Sunday, October 21, 2007

Heroes - 2x04 "The Kindness of Strangers"

A Defense of a Show's Shoddy (Re)Beginning

At its core, Heroes is a fringe cult-show that somehow became a monster hit, but now that the show is slow out of the starting gate, the citizens (that's what us nerds call the lot of you) are jumping off the bandwagon with righteous ire and lamenting the lost halcyon first season and its impeccable thrills. But now I bring nothing less than Promethean Fire to burn away that golden-hued nostalgia: the first season was as flawed as this season has been (and as I've said before, the series succeeded because of its flaws, or at least owed its charm to them, not in spite of them).

Heroes debuted with what I hold was a wretched pilot: horribly paced, laughably shallow characters, ponderously stilted dialogue, enormous plot holes (e.g. when Hiro entered loft the loft of a freshly Sylared Isaac, why did the time-manipulator pick up the gun at the scene of an obvious murder?), and general implausibility. The second episode wasn't much better, and I was on the verge of dropping the show when for whatever reason I gave it one more chance. I didn't expect much, and gave only 60% of my attention to the third episode, when two things happened. First, "One Giant Leap" really was a giant leap in quality, wherein the show found its excuse (e.g. fighting Sylar) for outrageous and often corny spectacles playing fast and loose with the show's continuity. Second, I readjusted both my expectations and the way I watched the series -- instead of expecting to watch a show that's put together well in a classical sense (naturalistic dialogue, adherence to in-show continuity, at least a token attempt at psychological/physical plausibility), I accepted the fact that Heroes was and is at its heart frothy entertainment.

All that being said, "The Kindness of Strangers" exhibited glimpses of life again, maybe because Sylar killed somebody. You see, death makes life more precious! Also, now that we've got the first glimpse of a narrative that might actually move some place. (Parkman's dad? The Bogeyman?!)

To make an easy analogy, the Heroes viewership over time relates to the show in a similar way to the viewership of Lost -- an exciting genre show meets phenomenal success in its debut season, the press and fans hype it up as one of TV's golden geese, the show believes the hype and, in a bid for Serious Show-hood in its second season, favors the solemn, po-faced storytelling that in mainstream cultural consciousness signifies Important Art while at the same time suppressing or eliminating the pulpiness that made the show such an exhilarating experience in the first place. As a paradoxical consequence, the show sheds all but its most hardened fans (read: nerds). While Lost has lost (hurr hurr) a lot of its pop cachet, Heroes -- only four episodes into its second season -- still has time to avoid a parallel obsolescence of its spiritual predecessor.

The scenes between Claire and West, on their own, were inane enough that the editors/directors needed to amp them up with a vertigo-inducing surfeit of EDGY and COOL camera angles. No, the usual shot/reverse shot camerawork wasn't good enough, they had to shoot the scene from about half a dozen different angles -- take me on my word, I don't recommend watching the scene again.

I'll give West some credit, though -- he's singlehandedly keeping the Heroes streak of horrible hair growth alive.

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Indie rating: Major Stars – "Stop the Fall"

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