Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Heroes Season Three – More Of The Same, But Enjoyable.

The Good: Some actual character development, A few interesting story elements, DVD bonus features
The Bad: Nothing spectacular on the acting front, Story continues toward the familiar.
The Basics: A decent DVD set, the split stories of Heroes Season Three might progress, but they ultimately end up in familiar territory.

I tend to have mixed feelings about Heroes. I think I would have enjoyed the whole series more if the show hadn’t followed on the heels of The 4400 and actually carried several similar plotlines of that cable show. As it stands, the producers of Heroes have been remarkably successful in that I have watched and reviewed both Season 1 and Season 2, as well as reading several of the literary outings for the series. For some reason, I fell away in the third season of the show and it took me until just last week to get back to the series. But the last week, I have had a Heroes-packed week.

The third season of Heroes was split into two sections, “Villains” and “Fugitives,” which splits the DVD boxed set into two very different storylines. That said, the fundamental problem with the third season of the show is too much of it seems too familiar, that is that the reversals become more predictable and the acting is much more in line with what has come before than with shaking up the tried and true formula. That said, the series is enjoyable and truth-be-told, I enjoyed watching it on DVD a lot more than I expected I would. Something about only having a week to get the twenty-five episodes watched made the season seem more vital.

In the “Villains” episodes, a rival Company to Primatech emerges. After a breakout of prisoners at Primatech’s infamous Level 5, Peter finds himself imperiled and soon Peter and Nathan discover their dead father is very much alive. Arthur Petrelli is, in fact, alive and running Pinehearst, an evil company looking to make an army of people with superhuman abilities. To that end, they require a formula, which Hiro loses to a super-fast thief named Daphne. With Sylar being used by Angela Petrelli in the quest to get villains back into Level 5, Claire finds herself trying to make a difference as a freelance agent on her own and Mohinder Suresh discovers the horrible consequences that come with having powers when he artificially gives himself abilities which begin to transform him.

Following an eclipse which temporarily robs those with abilities of their powers, Nathan Petrelli raises his status as the junior Senator from New York by beginning a covert government organization that hunts down those with abilities. Teamed with the brutal Emile Danko, Nathan begins hunting down those with abilities. Even as he tries to keep Claire off the radar of his workers at Building 26, Noah conspires with Angela to rebuild Primatech and finds himself compelled to work for the new organization. And as Sylar searches for his father, Peter tries to defend his family and learn how everything got so screwed up in the first place.

Too much of Heroes Season three is familiar to those who have watched the earlier seasons or just love science fiction, fantasy and super hero stories. So, for example, when Sylar finds the Holy Grail power of shapeshifting, the series tries too often to make reversals which suddenly reveal that Sylar is someone else who is on the screen. And, ultimately, the season heads in a direction that suddenly feels familiar as the story goes in the direction alluded to in the first season.

For a better understanding of the third season of Heroes, it helps to know who the characters are. In the fourth season, the principles are:

Noah Bennet – A government agent who has worked to save lives by keeping those with superhuman abilities contained. When Level Five suffers a security breach, he is paired with Sylar to get them back, a mission he embarks on only to try to discover how to kill Sylar. When Building 28 is established, he attempts to keep Claire safe by joining the shadow organization, despite some fundamental differences with Danko,

Matt Parkman – Struggling as a detective, he has the ability to both read minds and influence the thoughts of others. He has lost almost everything and when he encounters Peter from the future and is pushed into a walkabout in the African desert, he discovers he might have a future with Daphne,

Claire Bennet – An indestructible girl, she has a terrifying encounter with Sylar and is wounded such that she worries she may never feel pain again. After reuniting with her biological mother and saving her adoptive mother from a monster who acts as a puppetmaster, she tries to learn survival techniques. When those with abilities are hunted, she uses her unique status on the outside to try to form an underground railroad,

Peter Petrelli – Having been thrown around by a future version of himself and locked in the body of a Level 5 escapee, he works to save lives, only to be put repeatedly in danger. Robbed of his powers by his malicious father, he struggles to reconcile all of the wrongs his family has done. When Nathan sets up his government initiative, Peter quickly becomes his greatest opponent,

Hiro Nakamura – A master of time and space, he has the ability to stop time and teleport, an ability which Arthur takes away from him to try to destroy the future. Robbed of his powers, he is forced to watch as Ando develops as a hero in his own right,

Ando Masahashi – Artificially given powers in an attempt to get Hiro back his powers, the sidekick becomes the master. Ando soon learns he can super-charge the powers of others and that Hiro’s fear of him – having seen him in the future – may be reasonable,

Mohinder Suresh – Following in his father’s footsteps as a scientist, Mohinder tries to save Lydia from her terrible demon inside and in the process gives himself super-strength and spider-like abilities. But his transformation is inorganic and he soon begins to suffer mercilessly, taking refuge at Pinehearst to try to cure himself as well as Lydia. When Nathan turns against those with abilities, he finds himself hunted as well,

Nathan Petrelli – Bumped into the role of junior Senator by New York’s governor, he soon finds himself in danger from his dead father. Having survived the attempt on his life through the aid of others with powers, he quickly becomes two-faced and works to stop those like him, rounding them up without any trials for the protection of the general populace. When he is exposed by Danko, he, too, is forced to flee,

Sylar – Told by Angela that he is her son, he is captured but she attempts to rehabilitate him. The effort works for a time, until the hunger for new powers overwhelms him and he returns to his killing-spree ways. When Nathan turns on those with abilities, Sylar goes in search of his biological father and forms an unlikely alliance with Danko to hunt down a shapeshifter,

Tracey Strauss – The latest incarnation of the powerful blonde played by Ali Larter, she has the ability to freeze anything with her touch. She allies with Nathan until he turns on their kind and she is captured. The beneficiary of the mysterious Rebel’s attention, she exhibits a strong desire to stay alive and fight the good fight,

Angela Petrelli – After attempting to keep Sylar in check, she finds herself a fugitive from Nathan’s initiatives. Working closely with Noah, she explores the roots of the artificial gifts after working to defeat her previously dead husband,

Sandra Bennet – She tries to keep her family together with a superhuman daughter and a husband who lies to her,

And Daphne – A super-fast young lady, she is a thief working for Pinehearst until she meets Matt and he shows her another possible way. Unfortunately, Building 28’s operatives have something worse planned for her and she is struck down in their first assault on those with abilities.

Heroes Season Three is not a wealth of new and different acting, mostly because most of the characters have been with the show for so long that there is little direction they can go in. Brea Grant is good as Daphne and she is a fun, perky comedic actress who plays well off Masi Oka and James Kyson-Lee. She also has a decent ability to make some of Greg Grunberg’s scenes for high drama work better than he has with some other combinations of performers. Outside her adding a nice twist, only Sendhil Ramamurthy has a chance to shake up his performance. As Suresh, Ramamurthy becomes much more physical this season and he makes it seem truly painful to get abilities, which gives him more range.

But these are the exceptions to the acting rule in this season of Heroes. Instead, most of the performances are familiar. Jack Coleman is wonderfully cool as Noah, Hayden Panettiere is perky and a little stiff as Claire and Zachary Quinto is cold and deadly as Sylar. But we’ve seen this before. Even Ali Larter seems familiar as her supposedly new character.

On DVD, Heroes comes loaded in the third season. This DVD boxed set is packed with commentary tracks, special effects features and featurettes on the way the story has been developing. This makes it worth getting on DVD, despite the way the stories tend to repeat a lot of information – including entire scenes from prior episodes – in new episodes.

Those who like science fiction and super hero stories will find a lot to enjoy with Heroes Season Three, even if it is not truly new material they are witnessing.

For other science fiction works, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
V: The Television Series


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

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

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