Yeah, yeah, I know. Second season wasn’t as good as the first. The magic’s gone, and NBC’s superhero soap phenomenon, so buzz-friendly a year ago, totally fell victim to the sophomore jinx. Jumped the shark. Whatever.
Except you know what? The second season of Heroes wasn’t that bad. It had its problems, sure, and maybe those problems didn’t bug me as much because I was more interested in Journeyman (which really should have been renewed by those bastards at NBC) and Friday Night Lights (which was renewed — hooray for NBC!), but really, all the hate for Season Two was as over-inflated as the love for Season One.
Back to those problems. The main thing that dragged down this season of Heroes, leading to its precipitous 15% ratings drop, wasn’t so much the way the writers kept the cast separated — Hiro sent spinning back into feudal Japan, Peter waking up in a shipping crate with a bump on the noggin, Claire moping her way through a typically lame TV version of high school — or even the introduction of those melodramatic Dominican twins nobody cared about. Serial dramas are all about obstacles, and creator/EP Tim Kring and his crew came up with a nifty stack of them for his cast and viewers to surmount in the second season.
The problem, however, lay in the pacing. During Heroes‘ first season, it was held up as a wham-bam alternative to the suddenly pokey Lost — an hour in which you could rely on a miniature arc resolving in a good old-fashioned cliffhanger. This time out, the writers were content to let storylines dawdle for weeks, a problem compounded when that nasty old writers’ strike reared its head and the show’s producers were left with a truncated 11-episode run.
As a result, Season Two actually feels like, well, two seasons — the languidly paced episodes it opens with, and the sharper, more purposeful five or six episodes that close out the run. The shift in tone is more jarring when you watch the episodes back-to-back on DVD, too; you can pretty much feel it the instant the folks behind the scenes have decided there probably isn’t going to be a real season finale.
Thankfully, Heroes: Season Two offers more than just bumpy tonal shifts; Universal has compensated for the season’s abbreviated length by stuffing this four-disc set with a number of extras. You get the expected stuff, of course (commentary tracks — one per episode, available on the Web as the episodes aired — and deleted scenes), but you also get a few featurettes, which run the gamut from mostly useless (a network promo for Season Two) to surprisingly interesting (a mock documentary about Takezo Kensei). In keeping with the show’s continued efforts to whet fans’ appetites for new stuff, there’s also a brief rundown of what might have been included in the second season if it hadn’t been for the strike — and an alternate ending for the final episode.
And, of course, there’s a teaser for the third season, containing mild spoilers, as well as a glimpse of the hated Maya. Adjust your expectations for the new episodes — premiering September 22 — accordingly.
All in all, it’s a fair bit of content for your $40 — although, given all the negative reviews and fan whining surrounding the season, it’s hard to imagine this turning into a bestseller for Universal. Diehard fans of the show may proceed without caution. Me? I’m still waiting for Journeyman to make it to DVD.