Television these past few years has seen something of a revolution. Slowly but steadily, the powers that be have seen the woes of their reality television ways and have started producing quality, character driven dramas that push up not only the viewership of the shows, but the general opinion.
This year, the new show to beat is Heroes. Debuting on NBC in the fall, Heroes tells the story of a vast group of strangers from all corners of the world as far as Japan who discover about the same time that they have supernatural powers. The concept is intriguing. What would happen if a small percentage of the human race suddenly found they had superpowers? And what would actually happen to these persons, assuming they didn’t sew tights and start fighting giant crocodiles.
The result is a compelling human drama in which no finds solace in their strengths, each hero forced to come to terms with their powers as they affect their friends and families. Subsequently the responsibility tied to those powers is called into question by everyone around them.
The first chapter (as NBC has taken to calling it) of the saga consisted of the first eleven episodes, in which we’re introduced to the initial 10 or so heroes; a politician who can fly, a Japanese business man who can stop and travel through time, a fugitive who can walk through walls, and his wife who’s alter ego has super strength. There are more, and each and every one has his own story, but somehow each story intertwines with the others as a man named only Sylar (after a watch brand) crisscrosses the country killing and stealing the powers of potential heroes.
When Peter Petrelli, the altruistic young hero with the power to assimilate the powers of other heroes around him learns he must “Save the Cheerleader to save the world” the sprint to save the young cheerleader with super healing powers from being taken by Sylar ensues.
Ending the first half of the season, all of the Heroes are at a crossroads. Hospitalized, imprisoned, searching for their destinies, or searching for each other, they’re all looking for something and have no idea where to look. The first episode of the new season takes off from here and does it with the same breadth of story telling deftness that made the first eleven episodes so popular.
The show is a genius idea, not because it’s a live action X-men, or because it appeals to the comic book brethren among us (of which there are many) but because it makes the entire affair human, extremely human. None of these characters is so lucky as to gain their powers and fall into the lifestyle of a “Hero”. For most of them, life becomes a danger for everyone they know because of their gift. For all of them, their lives are in danger merely from existing, regardless of their powers and any knowledge of them. Stan Lee’s classic approach to the tortured hero whose life is forfeit to his obligation comes to life in this monstrous web of drama and looming prophecy. The role of every character is a necessary, carefully written role, even if everyone knows Hiro is the best character on television right now, and you get the feeling that every single person these young heroes meet is important – most noticeable Linderman and his greasy fingers sticking in the pots of so many kitchens.
There are still too many questions waiting to be answered. Will Jessica win out and take over the body, or will the two find peace and coexist? Will the prophecy of New York’s destruction come to fruition? Will Hiro find that awesome sword, and if so how does it affect his time traveling skills? The comic book panache with which Tim Kring created his show seeps through every scene, into every joint and pore of these characters and bleeds out in every second. The melodrama is gloriously self-realized and makes the entire series that much more compelling. While Lost slides further and further down the path of least-resistance to daytime drama tricks of telling a story in which nothing happens, Heroes keeps its growing fan base happy with continually developing stories, new heroes, and a finale still 10 episodes away that promises to be one hell of a showdown (but with who?).