Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What I’m Watching: Heroes (Season Premiere)

Heroes: Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2 “Orientation” & “Jump, Push, Fall” (D)

Every time this show starts again it feels like it’s trying to rebrand itself, and for good reason. Many complained that the show plummeted in quality after its first season with a dismal second season and an only slightly better third season. This premiere is very much in the same vein as the first three premieres, emphasizing certain key themes for all of the characters. It’s strangely repetitive, due in part this year to the fact that not much is actually going on in the “Heroes” universe at this moment. The major exception is, of course, Nathan actually being Sylar, but that’s the lone thread that’s been continued from previous seasons. Denko, who I thought was already dead at Sylar’s hands, is killed off speedily so that the show can (hopefully) move on quickly. Both Claire and Hiro are back to their old ways, trying to live a normal life and trying desperately to be a hero. Claire’s venture to college is completely pointless and stupid, and I don’t know who thought showing college parties and Guitar Hero would be interesting to anyone. Claire quickly became the most obnoxious character on the show last year, and having her enroll in college to try and finally be normal isn’t thrilling. What’s worse is the mystery suicide of her impossibly chipper roommate and Claire’s incessant ability to be dumber than ever. It’s hard to decide what is more difficult to believe: the fact that the roommate would jump out of her window the first night of college or the fact that Claire continues to use her powers when other people could clearly be watching. It’s always a shame when network television dumbs down the abilities of an actor who is so much better on cable, and Madeline Zima (“Californication”) looks like she’ll be following that unfortunate trend. Hiro’s storylines continue to be absolutely unrelated to anything else on the show, and he really never learns either, and continues to experience problems with his foolish time-traveling. Having him frozen in time is almost as uninteresting and unbearable as when he and Ando just made faces at Parkman’s baby for a whole episode last season.

Parkman’s storyline is pretty regrettable, and he’s never really had anything good to do on this show. But the presence of an imagined Sylar taunting him at every turn is devastatingly grating, and it seems much more like a way for the show to keep Zachary Quinto around so that he can go back to playing his own self when Nathan inevitably realizes that he’s actually Sylar. One interesting note on that thought – it’s now possible that the five years later episode from the first season is accurate, and that Sylar will discover his true identity and continue pretending to be Nathan. I’m not so sure that will be the case or that the writers are really so aware of what they’re doing, but I thought it was worth pointing out. Keeping Angela Petrelli aren’t isn’t terribly smart, since she’s an awful character who just brings the show down. Noah and Nikki, on the other hand, are vastly improved, and I never thought I’d be saying that Nikki was one of the strongest elements of the show. Her newfound extra powers make her a far more formidable hero, and her partnership with Noah should also help keep her character from derailing like she did in the first few seasons. The new kids on the block are still a bit of a mystery, and placing them all at a carnival just makes them seem depraved and odd. Robert Knepper (T-Bag from “Prison Break”) is a really fun actor, and his power, a bit reminiscent of Rorschach’s ink-blotted mask from “Watchmen,” seems like it’s pretty cool. His presence and desire to unite all the heroes should provide some much-needed direction for this coming season. Unfortunately, the majority of the plotlines in this two-hour premiere fall flat, and this show needs to perform some more penance before it earns my forgiveness for two abysmal seasons. The way things look to be headed with Claire, Hiro, and Parkman just doesn’t look good, and this show hasn’t exactly shown that it knows how to handle its characters very well. This premiere wasn’t as awful as I had expected, but that’s not saying much. Hopefully Knepper and his band of merry villains can reinvigorate this show in need of saving.

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