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Heroes (#110 of 13)

The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles

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The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles
The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles

If any single thread connected David Bowie’s now sadly completed half century-long musical journey, it was irrepressible restlessness. Bowie never, ever stopped exploring new musical avenues, which has historically been interpreted in one of two ways: that he was rock’s ultimate chameleon, refusing to be contented with any past success and constantly pushing himself to reach new heights, or that he was a shallow trend-hopping whore who parlayed a keen ear for ever-shifting popular music trends into commercial success.

If it’s ever permissible to call pop artists geniuses, then Bowie is indubitably among them; the fact that he managed to remain a giant of popular culture for decades while completely overhauling his sound every few years is a testament to that. To dismiss him as a mere copycat would be like calling the Boeing 747 a piece of hackwork because the Wright brothers existed. Marc Bolan may have been wearing makeup and playing glammy guitar first, but he didn’t come up with the invention that was Ziggy Stardust. Kraftwerk may have pioneered the cold, cerebral electronic aesthetic that influenced Bowie during his Berlin period, but they never wrote “Heroes.”

These 20 singles, not all of them chart hits, but invariably essential entries in the rock canon, span from Bowie’s first iconic song to enter the public consciousness in 1969 to the remarkable title track from his just barely pre-posthumous swan song, Blackstar, thus proving that his quest to turn and face the strange never ceased so long as there was a breath left in him. Jeremy Winograd

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 11, “Powerless”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 11, “Powerless”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 11, “Powerless”

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%.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “Truth & Consequences”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “Truth & Consequences”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “Truth & Consequences”

It was a depressingly mundane hour of Heroes this week, as the show’s massive fluctuations of quality week-to-week continued. As usual, it helps which characters you’re dealt in a certain episode: for example, there was far too much of the black oil misery twins Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz), with barely any sign of Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) or Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka). It wasn’t just the characters that were wrong with “Truth and Consequences”, though. Considering how late in the game things are (next week’s episode concludes the second ’volume’ of the show and reportedly will serve as a season finale in this strike-shortened year), the various accelerating plots of the season slowed to a depressing crawl, content with providing a little bit of background info and setup for future episodes rather than actually telling a complete story.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “Cautionary Tales”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “Cautionary Tales”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “Cautionary Tales”

It’s unfortunate that Heroes is starting to pick up real momentum just as its strike-shortened second season comes to an end. While last week’s backstory-heavy “Six Months Ago” was a bit of a dud, the previous episode “Out of Time” and this week’s “Cautionary Tales” are tying the season’s disparate, aimless threads together rather well, focusing on fewer characters and emphasizing more intimate storytelling. It’s a nice change of pace from the disappointingly ’epic’ finale of Heroes’ first season, although of course it remains to be seen whether this tremendously inconsistent show can maintain this new rash of quality.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Four Months Ago…”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Four Months Ago…”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Four Months Ago…”

After the promising strides of last week’s episode, Heroes takes a turn for the dull again with a wrenchingly uninteresting super-flashback, imaginatively titled “Four Months Ago”. Written by showrunner/creator Tim Kring and directed by Greg Beeman, the episode has been hyped as the answer to unresolved mysteries and a jump-off point to reboot the increasingly derided second season. Sadly, the only answers “Four Months Ago” provides are those that the audience had either guessed or didn’t care enough about to guess. Building a flashback narrative into one-hour dramas has been a popular television conceit since the success of Lost, but “Four Months Ago” is a flashback for flashback’s sake—there is very little here that the audience shouldn’t have just seen in the season two premiere.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Out of Time”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Out of Time”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Out of Time”

After weeks of slow buildup, story padding and other barely disguised stall tactics, Heroes finally kicked into gear on Monday with its seventh episode of the season, “Out of Time”. Written by Aron Eli Coleite and directed by Daniel Attias, we finally get to see more than two main characters interacting together, as well as some decent twists and a good deal of advancement in the season’s main arcs. The same flaws are still there—stilted dialogue, those ever-present wooden characters and a recycled time-travel plot—but because the pace is much improved, the flaws become so much less important. It doesn’t forgive that it took us six weeks to get here, but “Out of Time” certainly proves that the faster Heroes moves, the better it seems.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “The Line”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “The Line”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “The Line”

Heroes is now a quarter of the way into its second season, but its sixth episode “The Line” is evident of the lack of progress the show has made since returning in September. The vast (and ever-expanding) ensemble remains scattered to the winds, their various plots lumbering sluggishly towards recycled conclusions. The cliffhanger at the end of “The Line” finally hints at a possible unifying save-the-world arc for the show to rally around—just the thing Heroes needs to regain its zeitgeist credibility. The problem is, the cliffhanger is a lame rip-off of the show’s own material, which just serves to hit home how this season has been a rather pale imitation of the first.

After all, the first season at least had the element of surprise. There were plenty of shocks, most of them character-related, for the writers to reveal. Nathan can fly! Peter absorbs powers! Sylar steals powers! And so on. By now, that’s obviously no longer an option, so we’re treated to far more ordinary plot developments, like Peter’s amnesia, Claire’s suspicious boyfriend, Parkman’s father being evil. Even worse, some of the new characters demonstrate powers we’ve already seen before—Kensei can regenerate like Claire, West can fly like Nathan, and Monica’s ’muscle memory’ bears similarity to the quick learning skills of last year’s recurring character Charlie (Jayma Mays). I’m not ready to give up on Heroes, partly because I think it’s eventually going to pick up speed out of sheer necessity. Nonetheless “The Line” (written by Adam ArmusandKay Foster and directed by Jeannot Szwarc) is another meandering, at times frustratingly dull hour, redeemed only by a similar theme running through all of this week’s stories.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “Fight or Flight”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “Fight or Flight”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “Fight or Flight”

After a brief resurgence in energy and fun last week, Heroes’ second season takes a real dive with its fifth episode “Fight or Flight”. It is definitely one of the worst episodes the series has produced in its young life, but not because any of the material is particularly shockingly bad. It is just lazy and sluggish, lacking any sense of forward momentum and weighed down with plodding, expositional dialogue.

Consider the fifth episode of the first season, “Hiros,“which featured a conversation between Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) and a future version of Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), a confident warrior who seemed to know Peter well and knew the trials they would face together. This twist suggested quite an exciting future for the show’s characters, where they were hardened warriors who fought alongside each other in full mastery of their powers. Yet currently, Peter is an amnesiac, dilly-dallying in Ireland rather than do-gooding in New York (easily the best real-life superhero location in comics lore), and Hiro is stuck in an increasingly boring feudal Japan trying to woo a beautiful princess. There are smatterings of intrigue, some domestic drama and a couple of fledgling romances, but for a show called Heroes, there’s really not a lot of heroism going down at the moment.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “The Kindness of Strangers”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “The Kindness of Strangers”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “The Kindness of Strangers”

Finally, with its fourth episode, Heroes picked up speed, dropping its more leaden plots for a week and adding depth and intrigue to the key mysteries. We’re not even close to the rollicking, ridiculous heights the first season occasionally reached, but “The Kindness of Strangers”, written by creator Tim Kring and directed by Adam Kane, shone a little hope on what has otherwise been a slow-moving season.

Truth be told, the episode benefited from the absence of two plots foregrounded in previous weeks: Peter Petrelli’s (Milo Ventimiglia) adventures in Ireland and Hiro Nakamura’s (Masi Oka) Back to the Future-esque antics in medieval Japan. While Hiro’s stuff had been fun, in an irrelevant, oddball kind of way, both storylines were draggy and distracting. These opening hours should have set out some general arcs for season two, but instead they’ve been meandering and sluggish, hinting at vague mysteries instead of hooking viewers with exciting new story developments.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “Kindred”

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “Kindred”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “Kindred”

In “Kindred”, the third episode of Heroes’ second season, some of the characters revealed their powers to others and encountered acceptance, even intimacy. This in itself wouldn’t be a bad thing—the struggle superheroes have reconciling their loneliness is one of the genre’s common themes. It’s just a shame the writers are exploring it by keeping their characters trapped in sub-par, meandering story arcs that do little to advance the grander mysteries of the show.

After the first two equally slow-moving, but somewhat more intriguing episodes of this season, “Kindred” (written by J.J. Philbin and directed by Paul Edwards) seemed to finalize that this is indeed the tone that the writers are going for. The fast-paced, head-spinning ridiculousness of last year is gone for now: instead we’re stuck with a self-contained adventure soap material moving at a snail’s pace.