Simone Deveaux painting
Heroes interrupted: Volume One in retrospect
1.02 Don’t Look Back

I really wanted to give Peter a break.  He was a nice enough leading character the first time I watched these, after all.  But…he told Nathan he’d been standing on that roof all night.  And when we first see Isaac and Simone in his studio, she tells him they’ve had a hard night.  Ah man…Peter really did stare vacantly at the painting of himself while the medically untrained girlfriend tried to revive her dying boyfriend, before dashing off muttering something about his destiny—leaving her to nurse both her dying boyfriend and dying father ALONE.

That trust fund baby is such an ass.

Angela Petrelli: maybe Freud was right

One of the more reliable combination spoiler/speculationsI’ve found (coming from showrunner interviews that Peter has used his mother’s power on screen) is that Angela Petrelli’s ability is related to Hiro Nakamuru’s.  She can see the future and past, and even be there to some extent (leaving her physical body in the present moment), but can’t affect it while she’s there.  She can only alter and manipulate the present in an attempt to change or cause what she sees.

In this sense, she could be the sort of monster she accuses Matt Parkman of becoming in the second season, using his powers to manipulate others in order the cause of his personal greater good.  Peter, who needs others’ attention and approval at all times to have any sense of self, would be more vulnerable to and damaged by the constant nudging than Teflon Nathan.

This is all supposition, of course, but there’s an oddness to the way she convinces hospital-bound Peter that he is delusional by telling him of his father’s “suicide”:

“He committed suicide.”
“What?!”
Same flat tone: “He committed suicide.”  Come on, be manipulated already…

If this is the way they go with her character, it could be quite interesting.  On the other hand, I’m still holding out for something completely undignified, something Hulk-like.  She’s always so pulled together and dignified that I’d love a scene where, after, say, battling Sylar to a standstill in some physically powerful way, she huffs in annoyance and starts the process of rebuilding her perfect WASP updo.

Simone who?

What did I remember of Simone?  Father owned the building where much of the show’s action took place.  Had a gallery full of Isaac’s prophetic paintings, most of which were sold to Linderman.  Started off dating Isaac, briefly dated Peter, shot and killed by Isaac.  Seemed to know everyone (in her services as plot enabler), none of whom noticed her death/disappearance.

She’s more interesting now, the token ‘normal’ who wasn’t obsessed with abilities.  Her interests and her worries are mundane: her father is dying slowly, and she’d like some damn support.  Instead, her boyfriend and the hospice nurse demand she prioritise their self-inflicted dramas.  Like most female characters on tv, she lacks a life—complete with friends—outside the male leads, and is thus narratively stuck hanging around these drips hoping they’ll reciprocate and, unsurprisingly, is only loaded with more demands.  And, not to mention, left out of the adventures, while she buries her father, alone.

Unfortunately, the arc requires her to be the resistor in the circuit of plot, as often the obstruction as the enabler.  She’s a successful (if born to privilege) businesswoman who expects support and respect from those who want to be close to her…in this group, she’s the freak.

Mr Bennet’s daughter

Ah, the days when Mr Bennet lacked context, backstory, even a first name…one of the first season’s great hooks was his interaction with his adopted daughter, Claire.  Was he a monster, a cynical experimenter, or even—least likely of all—a loving father?

Claire inhabits a well worn character slot, the teenage girl who is potentially powerful, but vulnerable not only to the revelation of her abilities but to the usual pains, parents, and sea changes of adolescence.  Her father attempts to manipulate what facets of her identity she explores and develops—while her latter-day “cool” Mom encourages her indiscriminately—from both altruistic and selfish impulses.  Her power threatens the fragile identities of both.

Not only is Claire a teenager, and thus not only free but expected to explore alternate personas—from cheerleader to hellraiser to krelboyne—she is also adopted.  Her strange ability is something that is unexpectedly part of her but upsets her “real” identity and life, as her own DNA has the potential to do.  Her present image as a smart, popular girl with an average and loving family is more a surface than she realises, but at this stage she only worries that her ability to heal from any injury hints at something horrible, or wonderful, in her past and biology.

Bennet thwarts her efforts to explore that past and her ability in order, he says, to protect her from leaving the relative safety of childhood and facing the adult world.  And, incidentally, from a life of torturous experimentation at the hands of his employers.  Mostly, though, he’s protecting himself, his sane, bland family life, and his unexpectedly cherished identity as a dad.

Parkman: now with more fail

Matt Parkman is blessed with suck.  After failing the detective’s exam, again, the bored traffic cop begins to hear voices in his head that originate as other people’s thoughts, and immediately uses the ability to find the terrified little girl that the dozen or so detectives think has been kidnapped or killed.  He’s a hero, and goes on to become first a detective with a spotless conviction record, then commissioner, governor, and eventually the guy in one of Isaac’s Oval Office paintings.  He knows what everyone within earshot (so to speak) is going to do and how they can be persuaded to go his way, so there’s no stopping him!

Except, actually, there’s no non-psychic way he could have known where the little girl was hiding or the name “Syler,” so he instead turns from bored traffic cop to oversharing nervous schmoe to serial murderer suspect being roughly handcuffed and searched.

Part Xander, part object lesson, Parkman is the ordinary person who demonstrates to all potential heroes why they could do worse than liming their extraordinary potential in mediocrity like layers of playground mulch.  Those who witness—or in particular, are show up by—a hero’s unexplainable heroics will more often ignore Occam’s razor than favour of a convoluted conspiracy theory that leaves the dangerous person safely institutionalised, whether by Homeland Security or the men in white coats.

Even worse for poor Matt, his arc is defined by one of the first thoughts he hears, from a female superior: This guy is worthless.  In a slight change from the original pilot, Matt’s internal filter sifts away others’ calm, complimentary, or even relieved-at-seeing-a-cop thoughts, but turns up the volume for the dismissals and insults that feed his deep insecurity.

His power is paralleled by his severe dyslexia, which he refuses to reveal even when he is legally entitled to assistance or alternatives.  Parkman may not prove to be the pointiest pin in the cushion in later episodes, but he’s never shown to truly lack intelligence; nevertheless, he considers his problems with processing written information to be a secret stupidity that needs to stay hidden.  His dyslexia is only a component of his deep insecurity, and his telepathy becomes another.

Matt Parkman

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