On second seasons…Posted: September 25, 2007
Continuing my recent experience with entertainment, I found last night’s Heroes’ to be an ambivalent experience.
Few of the character arcs really caught my eye. The plot of the episode was plodding and failed to engage me. In a way it was much like the Heroes pilot, that too failed to engage me. It was not until later that I really came to enjoy the series; where things “clicked” if you will. I enjoyed the middle 1/3 of Heroes a great deal, it was the beginning and end (especially the disappointing finale) that I found very over-wrought and unengaging.
The only two character arcs I see going anywhere interesting this season is the Noah Bennett/Suresh “let’s take down the company” plot and the Parkman/Molly “evil is coming back” plot. I think this is less because of the writers’ plotting and characterization skills and more about the performances of Greg Grunberg and Jack Coleman.
The biggest disappointment of last night was where it looks like they are taking the character of Peter. There is nothing more annoying to me than amnesia plots. Particularly ones that last more than an episode. Once you’ve watched one or two Sci-Fi shows you’ve just about all of the amnesia episodes you’d ever want. (Because remember folks, Sci-Fi writers are contractually required to write amnesia episode at least once)
We spent much of last season watching Peter (metaphorically) find himself and its disappointing that we’ll have go through this again (in, perhaps, a more literal manner).
Second seasons are fraught with difficulties for shows with successful first seasons. Your fans are already familiar with the characters and their back-stories, more or less, and thus you can’t get away with dwelling on back-story too much. Second seasons should be all about taking characters forward in new directions, pushing them into new, exciting, and dangerous places. Following this principal can lead to absolutely amazing TV and leave a show in a stronger place. Examples of such success stories include, The Sopranos, West Wing, Farscape, and Buffy.
This is not always easy for a show’s writers to pull off. It can lead to disasters and leaves lots of opportunities for missteps.
Now there is what one might call the “Lost impulse” which is where a shows creative team will introduce a bunch of new characters and attempt to bypass all of the problems of second seasons. By introducing these new characters the writers can spend time building them up and not have to worry too much about pushing the original characters too hard or in too new of a direction. This can work, of course, but is fraught with as many dangers as it is trying to avoid.
New characters can add fresh blood to a show and revitalize a dying plot, and so forth. But they can also alienate an existing fan base that could not give two shits and a fuck about these new people. They want more development with their old favourites.
All of this is to say, Heroes has the deck stacked against it this season. Will the creative team be able to push its characters forward? Or will the creative energies that drove the writing team last season stall out and Heroes end up as another “could have been”?
One can not really tell from the plodding, “let’s set the table” premier. But based on the mid-season improvement of last season, I am willing to give Heroes enough rope to hang itself.