Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Heroes: "The Fifth Stage"

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So it seems this is how Heroes does a pay-off episode: Get out as much information as you can about things viewers have seen a mile away. Tonight marks the exit of Adrian Pasdar as Nathan Petrelli, but c'mon. We all knew it was going to happen as soon as Parkman put Sylar inside Nathan. I'd have trusted the Heroes writers to figure out a way around that one, but I've seen an episode of Heroes before. Claire joins the carnival, but how many speeches does it take about wanting to find your place in life before we all have a general sense that she wants to find her place in life? And how many times did Samuel have to mention how his carnival helps people find their place in life? You know it's a lot when you can't remember a time when they didn't say it. Hell, one of those times was the very first scene of the entire season—a moment that's duplicated at the end of this one. Deja vu? If only my brain was trying to play a trick on me. No, this season happened, and lord did it sucketh.

But I gotta say, this was the best episode of Heroes this season, which is a lot like making out with your hottest grandma. Tim Kring was actually the writer of this one, and it just goes to show that while he's clearly got the ability to make some crazy crap happen on the show, he has no idea how to map out an entire season arc or even set the proper episode tone.

A common complaint about show haters is that they just don't get it, that Heroes is supposed to be kinda dumb because it's based on comic books. I sure hope people still don't think that, because it's pretty well known that comics run a fairly standard gamut from great to suck, just like everything else. But I guess what they're trying to say is that Heroes is supposed to be fun, that to overthink it is missing the point.

I wish this show was fun (besides the mocking, which is a blast)! The problem is, I just don't see how I'm supposed to take most of the moments. Peter absorbs the Haitian's power—I mean René; seriously, did they think it was racist or something to not give him a name? I liked the mystery—in order to do battle with Sylar. Stripped of all their powers, the two punch each other, and I can't help but think back to that disappointing season one finale, where the two most powerful characters in the show took turns givin' each other the ol' forceful face-touch. I would love it if Heroes was letting itself make fun of itself, but that's not something self-righteous people do. Later in the fight, Peter nails Sylar's hands to a wooden board Jesus-style so earnestly, I almost forgot what the word "subtext" even meant. Then when Nathan reemerges and heals, there's a flash of that DNA symbol from season one on his hand, as if that still meant anything—plus his death, the slowest fall off a building since some earlier episode of Heroes, really? Samuel telling Claire and "that tall friend of hers" they need to "finish" their "box"? How can I be the only one lamenting the missed opportunity?

So fine, I'm supposed to take Heroes at its word, but it gets really hard to do when Bennet and what's-her-name-the-unimportant-blond-one hang out at his house trying to triangulate Claire's cell phone signal—because if there's one of three things that woman knows how to do, it's waterboard someone, find a good bagel, and that thing (that's paraphrasing an actual line, people). And it's just so adorable and awkward, because Bennet doesn't know anything about dating. He missed the whole "sexual revolution." "But who said anything about sex?" she shoots back. Uh, ah, stammering… laughter… human emotions. He tells her about the "Haitianing" incident that I, for one, thought was not even worth bringing up ever again (like the cougar on 24), then they're ambushed by five Todd Stashwicks who steal their files. She's also incredibly fond of getting Bennet to "unload" despite not remembering anything, which is totally Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind style, and something I have a hard time taking totally seriously.

Just once, I'd love to see these characters being themselves. If the show sets up some arbitrary drama that they're trying to find some aspect of themselves, everything leading up to that moment has all the soul-searching of a Xanga page. When that moment happens, yeah, it's nice enough, as it was tonight. It's just really hard to forgive an entire show based on one episode—so while this one was satisfying enough, I still feel empty inside. Like I've just been René-ed.


Stray observations:

  • When deaf girl flashed in that closing montage, it reminded me just how unnecessary she was. Remember the time when she tore some shit up playing the cello? I can't believe this half-realized character, given half the screen time of everyone else, failed to turn into something—wait for it—sound.
  • Does Peter ever have a conversation with somebody that doesn't start with him walking away and dismissing them immediately?
  • "It'll all make sense soon," Samuel says at the end. Geez, this show is just one giant missed opportunity, eh?
  • While this clearly wasn't much of a rage-inducing episode, I dunno… I've been feeling the hate dissipate lately. Is this what growing up feels like?
  • But I'll try my darndest to fire up the hate-tron collider by the time the show returns January 4.