Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Brief Interlude: HEROES and CHUCK Fall Finale Thoughts

So I need to sit down and do a little London recap, and I'm hoping to do that soon. For now, check out Facebook or MySpace for many cool pics direct from the UK.

But in the meantime, some quick thoughts about HEROES and CHUCK, which each had their fall finales last night, and thanks to the Strike, potentially their last episodes for the forseeable future.


- Don't get me wrong - I was entertained well enough by last night's Heroes Volume II concluding chapter. But in the end, it was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, and ultimately a strong reminder that this season of the show has yet to show any signs that this is the same series that in the past delivered iconic pieces of TV like "Company Man."

For one thing, there's no denying that Heroes became something of a cluster this season. Of all the numerous new characters introduced, almost none were worth a damn. It's a similar problem to Lost: Season 2, although at least the Tailie characters had POTENTIAL. The Telemundo Twins were annoying and cringe-worthy from the moment they were introduced, and it says something that, by far the most satisfying moment in last night's ep was when Sylar mercilessly gunned down Maya, who proceeded to collapse onto the ground with the same awkward expressions of pain that we had to endure all season thanks to her and her brother's repetitive, meandering, and worthlessly drawn-out storyline. On one hand, it's kind of pathetic that the show had to kill off these characters as coldly and abruptly as it did, almost out of self-realization that they needed to thin the heards. On the other hand, at least they had the self-awareness to do so.

A similar storyline that ultimately went nowhere was that of the immortal Adam. First of all, this character is nothing more than a weak-ass ripoff of Batman villain Ra's Al Ghul. Secondly, his motivations and psyche as a villain were never convincing, never properly explored, and felt ripped right out of Liam Neeson's dialogue in Batman Begins. What could have been a compelling character turned into stock villain #579. The worst part is that so much time was spent on Adam this season that the setup seemed to be there for SOME kind of twist or unexpected wrinkle ... and yet, there was nothing. Adam's storyline simply went from Point A to Point B without a single moment of surprise or originality. Totally disappointing.

Now, easily the most intriguing storyline going into this season was that of the Company conspiracy of which Adam had been a part. In fact, this volume of Heroes, you might remember, was even entitled "Generations." So, um ... what happened to that? We still have little to no idea of who the original Company founders were, how they got together, or even what their powers are, exactly. Instead, The Company became more ambiguous than ever, and even though hints were given that they had some benevolant side to them, they were mostly just a generic cabal of old people doing bad things. In last night's episode, I felt there was a chance to really move Heroes forward as a show by having Claire move to expose the Company and begin moving towards a direction where at least a few of the heroes work openly and make the public aware of their powers - now THAT would be an interesting direction for the show to take. Instead, we get a last-minute twist in which HRG re-joins the Company, a turn that came with only the weakest of justifications on his part. Why take the show's most interesting character and simply bring him back to square one?

Then there was the Micah / Nikki storyline, in which Nikki appears to bite the dust. Here was one more long, drawn-out storyline that seemed to see little advancement after so much time was spent on it. All the drama about Nikki having the virus (the virus, which basically turned out to be one giant ball of nothing / deux ex machina in a box) basically amounted to nothing. And then, I think every geek worth his salt at least had a twinge of anticipation that Micah's cousin might go the route of comic hero / vigilante. After so much build-up, she simply gets kidnapped by some thugs and left to die in a burning building? Okay ...

Meanwhile, the show just seems to be lacking internal logic or continuity. Last I checked, Peter Petrelli could: walk through walls, read minds, and fly. He could have used power A to simply walk through the door and grab the virus at Adam's behest. He could have used Power B to check on Adam's trustworthiness instead of blindly following him all this time. And I mention Power C because, well, you'd think that with Nathan getting shot at episode's end, it wouldn't be all that beneficial to the Company, since the guy standing right next to him could also fly, stop time, and shoot lightning bolts from his hands ... and I'm sure that, you know, following an assasination attempt, the press would be a bit curious to interview ol' Peter.

And how about Sylar? Molly, who can track anyone, is right there in the room, and Mohinder and Elle just let him get away? How far could he have gotten in the 5 seconds since he was being pursued? Again, I don't mean to nitpick, but it just seems like Heroes is afraid at times to write its characters' powers in a consistent, creative, and internally-logical manner. Maybe my favorite moment of the series thus far was in Company Man, when HRG blocks Greg Grunberg's mental probes by thinking in Japanese. Right there, HRG took on a whole new level of badassness. I don't know if there's yet been a moment nearly as creative on the show in terms of characters using or reacting to super powers.

So again, there were some fun moments last night. A lot of that was due to some great actors stepping up and elevating the material. Zachary Quinto as Sylar has been awesomely evil of late, and he stole every scene he was in in last night's ep. Masi Oka as Hiro continues to be eminently likable, and you can't help but root for the guy when he dares to confront Adam and seeks to avenge his father. Kristen Bell has been a great addition to the show, and has overcome a questionable Company storyline to create one of the show's most intriguing characters, and a great potential rival for Claire. And Jack Coleman has really been the show's MVP as Noah Bennett - even when his character has lacked compelling storylines, or been forced to make out of character moves like last night, Coleman always brings a great intensity to the role, and HRG is the one character whose next move is always much-anticipated. A lot of that is thanks to Coleman.

So what we are left with is an episode that in many ways simply hit the reset button. In some ways, that might be a smart move, but it's still not really an excuse for such a messy and underwhelming collection of storylines, that never delivered a truly satisfying payoff. I got a little excited when we saw the "preview" for Volume 3, enticingly entitled "Villains." Then I realized it was simply Sylar getting his powers back, shades of the ending to X-Men 3. No new big villain, no new twist, just the visualization of a plot point we all knew was coming since the season premiere.

If anything, Tim Kring and co have created a wonderful sandbox of a universe with which the writers can play in. Some, like Brian Fuller, have taken the toys of the Heroes-verse and done something great with them. But so far this season, no one has stepped up to the plate, and there's been nothing that screams "hey, watch this show!" I think we all want to root for Heroes, we all want it to be great. So come on guys, give us something to cheer for.

My Grade: C+


- While the first few episodes of Chuck didn't quite live up to the amount of enthusiasm I initially had for the pilot, I can't deny that for several weeks now, CHUCK has been an an absolute roll. With the show's own little mythology kicking into high gear over the last few weeks, things have really picked up. I loved last week's Bryce Larkin-centric episode. After that action-packed ep, this week's more mellow affair at first seemed like a bit of a let-down. But by episode's end, I was once again caught up in all of the glorious emo-adventure that is Chuck.

I just have to say right off the bat - Adam Baldwin's expression when his prized car got blown up, near episode's end, was absolutely classic. I was seriously just dying of laughter as his expression subtley changed from anger to weepy sorrow in a matter of moments.

Meanwhile, the show has done a surprisingly great job of moving the Chuck - Sarah relationship forward without runing it by having them in a full-blown relationship or at total odds with each other. At times, Chuck's pining for Sarah got a little too OC-ish, but at the same time that's what's so fun about the show - the way it seamlessly blends all of The OC's emo soap operatics with action and adventure and intrigue.

I don't think I need to go on too much about CHUCK. In short, it's evolved into one of the most enjoyable shows on the air, and has some of TV's best characters at the moment. Thanks to everyone behind Chuck for bringing it and improving on the formula nearly every week - I look forward to, hopefully, a lot more Chuck to come.

My Grade: A -

Alright, that's it for now ... check back soon for the LONDON recap, in which I'll mention my new fav British show, an oddball comedy by the name of ... THE MIGHTY BOOSH!

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