This season, or more accurately, this first of two mini-seasons that make up Heroes third year, is terrible. But to put this in context, I love Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I love Rifftrax. I’m subscribed to the How Did This Get Made? podcast. I own Spider-Man 3 on Blu Ray, and I think Diamonds Are Forever is one of the most enjoyable Bond movies.
Yes, Heroes: Volume 3 (subtitled Villains) is a failure. But it’s a noisy, expensive, high profile failure. It’s not a failure born of fatigue, it’s a failure born of over-enthusiasm and a lack of creative discipline. The sort of wonderful failure I have a deep dark twisted love for. It’s a perfect storm of badness, shooting so far beyond unwatchable that it loops back around and becomes insanely fascinating to me.
If you ask me, someone invented the phrase “middle of the road” in anticipation of Heroes. I never quite understood the praise for the first volume, nor could I understand the vitriol for most of the rest of the show. I can only assume that the suckiness of Villains was so profound, it retroactively tainted what came before and continued to resonate through the rest of the series. And yet, I’ve only watched Volumes 1, 2, 4, and 5 the one time, I saw the first episode of the 2015 revival and didn’t feel like going further, and I expect it’ll remain that way. I’ve watched Villains three times, and will definitely do so again.
The first couple of seasons tried to be about realistic characters trying to live their lives, who just happened to have superpowers. Right from the jump, Villains throws that away. We’re in full on comic book territory. Four years into the future, the world has become bleak (you can tell because there’s a monochrome filter over everything), and one character jumps back to change history. But by changing one thing, another character isn’t where she should be, and that leads to the release of a dozen supervillains, which could have even more dire repercussions for the present and the future.
I actually think it’s a pretty strong hook, and the season gets off to a genuinely good start. At first, there’s a great sense of things spinning out of control, but it feels like there’s a certain scope to the season keeping it all in check. But not content with a time travel/dark future/supervillains wreaking havoc arc, the season soon shifts gears and becomes a bizarre family drama about an evil patriarch and his family alternatively aiding and fighting against him (depending on the episode). And THEN the season is suddenly about everyone losing their superpowers and having to go about their business as normal people. When that’s over with, improbably, there are still two episodes left (it’s only a 13 episode arc). The finale valiantly tries to bring it all into focus and wrap everything up, but it’s a hopeless task.
Villains is pure ADHD in television form. It can’t follow through on anything, the story can’t be summarized in any kind of coherent way. I would conservatively estimate that there are about three dozen characters of significance, many of whom with their own storylines, pretty much all with their own separate agendas, which can often randomly change depending on the episode.
I won’t lie, there’s some stuff in here I like. After a season of separation, Hiro and Ando resume their wacky world travels, and some of their antics are genuinely funny. Any time Zachary Quinto gets a chance to go full on evil he’s really entertaining. I’m a sucker for all the Dark Future crap. A lot of ideas and characters and scenes are entertaining, but none of it comes together in a way that makes any sense.
You know what Villains is? It’s this thing.
It’s a TV camel. The result is a mess, but there’s joy in the process. This came out following the long, WGA strike imposed hiatus of 2007-2008, and it seemed like everyone was chomping at the bit to get back to work. But it’s as though everyone had their own ideas of what the season should be, so what the hell, they tried cramming in ALL the ideas. Meanwhile, NBC was funnelling so much money into what they thought would be their flagship show, and a staggering number of talented actors signed up to be a part of this thing. Malcolm McDowell, Robert Forster, Kristen Bell, like half the cast of The Wire. Not even in lead roles or one off guest spots, but as the supporting cast.
What resulted is a season that could only have come from complete chaos. I can’t in good conscience recommend watching it, but speaking just for myself, it’s one the most interesting, bizarrely entertaining seasons I’ve ever seen.
If I Had to Damn With Faint Praise…: Again, the whole butterfly effect thing that’s happening in the first four episodes or so, I think it’s legitimately pretty good. If only the season had run with that for thirteen episodes… But I enjoyed how things went off the rails, so I suppose I wouldn’t change a thing.