So the new fall TV season is upon us. Well, sort of anyway. Much of the really good stuff that a lot of us tube-tubbies have been waiting for — can you say Lost anyone? — is actually still weeks, if not months away.
In the meantime, the new shows offered up by the networks so far seem to be a pretty mixed bag. ABC's FlashForward is probably the most promising of a lot that otherwise includes Courtney Cox's Cougar Town, a new batch of witches from Eastwick, and the jacked-up, joy-riding EMT's of NBC's Trauma (warning: look before you open a car door anywhere in their immediate vicinity).
And then there is Heroes.
Few shows in recent memory have fallen so far, and so fast as this once promising series from NBC and producer Tim Kring. The first season was pretty much a knockout (save for a less-than-satisfying ending). In each of its subsequent seasons however, Heroes has played itself out in such a way as to suggest that the writers never expected to make it past season one, and that once they did so, had no idea of what to do next or how to otherwise move forward.
If there has ever been a television series where it seemed the writers and producers were making things up on the fly as they go, Heroes is it. Characters dying and coming back to life are such a regular occurrence on Heroes that the sort of shock value that television deaths are intended to produce has been pretty much stripped clean away.
Once-strong characters like the deliciously evil Sylar (the still superb Zachary Quinto) and shadowy government spook Noah "HRG" Bennett (Jack Coleman) have had their "good guy/bad guy" roles flipped so many times, you'd think this was the WWE's Monday Night Raw. Of the other characters, Ali Larter's Tracy Strauss replaced an earlier character she played when the writers apparently couldn't figure out how to advance her original storyline.
In short, after the promising start of season one, Heroes has pretty much been a complete mess, and by most accounts this season will be a make-or-break one. So the question is, two episodes into this new season, just how super are these Heroes really looking?
And the answer is — they look surprisingly good. But there are also a few lingering reservations.
The parts of the Heroes story left over from last season — such as the dead/alive Sylar character who inhabits both the mind of detective Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) and the body of politician Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) — are still a frustrating, unmitigated clusterfuck. Resolve this, or drop it already.
Ditto for the daddy-dearest babyface they inexplicably want to hang on HRG's glasses. I mean, screw all this "Claire Bear" crap, and let's see more of HRG as the sort of G. Gordon Liddy black-ops plotting government shithead we all came to know and hate in season one.
Where these storylines go is anyone's guess, and quite frankly the sooner they are either resolved or blown to all kryptonite kingdom-come the better.
Why? Because, the new storylines are soooo much more promising. For one thing, if you need a shot of good old-fashioned pure strangeness, there is nothing quite like a carnival troupe to up the creep factor.
Make it a time-traveling band of carnies with gifts like being able to alter the properties of ink in such a way as to produce tattoos that predict the future, and you've hit pay dirt, baby! Even HBO's sorely missed Carnavale couldn't muster that trick. Heroes also scored a nice coup in getting Robert Knepper to play chief carnie creep Samuel — a role he plays with all of the juicy relish, mixed in with just enough ambiguity, that such a truly evil character requires.
Another promising new development is the introduction of the newest hero, Emma (Deanne Bray), a deaf woman who "sees" sound. Her scenes with a cello in this past week's "Ink" episode were among the most interesting to come out of this series in awhile. A promising new storyline with potential love interest Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) — one of the Heroes who is in the most need of exactly that — could be just the sort of jumpstart this franchise so sorely needs.
So in the meantime, what do we about the rest of these Heroes?
Characters like Mohinder Suresh, the female Flash (check your DC comic books for reference), and the girl who cries the black tears of death appear to be gone forever and should probably stay that way. I also wouldn't be too heartbroken if the cheerleader we were all supposed to save in season one went away for good (so Daddy Horn-Rims can get back to his dastardly cloak-and-dagger ways as a government spook).
Take Ali Larter's Tracy character with them while you're at it. I mean, I like the eye-candy as much as the next horny old man, but her current character is only marginally more interesting than the one she used to play on the series. You know, the one they shit-canned.
Although the team of Hiro (Masa Oka) and Ando (James Kyson Lee) were once the heart and soul of this series, they have likewise outlived their usefulness. Still, they should probably be kept around to provide comedic relief and the occasional handkerchief moment. Ditto for Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose), but only as long as there is a significant re-upping of her once so delightfully repugnant bitch factor. Maybe more plotting between her and HRG…yeah, that's the ticket.
Beyond that, the new storylines on Heroes look very promising, and for now at least, will have me waiting in anticipation each week to see what happens next. We'll just have to wait, watch, and see if anything interesting actually does.
I'll be rooting for them. Let's hope they don't blow it.