John Walker's Electronic House


by on Sep.30, 2008, under Television

(Multiple season 3 spoilers)

Oh good grief. What is wrong with Tim Kring? He appears to believe that saying things to the press magically makes them happen. (He’s the Peter Molyneux of TV). Midway through season 2 he publicly apologised for how atrocious the once-enjoyable show had become. Painfully slow, and a lazy reprise of the previous season’s story, it was an embarrassment. Show runner Kring’s admitting this was a moment of relief. He knew he’d messed up, and he was going to fix it. Then of course the writers’ strike happened, and we never got to see if he’d come through with it. Certainly the few episodes made after his declaration sucked as badly as those before, so it didn’t look good.

Season 3 begins with Kring once again promising that he won’t make the same mistakes again. The show got overly convoluted, too many characters, too much political wittering, not nearly enough of the action that made season 1 a lot of fun. So how does it come back? Painfully slow, over-convoluted, politically tedious tedium. The other major complaint about season 2 was exactly repeating season 1’s story. A vision of the future shows New York being destroyed by mysterious means, and our intrepid band of international heroes must prevent this from happening. This all went especially batshit with Hiro – formerly the show’s star character – exploring ancient Japan and finding an immortal villain, and something something no one cared. The events were predicted through the paintings and comics of Isaacl, who would go into a heroin-induced trance and paint the future.

So season 3. What could the story be about? Why, the Earth’s going to be destroyed by mysterious means, as revealed by a trip to the future by Hiro. Who, again, is separate from all the other players and in no way communicates the main plot of the series to them. Meanwhile future Peter travels back to our time to try and prevent a holocaust of heroes, and creates the future Hiro sees. And then a cast of eighty million characters all talk in slow motion about absolutely nothing.

It’s really incredibly impressive that he’s managed to get it this spectacularly wrong. By the end of episode 3, there are so many boring threads running that the willpower to weave them into a coherent story (because the programme certainly isn’t going to bother) is more than anyone should ever have to offer. Pointless Indian doctor guy, who for reasons unknown still narrates in his increasingly tiresome prose (I was sympathetic to this in season 1 when others rained hate upon it, but that’s long worn away), gained phenomenal super-powers in the opening two-parter. So goes entirely unmentioned in episode 3. What was once a really interesting story about a teenage girl trying to understand her identity in the face of her powers, forcing her to be different when she only ever wanted to blend in, has now become about a clearly adult girl pretending to still go to school, and endlessly moaning. And unbelievably, despite killing Isaac, they’ve STILL got someone painting comicbook visions of the future. This time it’s a guy in Africa. In episode 3 we see a copy of Isaac’s comic kicking around his desert home, so clearly there’s a link. But dear God, why? Is Kring pathologically incapable of having new ideas?

Even Nikki Sanders, whose story was gruesome and interesting in season 1, is somehow brought back from the dead. Having apparently escaped her dual personality while keeping her super-strength, she’s pointlessly killed off at the abortive end of season 2. Then someone who looks identical to her appears elsewhere, and oh my aching soul, looks like was the result of genetic experiments, in yet another bewildering twist in the origins of these so-called heroes.

If the slow, boring, multiple-threaded snorefest weren’t confusing enough already, there’s now just wild abandon with previous canon. Pointless Indian Man had been doing all sorts of research into DNA, and we’ve seen that the Heroes motif pattern appeared in the DNA of heroes, but now it’s apparently transferable by an injection. Peter and Nathan Petrelli’s mother is now also Silar’s mother, because, fuck it, why not? Silar, despite being the ultimate enemy, is now suddenly working for the agency, and not randomly killing everyone who tells him what to do.

The season is called Villains, and begins with some baddies we’ve never seen before, and are barely introduced to, escaping into the wild. It’s obvious from the very first second of the show that the villains in question will come from the heroes we already know. Clare is heavily foreshadowed, and Future Peter with his idiotic scar is obviously not the same optimistic chap. But season 2 was bloody well about villains, that time the older generation of heroes who had turned sour. Mother Petrelli remains a character that can change sides, allegiances, agendas and entire personality at the whim of the script, but is apparently now a villain who wants Silar to win.

The one stab at something of any consequence was Clare and her birth mother in a fiery clinch, where Clare is forced to admit her heroic intent is not born of nobility, but revenge. But the scene is so over-long, and so pointlessly dull, that it’s hard to pay attention long enough to notice. Season 1 was about regular people dealing with their emerging powers. They were revealed to them all at once, all over the world, for a reason. There were many coincidences drawing them together in Las Vegas. There was a higher purpose. But now that’s all turned to shit, with powers popping up all over the place, and indeed through all of history. What could have been, and almost was, a show about how humans would deal with the evolutionary step forward of the few, has now become every other superhero fiction, except somehow dreary beyond belief. They’ve written themselves into so many holes that it will be utterly impossible to recover the programme to its original intent. Which is a great shame. But firing Kring and bringing almost anyone else on board might give it a chance to not embarrass itself each and every week.

5 Comments for this entry

  • roBurky

    It was like this at the beginning, wasn’t it? It certainly seemed to me that people were only enjoying Heroes for the potential of what they thought it was going to become rather than the boring random mess it actually was.

  • The Poisoned Sponge

    I was equally astonished at the first two episodes (I haven’t seen the third, and I’m not sure I can be bothered.) I even burst out laughing at least three times, which I guess is a good thing, if only if it wasn’t at the absurdity of the script. Claire became annoying a season ago, but she’s still getting a lot of screen time. Annoying Indian guy is now annoying and smug, and I’ve lost any sort of empathy that I ever felt for the Heroes cast. With so much better tv out there, I think I shall stick to other things.

  • Iain "DDude" Dawson

    The first season of Heroes was spectacular and wonderful, but the show does certainly seem to have lost its way. For example… Maya. And although there were some tortuous bits in the first episodes (yet to watch the third,) like all the scenes involving Nathan, I still feel there is huge potential for those “Level 5” villains. The scene were they car-jack the old couple really caught me hard.

    Also, big WTF, in season 1, in the future episode, Sylar kills Claire to take her Brain. Now he doesn’t? And if he only needs to fiddle with their brains, why does he not leave them at the crimescene? And now he can heal people with his bood (I assume he now has this), then he has NO REASON to kill people to take, (or more learn to copy,) their abilities. So WTF at Sylar…

  • Masked Dave

    I think Sylar is supposed to just have gotten better at working out how their power works and making the changes to himself.

    I’m really confused by all the hate directed towards Heroes at the minute, I *loved* the first two episodes of this season.

    But then, I read superhero comics anyway, so maybe I’m just used to what I’m getting.

  • botherer

    Masked Dave – you are clearly losing your mind.

    You should probably read less awful comics too : )