Monday, February 02, 2009

Heroes, "A Clear and Present Danger": The X-tinction agenda

Brief spoilers for tonight's "Heroes" coming up just as soon as I buy my own lair...

At the risk of being the boy who cried wolf, I think "A Clear and Present Danger" is the end of the line for "Heroes" and me.

It's not that the episode itself was bad. If anything, it corrects all sorts of problems that we've been complaining about going all the way back to the end of season one: The characters are thrown together almost immediately. Peter develops a spine and isn't so all-powerful that there shouldn't be any dramatic tension to his scenes (I think; more on that in a minute). There was a lot of action involving multiple powers (albeit most of them used by Peter). There's a concrete conflict, and the villain's motivation is both clear and somewhat logical. Etc.

I just don't care because of the stupidity that came before. I can't buy Peter as the go-getter who stands up to Nathan because I've seen him get suckered so badly in the past. Nathan has flip-flopped his allegiance and motivation so often that I don't care about his latest agenda, even though it makes a lot more sense than previous directions for the character. They finally seem to be giving Parkman some purpose in the show (even if they have to graft on Isaac's powers to do so), but all I can think about is how they wasted Greg Grunberg for two-plus years. I have no idea why Angela Petrelli and HRG have made the latest alliance they've made, nor am I interested in finding out.

There's just been too much damage done to the show's foundation for them to build anything on it that I want to spend time in anymore.

But before I go (and I swear I'm going to have the willpower to delete the season pass for real this time), a few other observations and questions:

• As Nathan asks, what exactly are Peter's powers these days? Why does he apparently need to touch people to copy their powers now? Can he (as Rick Porter from Zap2It suggested when we were discussing this episode earlier today) only hold one borrowed power at a time? That's the only reasonable explanation for why he would be so freaked out about falling out of the plane when we know (or thought we knew) that he can still fly, but that's a rather huge development that needed to be adequately set up before the fight scene on the plane. I'd forgive the writers' decision to change his powers, both because it was dramatically necessary and because the end of "Villains" sort of gave them license to do so, but if you don't tell us in advance that you're changing the rules, then scenes that depend on the new rules don't work. Peter's cab ride with Mohinder would have been an awfully easy place to do it quickly, but they didn't bother, so I spent most of the climax yelling at the TV, "You can fly, moron!!!!!"

• What's the US government doing traveling to Japan to illegally detain a foreign national? And why would they bother to fly Hiro all the way from Tokyo to New York, just so they could then fly him to the new and improved version of The Company's old Level 5?

• There was a brief moment, as Hiro was showing off the firehouse lair to Ando, where I was reminded of when and why I liked this show, but that feeling faded within a few scenes, probably around the time Sylar showed up. If Peter's powers have been neutered, why couldn't they bother to do the same to Sylar? The more we see of him, the less scary he becomes.

• Has Peter ever met Tracy before? Does he know Nikki's dead? I assume his confusion at the end was because he expected to get super-strength from her because he thought it was Nikki. I think. Again, not a lot of that fight scene made sense.

Anyway, that's it for me. For those of you who are continuing, I hope you enjoy it -- or, at least, that you enjoy hating on it. I've realized that nothing "Heroes" can do at this point will satisfy me, and it's not fair to me or to "Heroes" to keep going.

What did everybody else think?


Stef said...

Heroes is much better on 2 glasses of wine. I'll probably keep watching, cuz there's not much else to do at 9 on Mondays. (Why there have to be THREE great shows on at 8 pm on Mondays is still beyond me.) What about all those Abu Gharib / torture style images with those hoods?

Word verification: fockru. Also much better on 2 glasses of wine.

Anonymous said...

I think I'd have liked this episode better if it was the premiere of season 2, and the actual seasons 2 and 3 never took place.

I don't get the Mohinder character. The last time we saw him he was all about giving everybody powers, now he's basically in agreement with Nathan Petrelli, that is until four minutes later when he actually has to deal with Nathan's people...

Mohinder switches motivations and personalities almost as often as Sylar and Nathan.

Maybe this is my biggest annoyance with Hero's. The motivations and character development are so incredibly weak and pointless I can't stand it. I guess I am used to the intricate development and wonderful characterization from shows like Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, The Wire, Lost, etc that I can't really abide by the sort of thing Hero's tries to pull.

I will probably still watch this season, but it's primarily just because I have nothing else to do, and also I do enjoy Hiro scenes, even if Ando has a pointless superpower now.

This was a show that had a lot of potential when it started but I think it's done for now.

Also: How the hell is the final scene meant to be suspenseful when Peter can FLY? Did I miss something?

xyz said...

I liked the episode quite a lot, especially the last half hour. I agree about Sylar though, that character is not remotely threatening or scary anymore. However I will give credit where credit is due, I hated Claire in the last Volume and swore never to like this show until they kill that character off but I was not bothered by her.

I also have to say that Heroes gets a raw deal from critics and bloggers. Damages for example has been slow as a snail this season, to a point that it has becoming completely focusless and meandering, yet everyone is in love with that show, however, people were crying bloody murder about how aweful Heroes was by its 4th episode last season. This episode of Heroes was more entertaining then the last few Damages episodes but I'm sure come emmy time Damages will win boatload of emmys just on the basis of star power whereas Heroes will get razzies

drat said...

biggest laugh for me was that promotional considerations note in the credits that were made by smith, hamilton and georgetown. it seemed like such an odd trio of schools for claire to mention. since when are colleges getting shookdown for product placement.

Stef said...

the schools got promotional credit? that's hilarious! I was laughing a bit at the extended "corners like its on rails" car commercial for ...Nissan?... with HRG and Mohinder in the parking garage.

Anonymous said...

Well yeah, he can fly, but he's too empathic to fly away from his comrade-in-arms. Can you really imagine Peter flying away and leaving everyone else to crash? Frankly I think that was one of the more character-consistent things they've done recently.

Anonymous said...

Wow Alan, first 24 and now this? Aren't there any shows that you watch out of spite anymore? Everybody's gotta have at least one.

Anonymous said...

I think it obvious Peter can't fly. He touched Mohnder and got his streght, and when he accidently touched Tracey he lost the super strenght and got the freezing power. SO maybe he realised that he can only hold one power at a time. Which seems to be the case. Alan, I don't see the problem with us finding out Peter's new power the way we did. After all isn't this how he's power was revealed in season 1 - gradually.

Bix said...

Even if Peter COULD fly, wouldn't it be reasonable for him to think that he wouldn't be able to beat the suction and fly away from the plane?

Omagus said...

I guess I am used to the intricate development and wonderful characterization from shows like Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, The Wire, Lost, etc that I can't really abide by the sort of thing Hero's tries to pull.

Heroes would have been much more interesting and tolerable had it debuted in, say, 1999.

Anonymous said...

So many shows these days start off really well and then go completely off the rails and do so rather quickly. I suppose this happened in previous decades as well, but I can't remember it happening as much.

I think the problem is usually the decision-makers behind the shows not realizing what it is that made the shows work in the first place. Its like these shows start off in season one offering sizzling steaks on their menus and then they forget the steaks in seasons 2-4 and only offer the sizzle.

What made Heroes great was the slow introduction of real people with real lives suddenly discovering new powers and the effects these powers had on their lives. These characters lives were shook up and in turn, the world was being shook up. The character had some depth back then because they were living actual lives involving other people who they valued in their lives.

Every character was grounded in the real world and had emotional anchors. Claire and HRG had their home life and their familial relationships. Peter and Nathan had their family, careers and ambitions. Nicki had a little boy and real-world problems. Greg Gumberg had a wife and a real job as a police officer. Mohinder was unraveling the mystery of his father's death.

The creative people behind the show simply got caught up in the hype of the chatter/buzz involving how cool the powers were and the hype involved with introducing brand new powers. And that's what the show became about. It became a series of new power reveals and a show only about the funny, neat, cool tricks they could show off with the powers. They added more and more characters, got carried away with their own new found ability to cast well-known actors and abandoned all semblence of grounded storytelling.

They amped up the sizzle and took away the steak. And now its way way too late; all credibility is lost.

I feel very similarly about Gray's Anatomy too. Without getting too far off-topic, Shonda Rhimes clearly has no idea what made the show so damn good in season one. The buzz on Entertainment Tonight may have been all about the McDreamy nickname and the steaminess of the romantic aspects of the show, but without any underlying credibility in the characters and the hospital setting, the show is an utter farce. Whimsicality is one of the things that made Gray's great initially, but she tore the integrity and the heart out of most of the major characters of the show.

Carmichael Harold said...

"Wow Alan, first 24 and now this? Aren't there any shows that you watch out of spite anymore? Everybody's gotta have at least one."

I think I've figured it out. Alan refuses to spite-watch Heroes and 24 anymore because he is desperate to watch the last hour of The Bachelor. Frankly, at this point, I'm not sure I blame him.

Anonymous said...


No disrespect but Peter's power usage wasn't that hard to figure out.

This was the first episode I watched since season one and after only watching this episode even I knew that Peter could only have one power at a time. Once he touches someone else he loses the power he had and gains the new one. Hence losing his strength when he touched Niki and gaining the frost power.

But you're probably right they could and should have explained it better during the episode.

I hated this show after season one but with Fuller back I'm gonna give it a shot. I actually enjoyed this episode too.

Jon88 said...

I did understand Peter's new one-at-a-time power, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have grasped it if I hadn't read Alan's review in the morning e-paper.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I agree with all you said, regarding the damaged foundation, but I'm willing to set aside all the damage they've done, ignore the last two arcs (excuse me: "volumes") and treat this like a new show. For at least a couple of episodes.

Plus, there's a little something I like to call the Zeljko Formula. It works for any show on TV, and it goes like this:

Show + Zeljko Ivanek = Better Show

Works every time.

Anonymous said...

If you notice, when Peter accidentaly touches Nikki, and then goes to punch the soldier, there's no super strenght there. My bet, he can only copy (or even take)one power at a time. Which to me is truly lame. Then again this is quickly solved. Get him to touch the remains of his dad, getting all he lost. Should work! Hahaha
Anyway kidding aside (kinda), I still think it's lame. They're rebooting it all, I know, but the constant power changes, even Parkman now painting the's really on seemingly on the of the writers whims.I'd like Peter to evolve (character construction/development, hello?) from the puppet that he is, to the man we saw in the future from season one. A leader. But no, he reamains the eternal "putz" even when Claire called warning him about it all. Gullable Peter must "die".

Anonymous said...

I gave up on it at the end of the last chapter, when they said the next chapter was going to start rounding up Heroes and putting them in camps. Sorry, it's been done too many times before. And hybridizing it with Lost doesn't help particularly.

I'm reminded of a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.

Heroes is indeed a castle built on a swamp.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Can you really imagine Peter flying away and leaving everyone else to crash?

But it's not like he can do anything to help them while he's just barely hanging on. If he could actually still fly -- and I'm swayed now that he probably can't -- then all he's got to do is let himself get sucked out, let the power of flight take over, and try to come up with a way to save everybody.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wow Alan, first 24 and now this? Aren't there any shows that you watch out of spite anymore? Everybody's gotta have at least one.

I guess I'm down to Grey's Anatomy, though even there I'm watching less out of spite than because I'm willing to suffer for the occasional bursts of Good Shonda.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, I don't see the problem with us finding out Peter's new power the way we did. After all isn't this how he's power was revealed in season 1 - gradually.

But the show has long since moved past that early season 1 paradigm of the slow reveal. Now all the characters are together, it's a big action set piece, and our appreciation of it hinges on how well we understand what Peter can and can't do. And I don't think they laid the necessary pipe for that scene to work.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Heroes could be tolerable as a drinking game. -Take one drink for every logical inconsistency.
-Drink for every grating Mohinder voiceover.
-Drink for every time a character's motivation inexplicably changes.
-Drink whenever Hiro shouts something gleefully.
-Drink any time a character acts based on no more than an incomprehensible vision of the future.
-Drink any time a character comes back from the dead

Hmmm. You might die of alcohol poisoning by the end of the 3rd act...

Anonymous said...

I think it can come good again but I'm really annoyed that Peter now has to touch people to get their powers - it kinda takes the specialness away from him now don't you think? I also think that he gets the powers permanently rather than using the power of the person he has just touched like some are suggesting.

I'm glad this volume actually has a solid storyline rather than the previous seasons where they gradually unfolded, this surely means more action.

Dan said...

Even if Peter can fly, it's instinct to hold onto something in that situation, surely! I didn't have too much a problem with that. In the next ep, he could very well lose grip, fall out of the plane and follow it down by flying. We'll see. I think that's just being very picky.

But yes, Peter can only get one power at a time thru touch? Nice change. I've said they should do that since mid-S1, but it needed setting up as Alan said.

Mohinder? HRG? Nathan? These guys are expasperating to get a grip on. Why not just use Bruce Boxleitner for Nathan's role?

Unknown said...

Rule number 1 of being able to draw the future: If you draw a picture of yourself getting shot with a dart through a window just after you've been warned people are after you, you get away from the window!

Rule number 1 of having a brother who's gone bad: When that brother gives you one last chance to go to his side, and you say no, then he asks you for "one last hug" you say no to that too!

I think the heroes would benefit greatly from their own version of the evil overlord to do list.

Anonymous said...

I too enjoy Heroes with a glass of wine or two, and I enjoy Hero Hating, not the show itself.

My biggest peeve last night was someone ONCE AGAIN drawing the future, and then doing NOTHING with the image it produced. "Hey, this is the future! What does it mean?"

It's a pointless plot device at this point. They draw it, it happens, NOTHING CHANGES. Why did they bother with that?

lungfish said...

Alan, has there ever been a show that you've culled from your season passes that have found a way to make it back onto your good list?

I'm giving Heroes a very short leash myself this season. I too can't believe Peter fell for the hug trick once again (he didn't learn after hugging his dad and getting his powers drained?). Also, why is Parkman against using powers at a "civilian job" all of a sudden. I seem to remember him using his mind reading and persuasion powers as a cop several times.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Lungfish, ER outlived my frustration with a lot of the post-Edwards seasons and has been back in the viewing (if not always blogging) rotation for a few years.

Aaron said...

I saw the peter not flying thing a bit different. His response to his brother was "what power did you last see?". That's a lot different than saying he could fly.

Anonymous said...

My (now) Ex and I went through the process of breaking up during the commercial breaks, on account of her Heroes-mania. I think that will finally help me drop this show.

Rev/Views said...

I've already dumped the show like the discarded leavings it has become so I don't blame you for dropping it either Alan.

Great idea, lousy execution.

Anonymous said...

Alan, weren't we all saying that we were going to give fuller a've got to have faith and hang of for to at least see if that leads us back to the promise land

Anonymous said...

^Yeah, at least come back when Fuller does and give it a shot. Kring wrote this last ep, which is why Peter's new powers were glossed over, I bet.

What bothered me more was how he drained any tension out of Sylar's return. At least give it a few eps of mysterious things happening and Claire being the only one to believe Sylar survived before revealing him. Jeez, how hard is it?

Anonymous said...

@Aaron: That's an interesting read on the line. So you're saying that Peter knows he has only one power at a time, and he's essentially telling Nathan, "the only power I have is the last power I absorbed" (i.e., "what you last saw") Still not good enough to make me set my DVR for it, but interesting.

@Aaron: I like the way you drink -- er, I mean think. May I suggest that, instead of saying "SKOAL!" when you drink, you say, "YATAI!"

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why Angela Petrelli and HRG have made the latest alliance they've made, nor am I interested in finding out.

I can respect you just don't care about the characters anymore, but do you really want them to explain everything in the first episode.

Mark Jones said...

Dez--leaving Sylar's fate up in the air for a few eps would deprive the Sylar fangirls (and boyz) of their weekly fix. We can't have that! (Besides, we KNOW Sylar is never leaving the show. Ever. Dammit. So there's no suspense there. Unhappy Sylar/Quinto fans. Unhappy anti-fans, waiting for the other shoe to's a lose-lose scenario.)

Meanwhile, I'm sure Alan will be excited to hear that he's just following the herd. It's fashionable now to bash Heroes, so watching this ep, admitting they've made some improvements, and then saying he just doesn't care anymore despite them proves that he's a sheep.

Or so the diehard fans on TWOP claim....

Anonymous said...

^What do the diehards say about the changing position of the walking stick that Dead Prophet Guy had when talking to Parkman? That was one of the worst continuity errors I've seen since the moving button position in "The Untouchables"!

Other than that, I kind of liked the ep. What happened in the last two minutes, though? My frickin' recording cut off because I didn't notice that the VCR I was using was a few minutes ahead, d'oh. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Surely hes just going to touch sylar and get his power, which would then explain that weird tangent they went on with sylar being able to absorb powers without the need for killy killy death death. Plus I reckon he'll get his future scar from the plane crash. This is the first time in a long time that I thought they might actually be about to explain all the things that the writers had seemingly forgotten about.

Anonymous said...

Peter can only have one power at a time? Then how did he time travel with his Irish chick when he had zappy powers? I know we're ignoring that she's out there, but do we have to ignore that whole plotline existed?


Mark Jones said...

Last two minutes: Peter absorbs Mohinder's strength, kicks ass on the guards, then stumbles against Tracy, gains her cold power--and apparently loses the strength--freezes a hole in the side of the plane. Classic "explosive decompression" follows, sucking one nameless prisoner out, Peter is nearly lost as well. Plane is going down. TO BE CONTINUED.

As near as I can tell, Peter can only have one power at a time NOW, since daddy stole his power and he regained it via an injection of the power drug Mohinder created. Doesn't make a lot of sense (you'd think he'd either regain his original power completely OR get a whole new power entirely), but it's a much needed change. Otherwise, like Sylar, he's so powerful that he would walk through any possible opposition unless he's sidelined in the past or future or given amnesia or acts aggressively, arrogantly stupid....

Anonymous said...

Count me among the masochists who watched the last volume out of habit and to see how bad it would get (see also: anyone who watched Studio 60 beyond the pilot).

But I will say this... The show as a whole seemed solid in a way it hasn't been in some time.

The only things that aggravated me were that for the fourth volume in a row, we have the future being painted, walking product placements (yes dude in Africa, we know you like Universal Studios), and, if this were any other show it wouldn't be the case, but a cliffhanger ending that we all know isn't a cliffhanger.

No other show has killed off as many characters only to have them survive as this one.


And to all the Sylar haters, I ask, "Why?" He's the only character on the show who isn't completely retarded, he gets answers, and Zachary Quinto brings a menacing charisma no matter how hard the writers tried to defang him last season.

PLUS... Bryan Fuller is coming back to save the show, Alan.

I said it all last year, Fuller is the brains behind the show. With him back, the show will be back.

And this first episode... It makes me want to come back because it looks good.