Last night was the fall finale of SFSignal TV show favorite, Heroes. And while the episode didn’t quite live up to the hype of the trailers (who let’s the marketing guys produce the trailers anyway?), it was still a darn fine episode, and a nice cliffhanger-ish way to end this block of shows. I won’t do a episode summary, the folks at TV Squad and Entertainment Weekly have done a fine job of that. Instead, I’d rather take a look at Heroes as a TV show and why it rocks so much.
A television show lives and dies based on the strength of its writing and Heroes definitely has sold writing. And while there hasn’t been any one episode that I feel was a truly ‘knock you socks off’ episode, the magic of Heroes lies in the way the writers have been able to weave the stories together, dipping in and out of the characters lives, and slowly drawing them together. Sometimes in cool and unexpected ways. And they’ve done so in the context of a serialized show and have managed to give the fans just enough to keep coming back for more. In fact, the writers have managed to give us information and answers about out questions while still raising other questions that hint at future events. This is something the LOST writers need to start doing, and I’ll stop there before I go off on a rant about LOST and its reliance on flashbacks and giving us itsy-bitsy nuggets of information. But I said I’d stop. Heroes has struck a balance between mystery and revelation which keeps me coming back for more. And lets not forget the little nods to comics and SF that the writers toss into the show. As an example, let’s use the scene where the quote in the title came from. Hiro and Ando are looking at an Isaac painting showing Hiro fighting a T-Rex. Hiro says something like ‘I must be careful not to step on a bug’. A subtle nod to Ray Bradbury’s The Sound Of Thunder.
Only slightly less important than writing (and never getting involved in a land war in Asia), is (are?) the characters. Heroes has them in spades. While the premise of ordinary people gaining extraordinary powers has been done before, Heroes manages to add a fresh take on that concept. One that shows how ordinary people, despite being gifted/cursed with their powers, are still just people underneath it all, with all the strengths and failings of being human. In comics like Rising Stars, the characters assume super hero personas and begin to act like super heroes. I believe it was ‘author turned raving SFSignal fanboy’ John C. Wright who questioned why only Hiro, amongst the cast of characters, appears to be following any type of superhero code. To me, that’s easy enough to answer. Hiro ,out of all the characters, is the only one who reads comics and is, therefore, the only one steeped in the mythos and ethics of comic book superheroes. That’s why he is also the only one who feels not only an obligation to use his powers for good, but he sees it as his duty and destiny to do so, even if he doesn’t don a spandex costume. Combine that sense of duty with his naivete and sense of humor and you have one heck of an interesting character. In fact, I’d say that almost all of the characters are interesting, with the possible exception of Niki, who seems to be suffering from a split-personality, albeit with one persona having super strength and who is, for all intents and purposes, a psycho She-Hulk without the muscles. I just don’t find her to be all that interesting. Her son, though, Micah could be a technomage. I’d take his power. Although I’d have everyone calling me to come over and fix their PCs all the time. I’d be either very rich, or curled in a ball on the floor in a state of catatonia. For a nice list of all the characters ever on the show, see the Wikipedia article.
This mix of story and character has me hooked. So much so that I am hating the 7 week hiatus until new episodes start again (January 22nd). Instead, we get to sit through the Penn Jillette game show, Identity. Let’s hope the writers can keep going with interesting stories and compelling characters. I’d really like to see Heroes continue on into other seasons with exciting stories to tell. Hopefully, they won’t have to kill everyone off and re-invent them again like some comic book publishers have done.