The Problem with Heroes Season 2
Heroes Reborn is premiering this fall, and a webseries of mini prequel episodes has already begun airing online. In preparation for the reboot, I decided to revisit the original 2006 NBC show on Netflix, both to re-watch the episodes I had already seen, and to finally watch the second half of the fourth season, which I had abandoned when I lost interest. I remember loving the show when it first began airing. It no longer holds a place in my heart in the way that sci-fi classics like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Farscape, or Firefly do, despite my memories of being obsessed with the mysterious websites and delightful mini digital comic books that accompanied the first season. But then, it was always all about that first season.
Given that the first season of the Heroes was the single most perfect season of any show in the history of television, it would be almost impossible for any subsequent season to live up to it. That the first season of Heroes was perfect shouldn’t be open to debate. While there are shows that have had better single episodes, shows that may have matched or perhaps exceeded the hype that Heroes generated, and even shows that have had a longevity of excellence that Heroes failed to meet, that first season of Heroes was gripping and entertaining in ways never previously seen while crafting a series of mysteries and reveals that is unmatched in the history of television, before and even since.
So given that it was inevitable that the second season could not live up to the high bar set by the first season, is the second season of Heroes really all that bad? The sad answer is yes. The second season of Heroes is as flawed as the first season is perfect. That is to say: completely. Every plot twist, character arc, and scene had a logical place in the first season. There was not a moment out of place, a character who was not integral to the story, or an emotional reaction that was not completely earned by the narrative in that first season. The second season was a hot mess.
The worst part is that the main story of Hiro and Kensei in medieval Japan, Peter’s journey of rediscovery, and Matt’s investigation into the murders of the older generation holds up well. The second story of HRG protecting Claire, who discovers a boy who reminds her of her fathers, while Mohinder imbeds himself in the Company to bring it down from the inside is also compelling. These two storylines introduce several new interesting characters like Adam, Bob, Elle, West, and Maury. That they don’t intersect in the way all the storylines converged in season one is slightly disappointing, but forgivable, given that constant repetition is the fast track to losing the audience. What is not forgivable are the utterly wasted subplots involving Niki & Micah, Sylar & Maya, and Nathan.
The Niki & Micah plotline is a complete waste of three amazing characters from season one, including third family member D.L. But even worse is the creation of a really interesting character in Micah’s cousin Monica, who has a truly exciting power, and then weakening her to the point of being a damsel in distress trope, followed by abandoning her at the conclusion of the season. Also puzzling is why the writers made sure that D.L. survived the serious gunshot wound he suffered at the end of season one only to kill him right away. The entire storyline seems like a holding pattern just to end up with Niki and D.L both dead while both Micah and Monica disappear from the narrative.
The characters of Maya and her brother Alejandro should have been interesting, but their entire journey is merely a huge plot device to get Sylar back to New York by the middle of the the eleventh episode. Maya’s power doesn’t make sense, and the huge manhunt she and her brother are trying to avoid doesn’t have the impact the show strives to achieve considering that no one would logically blame her for the deaths at the wedding reception since they don’t make sense. Furthermore, Sylar killing Candace right away was a huge missed opportunity for his character. If he was locked in her illusions, but they were physically somewhere in the U.S., he wouldn’t have needed Maya to get home. On the other hand, the mental journey he could have undergone to overcome the illusions over several episodes may very well have helped the character grow in ways that his half-hearted mentoring Maya never did.
The only flaw in the two solid storylines is the journey of Nathan. While it is understandable that he would be horribly injured by his exposure to the radioactive Peter in the events above Kirby Plaza, and that something drastic like Adam’s blood would be needed to heal him, his subsequent resignation from the Congressional seat which he had just won and his three week long descent into alcoholism is rushed and out of character. What would have been more interesting is to see him deal with the consequences of these events while trying to present a positive and successful facade to the world as the new Congressman from New York. This is especially true given that he ends up becoming a Senator due to a gubernatorial appointment in season 3! Given where he ends up, that is definitely a missed opportunity for character growth.
Now that I’ve completed my revisiting of Heroes season 2, I plan to move on to revisiting season 3. I remember the third season being much more interesting, logical, and entertaining than the second season. While I remember thinking that it never got close to the first season in its dramatic effectiveness, it felt a lot better than the second season. Let’s see if my experiences match my memories.