Did we like it?
Expecting a fetid miasma of inertia and indulgence given that the makers of the show had apologised for a perceived plummet in quality, we were surprised, but delighted, that the opening couple of episodes were graced by a depth, humour and allure that was absent from the opening series.
What was good about it?
• The relationship between Claire and her father Noah. Now more explicit it is spiked with both the tension of being discovered by the omnipotent corporation and Claire’s gallop into adulthood, which is reflected in the trust that Noah is gradually starting to place in her – buying her a new car, for instance. Yet this new found trust has accelerated her habit of experimenting with her powers such as trying a ludicrously difficult gymnastic manoeuvre or cutting off her own little toe to see if it will grow back – one of which was puerile petulance of adolescent one-upmanship while the other was born of altruism, again acutely illustrative of someone on the threshold of adulthood.
• Hiro’s adventures in feudal Japan are just as engaging. There he saves a warrior he presumes to be his hero Takezo Kensai through his time-warping powers. But the warrior isn’t whom he appears, he is actually a decoy for the real Kensai to lure his foes within range of his perch in the trees from where he’ll snipe at them with his crossbow – a dishonourable way to fight, in Hiro’s eyes.
• And while this isn’t an original plotline – and somewhat mirrors Hiro’s father’s own scorn of his son in the first series – the interplay between Hiro and Kensai (who is really an English immigrant called Adam) as Hiro avails to make his hero act like a hero instead of a drunken slob is well drawn.
• Unassuming copper Matt Parkman has graduated to become both a detective and a surrogate father to the troubled Molly. And his powers have been skilfully crafted so he must deal with the moral dilemma of probing the mind of his young charge to divine the nature of her nightmares.
• Nathan Petrelli has grown a beard, thus thankfully camouflaging the most annoying jawline since the heyday of David Coulhthard. It’s not the jawline itself; it’s more the way it mechanically moves like a dumper truck unburdening its load.
• The slower, more cautious approach to plot is commendable, especially as it would be easier to simply repeat the high-octane extravaganza of the first series. The shift towards a narrative dealing with the way in which comic book heroes have to reconcile their abnormal powers with a world that is both fearful and hateful towards them is nothing new, and is often far more rewarding – Watchmen, a recurring touchstone for Heroes is of course the paradigm, as well as The Sandman (essentially a deity trying to be human).
• And so this is why we’re quite disappointed – after discovering how good this new series is – that there seems to be pressure to return to the more one-dimensional, albeit intricately plotted, format of yore. To a lesser degree, it is akin to Radiohead usurping their musical eminence established with OK Computer with the superior Kid A and Amnesiac.
• But the quandary for Heroes was either to plough on with their own ideology of the direction the series should take or succumb and devolve it back to shallow entertainment. And while 30 years of The Fall is infinitely preferable to five minutes of The Feeling, such principles don’t apply in US TV, and a regression at the behest of disgruntled viewers and accordingly nervous advertisers has won the day.
What was bad about it?
• Mohinder is still vexing. He floats about the plots like a fly sucking on dung as if the dumb, spoilt son of the MD of a firm who has been given carte blanche to do whatever her wants and interfere in any which way he desires but always detrimentally because he is so incompetent.
• The two new Heroes, Alejandro and Maya, who are twins whose ‘power’ seems to be that Alejandro acts as a plug on his sisters latent ability to inadvertently slaughter everyone in her immediate vicinity by making a black fluid pour from their eyes. This might not be so bad if an identical device hadn’t been used in The X-Files, where the black fluid was an alien entity.
• The death of Hiro’s father (Mr Sulu).
• The best dramas always smother you in their absorbing narrative, whether set in the corridors of Whitehall or the torrid planets in a galaxy far, far away, and while Heroes partially achieves this sense of immersion there are still a few clunky artificial devices that yank you back to the surface that are so predicatble you don’t even need one of Isaac’s paintings to predict what’s coming next.
• On her first day at her new school, Claire almost steps in front of a jeep driven by a handsome young man. At that moment you know that they are destined for love, or at least a quick rummage, and that is how it plays out. What’s more, he too is a Hero with the power of flight.
• And we’re still perplexed about the role of cheerleaders in US schools. A place in the cheerleading squad seems to be the zenith of achievement for a girl, at least as portrayed in US dramas. Yet it is an anomaly that such a moronic peak of acting a brainless subsidiary to a bunch of male athletes should occupy such elevated social status; it’s as much of an anachronism as the Black & White Minstrel Show, chastity belts and witch trials.