Sunday, March 18, 2007

Heroes Retrospective #3

One Small Leap

1. Part of the reason Niki's subplot is so unpopular is because it's a bit muddled from the very beginning. In this episode, for example, we're supposed to believe UberMom Niki let her son sleep in the backseat of a car that contained two corpses, which she then buried in the middle of the desert where her son could wake up at any moment. We also have a later scene where Niki brings Micah over to DL's mother, has a spat with her over DL's guilt or innocence, and Niki concludes this discussion by saying she wants Paulette out of Micah's life. Er... then why bring him to Grandma's house in the first place? Oh yeah, you can totally tell Jeph Loeb's the mastermind behind this character.

2. For all that "Heroes" had its shit together at a relatively early stage, Sylar was clearly a work in progress. The actor playing Sylar here - while heavily shadowed - has a visible white beard; he was clearly meant to be much older. The "Forgive Me I Have Sinned" bit is also a bit inconsistent with Sylar's characterization later, when he sees himself as evolution in action and therefore has no remorse.

3. Oh look, it's Janice. *beat* Bye, Janice. Whatever.

4. The rape scene. We have to talk about the rape scene. First off, it's pretty unsettling that Hayden Panettiere was 17 when this scene was filmed. Also, she's Kairi, which is a whole new level of brr. But beyond that, I want to evaluate this scene in terms of necessity, because there's no shortage of women in superhero fiction being sexually assaulted and/or brutalized for cheap drama or titillation, and that's not the sort of thing that's easily forgiven. I mean, I'd like to give "Heroes" the benefit of the doubt when it comes to feminist concerns, but since the writers have openly stated that they killed Simone because they didn't know what to do with her (evidently the options were "get her pregnant" or "turn her evil", while poor Tawny Cypress was telling everyone that she saw her character as the Lois Lane of the Heroverse), you have to wonder.

So was it necessary? With some reservations, I have to say yes. The dominant aspect of Claire's personality at this point in the series is her self-destructive inclinations - she throws herself into hazardous situations in the mistaken belief that she can't be hurt. And that's only half-true: she can recover from physical injuries, but her emotional traumas aren't so easily healed. That's a distinction few writers ever think about, because Wolverine or Deadpool can bounce back from pretty much anything and emerge just as he was before. What Brody does to Claire here changes her, just as future incidents will change her, long after the physical testaments to those incidents are erased. It's still rape, and I'm not completely okay with it, but at least it wasn't gratuitous.

5. Let's move on to lighter areas of discourse: damn, Milo cleans up good. The press conference is also significant because I think it's really the first time we get a sense of how twisted Nathan's perspective is. It's partly Adrian Pasdar's charisma coming through, but what makes Nathan so intriguing is that he doesn't seem to be aware of the distinction between loving and hurting someone (ie: if you choose one, you have to at least try to avoid the other). He loves Peter, but does that stop him from using his little brother as political capital just because it's convenient? Hell no. He's not even sorry. He doesn't even understand that he did a Very Bad Thing. And he'll betray Peter repeatedly, never once even pausing to consider that their relationship might change as a result. It's a pattern we'll see again with Heidi and Meredith, but we'll get to them later. Either Nathan's so adept at denial and repression that he can't comprehend the simple truth of "actions have consequences", or he's totally amoral and thinks he can both have and eat his cake.

6. One area where "Heroes" has absolutely excelled is the use of cliffhangers; every episode tops the one before it. I mean, "Don't Look Back" ended with New York going boom, this episode has Claire waking up in mid-autopsy. It's a shocking, disturbing moment that leaves you on the edge of your seat.