I started watching Heroes about five days ago on a site that provides ... uh ... "free previews" of shows. Yeah.
Well, I started to get into it, so I decided to buy the whole season from iTunes (about $43 bucks), and watched them all in about two days.
Very impressive show. The plotting, from the pilot to the season finale, was great. I can see where it might have been a little annoying to watch on a weekly basis, though, since there were at least a dozen plotlines:
- What's the Deal with Peter?
- Who is this Sylar guy?
- What the hell is going on with Nikki?
- Will Nathan get elected to congress?
- What's the deal with Claire's dad?
- Will Parkman's marriage survive telepathy (would anyone's)?
- Will Mohandir ever get good at delivering voiceovers?
- Will Manhattan be incinerated by an atomic blast (and, if so, by who exactly?)
- Will Isaac kick heroin and still be able to paint the future?
- Will Hiro master his powers in time (no pun intended)?
- Will Ando ever get laid?
- Will saving the cheerleader really save the world?
Still, for a "realistic" treatment of the emergence of superpowers in people all over the world, it kicks ass. Comic book fans may have been expecting "bigger" powers or a more four-color treatment, but I really liked the vulnerability of the heroes. As one character (who I shall not name) put it:
"What am I supposed to do? Yeah, I can fly, but I don't own a gun, and I don't know karate. Am I going to rescue cats out of trees?"Echoing some of the themes of the X-Men comic (and movies), a lot of the characters consider themselves freaks. They fear their powers and what they mean. Some of them have powers that are, in and of themselves, extremely dangerous. Several of the characters walk the line between villain and hero and a few end up on different sides than they started on.
No one, even one particularly horrible villain, comes off as totally black hat or totally white. One character uses her powers for a vicious (though somewhat understandable) act of revenge. Another hides his powers for a convoluted mix of reasons, both selfish and tragic.
The acting is excellent as well; the ensemble easily outshines most of the superhero efforts that we've seen on the big screen thus far. Of the paragons of cinematic superherodom, only Batman Begins, X-Men: United, and Spider-Man can brag of anything like the depth that this show manages. Sure, there are some weak links, but even the weakest generally manage to grow into their roles over the course of the season.
Standouts in the cast include Adrian Pasdar as Nathan Petrelli, a very conflicted aspiring politician, Jack Coleman as the sinister and enigmatic Mr. Bennet, and Ali Larter as the very messed-up Nikki Sanders. Masi Oka and James Kyson Lee have great chemistry as a pair of Japanese office workers and best friends, one super and one not, who struggle with trying to find their destiny in an America that isn't exactly what they'd imagined. There are some rather unusual but good performances by guest stars as well. I'd name names, but the only one that wouldn't, in itself, be a spoiler is Eric Roberts, who is creepily awesome in several episodes.
The powers that have been displayed thus far range from mind reading to super healing, but the best are those that kind of defy comic book definitions. One character is only super from time to time. Another has the ability to figure out how anything works, and the implications are a lot creepier than you might imagine. And anyone who has heard anything about the show has probably heard that super healing can make for some rather disturbing images as well.
My favorite interpretation of a "classic" power in the series has got to be the show's take on flight, though, despite the fact that it really doesn't get a lot of screen time. The first time you get a good look at the power in action, it is truly an "Oh, hell yeah!"-worthy moment.
The very best thing about the show, though, is the fact that, despite a sort of X-Files-like backdrop of sinister conspiracy and hidden motives, it actually resolves things. Mysteries don't stay mysterious just for the sake of keeping your attention. We do find out who the villains are, the heroes do eventually meet one another, and the hard choices do get made, for better or for worse.
I just hope that it doesn't run into the same problem in season two that killed Twin Peaks, which I like to think of as the, "Awesome! Now what?" conundrum.