Heroes has reached near cult status in certain circles, so the question of whether or not to give up on it at the beginning of its third season is probably near-blasphemous to its die-hard fans. However, I can’t be counted among the most faithful viewers. I was ready to quit watching after the first season, but then they had to go and hire David Anders for an ongoing role. I couldn’t abandon my favorite villain (Sark from Alias). So, here I am, posing the same question I did last year around this time: should I stay or should I go? This time around, I have compiled the pros and cons of continuing to watch the show:
- David Anders is still on the show – This is really a weak starting point, since he has yet to appear this season. Adam, the eternally young mastermind of ethically questionable deeds, is still trapped in an underground prison, which is where the normally sweet Hiro left him in a particularly disturbing act of revenge at the end of last season. Why take one of the best actors on the show and literally bury his talents? Based on a synopsis of an upcoming episode, he’ll be back on top of the ground soon, but will it be soon enough to hold my attention?
- The premise is always fascinating – Even before this show aired its first episode, I was highly intrigued by the concept of ordinary people discovering that they have extraordinary abilities, and I looked forward to seeing whether they would use those abilities for good or evil. So my issues are not with the premise, but with the execution of that premise (see my cons list, where I will list my gripes in detail.)
- There’s nothing better to watch on Monday nights – I despise the so-called comedy of “Two and a Half Men,” I am highly irritated by the hype surrounding Dancing with the Stars, and as I’ve mentioned here before, I gave up on Prison Break long ago. But maybe I should just skip tv-watching on Mondays and read a book instead.
- Peter and Sylar are interesting characters – It’s hard to wrap my head around these two guys’ abilities. Peter’s ability is that he can absorb any ability; Sylar has the ability to “steal” any ability, and since he stole Peter’s ability, he now can also absorb any ability. Right? Wait, then why does he still cut people’s head’s open? Okay, so the narrative isn’t perfectly clear, but it’s fun to see which talents these two will pull out of their hat when the need arises.
- The music is pretty cool – I like how the show has maintained the same musical themes since season one. The music has the right blend of mystery, creepiness, and epic.
- The special effects are impressive – There’s no arguing that the special effects department gets it right on this show. They make all of our heroes’ abilities look real, most notably Hiro’s ability to stop time. Every week the highlights of the episode revolve around what spectacle we behold on the screen, as we wonder how they did it.
- There are too many characters – Claire, HRG, Sylar, Peter, Nathan, Hiro, Ando, Nikki, Matt, Mohinder, Mrs. Petrelli, and that annoying kid who manipulates machines. That would be enough right there. Then last year they added Molly (did we really need another annoying kid? At least they’ve shipped her off this season), Maya and her brother, Claire’s boyfriend Peter Pan, Elle and her father, the annoying kid’s “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” cousin (will they bring her up again?), blah blah blah. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all of them, and usually I don’t even care to. Honestly, I am most interested in Claire, HRG, Sylar, Peter, Hiro, and Ando. I see the others as filler.
- The plot is too convoluted – I like a show with a complex plot (aka Lost, Battlestar Galactica), but I also appreciate it when a show’s various plots carry over from season to season and have some sort of continuity and/or resolution. I don’t think we get that with Heroes. There’s always some new plot to destroy the world, but usually about the time crisis is (easily) averted, a new plot of destruction is already waiting in the wings. Will we ever have an answer about the future in which Adam’s virus killed most of the population? I assume since the vial was destroyed last season we’re to think that it didn’t happen. But what about Peter’s Irish girlfriend who got trapped in that future? What happened to her? And what about in season one when we saw Sylar as Nathan as President in another future? Was that averted as well? The writers are playing with “the future can be changed” motif too freely, resulting in lackluster plot arcs. If one simple act can readjust a chaotic future, then why should we be so concerned about the latest villain and his evil plans? Currently, we have Hiro and Ando (and another unnecessary new character) chasing after two parts of a dangerous formula that “must be protected at all costs.” That sounds awfully similar to the virus from last season. And then there’s Mohinder working on a formula that would give everyone the ability to develop a special ability. That sounds similar to what happened on The 4400 two seasons ago. Bottom line: there are too many lose ends for my taste.
- Maya is unbearable – This “don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry and my eyes bleed black gook and kill you” character was by far my least favorite of last season. So I was thrilled when she was presumably killed by Sylar. Unfortunately, she wasn’t really dead, and now we have to suffer through a telenovela-style romance between her and the newly buff, super strong, and scabby Mohinder. I know the introduction of new characters is sometimes necessary to move the plot along, but couldn’t the writers at least make them interesting or likable?
- There is no finality in death – Most shows use the “is he or isn’t he dead” cliffhanger from time to time, but Heroes abuses this to the extreme. I no longer question whether they’ve really killed someone off; instead, I wonder when we will see them again. Let’s take a look at the characters that have been “killed” on this show, only to show up soon after alive and kicking: Sylar, Peter, Nathan, Nikki, HRG, Maya, etc. I am sure I am forgetting some. Were this limited to the occasional hero, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. One reason superheroes are super is that they aren’t easy to kill – they bounce back. But is it necessary to revive characters that weren’t interesting in the first place? At least, it seems, Nikki actually died in that fiery explosion last season, and this season’s Tracy is one of several clones created by the same doctor. This is bad news for me, though, since I don’t care for Ali Larter’s performance on this show. Apparently, there will be an endless supply of new characters for her to play as the writers get tired of the previous one.
- Matt Parkman is not an interesting character – The ability to read minds? Interesting. The guy who is able to do this? Not interesting. So far this season, my interest wanes the most when we see Matt on his spirit walk in Africa. It’s even worse than last season when he and Mohinder were playing “my two dads” to little Molly. I liked Greg Grunberg just fine on Alias, and he was perfectly cast way back when on Felicity, but I just don’t find him compelling in this role.
- The acting (or is it the writing?) is often bad – If I sat down and watched Lost or 24, and then I immediately watched an episode of Heroes, there would be a clear difference in the quality of the acting and writing. Much of the time, I just don’t buy the emotion, fear, intensity, and resolve of these heroes. It’s like they are going through the motions, or reading through the script. If Jack Bauer paid a visit to Peter Petrelli, he would tell the boy to snap out of his daze and toughen up for the fight. The only person who shows genuine determination is HRG. He just may be my favorite character on the show, and he is played perfectly by Jack Coleman.
- Hiro isn’t as funny as he used to be – During the first season, I appreciated the comic relief that Hiro brought to the otherwise grim landscape. And in season 2, I was mostly interested in Hiro’s story because it involved David Anders’ character. So far in season three, Hiro and Ando’s “follow that formula” hasn’t moved beyond slapstick shtick. The wide-eyed stares, the shoulder shrugs, the offering of popcorn to the silent Haitian when he foiled their escape. You would expect more gusto from a guy who was sadistic enough to bury someone alive.
- Angela Petrelli isn’t a compelling villain – Season one Mrs. Petrelli was nothing more than Peter and Nathan’s loving mother. Season two we discovered that she was part of the axis of questionable motives. In the season three premiere, it was revealed that she is an evil mastermind who gave up Sylar for adoption and now plans to use his psychotic tendencies to her advantage. I’m not sure we’ve had enough of an explanation to make this leap. For one thing, I would think that Sylar falls somewhere in between Nathan and Peter’s ages. Wouldn’t they have noticed if Mama was walking around pregnant? I’m hoping there will be more to the story.
So, there it is. I came up with six “pros” and eight “cons.” I guess that means I’m leaning toward dropping this show from my weekly must-see list. Maybe I will watch another week or two and see if the season grows on me. But I’m not feeling very compelled. Any enthusiastic fans reading this want to give me some more reasons to stick around?