: Season 2 was still a fun way to spend a weekend, and most of the above thoughts occurred to me only in retrospect. I'm looking forward to seeing the third season when it's released on DVD, presumably in August 2009.