Sunday, February 15, 2009

Girls Love Capers Too!

I have some thoughts on Heroes. I meant to do this earlier this week, but between classes, homework, and the awesome AWP Conference being held in Chicago this year, I haven't gotten around to it until just now.

Like many geeks, I loved the first season. Besides some occasional ridiculously awful dialogue (which Darcy points out that since this is essentially comic book show you have to expect some comic-y dialogue), it had a strong season long arc, strong character arcs and characterization, and good acting (except from Milo Ventimiglia, who ACTS).

And there was season 2. Oh god, season 2. It brought us Hiro in Japan, Peter letting Caitlin be retconned in that dystopia future, Wes the creepy stalker, and the goddamn Wondertwins. Oh jesus, the Wondertwins. Although it did give us David Anders, which was one of the few bright spots.

But Tim Kring assured us he heard the complaints and was going to fix the show. His pants may have, in fact, been on fire when he said that. Volume Three: Villans had an interesting premise, such as exploring the gray area between good and evil, but it turned out to really be a volume of watching Sylar switch between eating brains and trying to be good about eighteen times, AND OMG SYLAR JUST PICK ONE. There was also Mohinder being retarded, the goddamn Wondertwin still hanging around, only the writers whored her up in addition to her being useless, Hiro became ten (which was adorable, but what was the point?), and at one low point there were two Milos on the screen where he tried to out act himself and I wanted to die. And then Nathan proved to have absolutely no will of his own and decided to pull an X-Men and have all the heroes imprisoned, which brings us to the next volume.

I've seen the first two episodes, and I have to say, it seems like this volume is getting back to what the first season was. We haven't had any voice overs by Mohinder, thank god, and that scene from the first episode where all the heroes were in orange jumpsuits, with hoods over their heads was striking and creepy, and very well done.
Although they haven't actually explained how Sylar survived being stabbed in the back of the head by Claire, he's back. Of course. This pains me to say because I really love Zachery Quinto and think he's an amazing actor, but we're back to his daddy issues? Again? Really? I am interested now that they've given him, as Darcy pointed out, his very own Dick Grayson. Hey, Heroes, if you put Luke into the scaly, green panties I am willing to forgive both volume two and three and for the existence of the Wondertwin. Seriously.
But then there was a scene in the last episode that filled me with, if not rage, a good deal of anger (I'm going to let Darcy take care of the happy making part of the show, because she does it better than me). It has Matt, Mohinder (who I like to refer to as Dr. McPeasantBlouses when's being stupid and pissing me off), Hiro, and Ando, standing around Matt's future drawings and deciding to start fighting back. And it was a good scene and I was all, "Yeah! Do it! Actually use your powers!" until I realized that were absolutely no female characters involved in this caper. And then I realized that this show had become, basically, a boys' club, and all the female characters were suddenly few and far between.

Look, I love Heroes (in an abusive kind of way), but it's never been without it's gender problems, but at least there were female characters getting decent amount of screen time, and at least they were relatively complex and not the sexy damsels in distress I usually have to put up with. Only at the end of this episode I realized that the show was down to essentially three female characters: Tracy, Claire, and Angela, and that's when the anger came in.

In the first season, Heroes had good diversity, especially compared to the rest of super white television, only as season 2 and volume three dragged on not only is that diversity starting to go, but so have the female characters (the majority which, Darcy pointed out, have been blonde. No! Bad Heroes! Not all women are blonde! Blonde is nto the epitome of sexiness! No cookie for you!).
Let's take a look at some of the female characters killed off or sidelined so far (I'm focusing on the major characters, because if I took on all the minor female characters as well, such as Eden, Charlie, and Caitlin, we'd be here all day and I do have actual schoolwork to do).

Nikki: Killed in a big explosion at the end of the pain inducing season 2. I can understand why the writers killed her off: she had become a one-note character due to her split personalities, but whose fault is that? Oh, yes, the writers. At the end of the first season it looked like she had managed to reintegrate Jessica back into her, but then season two revealed that nope! They are more personalities out there!
And that managed to piss off the viewers because, hey, we already had a complete season of that. There were other directions and ways the character could have grown, but nope! Let's stick with the one-note thing, because that works out well. Ugh.

Meredith: She bit it at the end of volume 3, supposedly a victim of her own power (but since she can't be burned by her own fire, she might have still been able to survive). Meredith was Claire's biological mother, and this season saw her given backstory and more chacterization and they killed her. I'm thinking it was nominally for "reducing the cast" to a more manageable level, but Meredith? Come on, she was awesome! Her relationship with not only Claire but with Noah and Sandra was complex and layered, and she would have been a great addition to this heroes on the run storyline.
You know who could be gotten rid of and not
affect anything? As much as it pains me to say this because of my love for Zachery Quinto, Sylar. Dear god, seriously, he was an interesting character the first season with the spin on the serial killer, but now he's back to being a crazy man with daddy issues that we've seen about thriteen different times at this point. Oh yes, that's so much more interesting than a complex woman with a layers and nuanced characterization and relationships, who still kicks so much ass. Thank god you fixed that, show.
Maya the Wondertwin: As you probably guess, I'm not fond of Maya. In fact, seeing her on the screen is guaranteed to draw out a "GODDAMNIT WONDERTWIN" from me. But I do want to make it clear that this complete and utter FUBAR mishandling of the character is the writers' faults.

Since the introduction, Maya had no agency. She couldn't control her emo black tears crying power, and it took her brother to stop it. (Side note: How the hell does Maya powers even work? Darcy thinks that it's some sort of virus thing, and her brother was the cure, but did that even come up on the show? I don't remember). So we have a female of color character who can't control her power and has to rely on her brother to keep her in check. Nice, show.

Look out! She's going to start singing My Chemical Romance!

She does eventually get it under control, but she still has no agency. She's manipulated by Sylar(but so was Dr. McPeasantBlouse and to a greater extent), and volume 3 saw her reduced to the passive love interest. Her only purpose, as far as I can tell, was to have her standing around being sexy with a vastly improved command of the English Language (which was interesting she spoke English and her brother didn't. I wish they explored Maya's obvious intelligence and drive instead of whoring her up), and to be sexually available to Dr. McPeasantBlouses as he was going all spider Jekyll and Hyde.
And then Maya, after being cocooned by Spiderhinder, was shuffled off to a place in New Jersey and we never see her again. To be fair, when Mohinder did try to apologize and all that jazz, Maya called him on his bullshit craziness and left him. So it looks like Maya may be out of the picture for good.
While this pleases me because, seriously, her character was annoying, I have to recognize that she could have been so much more. Instead of focusing on Maya's religion (she was shown to be deeply Catholic, a fact that was lost in the volume 3 black hole of suck), her determination, even in face of overhwhelming fear, instead we got a passive character, whose power was crying, who only served to be sexed up by a male character and then later abused by him to show how crazy he had gone. Yeah, Maya suffered from Women in Refrigerators syndrome, much as Nikki and Meredith did (I guess it really is a comic book show!).

Molly: Hey, were is Molly? Shuttled off to some place by Mohinder and never mentioned again. She had a brief cameo in that future episode, but has not been heard from since. What really bothers me about this is that Matt isn't concerned about her. Matt adopted her and he hasn't even thought to ask Mohinder where she might be? Or that maybe he should go get her? This poor girl has already lost two parents and now she's just been passed around.

I'm hoping that Molly will come back, especially in light of this new storyline, because how valuable will Molly the human tracker be to Nathan? Very. Actually, I would just be happy to see even a one line toss off from Mohinder or Matt being concerned about her, and it's a sad fact taht my expectations for this show is this low.
Monica: Another character from domestic abuser season 2. Unlike the Wondertwin, I didn't feel the need to reach through my television set and choke her. In fact, I quite liked Monica. Sure, in trying to be contemporary with Monica being a Hurricane Katrina survivor, it came off pretty stereotypical, and the handling of her character wasn't great, and, like with so many things, the writers could have done so much more with her, but she was determined, ambitious woman with some pretty damn awesome powers.

She's a muscle mimic, which means when she sees something she can immediately do it. How awesome is that? So awesome. There are so many possibilities to do with a power like that, but the writers are made of fail and didn't take advantage of that. Not surprising, since all of season 2 was made of fail.
Monica and Micah's relationship was sweet and interesting. She was obviously very fond of Micah, even bordeline maternal, and with the death of Nikki I would love to see that develop more. (Also, more grandma Uhura please.) Here there are so many possibilies with this new storyline, with both Micah and Monica on the run: the two of them depending on each other, Monica using her awesome powers to take down the soldiers, Micah just be the generally kickasss shit together kid he is. Seriously, wouldn't you love to see that? Well, you probably won't since both Micah and Monica have been shuffled off, because this show apparently forgot how to handle it's large cast.

This brings me to another point, which I'll try to not dwell on too long. This show, beside gender problems, has some race problems too. DL is dead, Micah and Monica are essentially dead, the Haitian's (why doesn't he have a name?) storyline with his borther was really about Nathan and Peter and their stupid, whiny problems, and NeoIsac the African Precog is now playing ghost Magical Black Man to Matt's Ineffective White Man. Well done, show.

Does he have a name? I guess he was too busy helping the white guy not die to mention what it is.

Elle: Another dead blonde. I liked Elle, mostly because Kristen Belle is an amazing actress. In season 2, which the show is trying to pretend never happened, la la la, Elle is portrayed as being a rather cheerful sociopath, who was made that way by her freaky father. And then volume 3 rolled around and, like everyone on the show, her character was all over the map.

They pulled some retconning and Elle helped make Sylar crazypants, but she didn't want to and shown to have a conscious, although in season 2 Elle was perfectly okay with killing people. She and Sylar ended hooking up because they had compatible Daddy Issues, and then Sylar killed her and she didn't fight back.
I know Kristen Belle wanted out of this show, and I can't blame her for that, but we've seen before that she was able to take Sylar down when he tried to slice her head open. This time it could be argued that since he has her power it wouldn't affect him, but she still could have tried to stop him instead of laying there and taking it. That goes against everything we've been shown about Elle.

Daphne: I like, Daphne, I do, even with her super comic book hair. I'm not too keen with her romance with Matt, but I like her character. I like how she loves her powers, her byplay with Hiro and Ando, and that she is trying to do the right thing.

The romance with Matt was rushed and weird. Matt saw the future, where he and Daphne were married with a kid, and immediately fell in love with her, I guess? I talked to Darcy about this, and she agrees that this doesn't make sense. Unless Matt somehow got future Matt's memories of their history together, why is he magically in love with her?

Daphne was weirded out by Matt, which I like because how else would you react to a man saying you were married with a baby in the future? And then she fell in love with Matt (and, okay, when he isn't annoying me, he is adorable), but it's not the age difference that bothers me but that in a lot of ways their relationship reads less of a romantic one between equals but more like a father chiding his teenage daughter (see their first scene in volume 4), and that is just icky.
What I like about Daphne is that she will use her powers and she will go into danger, and she'll do it with a snarky attitude. She even fought back against Papa Petrelli, even though she was terrified of him, she teamed up with Ando to rescue Hiro, she grabbed Ando and went into the danger zone to save Matt, she got Claire out of there, and we've seen her use her powers to save people, and what does she get for that? Shot in the back with little fanfare, ten seconds after I texted Darcy that I liked her. Like Meredith, I'm hoping Daphne isn't dead because she did die with little fanfare. I also want to point out that they killed one of the few remaining female characters in an episode they bring in a superflous male character (also, Sylar's sidekick couldn't be female? As Elle showed, girls have daddy issue too. Jesus, this show.)

Her death so far seems to be providing Matt with a reason to fight back. Oh, look, another women dying to give a man a reason to get his testosterone on. Fantastic. Hey, Heroes, you might want to buy another fridge; this one is getting full.

This leaves us with three prominent female characters left in the show: Claire with her magic Jesus blood will never die; Angela, who is just too hardcore to bite it; and Tracy, who has an offensive power but wasn't allowed to use it (and, yes, the soldiers had ice resistant cloth, but when Nathan had her dragged away in the last episode, she could have at least tried to resist).
Claire can't die, because she's the goddamn cheerleader, so it's down to Angela and Tracy, and if this show has taught me anything it's this: the women have to die so the men can save the world.


Darcy said...

That is the best picture of Elle evs.

Also this is me closing my eyes and praying that the return of the producers and writers from the first season will pull this show out of purgatory. Also Alan Moore poops rainbows.

Danicus said...

Muscle mimicry is one of the coolest superpowers ever. I would watch MMA bouts and martial arts instructional videos quite a bit, then flip on over to the Olympics and watch every event., this just hit me, even watching movies would help, because you could perfectly mimic the physiological aspects of charm radiating off of actors and actresses.

Jayne said...

There are so many possibilites to explore with that. Especially in how MOnica could use her powers, how that would tie into story lines, but this being Heroes, instead of focusing on interesting things like that they instead try ot figure out if Sylar is crazy or if it's the "hunger." Oh, and let's have more whining from Peter. Goddamnit, show.