Poor Heroes. After a critically acclaimed and massively popular first season, the show unexpectedly stumbled out of the gate with a second season that has been variously described as unfocused, dull, and inconsistent. It certainly didn’t help that only 11 out of the 24 planned episodes were produced because of the writers' strike.
So is Heroes a television juggernaut that just needs to find its footing again or an overblown mess that blew whatever potential it once had? The third season seems to suggest a little of both. At times it’s incredibly entertaining and it sucks you right in, but it frequently ruins that momentum with unnecessary subplots and a wealth of dialogue that should’ve been sent straight back to the crap factory where it originated from.
There are a lot of great effects in Heroes’ third season, but what really has to be solid to set a show like this apart are the storylines and the characters. Heroes attempts to weave together plenty of plotlines and a vast assortment of characters a la ABC’s Lost. But make no mistake — by this point, it’s pretty clear Heroes is no Lost. Even at its most inscrutable, Lost has never been this messy.
Just in this season alone, characters’ personalities are often inconsistent, and it’s hard not to get the sense that the writers are just tossing out ideas as they go along, more concerned with creating some type of temporary conflict to maintain interest than advancing the overall story.
All that said, Heroes still has enough positives in its corner to convince me that the show might go on to greatness. There are far too many uninteresting characters, but the ones that do click — the evil, yet conflicted Sylar (Zachary Quinto), sympathetic mind-reader Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), and hilarious duo Hiro and Ando (Masi Oka, James Kyson Lee) — make you root for their sequences to come on the screen next.
The third season also feels like it gains traction in its second half, a segment titled “Fugitives” in which government agents seek to track down and imprison people with abilities, whether they use them for evil or not. This prolonged story arc gives the show some direction compared to its rather aimless first half, while still allowing room for subplots that don’t derail the main story.
Heroes has a lot of flaws, and it’s not difficult to pick apart nearly every episode for some reason or another, but things feel like they could be back on track after season three. A massive reduction in cast might help (not going to happen) or at least better-focused episodes. Heroes could take a cue from Lost in that respect, and not try to cram so many characters out of its large cast into one episode.
Season four premieres Sept. 21. Despite myself and all the issues I have with the show, I can’t deny some measure of excitement.
The Blu-ray Discs
The third season of Heroes is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Like the show, this is a visual presentation that is wildly inconsistent, at times looking pristine and ultra-sharp, and at others, murky, muddled, and extremely soft. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to the flaws either, as some heavily shadowed shots show great definition and deep blacks, while others have a lot of unnecessary grain and image distortion. The comic book style lends itself to some nice brightly colored scenes, but splashes of color don’t pop as often as you’d like them too. Overall, this is a disappointing transfer, but the majority of the time the presentation is at least adequate.
The audio is presented in Dolby DTS-HD, and doesn’t suffer the same fate as its visual counterparts. It's a crisp and clear mix that makes good use of all channels, like you'd expect from a show with this much action and special effects.
Fans will be pleased with the extensive selection of special features, which cover topics from the many stunt sequences to post-production effects to set design to a pretty entertaining look at the tons of props necessary for the show. The extras play toward the show’s strengths — namely, the technical side of things — but they are informative and well-paced. All of the featurettes are presented in high def, and show more visual consistency than the show itself. Deleted scenes are also presented for nearly every episode, but these come in a rough standard def.