Friday, 1 November 2013

Overview: Heroes: Volume Two - Generations

Welcome back. As Heroes' ratings skyrocketed, the new season was a given. But a great evil loomed over the horizon in those halicon days of 2008, as angry writers took up pitchforks and ripped up contracts in protest of poor pay and a high workload. The result was catastrophic, and affected dozens of US Shows. It would go down in History as the Writers Guild of America Strike of 2008, and as well as shorter seasons of LOST it gave us this much, much shorter second volume... Written 31/5/13
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Adam Monroe. Evil badass. Awesome mofo.

The difficult second album. Heroes had originally meant, in the planning stages, to have a rolling cast which showcased new stories with each volume. With that scrapped, the writers instead planned a three-volume second season, which would have taken all sorts of weird and wonderful directions. The Writers Guild of America Strike, however, cut that short, and the resulting season could only manage eleven episodes, making this the shortest of the five volumes. It was a season ravaged from all directions by characterisation trouble, new characters who didn't mean much, crazy plot twists and a pace that failed to match its more brief running time. (And yet somehow, it's still better than Miracle Day.)
     I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of the Volume's troubles fall down to the Strike, but even despite that there are a few weird issues here or there. Peter is given soap amnesia, Hiro spends eight or so episodes in the 1600s, Claire and HRG have assumed a suburban life again. It feels like the writing team had a bit of bother in trying to fit the old characters into the "brand new world" after the finalĂ©, where by rights everyone should know each other and be out doing daring do. This could have been used as the build-up to something truly spectacular, looking better in hindsight, but unfortunately the storyline that would have followed had to be cut off.
     The big trauma of this Volume is that of the Shanti Virus, a disease that only affects Supers. In the 1970s, the company that HRG worked for (and spends this season trying to bring down, to no avail) mutated the virus into one that could infect normal humans, and in a Bad!Future Peter sees the effects of the virus in the deaths of 93% of the world's population. The original brief for the series would have seen immortal badass Adam Monroe release the virus, leading to eight episodes of death, destruction and quarantine that sounds totally awesome. The strike forced the writers to reshoot several key scenes, instead ensuring that Peter caught the vial of the virus just in time, and had Nathan shot by a mysterious assailant. The potential of that scenario tears my heart out cos it just seems so good.
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Cool powers. Complex characterisation. Kristen Bell.
She had to be my favourite character,
you just don't understand.
     Despite its adherence to a lot of the old cast members, that doesn't mean that we didn't get some good new'ens. Company leader Bob Bishop is cool, as is his daughter Elle, who is my favourite Season Two character, mainly due to her deep-seated psychosis brought up around impressing her abusive father. We also have aforementioned British Badass Adam Monroe, whose tenure was far, far too short, as well as the slightly more useless Maya Herrera, whose power is to kill people with a plague at will, her brother Alejandro, whose power is to stop Maya's power, and Monica Dawson, Micah's cousin who can replicate anything she sees and who subsequently disappears (and was apparently always going to.)
     Talking of Monica, let's discuss her uncle, D.L. Hawkins, whose appearance in Season One was totes badass. D.L. suffered a similar fate to that of Nina in Being Human - a finale uses the threat of his death as a dramatic element, only for him to survive that and then die inbetween seasons. As we only find this out in a flashback episode that comes about eight episodes into the Volume, it feels like the most frustrating motherfucker in the world. D.L. might as well have just died at Kirby Plaza, because the overall effect is the same and the subplot used in that episode to explain his death is one of the most stupid things that the show has ever done and probably will ever do, featuring a second alter-ego of Niki's called Gina who never appears before or after.
     The vote for my favourite episode of the Volume is a bit difficult given the circumstances, but oddly enough it would have to be that aforementioned flashback episode, Four Months Ago... . It's a strangely absorbing episode that really fulfils that need to see the cliffhanger of Season One resolved. I think the choice to leave that resolution to episode eight of eleven was god-damn stupid given that that's not the way TV has ever really worked (It's a bit like showing Boom Town straight after the cliffhanger in The Empty Child and then coming back the next week and saying, "Oh yeah, that cliffhanger, here's how they got out of it.") In showing what happened to our characters between the seasons we are better able to follow them as people, and that is what characterisations are about.
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Amnesiac!Peter has a relationship with Caitlin, an irish girl
who ends up trapped in the Bad!Future and is thus
subsequently never mentioned EVER AGAIN. Cool.
     So much potential; so much silliness. But I don't necessarily thing that it's a bad thing in the long run. Generations set the season off on a bad road in the public eye, and while ratings were steadily declining anyway, it was the season that gave the writers this impression that they needed to step things up. The results of that were... good and bad. I think that the knowledge that so many of the Volume plot lines will have very little impact later on gives the volume a reckless charm that for me at least makes it that little bit more enjoyable than otherwise. Think of this volume as a warmup for next time, where the plot twists run thick and fast and no-one really knows what's going on.

Thanks.

IN EIGHT WEEKS: Arthur Petrelli. Is Sylar really Peter's brother? Cool powers for everyone! Oh, except you Peter. Sorry about that. It's Volume Three - Villains.

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