Heroes: a fantastic take on superheroes

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When I was young, I loved comic books. I couldn’t wait to get the latest in “Spider-Man” or the “X-Men” each month. I’m still a comics nerd, but now that I’m older there are more pressing things I need to spend my money on.

So when a friend showed me the first season of Heroes, I was blown away. It took almost everything I idealized about my comic books and turned into a real, it-could-happen story.

Rather than focus on flashy costumes and superhero alliances and earth-shattering powers, Heroes took a new approach to the superhero genre: one day, ordinary people start discovering that they can do extraordinary things.

Hiro Nakamura, a middle-class slave in a cube farm in his father’s corporation, discovers that he can bend time and space by willing himself to the future of New York City.

Claire Bennet finds that she heals so fast it’s impossible for her to be hurt, dispelling all doubt by surviving a seven-story faceplant into rocky ground without a scratch.

Gabriel Gray, a watchmaker who learned his trade from his father, discovers an uncanny insight that allows him to have an intuitive understanding of anything, from the intricacies of his watches to the vast complexities of the human brain.

The point where the series really starts to deviate from the norm is that with a couple exceptions, most of the people who discover the abilities don’t want them. Claire, for example, tries her best to hide her power from everyone she knows, wanting nothing more than to be a normal teenager.

Others feel that now that they have this superhuman ability, they have new meaning in their life – but they can’t figure out what. Hiro annoys his best friend to no end by comparing himself to characters from “Star Trek” and “X-Men”, saying that he has a higher calling.

For the most part, however, the characters find themselves caught up in a series of events that is bigger than any one of them. Their motivations remain true to their characters, but their particular destinies refuse to let them live normal lives – no matter how hard they may try.

What makes the series, however, is the plot. There are so many twists and turns that by the end of the story you can see the shades of gray to every issue, and nobody is sure who’s right anymore. Even the person who was made out to be one of the major villains at the beginning pulls a 180 by the end of the season, becoming one of the biggest players for good by the finale. The events they are caught up in forces the characters to grow and evolve, and as such almost everyone has an interesting story.

Season One is one of my favorite TV shows of all time – the characters, the powers and the plot all serving to make me feel like a little kid reading my comic books all over again.

Season Two was… disappointing, to say the least. I believe this season had the potential to be good, but was greatly affected by the writers’ strike. It seemed like it was going to be an interesting story at first, but the events turned out to be predictable and boring. That coupled with the poorly-explained disappearance of heroes like D.L. Hawkins, who had a genuinely interesting character, did nothing but weaken the series.

In his place, we got a villain like Adam, whose motivations were mostly transparent and altogether flimsy. To be fair, the character Elle was surprisingly interesting and rounded, having motivations and characteristics above and beyond “sadistic lightning girl”. She actually became one of my favorite characters in the series.

It was still Heroes. You still had the cool powers and most of the characters were as well done as they could have been, given the relatively weak writing they had to work with. However, it felt like a cheap excuse for a continuation of my favorite TV show. It had its contributions, but it’s something most of us would rather pretend never happened.

In a refreshing contrast, Season Three looks like it might just be able to pick up a lot of the slack that Season Two left behind. As much as I like Sylar’s character, it was getting tired having him as the only real villain. Now, though, we have some real villains – or at least, we did until they all started killing each other off. They say there’s no honor among thieves, and apparently there’s even less among supervillains.

One of the villains – Benjamin Washington, who calls himself Knox – feeds off of the fear of those around him, making him incredibly strong, fast, and tough. Nothing drives this point home more when, in the middle of a bank robbery, he punches clean through one of his allies (and a good several inches into the steel wall behind him) just for suggesting that they should leave when the cops show up.

Sylar was a dark villain. But this guy takes it to a whole new level. Sylar was, to an extent, just another victim of circumstances he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) control. In fact, we’ve already been shown that given the right motivation, Sylar can be as good a guy as anyone – he’s even tried to redeem himself several times over the course of the show.

Knox is just evil. He shows no regard for life, and will turn on his own allies at a moment’s notice. If he has redeeming qualities, it’s nothing we know about. He’s exactly the kind of bad guy I think the series needs.

I love Heroes. Mondays are the highlight of my weeks, just because there will be a new episode for me to be addicted to. I highly recommend it – even Season Two – to anyone who’s ever been a superhero fan. You’ll watch it, your interest piqued by each new turn of events, and before you know it you’ll be on the edge of your seat begging for more.