Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Heroes Season Three Review

I waited a couple of days after finishing Heroes to really let that finale sink in and to try and avoid hperbole. But before we dive into my review, let me just say, I am unintentionally ruining Heroes. Every time I write on this blog that I don't want something to happen, it does. For example, (SPOILER ALERT! FOUR CAR ALARM!) when I ended the last post saying that "Adrian Pasdar as Sylar-as-Nathan just isn't enough," I didn't realize I was actually describing the big twist ending to the season. Although looking back on it now, I should have.

I said before that I thought the episode "1961" was like a class in what's bad about Heroes. It felt true then. But after watching the season finale, "An Invisible Thread" is actually everything that's wrong with the show. If you had asked me, even halfway through that episode, if I was going to watch Season Four when it started up again this Fall, I would have answered with a resounding "YES!" Heroes, for all its faults, was an enjoyable show, and as long as that continued I didn't see any reason to give up on watching Zachary Quinto, Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia exploited for their hotness on a show that squanders their talents.

But... then the finale happened. And while I'm still not ready to completely give up on Heroes, I'm starting to understand better why all of us did in the first place.

The finale supposedly wrapped up all the craziness that's led us to this point, from Sylar's near-God-status and identity crisis, to Nathan's quest for redemption, to Angela and Noah Bennet realizing that The Company, for all its faults, was actually doing a neccessary job (plus a lot of other stuff, including Hiro and Ando and Claire doing things... but none of that is super important).

About halfway through the episode, I reached a gulp worthy conclusion. The show simply couldn't continue as it had been, with Sylar playing villain but still being the most compelling part of the show, and it also couldn't turn Sylar into a good guy again. He'd done way too much bad by this point and he was way too in love with his own evil for redemption (for the past few episodes, Sylar's been joy incarnate in his villainy. Torturing Claire by ookily hitting on her? Creepy, yes, but villainy at it's most villanous). Although I actually enjoyed "I Am Sylar" (the season's penultimate episode, in which Sylar uses his brand new morphing ability to change, Psycho style, between his mother and hisself in a quest to maintain his identity), it was becoming increasingly obvious that Sylar's power was getting too extreme for his own good. Now he not only can't die normally, he couldn't even be killed using the one proven method for Claire-extermination: stabbing in the back of the brain stem.

This has always been a problem on Heroes, and in superhero stories in general. You can't let your hero (or villain) have infinite power; it eliminates the tension. If your hero can't be beat (or your villain can't lose) then there's no question. It's why Superman has kryptonite, Green Lantern has the color yellow --> in fact, I'm willing to bet it's why Hiro and Peter (the only two characters close to Sylar in terms of power) lost their abilities this season, only to regain them in a lesser form (Peter can now only hold on to one power at a time, and Hiro can pause time but not fold space). But Sylar? Why, the hunger just kept driving him forward to acquire new powers all the time. It seemed that he had no choice but to commit some identity saving suicide (or power purge) at episode's end, since such an unstoppable force of evil clearly couldn't be allowed to continue to exist.


Or... the show could take a page from Dollhouse or the comic Identity Crisis. You see, at episode's end, Nathan dies, right before he can start undoing all the damage he did (damage which apparently only Nathan can undo, by flying around like Superman). And so Angela Petrelli and Noah Bennet, already set to start up The Company again, prove Noah's famous line, "I'm comfortable with morally grey" and force Matt Parkman to mindrape Sylar and implant Nathan's memories. They then wake up Nathan/Sylar and set him down the path of righteousness.

There are many, many things wrong with this, but I'll try to hit the big ones:

1) Mindrape = wrong. Very wrong.
2) Mindrape= rarely permanent.
3) It doesn't really seem necessary. Sure Nathan would be helpful in the overall fight to undo all the bad he did, but he's not the only one who can do it.
3) Noah's argument "if you don't do this, Nathan will have really died," brings up a whole bag of philosophical issues that this show has nearly the inclination nor the ability to address. And if you're going to deal with heady philosophical issues, don't use it as a cheap excuse to-
4) Keep Sylar around so that you can have Zachary Quinto appear whenever he wants to, but also swing it so that you can have the character exist without the actor. I will be the first to admit that I watch for Sylar first, anything else a far away second, but I would have preferred that character get a proper goodbye death than some lame ass storytelling device.

but most importantly

5) NOAH BENNET SHOULD BE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT YOU CAN'T KEEP SYLAR ALIVE. Forget everything else. Forget how cheap and lame this is. Forget how wrong it was of the characters, how sick a deformation of their grief, and how unnecessary it is to the plot. It was also such a stupid move on Noah and Angela's part that when Sylar inevitably bubbles up to the surface (since, I don't know, what if Sylar/Nathan gets particularly pissed off one day and realizes that his hands are starting to glow with radiation? Or tries to fly and realizes that he can't because, hello, Sylar never took that damn power?!) I will be happy to see him pull the good ole two fingered brain slicing.

I didn't even get into how annoying it was that they hid the climactic fight between Peter, Nathan and Sylar from us (budget cuts, Heroes? Well then just don't have a climactic fight at all, don't pull that kind of malarkey), or how stupid just the simple fact of Nathan's death was, but this review is already much longer than the episode deserved.

Episode Grade: D
Season Grade: B- (Honestly, this should probably be lower, but I just can't bring myself to grade down something that amused me so much)

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