Thursday, October 11, 2007

HEROES: Niki/Jessica

I think I've finally hit upon why I hate the Niki/Jessica character in Heroes so much. It's not the actress--I actually like Ali Larter a good bit, and think she does a decent job when given decent material.

Initially, my dislike of her stemmed from my utter bafflement as to why the character was even featured on a show boasting super-powered humans. She didn't have a super-power, but rather suffered from multiple personality disorder. Psychiatric treatment and serious medication. So what if the Niki personality was a whiney victim and the Jessica personality was a ultra-violent nut job. That's just Hollywood shorthand for "We're aping Jekyll and Hyde." Apart from her willingness to kill, screw or blackmail (any other morally deplorable thing the script would have her do) there wasn't anything all that super about her. Until the season one finale, that is, where she suddenly manifested super-strength to wallop Sylar but then, uncharacteristically, chose not to finish the job. There were also a few hints dropped that Jessica is actually Niki's dead sister. Those were never followed up on, probably because the concept was too lame and cliche even for Niki/Jessica. Supposedly series creator Tim "I Never Read Comics" Kring claims Niki/Jessica was originally supposed to have the power to be in two places at once. Which would've been an improvement over Sybil-lite.

Now, in season two, we've seen her a couple of times, and she's just as whiney as ever. She drops her son off with Lt. Uhura (Ret.) from Star Trek and is off on some vague quest to be "cured." Whatever that means. And then it struck me--the character is utterly passive. Both of them. It doesn't matter if Niki is being a victim (which she's soon to be once again, since the folks with the "cure" are also the bad guys who Mr. Bennett, aka Horn Rimmed Glasses, worked for last season) or Jessica is slaughtering mafia thugs. They merely react to the actions and directives of others. Neither have goals beyond Niki's mind-numbingly abstract "I just want to be normal and happy with my son" or Jessica's "I want to screw and kill, and not necessarily in that order." Their forward thinking only extends as far as the end of the current episode. They're boring and exercise no active influence over their lives, plotlines or the season story arc overall. That's pathetic.

My solution? Give both a strong dose of initiative. Jessica, the blunt force instrument, becomes focused like a laser. Make her into a super-villain mastermind, but not just any super-villain mastermind, mind you. In Kring's HEROES universe, there are layers upon layers of conspiracy. We've seen this well-established, and thus far only Sylar's been outside of that web (although there've been efforts to draw him in by different factions). Sylar's powerful, but dumb. A loose cannon. Jessica could be dangerous but smart, and there's not a big leap required to assume that throughout her work for Linderman she picked up a lot of useful background knowledge on the various factions in play. In short, Niki/Jessica would become the Mule of the HEROES universe. An unexpected third player that does serious damage to the well-laid plans of everyone else. The wimpy Jessica character could either be phased out and repressed, or actually (gasp!) grow a backbone and become Evil Mastermind Jessica's relentless nemesis. Of course, that won't ever happen, but it's what I'd do if I ruled the world.

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