Friday, 27 December 2013

Overview: Heroes: Volume Three - Villains

Welcome. As ratings peaked and then dropped faster than a very heavy thing in a vacuum, the show moved towards a different approach which tried to recapture the lightning of the first season's popularity. This failed. The series continued but its popularity continued to steadily drop, not helped by a set of characters whole allegiances seem to change as often as The Cat changes his outfit in the average season of Red Dwarf. Written between 20th and 21st June 2013.

http://www.emagill.com/gallery/villains.jpg
Heroes. Villains. Get it? Yeah, I didn't actually notice this until
my rewatch. Talk about slow.
As I said, there was a response to the strike's effects. That effect being the second volume's remarkably poor reputation amongst its fanbase, which led the writers to take extreme methods to try and recapture that popularity in some of the most misguided ways possible. Instead of trying to evolve and move, as the original plan would have allowed Heroes to do, the show felt like it was becoming stagnate and convoluted, with the show failing to retain narrative coherancy within the same volume. While I still enjoy it by some absurd amount, I am not ashamed to call Volume Three my least favourite of the five.
     The plot sprung up a series of new lines in order to keep things interesting, with minor Volume Two villain Maury Parkmen turning into the worker for Peter and Nathan's dad Arthur, who it turns out survived his wife's attempt to poison him. (It's okay, he's an ass.) As Nathan is led off track by Maury's mind-tricks and Nathan's miraculous healing, his assailant, a Peter from yet another Bad Future, picks his old self up and warns the world of a Formula (held by Angela Petrelli and Hiro Nakamura, eventually stolen by new girl Daphne) that will give everyone powers.  Arthur awakens by absorbing powers from Adam Monroe, and steals Peter's powers too. His company Pinehearst becomes competition for Angela Petrelli's Primatech, crumbling after Sylar went in and let a series of dangerous super-powered criminals out. He also thinks he's Peter and Nathan's brother for this Volume, because Angela is manipulative and the writers are worse.
     Like I said, complicated. I will address a few of the subplots in detail cos if I don't I'll have nowt to talk about, but suffice to say that the constant shifting and twisting, despite making for a series of exciting revelations, doesn't exactly make for a cohesive one. The first two Volumes had themes - Genesis was about the capacity of normal people to do great things, and Generations was about the young making up for the mistakes of their elders. Villains' main theme is that some people are just assholes, and some aren't assholes, and most people can't decide, and most people don't really know. Which explains the fact that I need a fecking chart to tell me who's on whose side.
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Sylar helping Noah is perhaps the cutest thing in the world.
     First, Sylar. This volume has been given a lot of the blame for the character's "pussification", which as inappropriate a term as it is does give description to a character who, mere hours after violently murdering one man (Bob) and trying to murder his daughter, wants to be a goody two-shoes and work with Noah as his bestest-buddy-o-pal. It's rubbed off by the end of the volume anyway. He falls for Elle, works for Arthur, decides he's evil and kills the two of them before returning to Primatech to psychologically torture the Petrelli females. (And Noah.) It doesn't make sense for him, and worst of all, it makes his eventual "permenant" turn at the end of Volume Five that little bit more meaningless.
    With Hiro and Peter, you have two characters whose sheer invincibility proved to be stifling to storytelling in the previous volume. It's always been the truth that invincible people make for boring characters, because they have no vulnerabilities. Villains goes about nerfing its characters in the most painful ways possible, and I don't mean in the "oh my feels" sense, I mean in the "makes me cringe" way. Peter has his powers stolen when he gives his dad a hug after turning into an psycho after absorbing Sylar's hunger, and Arthur later gives Hiro the mind of a child, forcing him to visit a comic-book store to know to travel back in time and get healed by his momma. (This would be repeated somehow in Volume Five. Do not ask me why or how.)
     Another odd feature of the volume (which I almost forgot) is Tracy Strauss, a character played by Niki Sanders actress Ali Larter, whose resemblance is explained as due to being one of three triplets given superpowers via the Formula. And if that is not the most comedically soapy plotlines you've ever heard, I congratulate you on never having watching much TV. As it stands, I prefer Tracy overall but I think that Niki had more consistent character development, at least in the first season. Tracy doesn't feel right until Volume Four, where she's fully integrated and awesome. Volume Three, she's just some crazy woman who looks like a desperate bid to keep Larter on board.
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Also, there's this episode where Elle and Claire
get all shippy and I sorta love it.
    Talking of character derailment, let's say hello to the beginning of Mohinder being a bit shit. The scientist is totally wasted in his short bursts, and when he does get unique plotlines they surround the fact that his attempt to create his own Formula have turned him into a non-descript monster with webbed hands and potato-chip scabs on his back. It's almost as if Heroes has no concept of long-term thematic devices like call-backs or foreshadowing, or character consistency. I fail to see how Mohinder trapping people in a white sticky substance serves to give the series anything except innuendo.
     As Volume bad-guys go (Sylar, Adam, Arthur, Danko and Samuel), Arthur is perhaps the least well-characterised, too. Boy, I sure have a lot of crap to give to Volume Three. But Arthur isn't any kind of interesting evil. We were given an interesting set of ideas back in the second volume about how Arthur, Angela and other bad-guy Linderman were all diciples of Adam Monroe and followed his ideas about saving the world through some kind of mass human die-back. Arthur's aims and intentions are never very clear; we never really know why he wants to give powers to Humanity for any other reason than to spite his wife and to look all evil and cunning. It doesn't work.
     This is the last Bad Future scenario, given the absence of one in the next volume and a whole host of crazy time-travel retcons made in the last. Here's it's done and dusted in the first five or six episodes, with the trip failing to accomplish anything except to send Peter off into painful character derailment and to dangle a genuinely good-guy Sylar at us before killing his son and turning him into a genocidal murderer. Future Peter, despite having some cool powers, is ultimately useless and sorta kinda dies in the attempt. To Claire, if I remember rightly, who this volume suddenly decides that she wants to be an Action Girl. One of the main problems this time was that they ran out of Isaac Mendez paintings to prophesise the future with, and so it was never as iconic and wonderous. The only future-painter in this season is Usutu, and there never feels like there's any reason for him to be there besides being playing to the unfortunate Wise Black Man trope.
     Format-wise, this volume features two tidbits for our enjoyment. The first is our scheduled flashback episode, the titular Villains, which flashes us back to just before the beginning of the show and proceeds to re-write several key events in ways not internally consistant with the show's continuity. Not really a big fan of that, apart from the subplot where Angela, as the abused wife, gets her revenge on Arthur and poisons him. The other tidbit is the odd two-parter The Eclipse, wherein everyone loses their powers during an eclipse for some reason, opening a million plot-holes and making us wonder how in the hell you can have a two-parter in a serialised show.
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Volume Three makes you love Daphne, just so that the next
Volume will tear your heart out. :D
     Picking my favourite episode, however difficult, brings me back to the volume's final episode, Dual, which sees Sylar trap the members of Primatech in their base and slowly torture them psychologically, in an episode that comes after the solution of the vast majority of the season's plotlines and seems to exist soley to let us have fun watching Sylar fuck with people's heads. It had a lot of stuff in it that seemed prime to confront the season on its own bullshit, especially with my favourite character Angela Petrelli andher very thorough yet character-building explanation of her long-winded Volume-long plot.
     So yeah. If you made it through that article, then you'll know that I don't have a lot of good things to say about this particular Volume. I enjoyed it at the time, but it also marked a period of the show's history for me where both I and many others felt that it lost its way. Now of course, the next Volume just so happens to be my favourite, which is wonderful, but there's no shaking the fact that Volume Three saw an end to a lot of the stuff that made the first few seasons great, for the sole reason that they tried so hard to replicate it and they ended up just making a season that was as messy as I think they could have made it.

Thanks.

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