Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Heroes: Six Months Earlier

I know a lot of folks are going ga-ga over this episode, especially Harry over at Ain't It Cool since Hiro referenced the Alamo Drafthouse showing Yojimbo, but for me it felt like the episode didn't add up to the sum of its parts. This was a flashback episode, and so felt very LOST-y, but it was a flashback only because Hiro accidentally teleported himself back that far, rather than the 24 hours he'd intended in order to save the cute waitress. And so the writers used the opportunity to give us a heck of a lot of "Secret Origins." The origin of psychotic hero-killer Stryker Sylar was interesting and apropos. It worked for me and filled in a bunch of gaps. However, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing--the writers crammed in the origins of half the cast's super powers this time out, and to me that's overkill. It's stretching the borders of credibility well past the breaking point that everyone discovers (or at least starts to manifest) at the exact same point in time. Dr. Suresh's list of names of potential meta-humans is just too convenient. Sure, we now know how Stryker Sylar is hunting them all down, but how did someone who's never manifested any ability previously (such as the Cheerleader) get on that list? It's cut from whole cloth. And the Petrellis... hoo boy. I know this is comic book logic, but for a series touting itself as a "real world" take on super heroes, doesn't it seem like a fast turnaround for Nathan Petrelli to go from an unknown assistant prosecutor working on bringing a organized crime kingpin to trial to a serious congressional candidate in just six months? And he just happens to discover his flight powers at the instant his wife is paralyzed in an accident.

I'm serious. That's as sloppy as Indiana Jones discovering his fear of snakes, scarring his chin, picking up a bull whip and wearing a fedora all in one two-minute sequence aboard a circus train. Would that all of life's formative experiences happen with such a flip-of-the-switch immediacy.

But what annoys me the most about this episode is the ultimate pointlessness of it. Hiro falls in love with his waitress but fails to kiss her and fails to save her. Fails to change the future. That's treading water in a narrative sense. Particularly since we've already seen that Hiro can change the future, and has already done so, in fact. I'm still holding out hope that his actions have somehow subtley altered the timestream in ways that aren't yet apparent, and that the waitress has indeed survived. But despite their overall cleverness thus far, I'm not convinced that the writers have that degree of wheels-within-wheels plot deviousness going on. We shall see.

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  1. I couldn't have said it better! Is it that hard to write time travel? I've seen it done in TV and books enough to know its do-able. I read that Tim Kring had no long term vision of where the story is headed. It shows. While I still watch and like the show, these annoyances are keeping it from realizing its full potential.

  2. You're mixing up Heroes with Airplane! The bad guy is named Sylar, not Stryker.

    As for the time travel issue, I don't think we've actually seen Hiro alter the past yet. Perhaps Future Hiro did, but if so, it might be because his powers are much further along than present Hiro's powers are.

    Even if Hiro prevents the nuclear explosion, all he'll have done is averted a future, not changed a past.

  3. Roger, Rodger. Over, Unger.

    I love what they've been doing with Hiro's character, and they're using his powers in interesting ways, yet I don't get the feeling that they've fully thought them through yet. The 1K origami cranes was a beautiful touch, but it suggests a level of precision and control that Hiro hasn't shown thus far.

    I know, I know, comics do far worse on a weekly basis. But those blunders from Marvel and DC tick me off as well. :-)

  4. Did future Hiro change the past by delivering the "save the cheerleader" message? Or have they not really saved her yet?

    If Hiro wasn't on the show I would probably quit watching. It's almost a Stargate-class series; not really all that good but nothing else is on.

    But, it is certainly better than Eureka (gak).

  5. Since I never have a clue as to what's going on, let me ask a dumb question. If Hiro went back to Japan and lived through the six months there, where was his buddy during that time? In Japan with him? So is he still there now, while there's another one of him in Midland? Did the adventures in Las Vegas never happen, since Hiro appears to have come back alone, or did Hiro make another time jump? (I thought he implied in the episode that he hadn't.) Probably I'm just confused because I'm and Old Guy.

  6. I'm not obsessing about this show, so I will not swear to what I am about to say, but I don't believe we've seen Hiro change the future.

    We've seen him do things that he knew he was supposed to do, which is another way of saying he did exactly what was going to happen. This is possibly a deterministic timestream with no possibility of changing anything, i.e. if you go back to change something, it ends up that you always did, and nothing actually changes.

    Anyway. The series started great, but it's slowly sliding downhill for me. I hope they ramp it up a bit after the flashback episode. Especially because have the SAME cliffhangers three times was what caused me to cease watching Lost. I don't expect that Heroes will have a third episode end the way the last two did, but if it happens, I'm out of here.

  7. My take is that Hiro jumped to the present when he tried to kiss the waitress--but ended up in Japan. He was unable to jump back in time to the point where he left her, so he didn't spend six months living in Japan to "catch up." There weren't two Hiros, except for that accidental phone conversation.

    I'm still wondering if he did change the past. Was there any reference to the waitress actually going on the trip to Japan two eps back? I missed a few minutes of it when Hiro first meets her. And after Hiro returns, he's the one who says he couldn't save her, but by comic book logic, we never saw the body after his attempt to change time. So (and this is purely fanfic territory here) she may have indeed quit her waitressing job and gone to Japan, and Sylar, using an outdated list, killed her hapless replacement by mistake. To Hiro's buddy, it would seem that nothing had changed, when of course Hiro would notice immediately (if he were in a position to actually spot the change). In any event, I don't think this particular subplot has played out yet.

  8. Waitaminute, did I say "Go to Japan?" They were heading to Austin, right? I meant "Go to Austin to see Yojimbo."

  9. "So (and this is purely fanfic territory here) she may have indeed quit her waitressing job and gone to Japan, and Sylar, using an outdated list, killed her hapless replacement by mistake."

    Considering that it was clearly Charlie's picture still up there, I unfortunately can't buy into that one (although I want to!). Yeah, that really bugged me too. It seemed all too bizarre that Hiro would jump forward in time OUT of his control just enough to make sure he can't save her, when he can jump around to save other people. Unless the brain clot was supposed to indicate she was unsaveable no matter what, in which case maybe they should have shown her just dropping dead of it that day instead of having her head sliced open. (Which I guess could happen still?)

  10. Oh! Someone mentioned that the picture of the waitress and Hiro that played so prominently in the last episode featured only the waitress at some point. This would indicate a change-the-past event.

    I can't confirm because Heroes isn't permitted to clog up the Tivo. Anyone?

  11. [...]The SF Signal blog today pointed to another blog writeup that complained about a few perceived problems with this week’s episode of Heroes, “Six Months Earlier.” I hesitate to call what follows a rebuttal[...]