Thursday, May 31, 2007

Diana's Adventures in TV Land: Season's End (Part 3)

Last, but not least - not by any stretch of the imagination - is Heroes, which divided its season finale into three episodes: "The Hard Part", "Landslide" and "How To Stop An Exploding Man".

Of all the series I've reviewed this year, "Heroes" was the one that had the most potential to succeed - and with that, the most potential to fail. There's no middle ground with something this ambitious.

Fortunately for all involved, what we ultimately got was some of the most spectacular television in years, and nitpicks aside, the first season did everything right. Structurally, the storylines were well-paced and balanced so that you never had too many plates spinning simultaneously, while allowing the occasional flashback/flash-forward. Practically every member of the cast was developed and fleshed out to some extent (though there was an obvious hierarchy among the protagonists). The cliffhangers were edge-of-your-seat material. Continuity was highly consistent, and foreshadowing always paid off while allowing for the occasional use of misdirection (ie: in Peter's original dream of the explosion, Simone is running towards him only to be pulled away by Isaac - that turned out to be symbolic rather than literal, but it still happened). Most importantly, the first season constitutes a complete story. Beginning, middle, and an end that brought all the separate threads and characters together. That's how it's done.

"Heroes" probably had an advantage right out the gate by virtue of being relatively unique; the closest TV equivalent I can think of is "The Tomorrow People", and that was a children's show. It's certainly true that Kring wore his influences on his sleeve - many of the series' themes (evolution, persecution of "special" individuals, dystopian future, serving "the greater good" through acts of evil) came from comics, while the decision to employ a large cast of attractive-but-talented actors likely derived from "Lost" (which, for all its faults, should at least be commended for assembling a group of pretty people who, astonishingly enough, could play a role rather than rely on their looks). Of course, in another sense, "Heroes" represents lessons learned from "Lost" and "X-Files" - establish your villain clearly, don't base your entire premise on a yes/no answer (Will they get off the Island? Do aliens exist?), and for God's sake, never forget that your audience's patience is limited and they don't owe you anything you don't earn.

The finale was particularly enjoyable: there were some unexpected deaths, some surprising revelations about the past, satisfying resolutions to several subplots, and best of all, the underlying "message" ended up being a positive one - as Charles Deveaux predicts, the world is saved not by strength and moral ambivalence but by love and purity, and there's a very strong counterpoint there to all the cynical Countdown/Civil War nonsense going on in comics nowadays.

Refreshing, exciting, containing all the strengths of the superhero genre without the inherent excesses; a story about people with powers instead of powers with faces attached to them. This was the breakout star of 2006-2007.

What I'd like to see next season: This being NBC, I suppose any request with the word "nekkid" attached to Adrian Pasdar, Milo Ventimiglia or Zachary Quinto is about as likely as me singing the praises of Chuck Austen. So how about this: more women, please. Claire's great and Niki has her moments, but it'd be nice to have someone a little more formidable turn up - someone with an active power, perhaps? It's an uncomfortable coincidence that every superpowered woman on the show so far (Claire, Niki, Charlie, Dale, Molly and Eden) has had passive abilities.