Heroes interrupted: Volume One in retrospect
DVD Extra: Original Heroes pilot (72 minutes)


A fascinating glimpse into what might have been, the original ‘Genesis’ includes one major subplot and character mercifully excised from the first season, along with some outer onion layers of characterisation.Terror by numbersThe subplot involves beat cop Matt Parkman and a 24-esque terrorist plot.  The character that evolved into radioactive caveman Ted Sprague was originally a member of a Middle Eastern terrorist cell that caused a train accident in Odessa, TX to hijack some plutonium and use it to threaten Mom, apple pie, and other innocent American metanarratives.  He attempts suicide after inadvertently causing his wife’s death from cancer, but is rescued by the rest of the cell and seems to decide to use his powers for good.  ‘Good,’ in the sense of very inconvenient for those in the target zone wishing to remain non-irradiated.  Parkman, controlling non-existent crowds outside Molly Walker’s suburban house set, finds anther cell member under the stairs, and after briefly establishing his schmoe-hood with a terrifically miscast LA twinkie as his wife, quickly parlays his ability into a promotion onto the SWAT team.  In his hero moment, he breaks in to the main terrorist subplot as a black-clad operative, only to realise the leader is proto-Ted, with whom he shares some never-explained history.I might be the only American citizen who finds terrorism fiction painfully dull and inevitably ham-handed, but even if I were a fan of 24, I’d have breathed a sigh of relief that this plotline only survived as the train wreck in which Claire Bennett tests her fire-retardant properties. While it would have been great to have another Middle Eastern lead, making that person a terrorist with radioactive powers wasn’t really the subversion of audience expectation the writers may have thought.  As the first season continued, the threat of terrorism became a background threat, the investigators not the heroes or villains but one more element that keeps potential heroes from using their abilities, for fear they’ll be misinterpreted.  The potential terrorist was re-cast to be reminiscent of Timothy McVeigh, the white, Middle-America Oklahoma City bomber, a character that allowed the plotlines to explore the potential danger of powerful people without also seeming to question the danger of Arabic people in the US.

Parkman: made of fail

Unfortunately, Parkman loses his hero moment.  He becomes the poor schmuck whose ability only adds to his struggles, with more missteps and just plain bad luck than achievements.  His ambitions are lower—to use his brain as a detective rather than earning the sexy SWAT gear—and he nearly loses his place on the force entirely when he’s perceived as a crazy person by impatient superiors.  In both the original pilot and the first season (in which he doesn’t appear until the second episode and remains marooned from the other storylines past the December halftime), Parkman is both very dyslexic and ashamedly hiding it, rather than seeking the assistance he’s legally entitled to.

He’s the sweet guy with potential who comfort eats and insists on taking the path of most resistance, both to prove himself and to provide an excuse if he fails.  The unaired pilot affords him a moment of epiphany, listening to the cacophony of internal voices in a park, after which he confidently grabs hold of his dream and saves the day.  Unfortunately for Matt, the loss of the terrorism storyline (meant to culminate in an NYC terrorist attack rather than splodey Pete?) sent him on a season-long odyssey of humiliation, as the thoughts he heard not only reinforced his insecurity but destroyed his marriage and interrupted his career.  It has also left him tied with Mohinder Suresh as “Character Most Likely to Turn Bad Guy By Desperately Wanting to be the Good Guy.”

Oh, and he became my consistent favourite character on the show.  His bad decisions make sense, and his attempted heroics go awry, but he inevitably clears the path for those who can save the day and unglamorously supports the abandoned afterward.  That’s the stuff.

Micah: thieving wee shite

In another lost plotline, wee Micah Sanders loses patience with waiting on his mother, steals $300 from the purse of her floozy best friend, and hops on a Greyhound toward prison.  His last scene shows the small boy alone, at night, next to the high wall of a jail, assumedly heading toward his father, somehow.

It’s most likely, had this thread continued, Nikki would have shown up as Micah approached the gate, yanked him back by one arm, and given him a shrill lecture on the way back to her plotline of driving from rejection to rejection.  Micah spent much of the season sighing as he was moved from place to place like a cute checker, rarely causing much trouble.  Aside from one clever robbery of an ATM machine, which had no consequences—did DL keep the money to avoid having to fire up his wife’s old internet stripping camera himself?—Micah was just a darling kid whose only fault was demanding his mother and father do a better job of parenting him and maybe act like comic book heroes on the weekends.

I like this shadow on his character better—too young to have a strong grasp on abstract right and wrong, or at least not while fleeing mobster loan sharks, lying and stealing and ready to break out the father he’s sure can protect them.  That’s a boy who’ll grow up interesting.

Isaac and Peter: can we trade?

Isaac Mendez’s story is almost the same as was eventually broadcast, with one large difference—he’s so adamant about resisting both the devil heroin and the evil paintings of the future that come with it that he handcuffs himself out of reach of both needle and paintbrush.  Unfortunately, the sturdy saw is close, and when he gives in—to either his addiction or his need to create—he hacks off his left hand to get free.

Peter is much the same as well, still desperate to have some special destiny, endlessly sympathetic to his cold mother and brother, and generally neglecting his dying patient to make cow eyes at Shaft’s grieving daughter.  Isaac and Peter are parallels in terms of power—one wants, one rejects.  Several episodes later, Peter tries to use Isaac to get Mohinder’s attention, not realising he’s absorbed the ability to draw the future already.

The loss of Isaac’s hand, however, reflects badly on Peter, more so than the broadcasted overdose.  This ‘gifted’ young medic seems to be the pre-royalty Diana Spencer of nursing, ignoring both the frantic girlfriend and the patient bleeding out from a self-amputated hand (as well as dying from a heroin overdose) to stare gape-mouthed at a nearby painting resembling himself in mid-air.  Narcissus, eat your heart out.