Monday, December 6, 2010

Half A Season Makes For A Hard Sell: Heroes Season 2 On DVD

The Good: Interesting concept, Some good direction, Some of the acting, DVD EXTRAS!
The Bad: Very derivative, Most of the characters are "types," a lot of mediocre acting
The Basics: With only eleven episodes, Heroes Season Two underwhelms on DVD, despite having generally good bonus features.

After living through another writer's strike and spending a lot of time watching DVDs as a result, it is hard not to argue just how repetitive Heroes truly is. Having had to get a Heroes fix from the "Season 1" DVD set (click here for that review! ) while waiting for new episodes and reading and rereading the Heroes novel Saving Charlie (click here for that review!), one quickly gets tired of it. I'm not saying it is not a good, fun, sometimes even phenomenal television show, but because it is heavily serialized and assumes people are tuning in for the first time with each new episode, there is a great deal of replay. Entire scenes unfold identically in multiple episodes and, frankly, for the DVD buying audience, this gets very boring, very quickly.

Fortunately for us, Heroes Season 2 has arrived on DVD! And it's about time, now we at least have a whole bunch of new episodes where scenes are replayed over and over again! Truth be told, I am a little down on Heroes right now, and not just because of the repetition or the writer's strike-truncated Season Two. More than any show since Star Trek, Heroes seems to have a real problem with killing off its main stars. I'm saying that up front because in order to discuss the second season of Heroes, it is virtually impossible not to mention how the first ended. So, that's the warning.

Heroes Season Two, now that I have reviewed it on DVD, looks good, but it is essentially eleven episodes that set Season Three up to be another Season One. Allow me to explain.

Four months after the events that climaxed in Kirby Plaza, Mohinder Suresh and Matt Parkman have taken legal custody of Molly and they are working (quietly) to find others with extraordinary abilities. Mohinder is also working with Noah Bennet to try to destroy the Company that has long been manipulating events in regards to the various extraordinary people who are sprouting up in the world. The remnants of Linderman's organization are not the only problems, though, as Sylar both survived the Kirby Plaza incident, but has taken company with a young woman who carries a plague within her. As well, Mohinder is approached by Bob, a man from the Company who has an interest in a viral plague.

All of this is well and good for those who are involved in the conspiracies of the world; Claire Bennet is compelled to lay low and in the process, she meets a classmate who is able to fly. As well, Micah discovers that he is not the only one in his family with an extraordinary talent when Niki/Jessica leaves him with his grandmother and cousins. And poor Peter Petreli; having survived the potential destruction of New York, he wakes up in a crate with no memory.

As Peter searches for clues to his identity by taking up with a band of Irish thieves, Hiro Nakamura finds himself in 17th Century Japan where he meets up with his hero, Takezo Kensei, who is both less than he thought and far greater. As Hiro struggles to regain use and control of his time-traveling abilities, events in the present conspire to put most of the major players on course for a viral outbreak which will decimate the world's population.

The introduction of the viral element continues to make "Heroes" seem like a vastly more popular knockoff of The 4400 and X-Men. But more than that, the new "heroes" suffer from the same fate as Niki/Jessica: they are boring. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see Ali Larter on television, but her character is possibly the least inspired superhero since . . . I don't know . . . Plasticman? As a result, one has the feeling that the writers and producers are at a bit of a loss as to what to do with some of the characters and we wait with baited breath for season three, in part, to see if the fates of some of the protagonists actually stick.

But from the new crop of genetically altered individuals, the imagination seems particularly stretched. Elle Bishop is essentially a female version of Ted Sprague with electricity instead of radiation being zapped from her. She also seems like her whole purpose is to illustrate what Noah was trying to avoid as a life for Claire. The thing is, we (the viewers) got it. The Company is full of not nice people. We get it, this example seems redundant to our imagination. Other new heroes include: a girl who can mimic anything she sees on television and a young woman who carries a plague that she can let out whenever she's upset and reabsorb when done. As well, a significant new mutant/enhanced person pops up, one whose power may be one of the greatest yet.

As well, there is a new menace from the Company, in the form of Bob, but frankly, he's no Linderman. And as Bob hunts for mutants, using his daughter, the story winds through the eleven episodes more aimlessly than the first season, making the viewer wonder what the point truly is. It's entertaining, but it's not as engaging or focused as the first season, despite the fact that someone is hunting down the founding members of the Company!

Still, it's worth it to see who the show is about because some of the characters are neat and the plot (it is heavily serialized, which I like quite a bit) is interesting enough to entertain. Here is how the second season finds the primary characters:

Mohinder Suresh - Struggling with his father's research and his adopted ward's illness, Mohinder's quiet quest to eliminate the Company is complicated when he is paired with Jessica. Soon, he finds his work increasingly dangerous and discovers that the Company might not want to help the enhanced as much as he does,

Claire Bennet - After desperately attempting to lay low in a new school, she discovers a classmate who can fly and begins to develop a relationship with him. That quickly becomes complicated when it appears that he will kill her father,

West Rosen - A young man who has learned he can fly, he recognizes Noah Bennet and begins to recall that he was experimented upon when Bennet worked for the Company. He soon sets his sights on revenge,

Hiro Nakamura - Trapped in 17th Century Japan, Hiro tries to make a hero out of Kensei, but discovers himself falling in love with the woman Kensei is supposed to marry. When he finally is able to return to the future, he is dismayed to discover his father has been killed . . . and who the killer is,

Ando - Hiro's best friend, he returns to his banal job with Hiro's Kensei sword, in which he discovers notes Hiro wrote in the past for him,

Mr. Noah Bennet - A menacing man and father to Claire who works exceptionally hard to keep her safe. Quietly trying to take down the Company, he soon finds he has to watch his back more when Elle comes hunting and West tries to make a move as well,

Elle Bishop - Daughter of a powerful member of the Company, she is hired out with her brutal ability to throw electric charges,

Nathan Petrelli - Having nearly died after saving the world, he is mostly a drunk now. He senses that Peter is still alive, but does not know where to find him,

Peter Petrelli - Having lost his memory, he awakens in Ireland where he is hired by thieves. As his powers begin to manifest, he finds his way toward the right side of the law and his family,

Niki/Jessica Sanders - A split personality whose power seems to be that she is a split personality. Niki is submerged to a more aggressive Jessica personality who works to protect her son, Micah. Niki sought to be "cured" from her multiple personality nature, but Jessica soon began working for the Company,

Micah Sanders - A child, son of Niki, he is sent to stay with his grandmother and cousin, whom he begins to impress with his abilities to manipulate electronic devices,

Matt Parkman - The police officer who can read minds is now protecting Molly, who has fallen ill. His marriage over, he quietly works to bring down the Company,

Molly Walker - A very young girl who has been adopted by Mohinder and Matt, she continues to sense an evil who she fears is coming for her. This causes her to fall in and out of comas,

Maya - The bearer of a plague, she and her brother flee South America in search of scientists who can help her, leaving a long trail of dead bodies en route,

and Sylar - Having been captured by the Company following his actions in Kirby Plaza, he soon dispatches his guard and flees, finding himself rescuing Maya as he searches for his identity.

Part of what makes Heroes remarkably average is the characters are very much "types" instead of actualized characters with their own genuinely distinct personalities. The other problem is that because the cast is so large, there are several characters that have very little airtime and a lot of the acting is shaky at best. Most of the performers have ability, to be sure. For example, Milo Ventimiglia is clearly playing a very different character than, say, his role on Gilmore Girls. Indeed, as a Peter without memory, Ventimiglia is given a chance to show that he can act and he plays confusion and hurt very well. He is given the opportunity to stretch in virtually every scene he is in on this DVD set and he lives up to that potential by giving performances that are consistently compelling.

Sadly, that ability to act is not present in all of the players on Heroes. Kristen Bell, who wowed me on Veronica Mars is terribly bland as Elle. Similarly, Adrian Pasdar continues to appear on Heroes as a poor-man's Scott Bakula. Pasdar might be a fine actor, but he's playing Nathan like Scott Bakula playing Nathan Petrelli.

The DVD bonus features are good, the highlight of which is an alternate ending to Season Two. This projects a very different direction the series could go in for Season Three, but . . . given that it didn't happen that way, there is an additional feature which previews the new season. There are featurettes of webcasts from as well as commentary tracks on key episodes. The commentary tracks are insightful and fun, which is a nice change from several of the commentary tracks I have endured lately.

And in the end, there is enough for superhero or science fiction fans to enjoy. But for the masses . . . there's just not enough this season to rush right out to own this DVD set.

For other seasons during the strike, please check out my reviews of:
Lost – Season 4
30 Rock – Season 3
The Big Bang Theory – Season 2


For other television reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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