Heroes: Steps Forward and Back

**SPOILERS for Heroes season 3**

Heroes season 3 has just started in the UK (3 episodes in).  Purtek has written before about its issues with female characters in her articles Heroes: Do Better and Heroes Season 2: You can still do better; the third season has kicked off with a couple of half-steps forward but some big steps back.

All New Ali Larter:  Nikki’s apparent death at the end of season 2 really was her death, but it turns out she has a twin (or possibly triplets).  This twin, Tracy is a New York politico looking recruit Nathan for her boss’s campaign; she seems to be good at her job (plus), but supplements it by sleeping with her boss (sigh).  Her power is a niftily represented freezing ability, which first manifests by accidentally killing someone.  Obviously freaked out by this (I can understand that), she is more proactive than Nikki in trying to find out what’s happening – and so far, she has continued to do her job at the same time.  So despite the sleeping with her boss thing, I think she’s a step forward.

On To Elle.  Purtek asked, “See, what I would ask here is why the writers feel that a woman with an interesting power is inevitably *not* capable of taking on Sylar.”  With Elle, they finally treated us to a woman who can take on (and in fact takes down) Sylar.  Neat.  They immediately twist it into a failure though, since the battle takes place in the Company’s holding facility, and Elle’s blast disabled the electronic security systems, freeing four other baddies who are “as bad or worse.”  In the icing on the cake, Elle is fired and *Sylar* recruited to hunt the four down.  Step back.

Enter Daphne.  The new female character is Daphne, a speedster introduced as a foil and nemesis for Hiro.  So far she’s been using her power for theft and personal gain, so she’s definitely on the villain half of the equation.  It looks like she’s in it for herself rather than to impress or get over a man, and it doesn’t seem like she’s a murderer or world-threatener; plus she is in full control of her ability and quite happy to have it thankyou very much.  So I think she’s a step forward; though I fear that Hiro may end up Showing Her The Error Of Her Evil Ways.

Dark Claire.  Claire joins the list of female characters defeated by Sylar when he corners her in her house and takes her power.  Her power being what it is, she survives (though for some reason she can’t regenerate her skullcap until Sylar replaces it).  In response to this, she becomes more proactive in the use of her power, and in villain-hunting though her father cautions her not to.  In the inevitable future-disaster scenes, we see that she’s turned evil, and it’s hard not to see the two connected.  So because of one man, she defies another, becomes more active, and turns evil.  Step back.

And The Rest.  Angela Petrelli has ascended to leadership of the Company and main manipulative supervillain status; given how interesting she is, I’m prepared to call that a step forward.  Monica looks to be written out, so apparently her story did indeed end with her failing the first time out as a hero, betrayed by the very comic that symbolised her power; step back.  Nana looks written out too, without ever having received an interesting story or a name; step back.  Maya is still around, still angsting, and while she has better control of her ability, the only active decision she’s made so far is to shag Mohinder as soon as he finds a way to give himself powers; ok, I’ve seen Mohinder too, but still, step back.

So that’s 3 steps forward and 5 back.

That’s to say nothing of the shafting of the black characters.  As I said, Monica and Nana are apparently gone, and Micah is reduced to a bit part in one episode.  In their place we have “The African” (he doesn’t haven’t a name yet either, as far as I’ve made out) – he’s played well and gets good lines, but he really is the platonic ideal of the Magical Negro trope – it seems as if his whole life has been leading up to the point where he can give Matt Parkman a destiny dump.  And one of the four aforementioned escapees is Knox, a literal scary black man, who derives super-strength from terrorising a bank full of mostly white folks.

Last year, Purtek said “You can still do better.”  And you can.  So why aren’t you?


  1. sbg says

    All in all, it sounds like my instinct to turn it off 20 minutes into the premiere and never return was a good one. Ugh, this show. I wanted to love Heroes so much, but I was already on the fence by the end of S1, S2 was like a train wreck and S3 couldn’t sustain me for long.

  2. SunlessNick says

    I agree with your instinct; I’m going to give it a couple more episodes, but it’s definitely on probation.

  3. SunlessNick says

    I made a typo: “hard not to see the two unconnected” should be “hard not to see the two connected.”

  4. Mecha says

    Yeah, I’ve been having trouble with it too, for many of the reasons you mention. Claire even gets a moment where it looks like she’s going to start taking on her problems, and then _her mother_ nearly tortures her into admitting that she wants to fight solely to get revenge on Sylar. Female hero? All about the men.

    I’m really hoping Daphne does not go slap-slap-kiss either. She’s been one of the breaths of fresh air and competence in this new season.

    And on the black/female characters front… well, it’s still only minorities that stay dead. As now we’ve had the resurrection of a young white dude which ALSO brings back an old white dude!

    And oh my god, the woman that got fridged 5 seconds into Sylar waking up, sacrificed to his hunger? What? WHAT? That one just made me stare. I’m praying that my distractedness means I saw that wrong.


  5. says

    Yeah, I’ve given up on Heroes. I stuck it out through the ‘look at the Big Bad Future That We Must Change’ episode (gee that sounds familiar), and discovered that while Stay-at-Home Dad Sylar mildly interested me, I was disgusted by how much time in the future was spent showing how our female characters that have the NERVE to be proactive about shit, inevitably go EVIL. Or are duped into being evil because they did not stay at home with their babies. Or do nothing interesting (i.e. get married).

    So yeah. Bye-bye Heroes. You needed to do better Season 1, I gave you all of Season 2 to try….and when you decided Season 2 was a failure, apparently forgot about the few strides you had made. I would be sad, but I don’t care anymore.

    Instead I am watching The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It is also rife with time-travel and some strong women! It can also do better (seriously why are none of our future resistance fighters women? John Connor should be one of the least sexist military men ever seeing as how he was surrounded by the paragon of female badassery his whole childhood)….it still has that potential Heroes lacks.

  6. Torri says

    I really want to like Heroes… I really loved watching season one despite it’s flaws because it was an interesting show that didn’t speak down to the viewer… But this whole season reeks of darker and edgier.
    Two characters I really liked because of their optimism and do-goodery are being turned into ass holes for the sake of drama (Peter and Mohinder), the last episode I saw *spoilers* Hiro STABS Ando for no good reason and I missed the last episode so I don’t know if that was all a trick/illusion or what because if they say he really did stab Ando then it’s into the waste paper basket for these new scripts.
    The whole female character roles thing is leaving me want to hurl as well… argh

  7. SunlessNick says

    Hiro STABS Ando for no good reason and I missed the last episode so I don’t know if that was all a trick/illusion or what

    It was a trick (and it was a trick Ando was in on). A pretty small mercy in the midst of everything else, but no one deserves to go through life thinking Hiro killed Ando.

  8. Legible Susan says

    Other criticisms still apply, but half-way through the latest I’ve seen (the one where you find out how the stabbing was faked), I started really liking how they’re writing the women characters now (the ones they haven’t totally forgotten about, that is, i.e. the white ones – grr). Go Sandra!

  9. SunlessNick says

    Their writing of Claire and Sandra has shown a marked improvement; also, I’m liking the return of Meredith (Claire’s biomother for the non-obsessives).

    I like Tracy much better than Nikki; she’s been much more proactive, and has already kicked more ass with her powers. But she’s still hanging around with the Petrellis, and meaning that Nikki’s (black) family are still chucked into the narrative bin.

    At least they gave the African a name (Usutu). But now they’ve ripped his head off, just when he showed promise of being used as more than a Magical Negro.


  1. […] Heroes: Steps Forward and Back | the Hathor Legacy (tags: heroes heroes.season.3 feminism spoilers) […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *