Call Heroes the fast food of television: even through its very worst moments, it still manages to be greatly entertaining television. This label is most applicable to the second and third volumes (not seasons) of the series, which were mediocre at best, with only a few high points (puppetmaster Eric Doyle, for instance). However, I still tuned in every week — not because it was great television — but because I was entertained. Oh, and because there was always a hope that the show would get better, and that I would be vindicated in my dedication (and be automatically entitled to bragging rights when the show returned to its former glory).
While that’s not quite the case yet, I have to say that Heroes is striving to move out of the fast food category of television and more toward the gourmet category. Volume four, “Fugitives,” was the best volume of the series since “Genesis,” perhaps due to the creative efforts of Bryan Fuller, who returned to Heroes after the cancellation of his other series, Pushing Daisies. Fuller’s involvement definitely helped Heroes improve greatly; volume four was more concise and pointed on a central storyline, finally listening to the advice of critics. The future looked bright for Heroes as the fourth volume ended.
However, Fuller left only a few episodes into the fifth volume, accurately titled “Redemption.” However, the quality of the series didn’t decline at all; if anything, it improved, and is quickly on my way to becoming my favorite volume of the series, perhaps even above the groundbreaking “Genesis.”
Most of this can be put to the fact that the series has become out the characters again, instead of the series being just another vehicle for cool special effects and superpowers. Now, the characters are taking front and center stage, and I’m loving it. And not just because the characters are the focus — because less characters are the focus.
In tonight’s episode, “Once Upon A Time in Texas,” only Hiro, Sylar, Samuel, Noah, and Claire appeared out of the main cast (not counting Mohinder’s brief end-of-episode appearance). Out of those, only Hiro, Sylar, and Noah recieved any focus at all. The episode was very tight, as opposed to the epic scope of each and every episode of volume three, which featured on average about seven members of the main cast. The writers have caught on that we don’t need to see Peter and Claire every episode, and I like it. It works, and it makes the show run that much more smoothly.
Another thing that works is the inclusion of Robert Knepper’s new character Samuel. Even though he’s appeared in almost every episode so far, we know very little about his character’s background or history. In fact, the most shocking reveal we’ve gotten so far is that he killed Mohinder eight weeks ago (accounting for the much-needed break from Sendhil Ramamurthy’s voice-overs). However, the character is a wonderful enigma, and he adds a great layer of mystique and macabre to the series.
However, that’s not to say that season five couldn’t stand to improve just a little bit. The lesbianism-for-guys thing with Claire is somewhat detracting from the storyline, as is uncertain fate of Nathan Petrelli. Is he or isn’t he dead for good? Kristin says he is, but the lack of a concrete answer leaves two Sylars running around (one in Parkman’s head and one at the Sullivan Bros. Carnival), and until the situation is resolved, we probably won’t get much of a good answer.
Of course, ratings have been floundering for the four-year-old drama. It’s even reported that NBC is considering giving Heroes the axe after the season’s end, though at this point this is unconfirmed rumors (though it wouldn’t be shocking if it did happen. “There isn’t much happening with this show in terms of audience, and giving it a ‘final chapter’ feel is something the network is considering to help allow the show to go out with a bang,” claims Airlock Alpha.
So even with the redemption of a once must-see series, there is a possible end approaching. It’s a Lost-ian redemption, for sure. But it’s a redemption all the same.