Friday, December 12, 2008

Every hero has its tragic flaw

When I first started to hear about NBC's hit TV show Heroes I was pretty sure it was something I would like. For starters, I do more than my fair share of hero worshiping. I idolize those who are make tough choices that affect many people for good. There are probably some deep psychological issues there, but that is not the subject of this post. I enjoy science fiction. My favorite book is Ender's Game, I am a bit of a Star Wars nut, and I enjoy Star Trek. I even like the somewhat more obscure stuff, like the Riverworld series. Heroes is science fiction, and the premise is pretty good science fiction. Although Heroes tries to distance itself from X-men and other comic book heroes, there are some obvious similarities and I enjoy comic book movies. Lastly, I have always been a TV bum. You might not know this because since going off to college I try to avoid TV like the plague. However, I'll watch pretty much anything that doesn't offend my sensibilities.

Since I was in graduate school and since I did not want to get sucked into TV again, I did not start watching Heroes in the beginning. However, after some prodding from my father-in-law I succumbed and watched starting halfway through the first season. The plot was intriguing and the show was riveting. Although that first season ended weakly, I had high hopes for season two. I did not dislike season two as much as some, but I did not feel the excitement that was there in season one. A little something was missing. I just watched my first season three episode last Monday. I had been following along on Wikipedia, but my schedule (and crummy TV antenna) has prevented me from watching it. I have to say I probably won't watch it again this next Monday and they'll have to do something for me to come back when they return.

What happened? Upon reflection, Heroes is a series that is doomed to fail. Maybe there is a way out that I have not seen. I really hope so. However, there are several clear and obvious reasons why the things which made season one so good will not ever be able to be brought back:

  • Ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. The problem with that tag line is that the people stopped being ordinary by the end of season one. The whole "coming to grips with your powers" issue only works once. After that, you have the grip. The show has tried to recreate this by making people lose their powers, but that does not work more than once or twice. Now it is just a gimmick. The solution is to bring in new characters, but how does one make room for these new ordinary people when the audience loves the old characters? They tried to bring in new characters simultaneous with carrying the new ones along in season two, but people responded negatively in general.
  • Sylar, Peter, Hiro, the Haitian, and Arthur. Some of the characters are just too strong. The answer or cause of any problem is one of them. They can cancel each other out and create interesting conflicts, but anybody else verse them just is not interesting. People just want to see Sylar and Peter go at it. Hiro never really does anything, because he can actually do anything. Who knows what the Haitian's agenda is and Arthur. . . well, hopefully we don't have to talk about Arthur ever again. By creating characters which are so powerful, the rest of the cast becomes less interesting side-trips.
  • Just kidding. I stopped caring about Star Trek: Voyager when too many of the episodes never really happened. In other words, something would happen at the end of an episode (or worse, a multi-episode story) that would undo the major events of the story. This happens too much in Heroes as well, and has steadily gotten worse. I enjoy the flashback episodes, and the future episodes can be a lot of fun (my favorite episode is still the future episode from season one). However, going back and forth in excess and not having continuity makes things hard to follow and, honestly, not worth following. Also, taking away powers and then giving them back, or killing someone and then reviving them, only work as rare plot devices and then only with certain characters. If the audience can't rely on anything, they will pick another show. On the other hand, the super-powerful characters make it hard to do anything but kill each other and bring each other back.

I think that is all I am going to say for now. I really liked Heroes, and I will follow the story line for however long it goes on. I might not watch it again, though. It is on a suicide run. It has been since the beginning. I do not see any way to fix it. Hopefully the producers do. Maybe then I could watch again.


JcbMyHntz said...

I didn't know someone would go to such great depths to analyze a tv series. As I respect your view and logic, I enjoy the series and anticipate each new plot and character. Maybe I am one of the suckers the producers had hope to catch off of their "weak" story lines.

Nathan said...

The series is still good enough to keep me reading the episode run downs after-the-fact and to also read the on-line comics. It just doesn't have enough to get me to consistently sacrifice an hour of my week to it. At least not right now. To state it precisely: when it came down to Heroes vs. Twilight Princess, Twilight Princess won.

Anonymous said...

I would say that you're wise to be picky about how you spend your time. Since Joe and I have been married I've gotten more sucked into watching t.v. programs, but my biggest vice is the internet.