Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Heroes, "Cold Snap": Bryan Fuller to the rescue?

I know, I know... I swore off "Heroes" after the first episode of "Fugitives" -- because even though it was appreciably better than what had come before in season three, I felt too much irreparable harm had been done to the characters and the series for me to care anymore. But last night was a relatively slow one at Casa Sepinwall, and with Bryan Fuller -- who wrote the best episode of the series to date before going off to create a delightful little treat called "Pushing Daisies" -- back in the fold and writing "Cold Snap," I decided to give the show another shot, just to see if Fuller's return was really the cure-all that so many fans have been hoping for. Thoughts on whether he succeeded coming up just as soon as I fly to Paris...

Now, I came into "Cold Snap" having not watched the previous five episodes, so I had to play a lot of catch-up with the storyline, which characters have flip-flopped allegiances yet again, etc. But in spite of that, this was the strongest episode of the series I've watched in some time -- maybe not enough to get me back watching regularly, but at least to make sure I try to watch the episodes with Fuller's name on them.

What Fuller did so well in "Company Man," and what he did well here, is to take the characters seriously as people. They're never going to be as deep as anyone on "The Wire," or maybe even on "Lost," but the show is a lot more engaging when the characters seem like approximations of real people, with real feelings and with interests outside of accumulating more power, taking down the bad guys, or whatever the needs of the plot are.

So here Fuller spent a lot of time revisiting emotional beats that the series had largely ignored in the past in favor of keeping the story moving: Hiro reflects on what it was like to watch his mother die a second time, Ma Petrelli deals with the semi-normal life she abandoned as she got deeper and deeper into Company business, Daphne confronted Parkman on just how strange and superficial his love for her seems (before she was given a fairly poignant death), etc. Even Tracy was given an opportunity to revisit who she used to be before she became both a figurative and literal ice queen, right before the show apparently bumped off another of Ali Larter's characters(*).

(*) It's here that I should remind you again about the No Spoilers rule. For all I know, Tracy's going to melt down and then reassemble, or we're going to meet yet another of Nikki's dopplegangers, but I don't want to know anything about any interviews people have done, or spoilers that have been teased on other sites, or things in the previews, or whatever. Got me?

Because Fuller was dealing with so many characters and plotlines, he wasn't able to delve as deeply into anyone as he was with the single-focused "Company Man." But if "Heroes" could make this kind of effort every week to respect the characters, to think about who they are as people and not just pieces on a chessboard, to ask, "Well, how would someone really react if this incredible thing happened to them?," then it might be a show I'd want to watch more often.

Of course, it helped that Fuller chose to exclude or minimize most of the characters I can't stand. No Sylar, no Claire, virtually no Peter, Mohinder unconscious for a good chunk of the episode, and no Nathan (whom I used to like, but who has changed allegiances and motivation so many times that he's become just as useless as his brother, as far as I'm concerned). There's still a whole lotta dead weight in this ensemble, and I'm not sure that's a problem that can be easily solved no matter who the writers are.

So, what did everybody else think? Was it the miracle you were hoping for? And for those of you who've stuck it out over the last couple of months, how has "Fugitives" been working for you compared the last few story arcs?

45 comments:

J. Pitts said...

This show has become awesomely bad, yet I keep watching because I have invested SO MUCH TIME over the seasons that I don't want to give up!

The Micah Sanders as REBEL reveal could be seen a MILE away. So anticlimactic. Furthermore, that kid is a TERRIBLE actor.

Did anyone laugh hysterically when they showed Tracy Strauss' decapitated head CRYING?

Didn't Matt Parkman leave that little girl to raise herself in NY?

The Daphne/Matt dream sequence into the death was horrible. I don't think it could have been more out of character to see Daphne wake up from being unconscious for however long (even if she is in her own psyche, she doesn't realize it), to get up and just be like, "peace parkman, I'm out.

The scene in Paris where Parkman flies made me laugh so hard that by the time the reveal came it didn't matter-the damage was already done.

Positive points: The Hiro/Ando plotline, great to see Hiro get his powers back even if only in a limited capacity. Also, the Angela Petrelli capture scene, a lot of tension buildup there, I kept feeling like she was going to do something crazy, like reveal a power that she had never shown before. It was a big letdown to see Peter become her knight in shining armor.

...

I usually agree with you Alan, but I think you may need more context to understand how horrible this episode and this season has been.

J said...

I think the only times I've enjoyed this show, and this goes back to the first season, is when I've missed several episodes and was forced to play catch-up. I think the first season counted on not having its pieces together to seem acceptable. It gives the mind something to distract itself from the dialogue, characters, etc.

Of course it could be all brills this season and I wouldn't know. I've perfected the art of turning the TV off after Chuck.

J said...

All that said, what this show really needs is an unbearably twee narrator and some pie.

David Coleman said...

This ep was definitely the strongest of the season so far (both villains and fugitives combined). It had some nice visual moments, some cool Star Trek references (always a crowd favorite in my house), and a nice ending for Daphne.

The only thing that bugged me was Peter. I have no idea how they keep track of the continuity on this show, but I thought his new power was that he could only hold one power at a time. If he touched his mom, he shouldn't be able to fly off with her. At least, that's what's happened in the past. Maybe it changed too.

Anyways, after almost getting to the point of not watching Heroes anymore, this show at least kept me around for another week.

Kevin said...

Doesn't matter if you skip five episodes. I too keep watching the show just based on the time I've already put into it, but it takes about 20 minutes to watch on DVR. Just skip ahead any time someone is making a speech, or Sylar is not killing someone, Claire is angry at HRG, or Mohinder is onscreen. I've done this for more than half the season now, and don't feel like I've missed a thing.

Michael said...

I thought it was Tracy's eye winking at Noah, as if to say that she would be able to reassemble herself after everyone left.

David J. Loehr said...

Now if Bryan Fuller had written the sixth episode of Dollhouse...

Then again, maybe if he and Joss were in the same room, there'd be a geek explosion of untold horror, one of those matter/antimatter things.

Anonymous said...

Michael is right. What was left of Tracy's frozen face definitely winked at Noah.

I agree this was the best episode in a long time.

SteveW said...

This episode was garbage. I could see what Fuller was trying to do; clean out the dead wood; but so many things were just *off* that I couldn't get into it. A few standouts:

- Peter suddenly arriving to save Mama, with no clear reason why he would KNOW to be there
- Matt's "dream sequence". Pure Cheese.
- a block of ice winking. Atrociously weird and tonally dreadful
- Swoozie Kurtz? Really? What is SHE doing in this mess, in a cameo roll, at that?

Graeleight said...

If he touched his mom, he shouldn't be able to fly off with her. At least, that's what's happened in the past. Maybe it changed too.

I think he can control it.

It was better. It was a C+ in a season of D episodes, which is in itself an improvement over last seasons F season.

Anonymous said...

It's at the point where I don't know who I want to survive each episode because I hate them all. I wouldn't mind if we lost 2 or more characters each week. When the bad guy gave the orders to shoot to kill, I actually thought, "It's about time, kill them all." I don't think I should be rooting for the "bad" guy to commit mass murder but here we are. Is there a single character who couldn't disappear from this show that would actually make it worse?

Anonymous said...

Longtime reader/first time poster... Alan you really should go back and watch the second to last episode of Villians in which Hiro and Claire are 16 years back in time, I thought it was very emotional and well done (until Arthur Petrelli shows up)

Please go back to the rewatching of The Wire if you have time, I still watch those seasons whenever I have a chance

Anonymous said...

I think the real problem is that I stopped caring so long ago it doesn't matter how good the writing gets at this point.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you, Alan. You're a pawn. Watch 24 instead if you're going to break your vow... not the first time, is it? 24... Now there's a show that came back swinging, mythology intact.

BTW... why even threaten to stop watching a show if it's so easy to get you to come back like a kid in a candy store?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan you really should go back and watch the second to last episode of Villians in which Hiro and Claire are 16 years back in time, I thought it was very emotional and well done (until Arthur Petrelli shows up)

I stayed with the show all through "Villains." Click on the "Heroes" tag in this post and you'll find all those reviews.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Shame on you, Alan. You're a pawn.

I feel suitably shamed. I shall go and cry in a corner -- but not before I ask...

BTW... why even threaten to stop watching a show if it's so easy to get you to come back like a kid in a candy store?

I take issue with the aptness of your metaphor. Under what circumstances would a kid voluntarily leave the candy store? If they brought in unsatisfying candy?

Dan said...

I haven't seen this episode yet, but I have found the 2nd part of this season to be much more palatable.

The point I wanted to bring up relates to your link to what you call "the best episode of the series to date." In that review, both you and your commenters talk about how great Heroes is and how bad Lost is. I just found it interesting that those roles have COMPLETELY reversed the past 2 seasons of both shows.

Gish said...

Alan, you crack me up. I have this image in my head. You know a piece of information that Jack Bauer needs to save the city. For your own reasons, you don't want to tell him. After the prerequisite shouting, Jack handcuffs you to a chair and starts discussing details of the Lost Season Finale. You crack in ten seconds.

Anonymous said...

That previous comment is hilarious, but it seems like I've seen a lot of abuse aimed at Alan lately. What the heck? Why would people come here just to tell him he sucks? Don't let the haters get you down, Sepinwall!

Anonymous said...

" No Claire, and the episode rocked. Coincidence? I think not. "

But I do think Bryan Fuller is being wasted on this show and should be given his own show. I still mourn for "Pushing Daisies".

David Coleman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Drew said...

Yeah, good thing you kept that rumour under wraps until Alan gave you the go-ahead.

David Coleman said...

I'm definitely a n00b. Sorry for my indiscretion.

Yet another anonymous said...

Alan, thanks for doing the hard work of trying Heroes again, despite past disappointments. I found I couldn't watch it last night, regardless of the Bryan Fuller enticement, and you made me happier about my decision.

Slightly OT, and I know this is sacrilege, but every year, I try to get into 24 again, and somewhere between the 8th and 12th hour, they lose me again. I've given up on it again, despite how much I adore Cherry Jones.

I'm flawed, I know. More often than not, I become passionate and appointment TV about a show, only to have no interest in it by the third season. I must have the attention span of a fruit fly.

grand-sophy said...

I evaluate the quality of a Heroes episode by how often I feel compelled to talk back to the screen. The only time I paused the DVR to snark last night was when Matt started flying, and even that was explained in an emotionally and logically consistent way. So, definitely an improvement.

Sarah said...

I've stuck with Heroes for god knows why and I'll admit this episode was better than most this season but the show looks like it has no direction.

I barely have any attachment to any of the characters anymore.I think HRG,Angela,and Sylar are the only ones I actually really like.HRG and Angela seem to be the only characters that have depth and Sylar..well...in my opinion,he's just fun to watch.

The rest of the characters are just so hollow and boring...to think I used to like them in the first season.

I honestly don't know if there's any way to save this show without EXTREMELY restructuring it.I'll never say never because I gave up on Lost and then was dragged back in after the 'off the island' reveal.But because Lost has an end date,I think that it feels like the writers are building towards something....which I don't get from Heroes.

Also...I'm surprised I haven't read this anywhere yet but do the Heroes writers have issues with women? Because we have literally TWO female characters left and one (Clarie) is probably the worst character on the show.Why can't women kick butt and be strong too? Why do the Heroes writers either kill them off or make them whiny and unlikable?

gina said...

Oh, you are a glutton for punishment, Alan.

Chris DeVille said...

I found it pretty funny to read that old "Company Man" review from a time when Heroes was, ever so slightly, outshining Lost. That Heroes would be superior to Lost in any way is such a laughable proposition now.

"Company Man" was monumentally good though, even if it was the only episode of Heroes to compare with Lost at its best.

As for last night's show, I definitely didn't watch. I'm afraid even Fuller can't draw me back in.

Sean said...

I loved this episode. Hopefully it wasn't just the Bryan Fuller touch (and if it was, I pray to the gods of TV that he pens the rest of the season), but I really think Heroes is turning a corner. We've been here before though, only to be horribly dissapointed. And what does it say about Tim Kring that he needs to get another creative mind to save HIS show?

Anyway, glad to see Hiro back to (almost) normal, even though the baby angle on restoring his powers was LOL-worthy. I wonder, is killing off Daphne the beginning of a plan to get Matt and his ex-wife back together?

And yes, everyone and their cousin knew Micah was going to be Rebel (or at least working with him/her). Least they brought him back before too much time passed and we ended up with a 7 foot Walt like on "Lost".

be said...

So, what's the verdict? Is it worth it to watch solely to see if Fuller could turn it around?

I haven't watched the show for pretty much the whole of season 3, should I even bother?

DonBoy said...

If it turns out that Tracy was indeed winking, to indicate that she can reform, I will be asking: How could she possibly know that? Because, the last that she had her powers blocked for days on end and then it all burst out and she froze herself solid and then somebody smashed her, she was able to do it?

Heather said...

I'm just glad they finally stopped making Hiro/Ando look like baby idiot and make them DO something and act smart. The Rebel reveal was seen a mile away, but I didn't see that Daphne was actually dead until Matt started flying. Nice one. Impressed.

J Pitts: Daphne was unconcious the whole time. DUUUUUUH.

Only wish: Swoosie Kurtz with an eyepatch. I knew she would be there, but alas, I guess the executives won't let us have a Pushing Daisies crossover. That's my one real hope. Mid-way in a Heroes episode, it suddenly become Pushing Daisies.

Also, I guess the storyline did benefit with having no Sylar and Claire. Claire has grown too whiny and Sylar's character has been horribly abused.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above poster about Sylar. If they wanted to keep him on the show they should have had him make the transition to good guy and just left it at that. As a villain he hasn't been interesting in at least 2 years. At this point all I can think of when I see him is Buffy's line to the First Evil: "Alright, we get it. You're evil. Do we have to chat about it all day??" zzzzzzz.

Chris said...

Sigh. BSG is off the air and Heroes remains.

I still watch because it built up enough goodwill that I care about seeing what happens to HRG. I actually also like Sylar, though that speaks more to the general menacing nature of what the actor brings to the role, rather than any quality writing behind his character. Also, bringing on Zelko Ivanek is always a lure for me, since he's one of my favorite actors. But you can pretty much cut everything else away, and it's just fine.

The actor who plays Micah really is awful. I have to second that notion. I also agree that in a season full of crap, this was one of the less stinky deposits brought to us by Tim Kring et. al.

However, I dream of seeing what writers who are disciplined and dark could bring to a fun premise like Heroes. Imagine how fantastic it would be having the BSG writers giving these characters the kind of writing Helo, Apollo, Adama and Starbuck enjoyed over four seasons, plus the budget of an NBC show.

(Weeps silently.)

Christy said...

I, for one, was charmed by Matt's send off for Daphne. Of course, Moulin Rouge is a favorite movie and this was definitely an homage. And I did not foresee Micah as Rebel, so I enjoyed that reveal. I'm intrigued that Hiro's powers came back in a limited way, and liked the whole Ando and Hiro with the baby scenes.

J. Pitts said...

Wow, if Tracy was "winking" then... WOW that is even more stupid than the crying! I am REALLY hoping that was crying and we have moved on to whomever the third sister is.

The problem I have with Sylar's character is that he's either a baddass or comedic relief. When he is comedic relief, he is still a baddass, but it's hard to take him seriously. I haven't seen the episode in awhile, but I remember thinking that when he stole the lie detectors powers that it was hard to take him seriously. He also shifted in-between these modes during the last episode when he met his Father.

I will agree with the poster that said this show lacks direction. It feels like the writers have NO IDEA where the rest of this series is going. I am going to say right now that unless things get REALLY BAD I will stick around for the rest of the series, but if things keep going the way they are going, it will be an act of masochism.

Anonymous said...

A far as the whole issue with Tracy's shattered head, if you watch closely it is quite obvious that there is a tear coming from her eye...winking in this situation just doesn't make sense

Joe said...

I enjoyed the episode and have enjoyed the current arc. . . . As for the 'wink' vs 'tear,' I thought it was a wink to Noah since they had made a deal. . . . It was good to see Micah back, and especially as Rebel.

Overall heroes has had some duds and still has flaws, but I've always liked it.

Nickname unavailable said...

At the risk of sounding like a third grader going "neener neener," I've enjoyed Heroes over the last three or four episodes more than at any time since midway through the first season. It's as if Tim Kring saw the same problems you did at about the same time, and set out to fix them. Firing Jeph Loeb was a good first step, and getting Bryan Fuller back, a smart second one.

Gonna miss Brea Grant, though.

Nikko said...

Yes, it was obvious that Micah was rebel, but if he wasn't I would seriously give up. I'm glad he came back, he was one of my faves in the first season, and I hope he brings Monica with him as well. Yes, I liked her too.

Tear or wink? Wasn't it both? I thought she was winking at Noah and crying at the same time. Lol. She better not be dead. I wanna see more of her power, and she's one of the few who is capable of fighting.

Sonia said...

Ugh...I'm still watching it, butI hate myself for it. LOL There was an episode a couple weeks ago just focusing on HRG, and I thought..."oh good, something like Company Man!" Nope. Not even close. LOL

I didn't see the Rebel reveal b/c I totally forgot about Micah...LOL.

Grunt said...

I finally watched this episode last night (yeay! TiVo!) and I was a) happy to see Bryan Fuller back on Heros even though I am still profoundly mourning the death of Pushing Daisies; b) pleased that the quality of the episode was better than previous Heroes episodes (I would say a B- from a previous D); c) sorry that Bryan Fuller can't write all the episodes of Heroes from now on; and d) wondering if Swoozie Kurtz being in the first Bryan Fuller episode means something. I can not imagine she has any trouble getting work so I have to assume her presence there is going to lead to something in the future.

I also wonder if this doesn't mean that eventually the entire P.D. cast will migrate over to Heroes. Wouldn't that be nice.

dez said...

Anyway, glad to see Hiro back to (almost) normal, even though the baby angle on restoring his powers was LOL-worthy.

I thought it was supposed to be funny. Hiro and Ando are still my favorite part of the series; here's hoping that Ando "supercharges" the rest of Hiro's powers. Then Hiro can teleport Sylar and drop him into a volcano. The only good thing about Sylar was seeing his father last week because John Glover can play Magnificent Bastard like nobody's business.

I liked Parkman's farewell to Daphne--I thought it was sweet. And I think Tracy will reassemble herself; it doesn't make sense that her half-face could still move/cry/wink/whatever if she were dead. Then again, this *is* "Heroes"....

Alan, the show has been getting incrementally better over the past few eps, as if the writers were told to step up their game in anticipation of Fuller's return. Another show that's back in business is "24," which you should totally give another look to, please :-) You know, when you have some free time ;-)

Andrew said...

During a time of really slow and go-nowhere Lost episodes (oh boy, we learned about Jack's tattoos!), "Company Man" was a refreshingly good Lost episode. It focused on one character and showed how his past was influencing the actions that he'd done through the course of the show. And it worked because HRG was the one character with enough mystery, backbone and consistency to focus on for a single episode.

It's amazing how laughable the notion seems now, but that for a week, Heroes (at its best) was better than Lost (at its worst.) And that goodwill kept me watching through the disappointing season 1 finale and pointless second season. But even if Fuller's episodes are islands of awesome, will they still be surrounded by the seas of crap that's been everything else?

Today's word verification: "tuthyman." Dentist by day, superhero by night, Tuthyman extracts justice and inflicts PAIN.

Anonymous said...

"Cold Snap" could be made of awesome and I still wouldn't go back to watching. It's time to turn off the Heroes spigot and re-direct Fuller to a new and fresh series: one with characters we care about and plots that don't make viewers wince.