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    six things that bugged me about heroes S3.E01

    So last night was the season premiere of the third season of Heroes, a show that I have a sort of love-hate relationship with, albeit one that is increasingly slipping towards "hate." I should preface this by saying that even when the show was at its best I always thought of it as little more than junk food. Even junk food has its hierarchy, however, and by the end of the second season the show had slipped in my mind from being somewhere around "basket of cheese fries" to somewhere around "fistful of jimmies."

    The third season is being promoted as a return to form, but as I settled down to watch it I sent out a Twitter update predicting that it would make me cringe with dismay at least six times. Did it?

    They didn't rely on their most aggravating plot device, that of having major characters run into one another at random, but there were still some serious annoyances. Roughly in order from most to least "cringeworthy":

    1. Hiro's unwillingness to travel backwards in time still doesn't really make sense. Every time-travel narrative, from Primer to Back to the Future, inevitably touches on the perils of messing with the past, and those perils are real enough that we could reasonably expect a character to be reluctant to do it. But a blanket refusal under all circumstances strikes me as a Lazy Writer's solution to the problem of having invented a character who is too powerful. We should be able to expect that where the reward for going backwards is great enough (or the risk of not going backwards is severe enough) that the temptation to do it should at least be acknowledged. In this episode, Hiro takes a secret formula out of a safe only to have it stolen out of his hands by a gamine with super-speed, yet he never even considers going back in time to stop himself from taking it out of the safe. Recall that it is only Hiro's willingness to bear messages into the past in Season One that allows the other heroes to "save the world."

    2. Mohinder's current plotline is cribbed directly from David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly. Crawling up the wall, amping up the sugar intake, becoming hyper-masculinized and -sexualized, and then... observing hideous transformations in the bathroom mirror! If you're going to be derivative, The Fly is pretty good material, but it's such a lift that it smack of laziness.

    3. Giant shockwave that destroys Future Tokyo. Pretty cool-looking effect, but isn't that really only one degree removed from the "giant shockwave that destroys Future New York" that governed Season One? Come to think of it, Season Two's "apocalyptic plague that destroys Future New York" was also only one degree removed from Season One. It's like they're using a broken combinatoric wheel to write this stuff. At this point, I'd love to see a season from this show that wasn't based on Having to Avert an Apocalyptic Future.

    4. Nathan's "religious conversion" at this stage seems... random? This strikes me as the kind of thing you do when you aren't sure what to do with a character. It would bug me less if the Heroes writers weren't already struggling with writing consistent characters.

    5. Subtitles have Hiro say "discrete" when they mean to have him say "discreet." In reference to detectives. "These detectives are very discrete." As in they do not blur together into a single detective.

    6. Usage of standard-issue black street thugs and introduction of a black "Level 5" supervillain doesn't improve the show's track record in terms of African-American representation.

    There are a few more, but those are some of the big ones. Should I stop watching this show?

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    Tuesday, September 23, 2008
    9:51 AM


    I like that you go to the trouble of enumerating your concerns with this show. I just think it started promisingly and got boring and cartoon-y -- not in a good, like, Warner Brothers or Allan Moore cartoon-y but in a Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon-y -- pretty quickly. It's a boring and unsatisfying show; and I am a notably easy audience.
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