I doubt there could have been more hype surrounding a season premiere of a show than what was enveloping Heroes second season premiere. Fans waited what seemed like forever for it and by the time it made its way to airwaves, any chance of the show meeting expectations was slim. The reaction was predictable; fans were either angered with the direction the show was moving or simply bored with the stories that were taking place. While it did fare better as it went on, fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouths which resulted in serious digestion problems when the series impromptu finale arrived.
Since we last saw Heroes, things have changed….drastically. With Hiro back in time, the Petrelli’s split up and scarred for life (in more ways than one) and the other heroes all dispersing and either in hiding or working together, the second season of Heroes mixed things up drastically from the first season formula. With plenty of twists, turns and intriguing plot points throughout the season, fans were treated, albeit reluctantly at times, to all-new characters and situations for the characters they grew to know and love, which resulted in an infusion of new talent in the show, all the while causing fans to question just where the season was headed.
I watched each of the episodes of this season together with a group of friends and I can’t recall a single time when we were all satisfied with what we saw. A few of us were die-hards, while others were just casual viewers. I feel somewhere in-between, a fan enough of the show to tune in each week (and make a point not to miss it), but not one big enough to delve into the myths of the show or discuss in depth about what occurred each week. Having said that, I was pretty much flat out disappointed with every episode of this bunch, and I’ll likely provide you with several paragraphs as to why.
Some fans were upset with the direction our “old” heroes were taking and with the exception of Hiro, I’m inclined to agree. Hiro was one of my all-time favorite characters of the show, but it was his interactions with the others that made him so enjoyable to watch. His interactions with Kensei and his girlfriend were incredibly boring and very rarely was I ever actually impressed by anything he did. It was such a very disappointing storyline that seemed to stretch on forever (sadly enough, while it would have resolved within a short time during a “normal” season, the writer’s strike slammed this one down to eleven episodes, leaving us with little-to-no Hiro time). Hiro was just the tip of the complaint list, however, as he eventually righted himself by reuniting with Ando.
The biggest downside of the season came with the introduction of Alejandro and Maya. While I joked around at first that they were just boring and getting in the way of our original characters coming back into play, it soon became evident that…yes, that’s all they were doing, With the eventual course their characters took during the season, they seemed all but completely worthless and the sympathy that Maya’s character attempted to squeeze from viewers was simply misplaced, as all her character did was moan about how she keeps killing people. Ok, that’s a valid excuse for whining, but this is a show full of heroes who are doing the impossible and while someone worried about a power they can’t control is serious, it is ultimately annoying when all they’re doing is grinding Sylar into the ground and making him boring to watch (yes, they made that possible. Bravo Alejandro and Maya).
Moving on we have Nikki once again forming an annoying plot around her and Micah; she’s an interesting character, but it feels like she’s so underutilized. She’s reduced to little side stories that don’t really make any impact whatsoever on the big picture of the show and, in fact, her entire story could probably be ripped out of the season with little problem. That was always an issue with her introduction in the first season; she simply seemed to be off in her own world and it would very rarely intersect with anyone else’s story. Granted she and Micah separate, but the eventual reunion isn’t a surprise and comes in a completely unrewarding fashion. Although the introduction of Monica, a character who can perform things she sees on TV and cousin to Micah, was quite enjoyable; hopefully we’ll see more of her character down the road.
The series finally received a breath of fresh air when Kristen Bell joined the fray as “Elle.” Perhaps it was just because I wanted another pretty face on the show (and resident pretty face Hayden Panettiere was caught up in an annoying plot with some half/geek guy who somehow made her feel like crap the whole season…such a strange story that was), but Elle’s introduction was really something I was looking for and Bell didn’t disappoint. She added that extra little volt of energy to the show, maybe because her character shoots electricity, but whatever it was she really lit it up. Her character was just fun to watch and her dialogue and mannerisms were a highlight to the show, as it lifted the veil of seriousness and depression that seemed to have descended upon the show.
Of course all of these horrible episodes and plot points I’m pointing out whizzed right by when watching this set on Blu-ray. Week-by-week and waiting for them to air really killed whatever little momentum the series had this season. Without a doubt it suffered from Lost syndrome and I should have known after writing a line like “I hate seeing great shows peter out in their second season outings (Lost, I’m looking at you).” in my last review that I’d end up with something like this. Still, there are enjoyable elements and once the season starts to wrap up, especially in its final four episodes, it starts to pick up pace and get back on track; there are weak moments to be had, sure, but it doesn’t keep the series from being fun to watch. Not to mention it plays out better on the home video format, so you don’t have to deal with pesky breaks in-between episodes unless you need to.
So hype killed the season from the start, but that wasn’t the only culprit. The writing really was haphazard this season and while it was all planned for something big, the writers’ strike really hindered what this season could have been about. More than any other show on the air, I think Heroes suffered the most from the strike, as it was knee-deep in production on three episodes simultaneously when the strike started, forcing everything to be wrapped up and changed in the final episode.
Season two of Heroes is still worth watching, but there is a definite level of dissatisfaction to glean from it. There were too many factors stacked against it, but now that we’ve suffered from Lost syndrome and received a weakened second season, maybe it will follow the plane-crash dramas path and follow it up with a superb third season. Let’s hope I can quote that line in my season three review of Heroes. Recommended.
Maybe Universal didn’t want you to know that there weren’t any new heroes introduced in this season and hoped to attract buyers with a repeat of the cast from the first season, as not only do we have none of the new cast anywhere on the outside packaging, but we also have season one stylings for the Petrelli’s. Nikki is front and center for some reason and Sylar’s resigned to a floating head spot. I didn’t even have an issue with this packaging until I started to notice these things…very strange. In any case, the set arrives in packaging similar to the first season: digi-pak trays with a tray for each disc (four total), with images from the show behind each of the trays. There we get a look at some of the new characters this season, but Bell is absent from there, as is the organization she works for, so…not sure what’s going on. Very weird construction for these sets, but aside from the oddities the layout is fair; the reverse side of the trays lists disc contents and the episodes contained on each. A Manual for instructions on how to use U-Control is included as well.
I don’t know if it even needs to be said after the outrageously good transfer the first season received, but Heroes second season looks amazing in HD. Presented in a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer and paired with DTS-HD Master Audio, at the very least Heroes will “wow” you from the visual and audio standpoint. Plenty of bass and surround work is included in the DTS track, but a copious amount of detail is spread across all eleven episodes on this set. Each one looks fantastic, with grain, facial detail and everything just looking fantastic on the screen. I haven’t been too impressed by movies lately, but television shows have consistently impressed me to no end lately. Clearly the Blu-ray format is going to benefit from TV shows if studios continue to put this much effort behind the sets.
Moving onto the extras for the set we’ll first tackle the standard extras that you’ll find on the DVD set. First up is an array of deleted scenes (all in standard definition) available on each disc, although the staggering amount from the first season is not repeated here; instead only a few episodes are given deleted scenes. Disc one houses “Four Months Later” (4:34, two scenes), disc two with deleted scenes on all four episodes included (18:15, fourteen scenes), disc three has “Cautionary Tales” (1:24, two total) and finally the fourth disc has the highlight of the set: “Powerless” Alternate Ending (17:58). This alternate ending drastically changes the landscape of where the show would go. I’m not using the word “drastically” lightly here—it literally would’ve changed the entire direction. This is more than just a simple dialogue change or character tweak, these are major events changed in light of the writers’ strike. I was astonished by just how much there was here to digest and while the alternate ending is made up of sometimes finished sequences and, at others, unfinished VFX and even storyboards, you get the full feel of what the series could have ended on. Honestly, with the way it did end (rather lackluster), I would have preferred this cliffhanger ending to what we got; it would have been more memorable, certainly. Following the Alternate Ending is “Inside the Alternate Ending of Generations” (10:58), a discussion with Kring, Loeb, and Alexander, all of whom discuss the differences between the two endings and why they went with what they did (i.e., writers’ strike). At times they sound disappointed to have left behind this massive story shift, but others they sound happy that they get to move on to something else. Following this is “Untold Stories” (12:13), not just deleted scenes but scenes filmed for episodes twelve and thirteen of the series. This seems like the type of stuff that the DVD/Blu-ray format was made for—great extras that you would otherwise have no option to see (although I’m sure they’ll find their way to the internet at some point).
The rest of the standard extras are your standard featurettes. On disc one we start with “Heroes Season 2: A New Beginning” (14:38, 1080p), a discussion of the season itself and where they wanted to take it. It’s nice and has a bit of depth to it, but since the season was cut short, this can only delve so far into the storylines that they actually got to. Next is “Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint” (23:49, 1080i), a “history” of Kensei, told as if it were something off of the History channel, complete with drawings and battle depictions. Moving onto disc two we have the very cool “Genetics of a Scene” (23:14, 1080p), where we see four different scenes profiled and hear from the directors and actors involved with each. It sounds like typical backstage stuff, but it’s a lot of fun to watch and it gives us a nice array of input from the technical, directing and cast to paint the full picture of what it was like to work on these scenes (and, really, the show). Disc two wraps up with “The Drucker Files” (8:32), another faux-type of video where we see discussion on some online based story points about a character who was never on the show and only in the online comics. A bit more back-story would have been nice, as I thought I had simply not remembered his character from the series before I realized where he came from.
Disc three finds Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art (2:01) and on disc four we get a series of NBC.com Featurettes (3:46). Oddly enough the DVD version has a sneak peek at the third season, but either I’m blind or this doesn’t contain that bonus. Very strange…
On the Blu-ray side of things we have the “U-Control” elements which give us the Hero Connections that return from the first set and show us how each of the characters are connected at any given point. It was cool on the first season and remains fun to play with here and something that obviously had a lot of time put into it (it can’t be easy figuring out where the characters are at any given point—this isn’t 24, where that’d be required).
Of course the other Blu-ray exclusive are the cast and crew picture-in-picture commentaries. While the DVD set contains all of these commentaries in audio form, as with the first season, we receive them in video form here. The commentaries participants can range, but it’s always a wonderful mix of actors and writers/producers on the tracks, offering up witty banter with one another to some solid tidbits on their time spent on the season. These feel slightly less “special” since these have been available on the website since the season aired, but it’s nice to have them regardless. I would have liked something a little more retrospective here, like maybe a second commentary on the final episode with cast and crew thoughts on the sudden change, but I guess the “Alternate Ending” featurettes will have to fill that void by itself. Another cool element about the commentaries is you can adjust the picture-in-picture volume via the audio options menu; not a real “bonus” per say, but a cool little option that I’m glad is there. Certainly makes for the more difficult-to-hear pieces easier on the ears. The BD-Live content on the first disc has yet to be enabled, so I can’t review that at this time.
Overall a solid set with some fantastic extras. The lack of Season 3 preview is disappointing, but I suppose that can be found online with little effort. In the end this season may be a bit on the weak side, but it’s still entertaining and as light as it was, I’m still looking forward to what they have in store for the third season. Recommended.
Heroes: Season 2 arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on August 26th.