It's a measure of how low a bar "Heroes" has set for itself this season that I could come to the end of an episode with so much wrong with it like "The Line" and think that it was actually one of the better installments they've done.
The bad parts are obvious: Mohinder remains little more than a writer's tool who inevitably chooses the path of least intelligence to suit the needs of a story, Maya and Alejandro are just as dull and repetitive with Sylar as they were without him, every story moves at a glacial pace (arguably this week's worst offender: Peter and his bonnie wee lass in Montreal), and promised huge moments never quite materialize (the legendary battle between Kensei and an army that Hiro kept describing turned out to be two or three guys chasing them through a tent maze).
And yet, in the middle of this mess were a few great scenes in which Jack Coleman and the writers re-embraced the dark side of the Force when it comes to HRG. Threatening a man with the loss of his most treasured memories is a lot more entertaining than seeing Jack Bauer shoot people in the leg -- though the fact that HRG later killed the guy (in another pleasant surprise) sort of rendered that punishment moot.
But the problems remain huge. Scott Collins from the LA Times did a brief interview with Tim Kring the other day in which Kring sounded mystified about all the complaints about this season:
"People tend to look at last season and see things in it that were not in it," Kring told me by phone. "We haven't deviated that much" from last year's formula.Actually, I agree with both of those statements. I think the novelty and forward momentum of the first season often made it seem more interesting than it actually was, and I think by far the biggest miscalculation of season two has been Kring's refusal to deviate from last year's formula. We already did the whole "heroes across the globe slowly converge on New York to prevent an apocalypse" arc last year (and my guess is that it's New York again because the "Heroes" FX team already had the CGI code for Times Square and it made their lives easier). Why are we just repeating that? Why not have more of the characters together from the start of this year, if only to reduce the number of storylines and therefore help them all progress more quickly?
It's strange how Kring and company have no problem borrowing liberally from comic books when it suits their purposes (the various stories lifted from Watchmen, Monica's powers, the entirety of "Five Years Later") and yet they're reluctant to copy such an obvious theme as the formation and dysfunction of a super-team. I'm not saying they should have broken out the spandex and codenames, but a season where, say, the Petrelli and Bennet families were living in close proximity and struggling to define their relationships and how they should use their powers seems a hell of a lot more interesting than anything that's been done with these characters spread across the globe.
Maybe it's a failure of nerve. The season one denouement showed that Kring and company are going to struggle with the big epic payoffs (though "Five Years Later" did just fine as a mostly standalone epic), so rather than try something more ambitious that they might have even more trouble pulling off, the writers have retreated back to the formula that served them so well back when the show and its characters were new and we didn't know how the magic tricks worked. And if that's the reason, then I doubt a significant improvement's going to come anytime soon. Like Kring says, this is what "Heroes" is, like it or not. At the moment, I don't like it very much.
What did everybody else think?