Heroes Volume One won near univeral acclaim. Now, as we reach the end of Volume Three, the bandwagon has led most reviewers to be hypercritical of Heroes. This is unfortunate, as they are missing a much deeper storyline than Volume One had to offer.
Volume One wasn’t incredibly deep. It had plot twists and surprise, but any amount of analysis wasn’t required. The plot was always on the surface, and any depth was produced via character interaction. As Volume Two proved, moving character interactions to the surface to function as the primary plot (and shifting the storyline to the backburner) doesn’t work for a show like Heroes. Volume Three went back to the winning plot/interaction mix of Volume One, yet reviewers still love to hate it.
Maybe they’re not ready to forgive Heroes after Volume Two (which remains at the relatively high price point of $30 for half a season). Maybe it’s more fun to rip on a popular show than to understand it. Either way, the character developments of Volume Three are not as confusing as the majority of blogs have led us to believe.
Volume Two’s Sylar had an unusually inane story: I’ve got to go on road trip back to New York, since I’ve got so many enemies there. Volume Three’s Sylar appears to waffle back and forth between good guy and bad guy. On the surface, his story this time around is parental issues. But that’s not what this Volume’s about for Sylar. The flashback episode shows us a Sylar at a dangerous crossroads, with HRG and Elle pushing him over the edge to the dark side. Although Sylar places the blame on HRG (and eventually Elle), Ms. Patrelli reveals that she was the one who pushed the Company into making Sylar a killer.
Why was Sylar so obsessed with bonding with a specific Patrelli parent throughout this Volume? His self-definition sits in his creation, and up until this Volume, he has defined his origin tale as the one HRG and Elle put him through. When he found a parental figure in Ms. Patrelli, Sylar redefined his origin tale. As far as he knew, she saw his potential for good, and so he attempted to reach that potential. The reveal at the end of this Volume redefined that, making his quest to understand his potential as that of a hero all the more poignant.
Why kill Elle? For the same reason why he focused so much attention toward the Bennet family this Volume: Sylar’s (villain) origin tale was centered around Elle and Noah. When he lost vision of his parental origin, he had to accept that Elle made him the way he was. Losing Elle proved devastating, but his identity was too wrapped up in the past to make changes to himself in the present. His story seems to follow the Joss Whedon formula: once you kill, it changes you forever.
Nathan’s Coming of Age
Nathan’s transformation was much deeper than Sylar’s, and it seems surprising that NBC would attempt to tell this flavor of story on television. Critics seem confused at his progression from religious zealot to good guy to confused son to bad guy. Since Nathan seems to be the driving evil force in Volume Four, it seems fitting that Volume Three defines his transition from good to evil. Why is Nathan’s story difficult to understand? Volume One displayed Nathan as an egocentric (often dark) character, pushed toward the good side by his brother Peter. Although he hung out with the right crowd, Nathan was never a great hero. He saw himself as “better than”, and easily found himself sympathetic with the power-hungry. Volume Three reveals his close ties with his father, and draws his origin story as a direct product of his father. Nathan was only pulled toward heroism by his brother because his father was out of the picture, and those ties to Peter were due to family loyalties caused by Arthur’s influence.
Early in this Volume, Nathan claimed to be a messenger of God. His beliefs were directly caused by his father (through Mr. Parkman’s mental manipulations) to nurture Nathan’s ego and power-hungry nature. What kept Nathan back was the face of Linderman – he knew Linderman was an evil person (in his eyes, Linderman was opposed to his father). Yet seeing Linderman was crucial to solidifying his loyalties to Arthur’s side, as it brought back his hatred toward his father’s enemies.
Once Nathan realized his father was alive, he quickly sided with his father. This was not a surprising move on his part; Arthur had been manipulating his son to remember whose side he was on. Once Peter and the other “good guys” killed his father and ruined his father’s plans, Nathan had to continue those plans without him.
What makes Nathan a bad guy? His father taught him to blindly follow his beliefs, and his beliefs were placed there by his power-hungry father. Over the course of this Volume, Nathan has become the new Arthur Petrelli with one crucial difference – he believes that he is doing the right thing.