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The Vernacular of Heroes December 11, 2007

Posted by jmoran21 in Comics, Perception, TV.
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PetrellisGames and comics have a common characteristic: no matter how diverse the genres, level of quality, or creative talent behind them, repeated experiences will build a “vocabulary” of commonly used devices. This is how life long gamers can almost immediately decipher what on a given screen is interactive, or how a reader can easily follow comic panels with varying layouts. This even extends to within genre specific standbys and cliches, such as sniper rifles, loot, and super powers. The problem that faces Heroes is that the show must account for a large number of viewers who already know words like technopath, as well as a general audience completely naive of, say, the ins and outs of time travel.

While I think the writers handled this task quite well last season, that fact made it so much harder to see them lose their way in Volume 2. It’s not worth trying to point out the myriad examples of shoddy writing and plot holes. (Okay, just one: how do you manipulate a man who can read your mind?) I tried to isolate the general causes of this drop in quality, in the hope that the show could be saved through amputation.

1. Poor use of powers. Low budgets may account for the lack of special effects shots this season, but even the zero cost abilities saw little to no use in situations where they could be of great use (i.e. invisibility.) Obviously more time needs to go into considering what difficulties may assail the protagonists and the most logical way they would tackle said task. Also, do they even have a list of powers for Peter? It was definitely a mistake to give him the powers of anyone he comes into contact with, and I honestly think that if the show is to be saved, the prime-time viewing public is going to be introduced to one of the aforementioned comics staples: the retcon.

2. Lack of character development. Amnesia. Adolescent rebellion. Alternate personalities. In the museum of television, these things ought to have their own wings. Sometimes they can work, sometimes they are boring. Stagnant characters filled our screens this season, while a certain niece and uncle apparently just decided to have the same exact crises they’d had four months previously.

3. Sylar. I’ve previously gone on record saying Sylar isn’t evil. This was wishful thinking on my part, as the writers have turned what could have been something really unique into just another megalomaniac without a heart. Before, I saw madness, tragedy, hunger, and yes, even a chance for redemption in young Gabriel. Not rehabilitation, of course, but perhaps down the line some meaningful sacrifice could have brought him back from the dark hunger that transformed him overnight from a humble watchmaker into a wanton killer. Now this was the guy to give amnesia.

This is too long-winded, I could go on for pages. My main point was the show suffers because it’s like trying to translate an epic poem into junior-high reading level prose; the subtleties of the source format yield a far richer story when coupled with the experience of classical scholars. In the meantime, I feel like a history buff watching 300, unable to keep my mouth shut.

Ps: the good this season: Adam, Elle, and Matt freakin Parkman. How long after realizing he can control thoughts is he using it to brainwash his boss and rape dark secrets from people’s minds? So perfect. As long as Volume 3 follows this totally obvious and completely un-Professor X-ish descent, I’ll tune in every week.

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