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Heroes 3rd Season Premiere
--Review By Jason Phillips--

More isn’t necessarily always better seems to be the lesson learned by the NBC drama “Heroes” during its critically panned second season. The show, which was taken to task by critics and fans alike for its forced introduction of numerous new characters and slow simmering plot during its sophomore season, seems determined to return to the form of its more popular first season. The third season opener is relentless in it’s efforts to keep the focus on familiar characters doing familiar things. Within the first twenty minutes, Sylar is once again stalking Claire, Mohinder is fiddling around in his lab, Hiro is on another epic quest, the Petrelli brothers are at odds, and the world is once again on a collision course with an apocalyptic future.

The return to first season form is a welcome relief on most fronts, but the “Heroes” season premiere also seems to pack too much set-up into its two hours. The dialogue is weighed down with heavy-handed, awkward exposition of the “why are you doing this,” “well, let me explain it to you as clearly as possible” type that seems to exist only to make sure the audience is spoon-fed firm footing for shifts in tone and characters. A more mannered balance between the first season’s slam-bang aesthetic and the second season’s precise, fussy storytelling might have served the third season premiere better.

Of course, any particular season of any television show isn’t necessarily defined by its premiere. And the approach chosen by producer Tim Kring and his writers certainly establishes the stakes for the third season. There seems to be plenty of room for characters to evolve and change throughout the season, which is also promising. Flash forwards show us a nihilistic, murderous Claire, a regretful and scarred (literally and figuratively) Peter Petrelli, and a betrayal of Hiro at the hands of his heretofore loyal ally Ando. Action in the “present day” also shows Mohinder flirting with his dark side, a new member of the Nikki/Jessica multiple personality club, and just the slightest beats of a heroic, or at least merciful, heart within Sylar.

New characters also make their first appearance in the form of a speedster who is set up as a foil to Hiro, a group of super-powered villains, and a quirky spiritual guide/prophet encountered by Parkman. But the introduction of these new characters is done much more cleanly and subtly than in season two. With the exception of Daphne the speedster, the new characters are mentioned only in passing at various points, and only take anything resembling center stage near the end of the two-hour premiere.

In setting up its third season, “Heroes” does, however, show a tendency to fall back on some tropes that are beginning to show their age. Parkman’s spiritual guide also happens to draw prophetic images, hearkening back to the character of Issac, who seemed to die in season one precisely because the device of prophetic images had served its purpose. And a revelation involving Ma Petrelli kind of leaves you with an “oh man, here she goes again” vibe.

On the whole, though, the third season of “Heroes” seems to be getting back to basics in the best sense of the term. Hopefully the red flags the episode raises will turn out to be nothing worse than necessary bumps in the road on the way to getting the show back on course.


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