Thursday, October 22, 2009

True Hero

With Heroes seemingly becoming my own personal Trending Topic this week, I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss something I've felt since the end of this past summer: That the once acclaimed NBC series should take a page from the latest season of True Blood.

The critically praised second season of True Blood was unique in the sense that much of the cast was kept separated for virtually the entire season. Sookie and Bill were in Dallas, most of the time with Eric, dealing with bureaucratic vampire matters (yes, you read that right). Jason was with his church group (yes, you read that right too), Lafayette had a separate arc with Eric, and Sam, Tara, and Andy had generally unrelated story arcs revolving around Maryann. About three quarters of the way through the season, Jason was united with Bill and Sookie, and Sam and Andy's stories intertwined. The episodes leading to the finale were almost like a Seinfeld episode as all of the individual characters and their misadventures came together. Everybody was back in Bon Temps and attempting to control the chaos that had gradually erupted throughout the season.

And while the finale itself didn't quite feel like the climax I was expecting, the season as a whole was marvelous. It was actually very reminiscent of the first season of Heroes (the finest one of them all, according to most fans). The relatively large cast were mostly set apart into pairings (Claire and HRG, Nathan and Peter, Hiro and Ando, Niki and Micah, etc.), with these couples eventually merging with others to create smaller groups (Bennets and Petrellis, Nathan, Niki/Jessica, and Linderman, Hiro, Ando, and Isaac, etc.) And, much like the instance referenced above, by the end of the season the stories converged for a climatic battle.

This season of True Blood was 12 episodes. If Heroes continues the model they followed last year (with one season equaling two Volumes), then this is certainly a fair comparison, and not an apple and oranges situation.

Of course, I'm not one of the people who feel like Heroes needs to copy what they did when they were at their peak -- they just need to recapture that magic. Despite their faults, at the moment they seem to be doing a relatively good job at that (thus far, the central stories are more or less independent, but are beginning to intermingle).

And for what it's worth, I think season one was so successful because people genuinely cared about the characters. Much of that is lost, due in large part to the uneven writing and sometimes inconsistent character behavior. Yet this season of True Blood made me like virtually every character significantly more than I had before. Being separated from Sookie did wonders for Sam's character, in my opinion. Instead of being a lovesick puppy (pun intended), he was a supremely loyal, kind hearted and heroic man. Set apart from everybody else and forced to find himself, Jason grew astronomically from the intolerant sex fiend he was portrayed as during season one. And Eric -- who managed to pop up at least once in the stories of Sookie/Bill, Sam, Jason, AND Lafayette -- proved to be the real highlight of the season.

Is it too late for Heroes to rediscover that spark that made it so successful? I certainly hope not, but if they're open minded enough to realize they might need a little inspiration, might I suggest checking out HBO's On Demand station?

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