'Heroes': That's less than ideal

Christophereccleston_heroes_s1_240A short time ago in this space I quoted Heroes creator Tim Kring talking about his show being one "where s**t happens." That has been abundantly, and happily, the case for nearly this entire season, and even this week, there was some s**t that did happen.

But not, for my taste, quite enough. And I'm not even really sure that anyone's to blame, save maybe the folks who set up network TV schedules so you have to make 22 or 23 episodes a season and stretch them out over eight or nine months.

For what we got Monday night was an episode where what forward momentum we got was incremental at best, wheel-spinning at worst. Call it the Curse of the 13th Episode: Serial shows seem to bog down a little just past the midway point of the season. It happened in the first couple seasons of Lost and Veronica Mars, and it's almost as regular as the ticking clock on 24. And, at least this week, Heroes felt a little sluggish too.

Sure, I was just as excited as you to see George Takei make his entrance as Mr. Nakamura, and to meet Claire's fire-starter of a biological mom (that was recent Nip/Tuck semi-regular Jessalyn Gilsig as Meredith Gordon), and more than a little chilled at Sylar's "How's Claire?" But a couple of final-act revelations do not a full episode make, and the pace of this episode was not up to a lot of its predecessors.

I am, however, grooving on the addition of Christopher Eccleston to the cast. His character (who aptly calls himself Claude Rains) may be a familiar one -- the misanthropic crank/sage who may have something to teach an eager young apprentice, in this case Peter -- but he brings a spark to his scenes that's just fun to watch. He's something of the flip side to Hiro, a guy who's really only interested in using his power for his own rather small ends.

And, though it surprises me a little bit to be typing this, I've been pretty impressed with Ali Larter as Niki these past couple weeks. It seems that she and the Vegas prison authorities have hit on a way to keep her genetic anomaly under wraps: heavy sedatives, which appears to be what HRG and his unfortunate associate were feeding Sylar. And Larter is bringing across Niki's torment, realizing her need to be with her family but not wanting to let Jessica back into the world, really well, I think.

But much as I like Greg Grunberg, the Matt Parkman stuff is not really going anywhere at the moment. I think I understand what the show's writers are doing with the character, showing how these "gifts" can really mess up a regular guy's life, but I'd really like him to find his purpose, quick.

Couple other observations:

  • Mohinder says his dad had identified 36 people with the genetic marker for special abilities. Considering we've now met more than a dozen such folks, that number seems awfully low, suggesting the professor's survey was far from complete.
  • Glad to see, from a story standpoint, that Mohinder is actually trying to figure out what said genetic markers look like and how they function rather than just identify more people. But what does it mean, exactly, to "fix" these anomalies? That feel a little too eugenic-y for anyone else?
  • Liked the subtitled "GULP!" when Hiro saw his dad.
  • Re Micah's use of his abilities for emptying an ATM: It seems clear he gets his powers from his folks, but I guess he picked up a couple other things from D.L. and Niki too.
  • And if we're taking bets on who, based on the teaser for next week, Claire's biological father is, that expensive shirt and hand jewelry looked an awful lot like Nathan to me.

I'm hopeful that, given what else NBC teased for next week, we're in for a return to form for Heroes. And this certainly wasn't a terrible episode -- it just felt a notch or two below most of what's preceded it this season. A couple more like this, though, and I'll be a little more concerned.

What'd you think of Monday's Heroes? Too slow, or just right? And who's Claire's real dad?

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