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by Paul Waldowski
It's the mid-season break for most shows, so now is a good time to look back and see how things have gone so far.
I think what pissed me off most about the show was the complete disregard for pacing and characterization displayed by the writers. For some reason, they've decided that every show must have flashbacks, whether or not those flashbacks have anything to do with the character's current plight. But why have flashbacks anyway? They're a fine device at the beginning of the series featuring a bunch of strangers on a plane that had just crashed on an island. It's natural to explore who these people are and where they came from. The flashbacks also provided a nice foil for whatever was currently vexing the character, but now they just get in the way of good character development and bring the show to a screeching halt as soon as you hear that whoosh. We already know who these people are and they're associated foibles. Why can't we concentrate on what's happening to them now? I mean, if they keep with the damned flashbacks long enough, they're going to have to start flashing back to the first season. Just drop it and get with moving the plot along.
Speaking of the plot, it's nice to see that the writers are working on geologic time scales now. Perhaps in a couple of million years, we'll find out why Locke was in a wheelchair and perhaps be given a clue about identity of the man-eating black cloud known as Lostzilla. Meanwhile, please enjoy episode after episode of Kate, Sawyer and Jack locked up by people evil enough to stage mock bunny executions. Oh, and please welcome two new generic characters whom no one knows or cares about, yet are treated as old friends of the established cast. Let's call them Ken and Barbie. And now let these two plasticoid dunderheads jabber on about nonsense while one of the most interesting characters on the show is almost killed by a polar bear and then finally beaten to death by an angry cloud of gnats. Yeah, that's a recipe for success. By the way, with the death of Mr. Eko, the only known surviving character from the Tail Section plotline is Bernard. I guess that whole storyline was a waste of time after all.
It should be no surprise that I don't plan on watching Lost anymore. Well, maybe I'll watch the season finale, since that seems to be the only time anything actually happens on the show. Maybe they'll kill Ken and Barbie.
While Lost languished in bunny killing hell, BSG speeds down the road so fast that if you blink, you might miss something important. BSG began with the remnants of humanity living under the occupation of the Cylons, who decided to change tactics and not kill everyone this time, but just decided to make their lives miserable instead. I actually thought that they were going to spend most of this season on the planet and slowly build up the Resistance storyline for a satisfying end season finale, but unlike Lost, the writers aren't bereft of creativity and decided to put this part of the story to bed in four episodes before speeding along to the next new storyline. Meanwhile, back on the island, Jack and Ben exchanged meaningful looks at each other.
Speaking of the "Resistance", what makes BSG great is how they can change one little word and completely throw your perceptions out of whack. The audience obviously identifies with the humans, so their sympathies lie with them. Since Our Heroes are currently under the occupation of an evil force, we naturally cheer them on as they fight back against the aggressor. Here's where synonyms and their connotations come into play. When Americans hear the word "Resistance", they tend to have romantic notions about French or Polish freedom fighters resisting Nazi occupation. The word has a positive meaning. But the writers decided to start calling our plucky heroes "insurgents". Insurgents? Wait a minute, that's what we call the people in Iraq who are fighting us. So if the Cylons are calling it an insurgency and we use the same word, then that would make us...oh, I see what you did there. By simply exchanging one synonym for another, the audience is forced to see the battle from both sides: as Occupier and Occupied. We want to root for the humans, but they're using the same tactics that our real world enemies use and we despise. We don't want to identify with the Cylons because they're Evil, but they're having to deal with the same things that we have to deal with in real life, so it's hard not to sympathize with their situation, even though we never want to see ourselves as an Occupier. We like to think we're doing those people a favor, but the Cylons thought they were doing the same thing, too.
It's those little tweaks that make this show so enjoyable to watch, along with the most amazing scene in televised sci-fi ever. Of course, the fleet's left New Caprica behind and Baltar's being alternately tortured and having threesomes, so things are back to normal. BSG's mid-season cliffhanger involved the Plug of Uranus or something. Who cares? Adama wants to nuke the planet from orbit (it's the only way to be sure). We have to wait a few weeks before we can see how he managed not to do it.
My favorite new show of the season. If you want to wash out the taste that Lost leaves in your mouth, just watch this show to cleanse the palate. It's putting on a clinic in good storytelling. I'm glad it's popular, because shows I really, really like tend to get canceled pretty quickly.
The great thing about Heroes is that it doesn't dwell on mysteries. It introduces questions, but it answers most of them and moves on to new things. That's a sign of a confident creative team. Lost keeps milking out The Mystery because that's all it's got. The writers on that show obviously don't have anything else, because they're afraid to reveal everything and move on. It's either that or they're trapped by Formula. At any rate, Heroes just keeps plugging along with a good ensemble cast and interesting storylines, but it's still the first season. Origin stories always make for good fare, but once the Heroes are established, it'll be hard to maintain that sense of discovery that currently makes it so appealing. Very few movies or TV shows in this genre make a successful sophomore transition. Spider-Man 2 is the only real success that comes to mind.
But why focus on the future when the present has so much to offer? Especially one that offers us Hiro Nakamura, the stand-in for every teenage boy who wished he could do neat stuff and be a hero. Hiro's genuine enthusiasm and sense of mission really make this show. We've already caught a glimpse of future Bad-Ass Hiro with a sword, so seeing how he goes from excited guy who can't control his powers to a katana-wielding bad-ass with a perfect command of the English language will be interesting. The best line of the season is when the Mopey Guy tells Hiro that he met future Hiro who had a sword. Hiro's reaction is priceless: "I had a sword?" Turns to friend: "I had a sword!" I think any number of geeks out there would've reacted the same way and that's what makes this show so fun. You can see yourself in a lot of these people because they're not lawyers or millionaire playboys. They're like us and people we know.
Take the Cop for example. Here's a normal looking guy living a normal life with normal problems. He's a little overweight, he's dyslexic, and his wife's cheating on him. Oh, except he didn't know that until he discovered that he could read people's minds. If that weren't enough, he's now trying to track down a serial killer who likes to go around killing mutants. Despite all that, the character himself is likable with or without the powers.
As for Schizo Chick and the Politician: meh. Schizo Chick's story just never caught fire with me. She was great during the initial webcam stripping thing, but it was all downhill from there. Her She-Hulk alter ego isn't all that great, either. There was that slight ray of hope when her husband caught teh Kitty Pryde and escaped from prison to come find her. They duke it out until he finally channels his inner Mola Ram and Kali Ma's her heart, but instead of ripping it from her chest, he just lets go as she collapses on the floor. She's alive the next episode. Damn. The Politician's a dick, but over the course of the season you can see why he's a dick and why he resents his power. But I think he'd be a dick with or without his abilities, which happen to include deep-dicking Schizo Chick in Vegas.
So there you have it, a quick recap before diving back in to the second half of the season, which should feature Hiro fighting a T-Rex with a sword, Starbuck getting drunk and fighting somebody, and Jack exchanging more meaningful glances with Ben.
Paul really wants that "I Killed A Fucking T-Rex" stare.