It has been a while since I last had the time to post something on here, but now I have the time, I thought it would be apt to articulate my impressions of Heroes‘ third volume – Villains – thus far. As this is being written, the last episode of this “arc” has yet to air, and if it were not for my willingless to experience a sub-par stream with bad sound synchronisation, I would have to wait another week. However, I think, as we stand on the precipice of the volumes finale, we can garner some interesting observations on the series so far.
First off, I would like to congratulate myself for noting the haphazard pacing of the season opener, which in retrospect really was the taste of things to come. Of course, of course, that has since become evident to everyone, but I feel due respect should be given in my case. Forgetting vanity for a minute, I think it must be said, again, that the leverage of the “fans” really is noticeable on the show; the producers, writers and network seem to cave in to the speculation and wishes of die-hard fans without a fight. I am not saying that those vocal fans are not accurate or inaccurate in their criticisms and suggestions, but the writers are writers for a reason, the production team working on Heroes for a reason and the network financing it for a reason.
I find following a show so susceptible to fan reactions to be a bit of a pain, especially when it results in often irrevocably dire plot lines and character arcs. Consider the character of Sylar; a hit, memorable character who is the darling of superlatives the world over – yet because of his popularity with the fanbase, this dodgy fellow has been allowed both survive a sword through the heart (which ultimately undermines the entire first season) and recieve a humanising redemption from the pit of Hell in seasons 2 and 3. It isn’t that Gabriel Gray (Zachary Quinto) isn’t a bad villain – in fact, he’s generally played to great effect by the strange looking Quinto – but that Heroes is unable to tell the stories it wants because of the fans incessant whining.
The pace of the season has drfited between flat action sequences, rarely filmed with the kind of visceral verve invested in those of season one or two, and flat discourses between characters with some cringeworthy dialogue. All in all, if you had to pick and chose a list of shows in your weekly schedule of “self-time,” on paper, Heroes would not be up there. However, I continually find an idea, or an enigma to look forward to in Heroes. It does not matter whether Heroes provides or not – especially when some of the notions you pick up on are so unfounded – because neither do other big, ensemble dramas like Lost, which is driven by ideas, but ideas without explanation.
Heroes is often at its unwittingly strongest when it plays around with the ideas of lineage and misue of power; the whole mythology is more concrete than Lost and all the more fascinating for it. Again, on paper, season 3 should have this in spades, but instead of the unravelling misdeeds of previous Generations in season 2, we instead find a rather flat character in Arthur Petrelli, the presumed dead patriarch of the Petrelli dynasty, played by Robert Foster. Foster is a strange proposition; the potentially complex and memorable character of Arthur Petrelli is played with the kind of aplomb that should result in one, yet something feels off about his appearance, his delivery of dialogue and the fact that you can’t help but feel Foster is miscast in a role that would be much more effective if the the budget allowed for a bigger actor.
Foster is no bad actor however; his mincing of dialogue is great stuff, but the notion of respected lawyer and philanphropist does not suit an actor who would be more at home playing the local mob boss. He just doesn’t have the gravitas to make the role convincing or even threatening enough for the series arch villain, especially one who has the powerful Austin Linderman (a superb Malcom McDowell) in his pocket. Back to the events of the season itself and great news for those who thought Arthur was an odd fish; the penultimate episode Our Father (and one that got increasingly better as it went on) had Sylar telekinetically launch a bullet into the mans head, killing him instantly and destroying the cells that generate his abilities. Arthur’s legacy is there, and it seems the wonderful Nathan Petrelli (a chisel-jawed politician with a paradox for a moral center) has taken up his fathers villainous mantle, which hopefully means the cluttered ensemble drama can keep with one clear goal for the next volume, entitled Fugitives. Or mabye they’ll scrap that plottime when the fans vote in.
Perhaps it is the demographic that a show about normal people who gain superpowers inadvertently attracts that mean a standard ensemble drama is treated in ways not dissimilar from the realms of superhero conventions, pulp fiction and the comic book indstury. In converse, one could say that Heroes is a superhero story that borrows from the realms of televised ensemble drama. All in all, following a show in which characters, plot lines and even production staff can be voted off is not a show I want to follow. I like Heroes, I like its ideas and I like the majority of its characters (and it has a great soundtrack atypical for your standard ensemble) and I hope that Duel, the last episode of Villains goes out on a high. As a show, it isn’t immensely important as some will have you believe, and if it does go the way of Old Labour, Princess Di and Don La Fontaine, something will undoubtedly arrive in its place, but for what its worth, Heroes is good entertainment.