Due to the striking Writer’s Guild, episode 11 of Heroes’ second season may be the last we see of the show for quite some time. Happily, “Powerless” had been designed as the finale of the second ’volume’ of the show and managed to wrap up most of the immediate storylines and throw in a few cliffhangers, as any season finale should. “Powerless”, written by comics titan Jeph Loeb and directed by Allan Arkush, also managed to be a good deal better than the incredibly lackluster first season finale, “How to Stop an Exploding Man”—not a difficult feat to accomplish. However, “Powerless” also exhibited all of this season’s major flaws, and doubtless had many fans scratching their heads and asking, “is this all we get?”
Unlike the first season, where every member of the ensemble was tied into the ultimate showdown in New York in some way or another, the convergence of storylines in “Powerless” was a little more slapdash. Our many heroes were involved in one of three different showdowns: an attempt to destroy a deadly virus in Texas; a standoff with Sylar (Zachary Quinto) in New York; and, slightly jarringly, an encounter with some low-life hoodlums in New Orleans. There were a couple fatalities along the way, although we must remember the all-important comic book rule: if you don’t see the body, they’re not dead—and even if you do, it’s never 100%.
The essential problem with the finale was that the audience was never invested in these storylines to begin with. The virus arc had at least been introduced with some decent foreshadowing and the prerequisite trip to a dystopian future, but it screamed rehash so loudly, even casual fans picked up on it. And while Sylar definitely holds the camera’s attention, his terse hostage-taking of Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy), Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Molly (Adair Tishler) was rendered instantly useless by the fact that nobody really cares if any of them live or die (well, killing Molly would be a gutsy move—but I don’t think NBC has the stones to whack a 10-year-old). Finally, Niki’s (Ali Larter) race to save the captured Monica (Dana Davis) was so bizarre and pointless (nobody even used their powers!) that it reeked of just giving these cut-off characters something to do to fill up a little time. That it resulted in Niki’s probable death made the whole thing even more laughable.
Nonetheless, I found segments of “Powerless” quite watchable, when the various characters were given little moments in the sun. Especially interesting, I thought, was Adam Monroe (David Anders), the formerly cheerful drunk Kensei who, over the course of eleven episodes, has turned into a misanthropic demigod bent on wiping the earth clean to start anew. Maybe it’s just because I think the “wandering immortal” type is a lot of fun to write for, but I wish they had done more with Monroe and explored his alluring personality with further depth. Instead, we realized just how pointless the endless weeks of Hiro and Monroe traipsing around Japan was—Monroe would have murdered Hiro’s dad anyway, as he murdered all of the Company founders, and Hiro stealing his girlfriend was just a drop in the ocean of hatred he developed for humanity after living for more than 400 years. The conclusion to Monroe’s journey was just as disappointing—once Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) arrived to tell Monroe’s all-powerful bodyguard Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) what a bad dude Monroe was, the guy was done for. I’ll admit his dispatching at Hiro’s hands was somewhat inventive, and a little creepy (buried alive - a good way to neutralize an indestructible immortal), but if this is the last we’ve seen of Monroe, it’s a real shame. I think Anders will be back eventually, though—early on in “Powerless”, we were told one way to kill Monroe was to shoot him through the head. If they really wanted him gone, they could have done that.
After Peter and co. destroyed the virus, Nathan decided to go public about the heroes and expose the Company’s evil machinations. Claire (Hayden Panettiere) had been threatening to do this, probably just to include her in the finale, but she was convinced not to by her resurrected father Noah (Jack Coleman), who decided to rejoin the fold of the Company to protect his family once again. The two plots might seem unrelated, but I’m pretty sure they met at the end of “Powerless”, when Nathan was assassinated mid-speech, before telling the world he could fly. Noah returning to the Company would mean he’d have to make his bones again, and what better way? I don’t see any other character on the show pulling the trigger, so it looks like Noah’s going to be seeking some major redemption when we meet him next. Killing Nathan, if they follow through on that, is a terrible idea. I fear the writers might leave him dead, as they already fake-killed him once before, but I hope they don’t. Despite the clunky dialogue he’s so often given, Pasdar has always been one of the most arresting presences on the show, and Nathan’s one of the few central characters to really flirt with evil - I got a little jolt of excitement when he suggested Matt (Greg Grunberg) could “help” people hear what he has to say using telepathy. I’m fine with Heroes shedding of its superfluous cast members, but Nathan is too crucial to keep off the show for good. Thankfully, his final fate was not revealed (although his mother was seen to be complicit) and there’s always the blanket-heal of Claire Bennet’s resurrection blood if things get desperate.
Think about it, though. Why kill Nathan, when you could get rid of Maya instead? The answer is probably because killing Maya would be too easy—she’s such an insipid character, I’m sure everyone was expecting it. She managed to heal from a fatal gunshot wound (by Claire’s blood, indeed), perhaps in a flailing move by the writers to justify the presence of this character for what’s been eleven episodes. Maya is a non-presence as a person, but I thought she might have something to do with the larger arcs of the show. So far, nothing doing on that front, as she was as useless this week as she’s been every week. Sure, she almost killed Sylar, but she decided not to as it would have taken Molly and Mohinder down with him. Getting rid of Sylar was left to Elle (Kristen Bell), and boy, did she make a hash of it. Bell managed to inject a bit of pathos into her petulant non-character when she found out the extent of her father’s experimentation on her. Still, considering Elle’s supposed to be a hardcore covert agent, her ’attack’ on Sylar wasn’t very well-thought-out. Sure, she managed to knock him out a window, but not before he got his hands on Claire’s blood and recalled all of his old powers. Back to full strength, Sylar’s a major problem, and hopefully he’ll get much more to do in the next ’volume’, which has the exciting title of ’Villains’.
If I were Tim Kring, I’d be praying for the strike to end soon, because with ’Generations’ alone, Heroes’ second season is going to be viewed as a major disappointment. Most new characters never took off, or failed to get integrated with the core storylines. The core storylines themselves were remarkably mediocre, and emotionally uninvolving, and the writers got nothing out of looking back at the Company’s founding—just giving us vague explanations and a lot of shadowy mystery. Hopefully Tim Kring and co. have learned their lesson. I hold out hope, one day, that the cast will unite to fight villainy in a much more tried-and-tested comic book style. While I fear that day may never arrive on Heroes, hopefully Volume Three will at least have a grand, unifying enemy to fight against and won’t scatter the whole cast to the ends of the earth again. That, one hopes, may well be enough to save Heroes from fan malaise and ratings misery. ’Nuff said.
London-based writer David Sims is a contributor to South Dakota Dark.