Those of us old enough to remember the strikes and power cuts in the seventies know how frustrating it was to have the TV forcibly turned off at ten. It was an odd time to be sure; the ITV strike meant that its top rated show was the test card informing the public that there was no TV. During this turbulent time one thing remained ok though, the programs themselves continued to be made, it's just we couldn't see them. Since that time our TV has remained pretty much constant with rarely any interruption or break. A series is commissioned, film and then shown; that's how it is. Things are quite different in the States. Granted they have vastly improved budgets, but then they have vastly longer seasons. But the whole filming ethic is also different it is not unusual to have month long breaks within seasons while the production team catch up on themselves. We don't notice it this side (aside from the occasional obvious hair change of some actors) because our networks only buy the whole season and show it continuously, as is our custom. It's also why it takes so long for our networks to bring us the shows. Working in this way means that US shows are still subject to industrial action, seasons can be cut short. It's happened in the past and it happened last year too. Tonight's feature, Heroes Season 2, suffered from such action and had its projected twenty four episodes slashed to just eleven. However, that was not the biggest of this seasons problems as we will come to discover.
The season picks up a few months after the climax of season one. The Bennet family have moved into hiding, Suresh lectures to anyone who will listen about the genetic evolution and contained virus, Hiro is stuck in feudal Japan, Matt and Suresh are now guardians of little Molly, herself suffering from nightmares and Nathan has retreated into himself shunning his family and friends after loosing Peter. This first episode does a relatively neat job of tying up the loose ends, informing us of where our 'heroes' are now and strives to set up the story arcs for the rest of the season but it has absolutely no spark; it comes across as 'morning after' feel and rather mundane. Take Claire, for example, she goes back to school with the orders to remain anonymous, much as she did for the first half of the season one. However the new story elements, the 'godsend' markings on the pictures spelling imminent doom, the introduction of new characters Maya and Alejandro, wanted for murder due to her plague hosting ability occasionally escaping and killing, trying to escape to the USA, Hiro's tampering with the timeline and Noah and Suresh joining together to bring down the company, are succinctly laid out and, in this first episode, do at least hold some interest. The stories climax, finding Peter unharmed with no memory was perhaps the weakest link, but in all there is enough good to keep you coming back for more.
These story lines occupy the majority of the first half of the season but their pacing does seem worryingly awry and worst still there is little to no further character development from what we already know our heroes can do. One of the defining factors about the first season was how our 'heroes' come to terms with their abilities; it was all about the emotion, being new and fresh. We come to the second season already knowing this, the time is right to move on and see where they go from that point. But the show seems to take a wee step back in that regard, regurgitation storylines already used a year ago, I've already mentioned Claire. Add to this long and drawn out arcs such as the new guys travelling to America but surely going the other way around the world to take so long. And each time they get into a scrape the result is just the same, move on we already know. Noah and Suresh seem to do nothing but talk on the phone and little if anything to 'bring down' the Company. And poor Peter has to discover his abilities all over again. When he is given the chance to recover his memory he doesn't take it ... what? And what the hell has happened to Nikki? But it's not all bad, Molly's nightmare about a foe worse than Sylar was particularly well thought out, especially when we find out exactly who that foe is. Ando's reading of Hiro's notes that he amazingly found in the sword I found rather grating; we know the future is not destroyed because we are 'watching' it. In fact the whole of Hiro's problems in the past have a weak feel to them, the character seems to have lost some of that charming quality he had, the love triangle, the must repair the future, even the choice of actor for Takezo Sensei, David Anders, is so well know for his deceitful behaviour in Alias (2002-2006) that you just know where the character is heading and nothing comes as a surprise, even when his identity is revealed later in the season.
Now I am conscience that I am painting a bit of a bleak picture about this season, and if truth be told the first half felt like it had lost it's way with the creative team making some, shall we say, unorthodox choices. However with the introduction new villain Elle Bishop and the re-introduction of Sylar the season begins to pick up pace and once the direction towards the climax is found things really hot up. It is just a shame that the creators floundered for so long in the early part becasue just as things really started moving the writers strike began, causing all the hard work and future plot developments to stop and a hasty conclusion to be drawn up. Although far from seeming that way Kring and his team draw on all their skill and actually made a (just) satisfactory conclusion with enough scope to expand upon the new ideas and (hopefully) get season three off to a great start. Even with its slow start the show still maintains its distinctive look; each director bringing his own vision to the established framework. The comic book look, in both design and colour, is even better this time around as much of the stylistic colour has been replaced with more a natural feel that is still very much in keeping. The budget is a little bigger too allowing Hiro's escapades to really open up the scope of the series no longer confined to studio and digital back drops - both of which also show a marked improvement.
So the season, it seems, had more than its fair share of problems, both creative and industrial, and yet .... the show still manages to rise above these problem becoming enjoyable and entertaining. Now it's no secret that fans are a notoriously hard bunch to please and there has been an awful lot of negativity aimed at this season, so much in fact that Kring felt it necessary to stand up and be counted for the choices made. Huge plaudits should be given to him for taking such a move, and it is perhaps this willingness to listen and even do something that holds him in high esteem; whether or not any changes made are due to fan intervention remains to be seen. The extras section of this set shows just how frank and candid he is about how the season went. As a whole the season could be seen as a disappointing follow up and there is some truth to that, however it is at the same time hugely enjoyable and succeeds in moving our 'heroes' forward and better yet sets the seeds both in story terms and in creative input for what promises to be a spectacular third outing. No longer saving the cheerleader to save the world, they're just going to save the world.