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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Heroes: Season 4 (Blu-ray)
Heroes: Season 4 (Blu-ray)
Universal // Unrated // August 3, 2010 // Region A
List Price: $79.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 1, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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Yeah, too late for that, Hiro.
"You're not a Butterfly Man; you're an EVIL Butterfly Man!"
-Hiro Nakamura, Heroes

There was a time, as fuzzy and distant in the rear view mirror as it seems these days, when Heroes was one of my favorite shows on TV. It started life as a series about ordinary people coming to grips with their extraordinary powers, but as each meandering season dragged on and on, Heroes decided to settle instead for ordinary people doing awfully ordinary things. It got to the point where it was pretty much Passions with an effects budget. These characters could rarely be bothered to do anything particularly heroic, content to just stand around and mope, trapped in glacial plotlines recycled from previous seasons that were never really nudged forward until the anticlimactic season finalé...y'know, the finalé where the big battle royale would take place off-screen. Someone would peek through a keyhole, and you'd see flashes of light creep out from under a hotel room door or something instead of seeing anything resembling action first-hand. Every episode seemed to hemorrhage more and more viewers who gave up waiting in vain for something to happen. When I think of Heroes anymore, the first thing that springs to mind isn't "save the cheerleader, save the world"; it's making-it-up-as-you-go plotting, directionless pacing, characters that are unrecognizably different from one episode to the next, and instantly abandoned storylines. Oh well. At least NBC finally dragged the series behind the barn and at long last plugged it in the head, so after this fourth and final season, our long national nightmare is over.

I already churned out an epic rant last year about everything that's wrong with Heroes in general, so this time around, I'll just stick with where it goes wrong this season.


THE PREMISE!
Like pretty much every volume of Heroes, season four opens with everyone's lives returning to some semblance of normalcy.

Hey, remember when Parkman was standing in front of the White House with a bomb strapped to his chest? Remember when he was head-over-heels in love with a twentysomething speedster because he'd had a drug-induced daydream about her? Turns out...? No one else does either. Nope, he's returned to life as a cop in L.A., shacked up again with his wife and that Stop-and-Go baby. If you couldn't get enough of Willow's "magic is like drugs!!!" afterschool special subplot from season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you can thrill to Parkman slogging his way through some kind of substance abuse program. Plagued with guilt over pushing Nathan's memories into Sylar's body, he hasn't used (HIS POWERS) in a month now, and it's a daily struggle. He's tormented by more than just guilt, though: when Parkman shoved Sylar's consciousness out of his own body, it had to go somewhere, and that psychopath has set up shop inside Parkman's meaty head. Think Jiminy Cricket with bushy eyebrows and a body count. Because Sylar does have his hands wrapped around Parkman's powers, he's able to manipulate his unwitting host's perception of the world around
...but we'll travel along, singin' a song, side by side!
him, and that leads to a constant game of oneupsmanship within Parkman's head. This eventually does culminate in some of the season's most brutal and impactful moments, but because this is Heroes, the reset button is pressed just about immediately, and it's all preceded by several episodes straight of Sylar relentlessly chanting "I want my body back" and me curling up in the fetal position weeping.

So anyway, while Parkman's sworn off using his powers, preferring to be a hero in a more traditional sense, Peter has fully embraced his. He's still limited to mimicking one ability at a time, and he's continued to hold onto Mohinder's speed and strength...not to fight crime or anything, but to help save lives as a paramedic. He's routinely pulling triple shifts to rescue every last person he can, alienating just about everyone he cares about in the process. When Peter does get sucked back into playing superhero for Bennet and company, he sees it purely as a means to acquire more useful powers...as a way to save more lives. Despite the fact that the title of the show is "Heroes", most of its characters are self-absorbed and do their damndest to avoid doing anything vaguely heroic, so the emphasis on this side of Peter is greatly appreciated, and the fact that it's become an obsession that's slowly consuming him is more intriguing than someone just wanting to put on Superman Underoos and playing hero.

Removed from the rest of the "action" (if you want to call it that) as always, Hiro and Ando have launched their own Dial-a-Hero empire in Japan. Before they can even polish off their first gig -- rescuing a kitty cat, like the cliché goes -- Hiro finds himself frozen stiff. Yup, he used to have total mastery over time...now time has total mastery over him. Turns out that Hiro's dying. He has an inoperable brain tumor, the end is very quickly drawing near, and he no longer has control over his powers. Hiro becomes convinced that manipulating the past isn't such a bad thing as long as he's careful about which butterflies to crush (although that's not what the Butterfly Effect is, but whatever). After rejiggering things so that his sister and Ando fall madly in love -- which somehow has absolutely no other side effect on his life -- Hiro scribbles down a bucket list of all the wrongs he wants to right before keeling over.

Like I mentioned a couple paragraphs up, Sylar's consciousness is now trapped inside Parkman's noggin. Sylar's body, meanwhile, is a meatsuit that what's left of Nathan is trotting around in these days. As was hinted at in the last few minutes of season three, the suppressed elements of Sylar have already started to re-emerge. "Nathan" knows something is off -- he's discovering new powers with each passing day, and he literally doesn't feel like himself -- and as he tries to investigate who he really is, some dark, long hidden secrets from his own past once again bubble back to the surface.

Y'know how in pretty much every episode of every season of Heroes up to this point, Claire Bennet mopes about how she just wants to lead a normal life? This time...? She does! Kind of. Claire-Bear has just started college, and she's getting the full experience, complete with an annoying roommate (who just can't get enough of Activision's Guitar Hero III, in stores now!) and some
The flashy girl from Flushings has nothing on Claire Bennet.
sapphic experimentation with the youngest kid from The Nanny. She even rushes for a sorority, but it turns out that the sisters of Psi Alpha Chi aren't interested in Claire because she's a Legacy...they want her because she's a Special. Dun-dun-dun!

So, who else is left? Angela Petrelli sits out most of the season. Tracy Strauss is...well, Tracy, so she's as pointless as ever. With Primatech a bunch of smoldering embers somewhere down in Texas these days, Noah Bennet tries to start a shiny new life. For a hefty chunk of the season, he's just sitting around in some dingy apartment waiting for characters with actual plotlines to drop by. The badass Bennet from years past is a fuzzy memory, now neutered into something a lot more limp and lifeless. He does get a fling from the past (played by Elizabeth Rohm ) retconned into the show, and you learn all about his days as a used car salesman/wannabe-playwright. Yeah, I don't know what that's all about either. Mohinder Suresh doesn't pop up until halfway through the season, but it turns out there's a reason for that... Oh yeah, and The Haitian finally gets a name this season, although he still doesn't really do anything other than show up like a good lapdog when he's called, and I think "Haitian" is used as a verb repeatedly for the first time too.

Even though Heroes has a kind of an unmanageably sprawling cast as it is, there's always room for more, right? One of this season's newest introductions is Emma Coolidge (played by Deanne Bray), a deaf file clerk at the hospital where Peter works. Emma latches onto her inability to hear as an excuse to further isolate herself from the world around her. Emma's own power starts to manifest itself; she can't hear sounds, no, but she can see them...taking the form of dancing streams of light. She's equal parts fascinated and unnerved by this newfound ability, which at first seems benign but later proves to be one of the driving forces of the season. We're also introduced to the Circus of Crime! Oops, I mean the Sullivan Brothers Carnival. Samuel Sullivan (Robert Knepper) is picking up where his late brother left off, using the carnival as a sort of refuge for superpowered outcasts. He himself wields the ability to control the earth beneath his feet, and he's already taken in the likes of Lydia (Dawn Olivieri), the frequently topless tattooed lady who can sense what others most desperately crave, and Edgar (Ray Park), a knife-throwing speedster. The carnival allows Samuel and his family to hide in plain sight, and they can teleport the entire show clear across the world whenever undue attention is drawn their way. Samuel is hellbent on bringing in even more new blood...Claire? Sylar? Tracy? Peter? Emma? But who, and why? Are his motives as pure as he claims, or is there something far more sinister at work here...? Generally, if someone asks if something more sinister is at work, the answer is "yes, obviously", so...yeah. He clumsily says something like "I'm not a good guy, but I'm not all bad either" at one point, so there's the usual moral beigeness that defines half the characters on this show.


HEROES IS BORING AND REPETITIVE!
The biggest misstep that Heroes makes this time around is that...well, nothing happens. It's agonizingly, excruciatingly, indescribably boring. At this point, all but just a tiny handful of characters have some kind of superpower, but rather than do much of anything with 'em, they prefer to just stand around and talk. That's doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, at least if you have the right writers. I mean, one of my favorite comics these days is Matt Fraction's run on "Invincible Iron Man", and that's an intensely dialogue-driven book. Tony Stark has barely suited up for several issues straight, and when he does, it's either been to do something mundane like open a crate or to fly off and talk to someone somewhere else. ...and you know what? It's one of most endlessly thrilling and engaging series I read. That approach demands skillful writing and sharp characterization, and clearly, Heroes isn't capable of either. All of this -- chucking out the action to make way for boring people having boring conversations -- culminates in a Thanksgiving episode with three separate segments of people...well, sitting, talking, and eating (See? Eating! They liven up the formula a bit) in the bleakest and most blandly dressed sets in the annals of network television.

It's also frustrating that Heroes continues to be stuck in second gear or however that line in the Friends theme song goes. Every season, Hiro loses control of his powers, goes on a quest to have 'em restored, and generally devolves into some kind of grating, double-digit IQ manchild. Yes, all of that happens yet again this year too. To try to pander to fans, I guess, Hiro's muddled brain gets trapped in a fanboy loop, so he's stuck for two episodes straight spouting off dialogue like "Sancho, the swamp dragons have surrounded the castle Arkham where Dr. Watson is being held, and it's all because of me. Hailing frequencies are open. Sancho, why won't you respond? I have betrayed the rebellion. Sancho Panza, you're our only hope!" Somewhere around this time, I ran a warm bath and contemplated opening a couple of veins. There's even a trial-in-his-own-head episode -- set in the Burnt Toast Diner, with a shaker of cream used for a gavel and all -- that reveals some previously undiscovered circle of hell for me. Also, every season, Hiro's given some other backstory about why he's compelled to play superhero, and he gets origin #7 (sorry, I've lost count) this year. Forget
Get used to seeing this every single episode.
Takezo Kensei or all those longboxes fat-packed with comic books; Hiro's latest childhood motivation for wanting to be a hero is a fortune teller at a carnival. Guess one of the writers picked up Big on Blu-ray over the summer.

Another Heroes mainstay is that Sylar has to waffle back and forth between GOOD! and EVIL! fifteen or sixteen times an episode. Yeah, there's a whole hell of a lot of that this season too. You know how everyone griped about the second season of Heroes where for something like five episodes in a row, you'd be treated to virtually identical scenes of Maya going apeshit, her powers killing everyone within a few hundred feet, and Alejandro coaxing her into easing up on the whole bleeding eye thing? I mean, essentially the same exact sequence replayed over and over and over and OVER? That's pretty much how Heroes is this season with Emma and her music visualization power. Streams of light suddenly start beaming around her, Emma's entranced, and then she has to wait until the next episode to lather, rinse, and repeat the same thing verbatim. Tracy shows up every four episodes, does essentially nothing, and disappears. Claire and Nathan-Sylar wander around aimlessly, waiting for the carnival to do something. Why are there nineteen episodes this season? There are maybe seven episodes' worth of development and the rest is nothing but repetitive filler. Even when something truly impressive happens -- there's a moment between Parkman and Sylar that's genuinely astonishing and a potential game-changer -- it's immediately undone. Hell, it's announced a few minutes later with the "next week on Heroes..." promo that one of the most amazing moments in the entire run of the show will be reset. Either no one does anything or whatever happens has no permanence.

Man, and if I were slapping together a Heroes drinking game, you'd have to take a shot everytime Bennet reminisces about the past and says some variant of "bag and tag", but I'll file that one away for later.


OH YEAH! THE CARNIVAL!
At
When they say "the greatest show on Earth", they're definitely not talking about Heroes.
first, the motivation for the carnival remains shadowy. Is Samuel trying to establish a sanctuary for superpowered outcasts, one he's willing to protect at any cost? Is he simply trying to amass as much power as he possible? If he is, what's the endgame? You'll have to wait an awfully long time for an answer, and it's really not worth it. In general, there's zero momentum for the carnival subplot. Samuel delivers another pointlessly long, rambling monologue about family, and he quietly orders someone killed or makes moves to manipulate someone else into joining the fold. It's the same thing episode after episode, and the story barely creeps along throughout the entirety of the season. When Samuel's motivations finally are revealed, they predictably don't really make any sense. He has a thirst for power but no reason whatsoever to unleash it until he snaps in the last few episodes. I mean, a dumb analogy is that Samuel's like a guy who maintains a massive arsenal just in case he decides to sign up with a militia one day. What's the point in building such a power base if the end goal is to save it for a rainy day? Because Heroes is a soap opera in denial, it all ultimately comes back to Samuel being heartbroken over his ex-girlfriend. Yes, it all comes down to crying over a strawberry milkshake, exactly what I want in my hour-long weekly series about superhumans. He says he's tried to fit in -- y'know, fitting in by running a teleporting carnival that can only be found with magical compasses, using it as a sanctuary for evolved humans, and systematically ordering the death of anyone who stands in his way -- but that didn't work, so he's going to vengefully murder thousands of people instead. Okay.

All of that's a shame because Robert Knepper couldn't have been more perfectly cast. Knepper plays Samuel as more of a charismatic cult leader than a moustache-twirling villain, and as much of a hyperconfident façade as he showcases in front of his family, more solitary moments reveal a quiet woundedness he tries desperately to mask. All of those different elements -- the murderous compulsion to protect those he cares about, the seductive thrall he holds over his flock, and his own internal torture -- make for an extremely compelling character. Again, though, because Heroes is so hellbent on refusing to advance Samuel and his plotlines for the overwhelming majority of the season, even that quickly grows tiresome.


HEROES' WRITERS DON'T ACTUALLY WATCH THEIR OWN SHOW!
When Peter first discovers that Hiro's dying, he immediately goes on a quest to find someone with healing abilities he can swipe. There's a weepy subplot about the kid that he and Bennet find -- a teenager who can't control his powers and is consuming life rather than restoring it -- that could've met with a much happier ending if anyone on the show had leaned on common sense. Get this: Bennet and Peter teleport to some sleepy Midwestern town to locate this healer, Peter copies his powers, and then tries to catch a plane back to the hospital where Hiro's interred and may croak at any moment. ...or, y'know, he could've
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
teleported the kid to the hospital, had him heal Hiro himself, and then shuttled him off to start a new life somewhere else rather than face what's waiting for him back home. Hiro's been unable to competently do anything with his powers for ages, so I guess it kind of follows that Peter can't use 'em effectively either. I mean, Peter has the ability to freeze time at this point, and when he's being blasted at with a shotgun, his brilliant scheme is to dash up a second set of stairs and sneak up behind the guy. Ack. Anyway, by the time Peter flies all the way back to New York, Hiro's gone. His fatal brain tumor is barely mentioned again until the season draws to a close, and Peter makes zero effort to try to figure out where he went and never so much as mentions him again.

There's at least one fan service episode every season, and this go-around, it's "Once Upon a Time in Texas". Hiro travels back three years to once again see the love of his life -- that impossibly cute waitress named Charlie, who I think is now some kind of germaphobe high school guidance counselor or something -- and prevent her from being killed by Evil Brain Man Sylar. Only the thing is...y'know, Hiro already prevented Sylar from butchering Charlie. Did the writers not bother to go back and rewatch the entire episode from the first season? He seriously already did that! The whole point of the original episode is that sometimes things are fated to be...that it was a lesson to Hiro that the past cannot always be changed. Once again, Hiro stops Sylar from doing the skull-slicing routine on Charlie, but remembering that she still has an aneurysm that could burst open at any moment, he makes a deal with Sylar to fix it. If Sylar saves Charlie, Hiro will fill him on what the future holds. ...and to keep from disrupting the space-time continuum any further, Hiro leaves Sylar to go on his merry way and slaughter however many hundreds of people from then on. What a guy! Afterwards, Hiro gets ready to step out for a long, happy life with his one true love, only...audible gasp! She's gone! Samuel has swiped Charlie, hiding her somewhere in time to force Hiro into doing his bidding. So, what does Hiro do? Travel back another couple of minutes to keep Charlie from being snatched? No, of course not. He spends the rest of the season barking "I want Charlie!" at Samuel. He'll cheerfully travel back in time because a Deal or No Deal model shows him some side-boob (and, again, can't be bothered to prevent a murder from happening right before his eyes), but he can't make the same effort for someone he supposedly loves so deeply. Stupid, stupid rat creatures. He'll travel back in time 47 times to try to stop a guy from photocopying his butt at one office party or another (yes, this is seriously a plotline, and one written by supposed Heroes savior Bryan Fuller, even), but Hiro can't make the trip back to the Burnt Toast Diner a second time. Worst. Character. Ever.

When we first catch up with Angela and Bennet this season, there's talk of getting a new company off the ground to take the place of Primatech. I don't think this is mentioned again at all after their first appearance, and Angela only manages to show up a handful of times throughout the season as a whole. Everything with Samuel is clearly being made up as it goes along, and there's zero consistency about the way his powers function or his shadowy motivations from one episode to the next. I'll try to dance lightly around spoilers, but the denoument in the finalé is wholly and completely out of step with what we've seen him unleash THREE TIMES with his powers elsewhere in the season. I could keep this list going, but...no. Need to move on.


IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT WIN OUT!
As tough a time as
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
I had stomaching Heroes in its third season, there were still a handful of genuinely impressive moments that seemed as if they could possibly redeem the show. There's even less of that this year. All I really have are the smaller moments. Sylar-Nathan suspects he may be a politician because shaking hands seems really familiar. He thinks he may have been a jet pilot because he sees planes flying overhead and is pretty sure he's flown before. Um, okay. Bennet thinks he's perfectly covered up the accidental murders of two people by blocking an air vent, making it look like CO2 poisoning. It's meant to clear the road for their teenaged son who'd accidentally taken their lives and had spent who knows how many weeks living side-by-side with their bodies. But, well, there's the whole thing where they've been decomposing for weeks, there's mold all over the food around them, and then there are the spatters of blood and shotgun blasts all over the house. Maybe HRG is just out of practice or knows a contractor who works really quickly. Hiro gets open brain surgery but clearly doesn't need to have his head shaved. I love how Heroes has so little respect for its viewers' intelligence that they have a kid in Texas saying "good guys wear white hats, and bad guys wear black hats". The camera pans around, and gasp! There's Sylar...in a black hat! To hit the point home in case you missed it, the rugrat hisses "he's wearing a black hat!" Get it? Because Sylar's a BAD GUY. Man, I really hated that episode. At least there are some funny gags about everyone wanting to see Future-Hiro's sword.

I learned that the CIA can triangulate cell phone signals, but if a colossal government agency wants to see where the target is, they hafta pull out Google Maps. Also, if you want to seduce people into joining your teleporting carnival of superpowered people, the biggest selling point is your popcorn. It's also okay to rig carnival games as long as you give a stuffed pony to a seemingly orphaned child. Peter walks into a deaf woman's apartment, makes a beeline for her cello, smashes it, and then signs "I'm sorry" when she's not looking. Also, he tells her "I'll call you later" on his way out the door. You do know how this whole thing works, right, Pete? I think my favorite might be when Claire cuts herself slicing up limes at a wake, grabs a bandage, and then goes back to hacking apart fruit with the same bloody knife.


DEPRESSINGLY...!
Oh well. To be fair, this season of Heroes does one thing in the finalé that the show had never attempted before: the good guy and the badnik squaring off against each other with actual, special-effects-reliant superpowers. Of course, it's still Heroes at the end of the day, so it comes down to Peter and Samuel pushing a clod of dirt at each other, looking more like Bugs Bunny is trying to tunnel his way to Piscataway than a superhuman battle royale.

There really are some things that I like. Madeline Zima as Claire's confidant/roommate/kinda-sorta-girlfriend is an inspired bit of casting, and her crush and infatuation come across as surprisingly genuine, considering that the whole lesbian kiss thing is such a shameless ratings grab. The season does take Parkman to some very dark places, and those sorts of moral compromises are frequently impressive to watch. Robert Knepper is pretty terrific as Samuel, as wasted as he ultimately is in the part. The series' sense of humor seems sharper here than in previous seasons, from a speed-dating sorority get-together to Claire having her leg flash-frozen off. There's part of me that thinks that even as deeply and profoundly flawed as it is, this might even be the best season since Heroes' first, although that's clearly not saying much. Seasons two and three were both trainwrecks, sure, but there were stakes...there was ambition. Season four doesn't take any chances, so it CAN'T fail as profoundly. This year, essentially nothing happens, and what little DOES happen doesn't matter. This is one of the most inconsistently and incompetently written television series I've ever suffered through. I kept tuning in anyway, hoping in vain that Heroes would somehow manage to right itself...to recapture what I loved so much about the bulk of its first season. It never did, and with the series' long-overdue mercy killing, I can stop waiting. This fourth and final season is for completists only. Skip It.


Video
Heroes
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
generally looks terrific in high definition, in keeping with the very high quality of the presentations from previous seasons. At its best, the 1.78:1 image is spectacularly crisp and detailed, easily eclipsing the cable broadcasts I'd been recording for the past few years. On the other end of the spectrum are dimly-lit sequences that are muddy, murky, and swarming with thick chunks of grain, and the photography is erratic enough to capture pretty much everything in between. It's uneven, yes, and there are a number of shots that are mildly soft and underwhelmingly detailed, but Heroes frequently looks strong enough that its lesser stretches are easily overlooked. It's also worth noting that the addition of the carnival infuses Heroes with some welcomed visual flair -- Dutch angles, a vivid, candy-colored palette, blurred focus around the edges, and streaking lights -- that also translate to Blu-ray particularly well.

Heroes made the move to AVC encoding on Blu-ray this season, and even with the pervasive gritty texture of the series' film grain, I never once noticed the compression sputter or stutter. No edge enhancement or overzealous digital noise reduction ever creeps in either. The only glaring flaw is some extremely heavy aliasing in what I'm hoping is stock footage in "Strange Attractors", but nothing like that ever caught my eye at any other point. It's probably a safe bet that anyone reading this review has already watched season three of Heroes on Blu-ray, and you can expect the quality of this follow-up release to be very comparable to that.


Audio
The last
I know the feeling.
time I tore into a Heroes season set, I raved about just how cinematic the show sounded on Blu-ray. Even though the technical specs are the same this year -- 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio and all -- the sound design seems a lot more restrained. The subwoofer struck me as being considerably more active in the last few episodes -- particularly the thud of sledgehammers against an impenetrable brick wall -- but otherwise, the overwhelming majority of the low-end is owed to the score. Even Samuel leveling entire buildings isn't reinforced by that much bass. The sound design is also heavily weighted up front, veering away from the immersion of previous seasons. The surrounds are reserved primarily for light atmosphere: cars whizzing around, the crackle of the PA at the hospital, the eerie sounds of creaking boards and buckling metal, and, of course, Sylar's trademark tickling clocks. The rears don't really get much of a chance to heighten the intensity of the action because...well, there's so little action in the first place. The characters' powers usually have a faint echo in the surrounds, though, and the chaos of a sniper assault does take full advantage of all of the channels at this mix's fingertips. Some pans also make a brief impression, such as the jets soaring overhead at one character's funeral. The series' dialogue is generally rendered cleanly and clearly, and because the sound design is so meek, the line readings are never in any danger of being overwhelmed in the mix. Some of the more loudly shouted lines do have a lightly clipped quality to them, though.

Heroes reportedly had to slash its budget pretty severely to get a fourth season off the ground, and I can't help but wonder if the sound team was hit particularly hard by all of that. As many problems as I had with season three of the show, I'd chalk it up as one of the most cinematic sounding television series I've ever watched. With season four, the whole 5.1 thing comes across as more of an afterthought. Heroes by television standards sounds perfectly adequate on Blu-ray, but after being spoiled with something more along the lines of feature film quality last season, this is a steep decline.

There aren't any dubs or downmixes this time around, but subtitles are served up in English (SDH), Spanish, and French. The previous season of Heroes had been enhanced for D-Box rigs, but that got the axe for season four.


Extras
Heroes' last go-around on Blu-ray piled on more than twenty hours of extras. Meanwhile, you can knock out all of the extras on this set in a single evening with plenty of time to spare. As unredeemably awful as the 'Slow Burn' webisodes were, I'm kind of surprised none of them found their way to this boxed set. The number of picture-in-picture commentaries plummeted from twenty-five to just four. To be fair, there's still more here than I've been getting with a lot of the other shows I watch -- look at the pretty much barren Chuck and Supernatural season sets coming out next month -- but I can't think of the last time I saw the number of extras careen off a cliff like this from one volume to the next.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (45 min.; SD): Twelve
    ...but does he ever?
    of the eighteen episodes in this boxed set feature at least one deleted or extended scene, and the differences can be pretty significant. For example, in the final cut, Tracy seems repulsed by the moral compromises she's asked to accept when she tries to settle back into her old life as a political tigress. In these deleted scenes, she's pretty eager to dive back in, and she's frustrated beyond words when Bennet tears her away from that. The Samuel we meet after his brother's funeral is more frustrated...far less secure...than the character that's introduced in the broadcast episodes. Ashley Crowe only makes a few appearances this season, but she gets a good bit more screentime in a subplot that brings together Sandra, her ex-husband, and Tracy. There's a lot more with Hiro in the hospital, including him being awfully chipper about the prospect of dying and prompting Emma to unleash the damaging effects of her power. The other most noteworthy addition is "Nathan" having a heart-to-heart with Peter about the nature of self...about spending every day in the body of an unrepentant serial killer. Also worth a mention are Samuel raising a baptismal pool, a longer version of the pint-sized princess collapsing in the hospital, a clumsier edit of the Thanksgiving dinner at Bennet's dingy apartment, more establishing shots of the carnies, and more reminiscing of days past between Samuel and Vanessa.

  • Tim Kring Post-Mortem (4 min.; HD): Though it's not listed as an extra, the series finalé begins with a conversation with Tim Kring. It's a very brief retrospective of what the series has meant to him, and he promises (threatens?) to do what he can to keep Heroes alive in one form or another.

  • Deconstructing Sylar (21 min.; HD): The first of Heroes' featurettes is a lengthy conversation about the character of Sylar with Zachary Quinto, creator Tim Kring, and executive producer Adam Armus. I'm not really sure why this drags on for more than twenty minutes, exactly. There are some definite highlights: the character originally envisioned as being quite a bit older and as a priest, for instance. For the most part, though, they just describe what Sylar represents to the series, how the shark they created was rewritten to better play to Quinto's strengths, how many different versions of the character Quinto had to juggle throughout the course of this season, and what the future would've held for the character if Heroes had dragged on for another year. It's really not that insightful, though...a lot of recapping and mutual backpatting about how amazingly talented everyone involved with the show is.

  • Behind the Big Top (10 min.; HD): As you could probably guess from the title, this clip tears into the carnival: the cultish metaphor...how the larger-than-life nature of a carnival so wonderfully lends itself to a superpowered television series. "Behind the Big Top" devotes a fair amount of time to exploring each of the main characters at the carnival and how the actors behind them were cast. It draws to a close with the design and fabrication of such an ambitious set.

  • Heroes Revolution (11 min.; HD): Just picture a bunch of guys shouting "new media!" and giving each other high fives for ten minutes and change, and you're somewhere in the ballpark. "Heroes Revolution" takes a quick peek at the online initiatives that further flesh out the Heroesverse: Facebook pages, Heroeswiki, in-character Twitter-dom, webisodes, online graphic novels, Flash games...
    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
    I can't decide if this featurette feels extremely self-promotional or if it's meant as an in-house manual at NBC Universal on how to more effectively promote your brands online. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

  • Milo Speaks (5 min.; HD): Milo Ventimiglia briefly touches on growing up entrenched in geek fandom, how he's tried to give back to the fan community, and the impact that one particularly significant episode this season had on both him as an actor and the character of Peter Petrelli. It's too short to lob out anything all that substantial, though.

  • Sullivan Bros. Design Gallery (2 min.; HD): This is a fairly straightforward two and a half minute montage of blueprints, conceptual artwork, and production art.

  • Genetics of a Scene (42 min.; HD): This stack of mini-featurettes explores seven standout sequences, most of which are pretty effects heavy: Tracy trying to drown Bennet in his own car, the mix of digital and practical effects as Samuel sandblasts Sylar, the wheelchair-cam rig during an asylum breakout, the brick walls that trap Sylar in both the real world and in his psychically-induced prison, the staggering scale of Samuel burying a trailer and the several different setpieces that result from it, an in-depth look at the construction of squibs for a sniper assault, and some dizzying wirework with Claire in the series finalé. Each of these sequences is delved into at length, and the attention to detail is really impressive. I particularly enjoyed seeing the make-up effects of a sandblasted Sylar that's almost completely masked in the finished scene. This is easily the best of the extras on this Blu-ray set.

  • Heroes Connections Network (HD): If you've grabbed any of the previous Heroes sets, you know what this is. All four discs have their own versions of this feature, showcasing each character featured in those episodes, rattling off bios, and pointing out how each of them are connected to one another.

  • U-Control: Every episode has its own take on the "Heroes Connections" feature, serving up a photo and a short bio. Of more interest, though, are the picture-in-picture commentaries for four episodes.

    "Once Upon
    HE'S WEARING A BLACK HAT.
    a Time in Texas" features creator Tim Kring, director Nate Goodman, and director of photography Charlie Lieberman. With two cinematographers in tow, it kind of follows that this is a fairly technical discussion, frequently touching on color timing, intercutting between different film stocks and episodes shot several years apart, and how the Californian wildfires managed to shape the photography. The three of them also point out some background gags, discuss how skillfully Masi Oka played against himself this episode, and how the Charlie-centric episode was co-written by the author of the spinoff novel Saving Charlie.

    Also on disc two is a video commentary for "Shadowboxing" with actor Greg Grunberg, producer Adam Armus, and executive producer Kay Foster. This is easily the most energetic of the four picture-in-picture tracks, tearing into everything from casting "perky screamers" as the hazed sorostitutes, Grunberg quipping about how Felicity would still be on the air if their characters had superpowers, Deanne Bray giving up what little hearing she has for the role of Emma, and ranting about one particularly massive practical effects shot.

    Tim Kring pops up again for "The Fifth Stage", and he's joined by actor Adrian Pasdar in what's certainly his stand-out episode this season. Pasdar jokes about how the scale of putting a show like this together is so massive that he can go unrecognized on his own set. Following quite a bit of discussion about set design, editing, the mighty pre-credit teaser, and credit placement, the two of them also chat about people driving by and mistaking the set for an actual carnival. There's naturally a good bit of discussion about Pasdar's performance and how much Milo Ventimiglia collaborated to realize these two characters. This is probably the most subdued of the four tracks, so it's the least essential of the bunch.

    Kring returns for the series finalé, "Brave New World", this time with Robert Knepper. One of the frustrating things about this track is the sheer amount of narration...they settle for describing what we're already looking at on-screen rather than explaining or further exploring it. There are some decent topics of discussion here, though, such as juggling how much signing Samuel would do to Emma, the brilliant casting of an older version of one fan favorite, pointing out which elements are practical and what was created in the digital domain, and Knepper noting that the accent he came up for Samuel is meant to be ambiguous. There's also a note about how the action sequences are meant to further characterization and emphasize the performances rather than just being an empty visceral thrill.
Heroes has some BD Live functionality buzzing around, but at least the last time I checked, I didn't spot anything that had to do with the show itself...just a bunch of random promos for other Universal stuff. On the other hand, that means I get to gleefully watch the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World trailer for the 18,000th time, so there's that. The packaging's changed yet again for season four. The box is much tinier -- in terms of both width and height -- than the other seasons. The four discs overlap on the interior packaging, and there's no hub for any of them to snap onto this time around. No, there are plastic clips that the discs snap past to lock into place, and I kind of intensely hate that concept. Even though Blu-ray as a format is sturdy enough to stand up to small ballistics fire, I still hate putting that much pressure on a disc. There's also part of me that's concerned about how many times I can take these discs in and out before the plastic clips snap off. I guess I mean that more for any future boxed sets with this same flavor of packaging since I don't see myself ever revisiting the fourth season of Heroes, but still...


The Final Word
The closest thing to praise I can really muster about Heroes' fourth season is that it's not aggressively awful the way the previous two sets had been. I guess you could chalk that up as an improvement, but even with everything seasons two and three got wrong, at least they were fascinating failures. Heroes' fourth and final season is just boring. It's the same drab, uninteresting characters slogging through the same drab, uninteresting plot lines for the fourth or fifth time now. The edges of the show's most vicious characters have been dulled completely. Sylar trots through the same he's-evil-no-he's-good-no-he's-evil-no-he's... routine for the eight quadrillionth time. Claire mopes about how she wants to lead a normal life while also wanting to be accepted for the superhuman she really is. Hiro loses control over his powers, devolves into an eight-year-old man-child, and shouts "yatta!" a lot. You know how this song goes by now. The fact that they're superpowered is almost incidental -- I think your average episode of Guiding Light has more incendiary special effects than what Heroes bothers with anymore -- and even the potentially intriguing sinister-carnival angle turns into another mopey relationship drama. If you were keeping your fingers crossed and eating all your vegetables and praying really, really hard that season four of Heroes would return to the dizzying heights of its first year, then prepare to be disappointed yet again.

The completist in me feels like I ought to own season four of Heroes on Blu-ray just because I already have the high-def releases of the three seasons before it. That's the only particularly compelling reason I can think to pick it up, and the limited selection of extras this year doesn't help much either. There were still enough moments I liked in season three to find it worth a rental, at least. It's kinda funny that the title this season is "Redemption", but this year...? There's not much of anything that actually redeems Heroes as it limps to the finish line. Skip It.


I Snapped Too Many Screengrabs
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