I came to a revelation over the weekend (a calm one this time) about what I think the problem is with Heroes this season. Just about every criticism–many of which, yes, were probably made by me–can be boiled down to a show vs. tell imbalance. Like any good kindergartner knows, both are prerequisites for telling a compelling story (or a chance for the teacher to check her eHarmony account from the classroom computer).
But this season has been mostly tell and very little show. Characters state their objectives up front, and how they feel about them; later, they arrive where they said they were going, and have short, pointed discussions about what they hope to do there; something small happens, then they talk about what just occurred and discuss what's next. Think about how you'd explain each individual story thread each week–you probably don't need more than a sentence, because nothing really transpires plot-wise in the 42ish minutes. What should fill in the rest? Emotion, the kind that keeps you invested week-to-week; with so much tell, not much is shown about the characters, and thus we don't care about these people one bit.
Tonight's part one of a two-parter, though, wasn't half bad. Actually, it was: It was half-bad. Some plotlines flatlined, as usual, but some actually had me genuinely curious about next week and hoping "The Eclipse, Part 1" wasn't yet another upswing that's indicative of nothing.
I think a lot of the good (relatively speaking) came from showing vs. telling. Take my favorite part of the night, the Nathan and Peter jungle bungle. Finally, the two brothers are together again since episode one–this time on a mission to bring the Haitian, another fave, back to the States. The eclipse comes and snatches away Nathan's flying power, so the pair is forced to traverse the forest by foot. Nathan gets them lost, which Peter takes as an opportunity to start antagonizing his big brother about everything that's gone wrong, and is going to go wrong; Nathan's always been dad's favorite, and Peter's sick and tired of playing second fiddle to him. Adrian Pasdar certainly knows how to act–far better than most on the show–and his reaction, a mix of anger and aloofness, made the scene that much better.
HRG and Claire-Bear had a nice moment as well. Angela Petrelli fears for Claire's safety, so she calls Bennett in to guard her at the house where Bubs once lived. He immediately starts training her to defend herself–by passing off big pieces of wood and instructing her to swing at him. This goes on for some time until Claire, visibly exhausted, confesses that she feels her father abandoned the famly. You know, that family he's always trying to protect, or at least says he's trying to protect. And Bennett, played by the unflappable Jack Coleman, doesn't try to defend himself. He just takes it. In the kneecap.
The rest, sadly, had all the tell-tale signs of this season's Heroes lows. Elle and Sylar are still inexplicably linked, with Elle provoking him at a rental car agency by claiming she was being abducted. Didn't she just get through teaching him that empathy was the way to go? And now she's having him slaughter some employee who's just trying to be a hero? (BTW, I bet Sylar's "I hate heroes" was echoed in homes around the country.) Then Sylar, wallowing in the pain inflicted by a scruff with Bennett, realizes he's feeling human again since, well, he first met Elle. And isn't it a wonderful feeling! Because he was, and is, totally in lerve!
Then there's Hiro, minus powers and thinking he's a 10 year old, who spent most of the episode chucking corn husks at Parkman–which should be noted came from the corn field, the one in Kansas where Daphne lives you know the one. When that "strategy" pays off in getting rid of the P man, he takes Ando to a comic book shop to pick up the latest edition of 9th Wonders by Isaac Mendes's mummified remains.
Suresh–poor, poor subtext-less Suresh–just doesn't understand why all this is happening. It's a God damn mystery, I tells ya! What's worse, he's trapped by Arthur Petrelli and Flint, who despite not having powers, is still a hell of a lot stronger than our scrawny scientist. Even if he did have his powers, I'd assume blue fire still trumps, uh, eczema and uncontrollable sexual prowess. (Speaking of, when Suresh emerged from that sticky white coccoon, I thought of that American Dad line that I gleaned in my other TV Club job: "That was one powerful, powerful wet dream.")
And Parkman, well there's not much good to say about him right now. He's ostensibly in love with Daphne, but saying it isn't enough. We've barely seen them interact, let alone witnessed enough moments where genuine love might blossom. Can he have a conversation where he doesn't bring her up? ("I just wish I knew what was going on inside her head okay, what were we talking about? Why are you throwing corn at me?") And good lord, he looks stupid tilting his head without powers. Daphne is just as bad, saying, honest to Sylar, that she's "a betrayer" and was upset with Parkman because he "paused." (Get it?) But hey, I certainly wasn't expecting her to come out with crutches at the end–another interesting moment that came about by showing us something, rather than preparing us with phrases like "I'm not going with you not anywhere unless it's slowly and with crutches" or "You probably saw this better on Lost."
Let's just hope there's more showing to come.
- I'm getting really sick of the Hiro and Ando music. You know? It sort of sounds like someone playing the xylophone all staccato-like.
- Glad Seth Green and Breckin Meyer were able to clear their busy schedules to appear in this one.