Heroes, Season 1 Part 2 Review

The problem with reviewing a set like this, the second half of a season with a single story arc that lasts for the entire run of episodes, is that it's impossible to say very much about it without giving away the plot, which is, contrary to my usual manner, something I would rather not do here. That, unfortunately, is rather the concern that I have with the second half of the first season of Heroes. Not that I can't give massive amounts of plot away but that the rather sweet little diversions of the first half of the series, such as Hiro's meeting with the waitress, go the way of most of Sylar's victims, being largely forgotten and not mentioned again.

The main criticism that one can make of this second half of the first season of Heroes is that it stops being fun. Granted, with the exception of Hiro and Ando, it was never very much fun to begin with but once they agree on their quest proper, what little humour there was in the piece starts to drain away. There is a slight tale of them being involved in a heist in Las Vegas but too much of their time is concerned with tying up their involvement in the story. Similarly, Claude the Invisible Man (Christopher Ecclestone) shines in a couple of episodes but quickly goes the way of most of the minor characters. He disappears, literally. When Hiro meets Hiro, having jumped five years hence, the happy-go-lucky time-and-space traveller finds that his future self is rather a dour and serious figure who lacks any sense of fun. Watching the show, I know how he feels.

Unfortunately, Heroes becomes more of a chore in the second half of the season. Should Keanu Reeves ever lose his mojo for his trademark look to camera - the one that makes him appear both confused and mightily impressed, as suitable to watching a card trick as it is to realising he is The One - he should look to Peter Petrelli who, over this series, has mastered it with ease. Few people, with the possible exception of Tony Blair in his first term in office, have been granted quite as much power as Petrilli but who then failed to do anything much with it. The story of Heroes, in spite of its, "Save the cheerleader!" focus, is really that of Peter. Those of Niki Sanders, Micah, Clare Bennett, HRG, the Haitian and so on are mere decorations on the story of Peter Petrelli and though he's not an engaging lead, he's not half as much fun as Hiro. Even Malcolm McDowell, though offering the star turn of the series, isn't quite as impressive as he could have been. Certainly, there are moments of menace but the series never gifts him the Bond-style, "And this is what I've been doing with my time..." speech that he so demands. He's up to no good but so too are very many people in Heroes, it's only that the series, to retain an air of mystery no doubt, would rather not let us know why.

I will say this, though, and will do so within spoiler tags so those who haven't seen the end of the series can avoid seeing the text...

The following text contains spoilers. Click and drag over this box to view.
...the ending isn't quite the revelation that I had imagined it would be. Perhaps it's the problem with the right way to end a story that has had to deal with so many characters but too many of them were left on the sidelines while Hiro, Peter and Sylar confronted one another. Even the identity of the 'exploding man' wasn't so surprising. After all, it could only have been Ted, Sylar or Peter but by early in this set, it was clear that Ted was in control of his power and was being reformed within the story. That left Sylar and Peter but the former's, "Boom!" at the end of Landslide made him rather too obvious a choice, which left Peter Petrelli. Again, no surprise, given how Heroes really is his story. Nathan was written as a crooked-politician-who-will-come-good from the very beginning so the manner in which Heroes concluded was, to these eyes, something of a disappointment.
However, there's been much, much worse than Heroes and while it wasn't, in the end, any better a show than The 4400, which also ought to balance its drama with a few more laughs, it's certainly been a reasonably enjoyable show over the past months. It's sustained this viewer's interest far more than did Lost and, in its final moments, sets up the start of a second season, or Volume 2 as the series would have it, very nicely having something of the Quantum Leap, "Oh boy!" as well as a continuation of the story of this season.



Transfer

This being the second part of a two-part release from Universal, the following text is generally a reprint of this section from the first half of the season. There is not very much wrong with this release. At four episodes, typically, per disc, there's little on these three discs to trouble the encoding of the picture. They're certainly sharp and retain the darkness in the picture as seen on the BBC's broadcasting of Heroes but the picture is generally that bit better than it was on digital terrestrial or satellite, as you would well expect from the extra bandwidth afforded by DVD. However, with a HD-DVD elsewhere in the world, it could be very much better and though there are some very good-looking scenes, notably those where there is a clear sense of style, this is just a cut above being fairly ordinary most of the time.

There is a choice of two audio tracks (and English subtitles), being English DD5.1 and DD2.0. Both are good, notably presenting the dialogue clearly and separate from the ambient soundtrack and Wendy'n'Lisa score. There isn't a great deal of use of the rear channels on either track. Certainly there's some but only moments in passing, such as a sound effect or the score threatening danger for the heroes, but it's the clarity of the track that is its highlight.



Extras

Audio Commentaries: Perhaps they could only begin recording these once the entire series had been filmed but, oddly, unlike the commentary-free first half of the series, this box comes with a commentary for every episode. Not quite doing this for a living, I'm not actually very keen on commentaries, even less so for those that accompany box sets of television shows. It isn't, as you might think, time that's a factor in this, although that is something of an issue, more that as I've found with the commentaries on the CSI boxes, they don't actually say anything interesting in one commentary, never mind twelve. There are exceptions. Those on the recent Doctor Who boxset were good fun, as were a few on the Robin Hood set and those from Ronald D Moore on the Battlestar Galactica sets are probably the best out there but, mostly, they're a chore.

At times, there's a palpable feeling of desperation as to who they've dragged into contributing to these. One can understand Tim Kring appearing in the commentary for How To Stop An Exploding Man but Andrew Chambliss, his assistant, on 0.79%. On which he's joined by Tim Keppler, assistant to producer Dennis Hammer? Granted, that's a fairly low point but of equal concern over these commentaries are those in which the contributors take a half-time break only for one of them to excuse themselves and be replaced by another. On The Fix, actor Greg Grunberg opens the episode with Hayden Panettiere only for her, at the half-way point, for writer/producer Natalie Chaidez to take her place. Mostly the recordings are fine but, at times, appear to have been done in the men's room with echo making some of the contributions inaudible. For the full list of contributors, please see this original news piece but Grunberg, Tim Kring (in his one appearance) and Zachary Quinto are all welcome contributors, less so the individual writers and directors who are not at all concerned with the overriding story in the series, more their own contribution of one episode. None of the commentaries are that interesting, it being a true fan who would plough through all of them.

The Stunts (10m21s): Stunt coordinator Ian Quinn is our host for this, showing some terrified-looking actors preparing for the stuntwork on the show. Quinn, though, looks fairly fearless throughout and is an engaging host for this feature, explaining how some of the stunts were done for the screen and, backstage, revealing the secrets of his trade.

The Score (8m55s): "I was dreaming when I wrote this...so forgive me if it goes astray!" Lisa Coleman was the keyboard player in The Revolution, Prince's backing band through his run of greatest albums, in which she was joined by Wendy Melvoin as guitarist. Wendy was referenced in the, "Little girl Wendy's parade" in the guitar break in Kiss and it's they (and Morris Day and Jerome Benton) who lounge about backstage while acting Prince off the screen in Purple Rain. Although, to be fair, so too did his slinky guitar, his motorbike and Apollonia's breasts. After a series of middling albums, they're now best known for scoring films and television shows, including Heroes. Here, they sit in a recording studio with audio engineer Michael Perfitt and play various cues from the soundtrack to reveal the sound of the show, telling of their influences and how these are integrated with their own songwriting and Perfitt's mixing of the audio into what we hear in each episode.

Profile of Tim Sale (11m24s): This, aided by clips from the show, profiles the artist who created the paintings featured in Heroes, apparently created by Isaac Mendez. Actually, there's rather too many clips from the show and almost as much Santiago Cabrera (who plays Mendez but who doesn't paint a thing), which leaves Sale popping up occasionally but never actually saying very much other than that he's very glad of the exposure that Heroes has given him.

Finally, there are sixteen Deleted Scenes but rather than being presented as a single extra on one of the discs, they are split, Northern Exposure-style throughout the set with some episodes getting less than half-a-minute of Deleted Scene while others are pushed to two or three.

Film
6 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
7 out of 10
Extras
6 out of 10
Overall

6

out of 10

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