TV Recap

'Heroes': Cast Overrun

The series becomes bogged down with too many characters and too many unlikely plotlines, including Hiro's second childhood, Sylar's good deeds, and Claire's and Tracy's self-analysis

Ali Larter, Noah Gray-Cabey, ... | BLIND ALI Ms. Larter's latest incarnation had to ask Micah who she is
Image credit: Chris Haston/NBC
BLIND ALI Ms. Larter's latest incarnation had to ask Micah who she is

'Heroes' recap: Who are these people?

There's a term that's used in TV writers' rooms — usually in those of sitcoms, but it applies to almost any type of serialized storytelling. Legend has it that it was invented by Hank Azaria when he was on the Fox sitcom Herman's Head. He would often, as that legend had it, ask the writing staff, ''Who's carrying the idiot ball this week?'' In other words, which character was doing the incredibly stupid, completely atypical thing for the sole purpose of advancing the plot? You know it when you see it.

Mohinder Suresh had been Heroes' undisputed master of the idiot ball. But not this season — even with his back-asswards injection of an untested gene-modifying serum. No, for the third season of Heroes, Hiro is cradling the idiot ball like a newborn.

After the ridiculous stuff he did last episode — in case you forgot, it involved opening a safe he was explicitly told not to open and letting half of a formula that ''could destroy the world'' be stolen by a superfast rave chick — Hiro once again acted like a man who hadn't once saved the world from Armageddon, endured a doomed love affair, and buried his father. Rather than conduct himself like, you know, a mature human being, he minced around a movie theater trying to stop the Haitian from getting the other half of said world-destroying formula, while flirting with his hyper-nemesis, Daphne.

But, you know, let's not let Hiro's inanity derail our discussion of another episode of Heroes that was way better than last season but still not all that great. Why? Here's my theory: There are just too many damned characters. For ships and diddles, let's list them, shall we?

Claire Bennet. Noah Bennet. Hiro Nakamura. Ando Masahashi. Matt Parkman. Nathan, Peter, and Angela Petrelli. Adam Monroe. Elle Bishop. Mohinder Suresh. Sylar. Maya Herrera. Micah Sanders. Dead Linderman. Molly Walker. Monica Dawson. Niki/Jessica Sanders.

That's 18 people, all main characters who've carried the bulk of at least one episode. And we're not even talking about the peripheral players who've bounced in and out (or the new iteration of Niki, Tracy Strauss). And, really, that's too many for any one show to serve. As a result, we never truly get to know any of these people — with the possible exceptions of Sylar, Noah, and Peter — because there just isn't time.

''One of Us, One of Them'' had two real stories to tell: the collision of the Evil League of Evil Escapees and the new power couple of Noah and Sylar, and Claire's coming face-to-face with the reality of her assault (thanks to some sweatbox time spent with her mother). Both of those stories are eminently worthy of 43 minutes of television — I'd have happily indulged the writers and producers as they explored the ramifications of either of those strands. How great would it have been to live with Peter for a bit as he's stuck in a hostage crisis, inhabiting the body of one of the robbers? Why not take the opportunity to let him work his way out of that situation by himself? Show us how smart he is without any powers. Explore what it must be like to be trapped inside the body of one of the worst criminals to walk the face of the planet. Don't end the promising ''villains on the lam'' story just as we started it.

NEXT: Claire's mother sweats out the truth

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