Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Going Through the Motions

Heroes: Cold Wars
Season 3, Episode 17

Why stay with this show? Every week I ask myself that question. Is it a guilty pleasure? Shouldn't you like a guilty pleasure? I don't like this show anymore. It just frustrates me. A LOT. Because it's right there in between the idiotic character decisions, the constantly shifting plans and allegiances and the lazy writers mistaking a revolving door of deus ex machina for plot development and mediocre or undedicated performances. "It" being the potential to be a truly great show; not only great but a comic book come to life. But still, how will it get better? I mean besides firing every writer and starting from scratch. Episodes like this week's "Cold Wars" really highlight how it is the mistakes of the writers and the producers overseeing them that kill that potential for everyone else.

Beware spoilers below the cut while the show continues to spin in place.

Four episodes into this volume of the story and so little had been done or established as far as a status quo. And that's one of the two definitive problems with this show right there. We need some consistent status for the characters as far as where they live, what they do everyday when we aren't watching them and how they plan to exorcise the achievement of their goals. Now the show doesn't need to become formulaic in the mold of a "CSI" or a "Law and Order," where the beats of every episode echo the same to the point you know what's about to happen because we're 20 minutes into the episode. But look at any good mythology oriented television show and we know basically what the characters do every day: where they live, what they do with their lives. Mulder works at the FBI. Buffy goes to school. These characters' entire lives cannot subsist of - execute the plot. This isn't 24 showing every second. Without any consistent off-screen life or action there's a sense that everything is just adrift at sea rolling with the tide (or in this case the latest vision of the future). Having lives is crucial... even if their lives are something fantastic like an organized movement in opposition to the government (as opposed to three guys fighting each other in a hotel room for no reason). The audience needs to think they exist for some purpose besides for us to watch. Then it's real. Then we can care.

The idea to significantly devote time to Noah Bennet's memories of the last few weeks is just more wasted opportunities. We don't care seeing Noah meet the Hunter because nothing interesting happens. We learn nothing about either character that isn't already known, so this is just pointless. Ten to fifteen minutes of a 40 minute episode should not be summarized as: two tough guys meet. We learn nothing about the Hunter except his is a very driven, "My Way or the Highway" type of guy. The entire idea of seeing how it all began for Noah is pointless. We know it began with Nathan going to the president, but for some reason the writers are absolutely obsessed to returning before the inciting incident of every volume to boringly point out how each person became involved.

Too much here is explained as serving the convenience of the plot. There's one man watching one computer monitor that just happens to always be turned to the right channel. Need to start a confrontation with Peter? You just happen to see the one camera looking at him. Need to have Nathan go talk to Peter? You just happen to see Peter and the Hunter in the latter's apartment. Why were you watching that specific feed at that time? Maybe nothing good was on ESPN tonight. Need to capture Mohinder? Your troops arrive without explanation at the hotel they happen to be at? Nothing is adequately explained. Everything just seems to move into place because the writers think it would be cool or exciting for things to happen. Maybe in their heads there's adequate justification for everything, but the fact that none of it makes it's way onto the screen just makes everything look lazy.

And their lack of seeming concern has certainly spread. Greg Grunberg, Milo Ventimiglia, Adrian Pasdar and so many others look so uninvolved with their own character arcs, unable to adequate express their own fear/anger/hope they've become painful to watch performances.

I can't really blame the actors given the motivations they are provided. Mohinder apparently learned this all might be happening a week earlier. Why didn't he mention this to everyone given that it's understandable he didn't jump in bed with Bennet? Well, so they could get in a fight and Bennet could escape... for a minute. The fact that they have to have the "Why didn't You Tell Us? Because You Wouldn't Understand Me!" conversation TWICE just again comes off as unnecessarily repetitive.

Every character's actions are apparently supposed to be personally justified by the morally incorrect actions of others. Just about the only enjoyable conversation in the episode has Mohinder calling Nathan on the exact fallacy. The scene is also enjoyable because Mohinder doesn't automatically hop on the other side of the confrontation as previous characters have done frequently enough to cause a migraine.

And let me add the other one of the two overreaching problems infecting this program is the lack of consequences. Daphne's death is undone just two episodes after it happened... which I guess is better than the first time they killed her THIS YEAR when it only lasted a couple minutes. Why watch any week if everybody will be back next week? Deaths would be so much more meaningful if 9 out of 10 of them weren't reversed almost immediately.

And I can't even go into the writers once again being unable to manage the plot they have by redirecting people through another painting on the floor of a loft. Could someone come up with 30 bucks for a new set? Anybody? And things aren't going to get better by going back to the big explosion well isn't going to improve things.

Final score: .25 stars out of 5

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