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Weekly Television Reviews- HEROES: episode one- Genesis

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Welcome to what I hope is going to be the first in a long running series of examinations of superheroes in episodic television shows. For now, I am going to be watching every episode of the first season of HEROES. After each episode, I will review/commentate on what I watched, and communicate on how I felt about it. I’d say that 80 percent of what I’m going to be talking about, here, is only pertinent to the episode in which I am reviewing, and so if you’ve seen that episode, then it’s not a spoiler. But the other 20 percent is when I take knowledge that I have from watching the rest of the season or even beyond, and I apply it in some way to something that happened in the episode I’m talking about. Usually, when I’m spoiling, I’ll put up big SPOILER esque letters, and it’ll be about how I don’t see how something fits with information we are given later on in the season or series.

So this series…where do I begin? The story of this season intrigues me, and definitely makes me want to watch more. I know I wasn’t the only one, because of how many people who watched this show and how they sat on the edge of their seats for so long. (and dumb old me, I was trying so hard to be a hipster, for the first 2 seasons. “Oh, I liked superheroes BEFORE they were cool.” And then I decided to finally jump on the bandwagon when things started getting sucky.) Look at all the shows/comics/movies that have seemingly followed this show’s footsteps. Alphas, the Newuniversal stuff by Warren Ellis (ok, this was based on comics from the 1980s, but it is hand in hand with what was being done with HEROES at the time, and I can’t imagine that was a coincidence), PUSH, Jumper, etc.

Those are some of the things I like about this show. But the dialogue…oh lord, the dialogue feels like some of the most trite melodramatic nonsense I’ve seen in all of television. At least, that’s how I felt when watching the first episode. It could be that I’m so used to watching comedic shows with just a hint of seriousness that I am not used to shows with almost no comedy involved (seriously, it’s alarming how bleak this show is. Even the one character who is meant to bring levity to the series, Hiro, watching him in this episode just makes me feel so DEPRESSED.) Just from what I’ve seen in the episodes I’ll cover on down the line, the dialogue does seem to get a little bit better, but it is by no means perfect.

The big problem I have in this episode is that this show is really REALLY pretentious, and it has no reason to be. This stuff at the beginning and end of the episode, and what I imagine is at the beginning and end of every episode, though I can’t remember, it’s philosophical horse crap, and it comes off as really dumb. You know how some comic books are self conscious about what they are? Like, you’ve heard people make fun of comics, and so some comics want to cater to THOSE people and be “more” than JUST a superhero story or whatever. HEROES is starting to feel like that. This crap about every character wanting to find their destiny, and “where do we come from, this desire to learn more, and destiny cockroachybloachyhoachy” at the beginning of the episodes, it comes off as like “we should put some sort of spiritual identity issues themes or something in there, or people won’t want to watch a show about superheroes.” But at the end of the day, it’s STILL a show about superheroes. Just one that is trying to pretend like there is some sort of qualitative difference between “real” drama and “fake” drama.

Just from what I’ve seen in the next few episodes, it could be that even a show as engaging as this one (and whatever problems people, and myself, had about this show, it was engaging. I think that’s why it took me so long to jump off the bandwagon. That and the stubbornness of finally getting on board, and not wanting to leave so soon after I got into it), it takes it a little while to get going. It is a really simple concept this show is trying to throw at us: individuals around the planet are finding they have extraordinary powers and abilities. What will they do with them? But this episode has to introduce us to Hiro, Claire, Mohinder, Peter, Isaac, Nathan and Nicki. And that’s not even the whole cast. As we go on, we’ll get introduced to a few more. Even for a pilot that’s around an hour or so long, that’s a lot of ground to cover. And in addition to introducing us to each character, and making us feel like they are all different and act different, it also has to introduce the plots that these characters will be traveling through. Maybe that’s just too much for a show of this magnitude. A show with a smaller cast, or at least, a cast of characters who are all sharing screen time together, might be able to handle this, but HEROES, I think, just can’t.

This series also made use of a technique that I am thankful every day hasn’t been used by many other shows, if any. Because there are so many characters in this show, and each character lives in a different place in the world (Texas, New York, Japan, California), they each have to have their own screen time, which takes up valuable space in the episode, and in the series overall. In an episode of FRIENDS, you can put Joey and Chandler in the screen together, and even if they are both participating in separate stories for that episode, their screen time can overlap, and the very premise that these six friends in New York all KNOW each other, that is a valuable time saver and a terrific plot device. One that I think HEROES has shown us is incredibly underrated. Now, since none of the characters really know each other at this point in the series, we have to spend 3 or 4 episodes before these guys can get to a point where they can share screen time, and even when you have an episode where Peter and Nathan meet, they are not going to remain together on screen for the rest of the series, so it’s going to be very hard for this series to compact any of the stories so that they can take place in an episode, like any other normal television series. Even the contemporary of HEROES, LOST, it was more or less able to do a story of some kind, regardless of quality, in one episode. So my complaint here is that no episode is going to be a complete story. I am always complaining about decompression in comic books, where you can’t buy or read a single issue and get a complete story. It’s the same scenario here. It’s going to be extremely hard for me to review each episode of this series, since a complete “story” really will take place over three or four episodes for a specific character. So if Claire’s story wraps up in this episode, and it took 3 episodes for that story to happen, then Nathan’s story, it might start in the same episode where Claire’s story begins. It’s going to be a LOT of overlapping, and that will make it very hard for me to talk about this in any capacity other than “oh, look, stuff is happening.” That is the biggest reason why this series of posts will be a commentary/review series, and not just me being all preachy and literate in talking about what’s good and bad.

Now that I’ve basically covered my thoughts on the entire series, I’m going to cover just a few minor things that occurred to me when watching the very first episode. As we progress, my thoughts and ideas that occur to me will become more in depth. Like I mentioned, the series has to get rolling before I start having more to say.

So first thing is first. How does Hiro KNOW he can teleport, and bend space? We see him stop time for one second, and then he tells Ando that he must have accidentally slowed the train earlier that day. But these instances of him using his powers, they both have to do with bending time, and only time. And yet, after he succeeds in stopping time for one second, which certainly feels like it is being portrayed as the first time he did it, then why does he immediately tell Ando that he can control space as well? Sure, we see him teleport to New York later, but him just ASSUMING that he can teleport is about like if Spider-Man assumed that he would start laying eggs after he was bit by a radioactive spider. Actually, if Peter assumed that, it’d be a more logical assumption than what Hiro does here. As Hiro begins explaining his powers to Ando, we find out that everything he knows, he learned from a comic book, or from a television show. As it turns out, a lot of what he says is TRUE, which makes how he learned it and treats it as fact all the more infuriating. You know how, in Interview with a Vampire, the interviewer has certain notions about vampires, and his interview subject tells him that not everything he’s heard from stories is true? Well, likewise, Hiro should know that the way time travel was handled in an issue of X-Men might not need to be treated as the handbook on how time travel works in real life. What makes an issue of X-Men more valid than Back to the Future, or Doctor Who? This is a minor point, but it is extremely annoying. It wouldn’t be a tenth as annoying if Hiro was later proved wrong, and time travel, in real life, worked differently from how he explains it to Ando. But apparently Hiro’s savvy with pop culture makes him the god of physics in this world.

Why is Claire having her friend record these “attempts” to harm herself? He asks her this very question in the episode, and she just mysteriously tells him that she has her reasons. I don’t buy that. I think it’s one of those things that the creators of the show thought it’d be a cool and shocking way to introduce her powers, and then later when they had to come up with a reason, it would feel bogus. I vaguely recall her explaining why she wanted the recordings to happen, but I remember thinking it was a lame reason. Basically, she’s doing this because the plot needs her to do it so that, spoiler, her father will find the tape. And that’s a terrible reason. That’s something that I would expect from LOST. It happened because the plot needed it to happen. And while we’re on Claire, just why is she so upset that she can’t be harmed? As near as I can tell, this is one of the least disruptive powers in the series. With Peter, with Isaac, with Nicki, these abilities are really starting to ruin their lives, to different degrees. I really wanted Claire’s not-gay friend to say “boo hoo, look at me, I’m Claire Bennet, and I can’t die! My life is ruined! Waaah.” I may be over reacting about zero percent, though. I really do like Claire…eventually. It just takes me a while to get there. I reckon the people involved with the show wanted to make her really unlikeable at the beginning, so that it’d be easier to take her on a character arc by the end of the season.

With some things going on in this episode, I know where they are going, and I know that, even if I had never seen a single episode, the questions would be answered. But something like this and the other things I’ve been commenting on, I don’t think these things EVER get answered. Why does Claire’s father, or as the fandom was calling him, Man in the Horn Rimmed Glasses, get in Mohinder’s cab and start taunting him? I get that we are supposed to believe that the company he works for is evil (and even after watching 3 seasons of this show, I’m not entirely convinced they aren’t), and we’re supposed to believe this guy had a hand in killing Mohinder’s father. But I’m like 80 percent sure he didn’t. He was just ready to take advantage of Chandra’s death and take all of his notes, because it’d be useful to their cause (whatever that is). So why does he get in Mohinder’s cab? Maybe he really DOES need a ride to JFK airport, but then why start making weird comments about Mohinder’s father? In what way does that serve the cause of your employers? Your cause, by the by, I still am fuzzy on. But we’ll get there later in the season.

At the beginning of this episode, Peter seems pretty happy taking care of the man we will later find out is Charles Deveaux. But then his mother and his brother, on separate occasions, tell him his job sucks and that he needs to grow up. When he talks with them, he doesn’t act like he believes them. But then we are seeing that he is having these weird dreams (MAYBE they are precognitive, since we see a variation on the dream take place at the end of the episode. Does that mean that Charles has the power to see into the future?), and I guess he maybe is not as happy doing what he’s doing as he would like to think. But I don’t buy that. I think what REALLY happened here is that Peter was actually happy, no secretly wants to do other things about it. And then two people tell him he needs to seek out his destiny, and suddenly he wants to do…what, exactly? I would maybe feel differently about this if Peter had SOME inkling of what he did want to do with his life. But throughout this series, we see him do exactly 2 things that are not related to using superpowers. That is hang out with irish mobsters and be a nurse/doctor/EMT. I just don’t get what the point of this little mini-arc is. I know it’s supposed to push him toward the scene at the end, but it really feels clunky in getting us there.

When Hiro is explaining his powers to Ando, Ando says that he can bend space and time like Spock. Ok, this might be a potentially funny “Big Bang Theory” esque moment, where a non-geek tries to speak geek to a geek and it doesn’t work. But then Hiro says that it is “exactly” like Spock. Ok…how? When and where did Spock bend space and time? The only time I can think of when Spock time traveled was in the 2009 JJ Abrams Star Trek film. Three years after this episode aired. So unless Ando is more of a geek than I gave him credit for, and there is some minor episode of Star Trek where Spock bends space that I am not aware of, then I call foul on this. When he’s later explaining teleportation, again, Ando says “like Star Trek?” This, I can get. In Star Trek, they used teleporters. It wasn’t a power, per se, but it was something they used. And I can get how Ando would go from Hiro to Star Trek. But from Hiro to Spock? No, sir. I blame this on writers who think they are clever, who really are not. In a lot of ways, just like this episode of HEROES.

This is something I am going to tentatively try out here. I don’t usually rate an episode on a scale, or rate ANYTHING on a scale, when reviewing, but this whole exercise is all about pushing my boundaries, so here we go. I am rating this episode 6 eclipses out of 10. It does a pretty decent job of showing us most of the main characters, and with most of them, they get a believable “issue” or “problem” that, presumably, they are going to have to deal with later on. Seeing how very unconnected all of this is, right now, I am rating this episode higher than you might have thought because of just how well I thought they did tie everything up in the end. But if I had only seen this episode and had no knowledge of the rest of the series, then I’m afraid I probably would rate it a great deal lower. And then, of course, the corny dialogue brings it down quite a bit.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 22 September 2012 13:52 )  
Author Profile: RJD

RJD has written fan letters, reviews, and examinations of various qualities, mostly on the Tavern.

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