Monday, December 1, 2008

Heroes: Of Gods and G(r)eeks


Factions of the WB staff (ok, mainly Litchik) continue to cling to a few strands of hope that NBC's Heroes can return from what many have proclaimed a deadly tailspin since the launch — and subsequent ugly crash — of season two. Rather than join in this nattering chorus of negativity, we suggest that it's still possible to enjoy the rhetorical and theoretical pretzel twists that can apply to the show if you squint really hard, and take them with a grain smelling salts. (And try not to overdose on any mixed metaphors.)

What if, instead of yearning for a coherent narrative arc, we were to view Heroes as a 21st century myth, modeled on Greek mythology but with updated twists? Tim Kring and company are basically creating an entire mythos, much like Joss Whedon did with the Buffyverse, an endeavor that takes time and has a few low points. But certainly, all the Greek elements are there:
  • Arthur and Angela as the (demi)gods who rule the universe. Patriarch and Matriarch are now pitted against each other in what promises to be an epic battle for absolute power, each aligning themselves with both mortals and other (demi)gods.

  • The battle will surely center on their spawn (and spawn of their spawn), each powerful but also (tragically) flawed.

  • The promethian toilings of Surresh, who tried to steal the secret of the (demi)gods but instead of fire, received a formula that gave mere mortals powers. Surresh, up until recently, paid the price for injecting himself by turning into a monster — another prominent fixture in Greek mythology.

  • The eclipse has rendered our heroes powerless, a hint that their powers may be tied to a Superman-like power source (okay, that's not really Greek, but still, you know, a shout-out to a classic hero).

  • A touch of tragic irony, Sophocles style, was introduced when Daphne, the "Speedster," lost her powers and was revealed to need leg braces. (And in case we missed the impact, Matt Parkman was there to flinch and blink in obvious emotional pain at the pitiful sight.) *
Some might view these as absurd plot devices to push the story into increasingly complex and convoluted directions. Others might argue errors in eternal logic, like if Daphne now has to wear leg braces, why isn't Arthur in a coma again? But a few of us see other narrative strategies at work, developments that could return the show to the solid footing and mass appeal of season one. Heroes still has a good chance of coming back to its original glory if given a second third fourth another chance. O great and powerful NBC, consider this humble viewer's plea to keep the mythos going — just a little bit longer.
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* And once again, WB offers up Matt Parkman as a character who can be let go. In the "eclipse" episode, when he tried to read people's minds, a perplexed farmer's "Why're you tiltin' your face all sideways at me like that?" said all that needed to be said about Parkman's pathetic and unnecessary role in the ensemble cast.
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