Earlier this week boasted the return of one of my favorite shows, Heroes. And when I say favorite shows, I mean the show that has so much going for it, but has really only had a single good season, and that was the first season. Heroes has certainly caught a nasty bought of the sophomore slump, and then some, for a lackluster season/volume 2 (Generations) and an only slightly better story arc that made up the third volume, (Villains) and first half of season 3. Heroes is now into its fourth major storyline, and it seems like the creators have finally realized what was wrong with the show. Too many heroes, too much time travel, too many unnecessary and pointless storylines all going every whichaway until they reach the last handful of episodes and things come together at the finale.
Volume 4: Fugitives opens some time (a couple months) after Villains ended, and we see that Nathan Petrelli has really gone to the dark side as a new Senator heading up Homeland Security. As Annalee Newitz points out in her review for io9.com the political side here is much behind the curve. The senator is saber-rattling, talking about threats to the nation, and while everyone is looking towards the old standby, terrorism, we know it’s not. We go further, to the point where our favorite Heroes are captured, drugged, placed in orange jump suits and sent off to a remote air base where they’re being transported somewhere else.
Science Fiction has always been heavily dependent on politics and national events for their storylines. The rebooted version of Battlestar Galactica could not have happened without the events of September 11th, and it would seem that we’re now seeing the repercussions of the Guantanamo Prison into the genre, as the heroes are dragged from their homes and detained, to be sent off who knows where. This isn’t the first time that we have seen governmental types taking control of capes when a couple of lawmakers realize the truly destructive nature that super-powered beings can present to the civilian population at large. Marvel Comics did it with the Days of Future Past, and again with the Civil War story arc just a couple years ago. The storyline is also touched upon in Watchman, which the general public will get to see in a month or so.
As Annalee, and most likely other viewers, mentioned, this feels behind the curve, better suited for the political events two years ago. I agree, but I have to wonder if this storyline was conceived of, at least in raw form, earlier on. Indeed, given the general feeling of the country in the months after the election of the Obama administration, which has signaled a sharp turnaround from Bush Administration policies regarding POWs and governmental transparency, the episode doesn’t feel as relevant, although as long as the Guantanamo Prison is in operation, it will remain so. If this had been the second volume, the numerous complaints about the show just wouldn’t exist.
This episode is in stark contrast to the prior two volumes of the show, and hearkens back to the original season. Season one took the concept of the superhero and brought it to everyday levels. Heroes weren’t people who were walking around in spandex bashing comical villains over the head and sending them to jail; they were everyday people who had powers, struggled to find their identity and their place in the world, something that is easily identifiable to most everyone. The following volumes were essentially mere momentum, with little to identify with. Fugitives represents a departure from that trend, and seems to reset the story and direction of the series. The episode feels stripped down, stark, to the point, while clearly defining the entire theme of the upcoming storyarch, while bringing in a foreboding sense of direction for the show. Writers from Pushing Daisies and Battlestar Galactica are in on the show and it shows. This new arch is back to a practical, tangible problem, one that is rooting in tangible and recognizable problems that viewers can relate to. This is what the show should be, and I really hope that this means that the show is back on track, that we will have a solid story arc that will restore this show to the levels of quality that we know it can achive.