HEROES – Season 2 DVD Review

     August 23, 2008

Reviewed by Jason Davis

Season two of NBC’s serialized fantasy series Heroes offers much to commend and criticize in a strike-shortened 11-episode run that adds too many ingredients to the mix without ample time for any of them to cook all the way through. Despite the continuation of strong performances from the excellent ensemble cast, year two of the series suffers from an influx of new characters and their commensurate story lines which dilute the rapid pacing that made the freshman season such a refreshing entry in the annals of serialized drama. Thus, because each story can only have a few scenes per episode, arcs like Hiro Nakamura’s (Masi Oka) journey to feudal Japan seem to drag on longer than they should. Similarly, the introduction of Dominican twins Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Alejandro Herrera (Shalim Ortiz) seems to lack purpose for several episodes until a chance meeting with Sylar (Zachary Quinto) in the fourth installment finally heads the newcomers toward the main story.

Despite the stumbles in pacing, the season still has a lot to offer. Oka’s always engaging performance carries the historical Japanese plot with some help from the hypnotically beautiful Eriko Tamura as the princess Yaeko and the always reliable David Anders (with his seemingly contractually required faux British accent) as the legendary Takezo Kensei. Hayden Panettiere, Greg Grunberg and Sendil Ramamurthy continue to prove what brilliant actors they are by mining their characters for every nuance hidden in the script, though Jack Coleman steals every scene as the horn-rimmed glassed wearing Noah Bennet and Kristen Bell positively sparks as the deliciously unstable Elle Bishop (think Buffy’s Drusilla but blond and electrically charged). Stephen Tobolowsky turns in an excellent guest appearance as Bob Bishop, the director of the mysterious company behind much of the show’s conspiracy theories. His role, along with those of Christine Rose (as the Eleanor Iselin-esque Angela Petrelli), George Takei (as Hiro’s father Kaito Nakamura), and a couple of other noteworthy guest stars are key to the season’s “Generations” subtitle as the series explores the previous crop of superhumans and the mess they inadvertently left for their children.

Season Two gets an exemplary DVD treatment from Universal Home Video with every episode presented in a crisp 16×9 transfer augmented by an enveloping Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Each episode receives a commentary – usually a combination of writer or director with an actor or two. Bell is particularly engaging and one laments the fact that Veronica Mars DVDs never took advantage of her ability to discuss the craft of acting and the process of making television. A wealth of deleted scenes vary in quality, but an alternate ending for the season finale “Powerless” showcases how the producers originally intended to end the show’s second chapter before the writer’s strike curtailed their season. There are also ten minutes of footage, mostly focusing on Elle and Hiro, from an aborted episode 12 (as well as one scene from episode 13) that represent an alternative version of the forthcoming third volume of the series: “Villains.”

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