Tuned In

Heroes Watch: History Repeats

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NBC Photo: Dean Hendler

So nice to see HRG back to being a badass again! Or at least an essentially-good-but-forced-to-be-bad-for-the-sake-of-his-family-though-it-may-come-at-the-cost-of-his-soul-ass. Killing someone for information is bad. Taking someone’s memories for information is bad. But taking someone’s memories to extract information, knowing all the while that you’re going to kill them anyway–that’s a reminder of the extremes of coldness of which Company Man HRG is capable, and it’s to Heroes credit that the show’s willing to remind us of that, even now that he’s a nominal good guy.

Otherwise, a great deal of jumping about in this episode, which I’m inclined to fast-forward you through, TiVo-style. Maya’s still taken in by Gabriel/Sylar, who’s still evil and giving big evil-ly speeeches — boo-boop! — Claire and West prank the head cheerleader in another boilerplate high school story that invites unflattering comparisons with Buffy — boo-boop! — Monica has her abilities spared and receives the iPod of power — boo-boop! — Mo partners up with Niki, raising hope-against-hope that the show could somehow manage to kill them both off at once — boo-boop! — Hiro gets his secret found out by the swordmaker’s daughter and kisses her so hard he breaks history — boo-boop! — Wait, am I missing something? Let’s rewind — boo-boop! boo-boop! boo-boop! — Nope, nothing to say about Kristen Bell at all.

Which brings us up to the final minute, where we got a sense of where this season is going. Peter and the Irish Spring lass fast-forward themselves to an extremely fakey-looking, Sears Portrait Studio set of Times Squaare, where they discover… a massive disaster is going to strike New York City in the near future unless they prevent it! Wait, are we sure they didn’t just visit the past? As in, last season? Nope–as the next-episode preview informs us, this year’s Big Bad is bigger and badder, in scale, anyway, as something has killed off 93% of the Earth’s population; my bets are on an outbreak of the runny-eye plague.

And that brings us up to speed for this week. I’ve been trying to be patient, give the stories a chance to develop and avoid prematurely judging season 2, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that creator Tim Kring just addressed some of those criticisms to the LA Times. According to the Times, Kring told the paper, “‘We haven’t deviated that much’ from last year’s formula.”

Um, that’s kind of the problem, no? (Granted, “formula” was the LA Times’ word, but can anyone argue that it was the wrong word choice?) Don’t get me wrong: I believe that serial shows like Heroes and Lost need time to develop before you write off entire seasons, and I actually still have faith that even Hiro’s samurai sojourn will end up being relevant to the larger story. My problem with the season so far is not too many extra characters or storylines; it’s that the strategy, as far as I can see one, has beeen to reboot the show and try to give people something as close as possible to the show they liked last year. Thus the arbitrary scattering of the Heroes to the winds just so they could come together again–because that’s what they did last year. Thus Claire experiencing the same issues in high school, thus another scene of devastated Manhattan.

I’m willing to give Kring the patience to see where he takes the story. But I hope he gives his audience the credit for wanting something more than a second version of what he gave them last year. Just ask Hiro: going back in time and recreating history isn’t as easy as you might think.