Heroes, Preliminary Thoughts

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A lot of people recently have been talking up Heroes, one of the few shows on television I actually watch regularly. I like the show, but it’s rather confusing to me to encounter people claiming Heroes as one of the best shows on television — Is it really?

In a lot of ways, Heroes mimics comic books. Each episode is given a “Chapter” number and title, as if each episode of the show is actually an issue of a comic. Though this is good in that I really crave the sort of long-form storytelling that serialized comics, and Heroes, provides, I’ve always had trouble emotionally connecting with the majority of superhero comic books. This holds true for Heroes as well — Even though I enjoy the series, I never feel an emotional attachment to the characters in the way that I might for a good book or movie or even a better television series. Every time I feel like I’m ready to get into the series something happens and breaks my involvement.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I’ve identified a few major issues. One is simply that each of the stories shares space with all of the others — This means the stories aren’t getting the sort of focused attention they might otherwise. This also lends itself to distancing via cuts between stories. As soon as any individual subplot reaches a point of emotional conflict, chances are the flow of the narrative will be interrupted by a change in focus on another set of characters.

Another thing that has begun to be problematic over the past couple of weeks is the insistence of turning every character in the show into someone with superhuman powers. The conceit of almost all live-action superhero projects is that they attempt to take a more “realistic” or perhaps “humane” approach to looking at comic book superheroes — To show them as humans rather than as super-human archetypes. In a situation like this I think it’s important to maintain a fairly strong connection with reality, but each episode seems to slip further and further away from that.

Suresh, the young professor who also reads the rather inane ramblings about “Genetics” and “Evolution” that precede each episode was one of the few characters who seemed to have no super powers — Yet the latest episode certainly casts doubt on that presumption. A young woman he meets also seems to be one of the few people without super-powers, yet we learn that she is involved with some sort of semi-sinister organization and clearly has some special ability.

This is not to say I don’t like the show. I definitely do. But at the same time I feel like Heroes is verging on being a really great series, but somehow always manages to fall a little bit short.

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