by Racialicious guest contributor David Zhou
As Volume Two of the Heroes saga nears its end, the plot lines come together and the series develops a climactic peak. But at the same time, gone are the opportunities for the writers to tell backstory, and while this is good for simply the quality of each episode, it gives the show a lot fewer opportunities to slip up with things like representation and stereotype. But who was counting anyway? Oh right, we were.
In this episode, Adam, Peter, and Hiro all look for a virus, albeit for different reasons. Mohinder Suresh proceeds in his lonely medical missions before being confronted by an old villian, accompanied by Maya but not Alejandro, who is the newest victim to Sylar’s wrath. And in the meanwhile, the Bennets mourn for their not-so-dead father… moments in which Hayden Panettiere displays her best acting yet this season. (Okay, you might disagree with me there.)
Two recaps ago, I told my deep discomfort with the portrayal of the as-yet-unnamed Haitian, but I missed one thing. I don’t know the science-fictional precedent of his eclectic collection of superpowers, but somehow we must add one more to his many abilities: super-hearing? I say this because from season one, he and Claire have a relationship that has stemmed from a friggin’ windchime; when she needs someone to turn to, she just needs to hang up a special windchime and then expect the Haitian at her back door immediately to console her fears. In this episode, as Claire grieves for the loss of her father, she is tempted to hang this windchime once more to ask him to erase the memory of her father’s death. This character is even less whole than we had thought… I’d like to think that in addition to his power-negation and memory-stealing powers, he has also teleportation and super-ears, but instead he seems continually like just a house-elf for the Bennets and the Company. And this is a problem. (Please note that he wasn’t shown in this episode – this is just a remark about another reminder of this issue.)
This week we also return to the Dawsons in New Orleans. After Monica attempts to steal back a medal won by D.L., she’s caught by a gang that, besides being paid for arson, steals backpacks from little kids. Granted New Orleans is still depicted as a broken city with rising crime, but the men in this gang here fulfill very specific archetypes of the urban criminal. Specifically, these gang members do happen to be black men decked out with chains, toting guns and enacting violence upon the good. This stereotyping ties into a much greater discussion about how the criminals that these men portray have made a mark on the mainstream consciousness, but I’ll stick to the small things here. In this show, it is apparent that no effort was made to avoid or qualify this kind of typecasting at the levels of plot or representation. I can just imagine how casting was like.
And lastly, as we begin the hunt for this pandemic-causing virus, deception and coercion thrive in the plotlines of Heroes. In which case, it’s interesting to note that, well, all of the dishonest, deceiving, and generally bad characters are white: Bob, Elle, Noah (in a way), Adam, Sylar. The characters of color are generally all genuine and good, for reasons entirely inexplicable. Sorry, but I just had to make this connection. Perhaps it means nothing.
To read past Heroes recaps, click here.