Monday, October 13, 2008

Duality in HEROES

Thinking about Sylar being made into a heroic/sympathetic figure and Peter being made more villainous got me to thinking about a few things that are - amazingly - making the last week more tolerable for me.

What's the big symbol of the season so far? A world being ripped in half. Symbolically, that's been happening for a lot of the characters who are having their lives changed - the world being ripped apart.

Now here's my theory - we all know that a hero is only as good as their villains. Sherlock Holmes needs a Professor Moriarity. And no matter what flaws the hero may have (Holmes was a drug addict and something of an arrogant prick), there are lines they can't cross if they are going to remain a hero, no matter how much their flaws may push them toward crossing the line.

I believe that is what we are seeing with some of the characters this season. The two halves of the world are a symbol - not only of the disaster to come - but the two halves of the characters. I believe that we are seeing how some of our hero's flaws could potentially push them over the line, even as their worlds are being torn apart.

Take Hiro, for instance. Hiro is probably the most purely heroic character on the show. He's idealistic and has a strong sense of honor with the moral fortitude to back it up. And yet, for all of this, Hiro is remarkably arrogant in the sense that he is always certain he is doing the right thing.

How is that dangerous? Well, how many rulers committed acts of genocide because they thought they were doing the right thing trying to unite a divided land under one flag? How many people serving under those leaders supported unspeakably corrupt groups because they thought they were doing it for the right reason?

Hiro has always had this problem. He never considers the consequences of his actions and that he can write off any misdeed as necessary because he is The Hero. Consider the later half of Season One where he plots two separate thefts because he thinks that getting this one special sword will restore his faltering powers. Granting that he is doing this for a higher cause and to avert the deaths of millions, it never occurs to him for a moment that he might be wrong and that perhaps his problems come from a lack of confidence. Consider also, Season Two, where Hiro mistakenly travels to the past and turns a drunken mercenary into a mass-murderer through a rather base - if unintentional - act of betrayal and then spends the rest of the season trying to correct his mistakes, even while writing off Adam's actions as an over-reaction.

Now, in Season Three, Hiro's arrogance is getting the better of him again. Faced with a future where his best friend appears to kill him, Hiro has become increasingly dickish towards Ando for no reason other than "you're going to kill me!" It never occurs to Hiro - despite Ando's suggestion of several plausable reasons why he might be mistaken - that his eyes might have been deceived or that he might be able to stop Ando from ever being put in a position where he might ever feel compelled to kill Hiro.

Peter is going through a similar story arc where his greatest strength - his capacity for loving others and his desire to help people - are being turned into his greatest weakness. We know from the show that Future Peter became a terrorist of some sort and that - having failed to bring about change in the Future of Four Years From Now, he traveled back in time in order to prevent his future from coming about by killing (or at least wounding) his own brother in order to preserve the secret of super-human existence from the general public.

While it isn't made directly clear in the show, the on-line comic revealed that Peter's crossing the line from vigilante to terrorist came after he aided in the bombing of a genetics clinic. He claimed that he foresaw the evil that was coming from the lab's work and that he considered the deaths of 200 to be a lesser evil than the deaths of two million that were coming. This incident is also apparently what sours Claire on "Uncle Peter" and finally pushes her over the edge into cool, emotionless killing.

That is where Peter is now and Angela said as much. By trying to make things better, Peter is only making things worse and he has to learn the lesson that - despite his abilities and no matter how much he wants to do so - he cannot always save everyone.

Claire is responding to her recent mind-rape by Sylar in a similar fashion, wanting to learn how to hunt villains like her father. Claire claims she is doing this because she doesn't want anyone to suffer like she has and because she believes that evil must be punished. But - as she admitted to her birth mother Meredith as the two trained together - she also wants to hurt Sylar and - by extension - everyone like him who thinks their powers allow them to live outside the rules.

This isn't the first time that Claire has turned into an angel of vengeance. You might remember that in Season One, she tried to scare some sense into a rapist football player. Originally, she was content to suffer in silence following her own assault but the revelation that other girls had been hurt and the knowledge that The Powers That Be would do nothing to punish a popular football hero inspired her to take matters into her own hands. Nominally, Claire wanted to see justice done in some fashion but it seems likely that there was some small component of rage there.

It goes for the most of the other main characters too. Mohinder is becoming a living example of curiosity killing the cat... or turning the cat into a man/cockroach hybrid. Tracy was ready to kill herself rather than face up to her powers and her accidentally killing a man. Nathan is being manipulated into seeking high office in the name of accomplishing a greater good... AGAIN. And Matt was starting to abuse his power before he got transplanted into Africa and has already been warned of becoming his family-abandoning, mind-manipulating father.

Or it could just be - as my friend Keith suggested - that when all the characters leveled up after Season Two, everybody took the d20 feat Improved Dumbassery.

Improved Dumbassery - You are blessed with a certainty that everything you do, no matter how stupid and/or wrong, is the right thing to do.

Benefit: You automatically succeed at any opposed Diplomacy check meant to influence your opinions. You never have to make Wisdom or Intelligence Checks against doing things which are so intrinsically wrong and/or stupid, that only a yogurt would consider them. Examples include being a dick to the friend who you think is destined to kill you in the future and injecting yourself with an untested formula you think might give you super-powers.

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