NBC's 'Heroes' has been an "interesting" ride so far. The stellar, gripping first season, featuring ordinary people discovering their extraordinary powers, was both intelligent and entertaining, putting the viewers in the shoes of those few facing life changing discoveries. The writer's strike-shortened second season was everything that the first season wasn't, and since season one was all that, this was a very, very bad thing.
New heroes (with new powers) began popping up, but their tales seemed amazingly forced together by the most ridiculous of cheats, rather than connected naturally and seamlessly. The climax felt rushed, and was massively underdeveloped, the byproduct of merely a few episodes worth of build up. We didn't have an obvious villain, rather, half a season handling the fall out from the previous events, concluding with a bullshit "dramatic" new threat that was less than riveting. 'Season Two' ended with a cliffhanger assassination attempt, and from there, 'Season Three' begins, with the identity and motives of the shooter still unknown.
The fine line between family and familiarity has been drawn, as the Petrelli family seems to have expanded, and rifts between the family have hit new highs/lows, while the Bennet clan fractures after years of deception. A familiar face returns, but she isn't who she seems. The most powerful hero, turned powerless, is again on a rampage, but he isn't the most dangerous man the world has to face. Heroes will hunt heroes, while villains will hunt heroes and villains alike.
This season of 'Heroes' takes a new path, as the show is divided into two volumes, with the first half of the season following a story concerning the proliferation of villains in the world (aptly titled Villains), while the latter half of the season covers the hunt for those with powers, making them fugitives (in the also aptly titled Fugitives). The entire season turns on a dime when the volumes change, as the second season showed that taking a full 24 to 26 episodes to tell a tale would apparently be too strenuous to write cohesively.
After the second season of 'Heroes' paraded around like Hannibal Lecter in the first season's mutilated skin, I had nothing but high hopes for this season. Afterall, I thought, things certainly couldn't get any worse, they were almost certain to rebound. Alas, this latest full length season is no better than the previous, occasionally teasing us with great ideas, only to fall back into the same tired rhythms.
Where to begin? The never ending drama of who is actually dead takes on a life of its own, as it seems the show cannot maintain a level of continuity, keeping the dead dead. Long presumed dead characters such as Linderman (Malcolm McDowell) and Arthur Petrelli (Robert Forster) have roles requiring lives that were thought to no longer exist. The return of dead characters is nowhere near as troubling as the continued writing off of characters, as if the world cannot survive having too many living super powered individuals at any given time, much like an X-Men "House of M" storyline.
The entire season falls on its face, due the constant changes, and the immediate undoing of said changes within an episode. In fact, the rallying point (and most famous line) from the first season is utterly negated in the very first episode, leading to the entire Sylar (Zachary Quinto) character lacking accessibility simply by being too damn powerful. The motivations of nearly every character can turn on a dime (as do their powers), and the two seasons worth of character development gets thrown out the window in many of these about-faces. Many likable characters become utterly despicable!
In this season of 'Heroes,' the characters who never had real powers before gain and/or unveil them, while many popular heroes have their abilities conveniently removed when they need them most. The use of prophets using art to tell the future has come full circle, as the talent once used by a junkie, then the power leach, now is used by an African seer (Ntare Mwine as the awesome Usutu), who apparently passes his powers on to the mind-controlling Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), not to mention the cranky Arthur Petrelli. Is this power cursed, or just that damn common?
'Heroes' also makes no attempt to follow the patterns of comic book hero convention. In every comic, the super powered character seems to have a job, another life to maintain, a secret to keep, while in 'Heroes,' characters have their jobs, but then disappear from them for what can seem like months at a time, only to go back for a week or two like nothing ever happened, waiting for their next super-extended vacation. How can they save the world when they can't even maintain a schedule? How do they never get fired? Do they all have the greatest benefit packages in the history of the world? Is that a super power they all share?
Not everything in this season is a disaster, though disasters do greatly outnumber non-disasters . The shapeshifting found in the late episodes was fun, at first, until it became overused and abused. Sylar comes to grips with being labeled what he is: a serial killer, and he receives the same odd treatment real life killers get in Luke Campbell (Dan Byrd), a powered teen who idolizes the villain. This parallel made the show have a better subconscious reality to it, made it more rooted and accessible. Lastly, Matt Parkman and Daphne Millbrook (Brea Grant) have a very fun crossing story that had me pulling for them, much like fans had pulled for Jim and Pam from 'The Office' to get together for season after season (fans, stay tuned for that review!).
While 'Heroes' was quite awful the second time around, at least it kept the pain short and sweet, with a mere 11 episodes, while this season again creates a massive headache, which it sustains for 25 full length episodes, and the very beginning of the fifth volume: Redemption. After this season, 'Heroes' certainly needs said redemption badly.
What is this strange sense of familiarity? It's like I've seen this before...
'Heroes: Season Three' is much akin to the previous two Blu-ray releases, in terms of video quality. Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 encode (at 1.78:1, the same ratio as the television presentation), this season isn't a powerful leap ahead of previous seasons, nor is it left in the dust. It's just more of the same.
Contrast is utterly superb. Colors are very accurate, with skin tones staying true and natural through the entire season. There are some striking primaries. Detail is consistently on the higher end of the dial, with finer facial details always on display, along with some very deeply accented fore(and back)grounds. Stray hairs fly boldly away from nearly every character's mane, and the random reflections in vehicles are stunning. Edges are utterly clean, detail doesn't smear from noise reduction, blacks are rich, and, in late episodes in the season, there are black and white sequences that are fan-freaking-tastic.
Not all is good here, though, as I found a laundry list of detrimental issues that pop up repeatedly throughout the season. While the grain level for the show isn't intrusive, it tends to fluctuate at times, with darker scenes possessing a somewhat overbearing sprinkling. Delineation is far less than respectable; in fact, it's one of the worst parts of this transfer. Motion blur pops up in slow motion sequences, banding rears its ugly head (blatantly) more than a couple times, and due to the enhanced clarity, flimsy special effects look disastrous, with cuts that move around a surface, shaking ever so slightly, with a neon appearance. This list of issues wouldn't be that massive if they were one-time deals, but the fact that they all happen numerous times is telling. One thing to consider, though, is the massive run time of the show (clocking in at just short of 18 hours), so there are far more opportunities for disaster to be had, and since this season doesn't reach that level of negativity, the good somewhat outweighs the bad.
Universal provides an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track for each and every episode of 'Heroes: Season Three.' Just like the video, it's more of the same.
Dialogue is clean, clearly prioritized over every bit of action, score, or special effect, and is very much front and center, with little rear localized dialogue or moving conversations. Surround usage is constant, though slightly underwhelming, as sequences in the Fugitives chapter have wonderful motion effects (and fades) from helicopters moving across the room, but few other effects come close to this amount of activity.
The score is a bit quiet, just like 'Season Two,' easily overpowered by the action and dialogue. High ends scream, while bass provides some nice accents (though no real powerful rumbles or roars), creating a very pleasing, respectable amount of range on display. One thing that really bothered me about this sound mix was a high pitched audio squeal that was present in a few of the 1961 flashbacks, as it was more obvious than the ringing in the Blu-ray of 'Sin City,' and was even possibly intentional for those sequences. All in all, though, these DTS-HD-MA mixes were respectable, though not extraordinary.
There are extras on all five of the BD50 discs that 'Heroes: Season Three' is spread out on. Some features are on every disc, unique to their episodes, while featurettes are spread out randomly throughout the season.
'Heroes' was once an amazing show, but for the last two years, it's been a shell of its former self. What fans were left after the unsatisfactory 'Season Two' may finally find the reason to jump ship with this 25 episode disaster. Shark jumping appears to be a weekly affair, and those not convinced have one thing to consider: Seth friggin' Green ('Robot Chicken') appears for two episodes as a comic jockey, with the super power of being massively annoying, as always. The video and audio for this release are more of the same, but the extras, my goodness, are they extensive! I wanted, ever so much, to be able to steal this season's best line (High five, Turtle!) to describe the season, but really, the only difference between this show and the corpses Sylar leaves behind is the fact that the corpses still have their brains.
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