After the critical success of season one, we waited anxiously with high expectation for the premiere of the second season, which hit the highest ratings for the series19. The season opened with several storylines within the first few episodes, much like the previous season. One big difference is the fact that the storylines did not all unify and tied into the main meta plot like season one. The DVD commentary for Season 2 does show that the writers had intended to bring them all together if the Writer’s Strike had not occurred20. There was also feelings that the pacing of the season was too slow that the creators addressed after the season ended21.
So let’s look at the storylines that involved Time Travel. We have Hiro landing in 17th century Japan and inadvertently changing the timeline of his childhood hero, Takezo Kensei. However, depending on your take on time travel he may have not really changed anything. More on this point in a little bit. Next, we have Peter Petrelli, who spent half of the broadcasted season without his memory and eventually travels 1 year into the future to find a dystopian future.
Hiro’s storyline, in my opinion, is one of the best of the season. This stands as an example of how time travel can accentuate a character’s development by placing them into different context. Others think that his storyline in Japan should have only lasted three episodes21. First Hiro lands in 17th century Japan by accident, coincidentally also in the middle of a battle between his hero Takezo Kensei and a group of samurai22. Hiro decides to save his hero from certain death and teleports away, only to realize that it was not his hero but a stand in. The real Kensei uses stand ins to draw attack while he strikes his foe down from a distance with an arrow23.
By taking this action Hiro changes history, so he believes, and Kensei does not save the village like in the stories. Hiro also learns that his hero is not what history paints him to be and instead is a belligerent drunk who is actually a foreigner. We also see Hiro grow to understand what it truly means to be a hero. The storyline begins with Hiro viewing the world much like he did in season one. We see this in his early attempts to inspire his idol to action24. Then Hiro assumes Kensei’s identity in order to force him into action25. In trying to teach Kensei, Hiro gains a deeper understanding of the sacrifices that come with being heroic and that it is actually much more than heroic deeds. Hiro gains this in watching his “pupil” choose the path of evil in retaliation for what he believes is Hiro’s betrayal by falling in love with Yaeko, the swordsmith’s daughter26.
We witness the proof of this growth later when Hiro tries to persuade his father not accept his fate to die by travelling to the day of his mother’s funeral. In doing so, Hiro meets his past self who acts much like he did at the start of the story in terms of heroic perception. Hiro realizes this and admits to his father that he was acting childish in trying to change fate27. Hiro does not reach this change in character without his experiences traveling in the past.
One question about Hiro’s journey is how much he truly changed the past. I bring this point up based on one specific scene just before he returns to the present. Here Yaeko tells Hiro that she will tell the story of a heroic Takezo Kensei so that young Hiro would hear the stories. This would essentially erase the villain that Kensei became. So, we can propose that Hiro’s actions occur exactly as they were supposed to based on this scene and the fact that Kensei was not the heroic character as painted in the stories until Hiro intervened. Just something to think about.
Peter Petrelli travels unwittingly through time as well. His memory still missing he unconsciously travels into the future to find a world decimated by a plague28. He learns bits and pieces about how 93% of the world’s population dies at the hands of this pandemic. He travels unwillingly back to the present, leaving his friend Catilyn behind29. Upon his return he meets with Adam who helps him remember. The viewer knows that Adam is actually Kensei after living for 400 years. Peter takes action and joins with Adam to stop the plague from happening30. Peter’s vision of the future blinds him from realizing that Adam is actually the cause for the plague. Peter never uses his telepathy to read Adam’s mind even though he used it to locate information out of Victoria Pratt31.
This would seem like a large plot hole if it weren’t for the fact that Peter’s character is naturally naïve since the beginning of the series. Peter’s trip into the future did not provide and real character growth, but it did serve a purpose of accentuating a plotline. This borders on causing the characters to be more reactionary than active if it weren’t for Hiro’s storyline. Adam’s actions and Peter’s trip through time accentuate what we saw in Japan with Adam’s fall from grace.
The use of time travel was an effective plot device to support the underlying threat and deception by Adam as well as build Hiro’s character. I don’t feel it would have hurt Hiro’s or Adam’s development if the story was an episode or two shorter. This would most likely cut out the romantic part with Yaeko, but then Hiro’s personal sacrifice may not have been as poignant. The shortness of the season due to the writer’s strike my have thrown the story off kilter as the show scrambled to resolve the dangling story threads instead of continuing their planned story arcs. This is obvious in the plot thread of Catilyn stuck in the future, which we never see resolution through the rest of the season. With that being said, season two uses time travel effectively with one exception being Hiro’s subsequent travels through time after his return. These trips still reinforce the plot line even though the trip to see Adam’s capture in the 70s could easily show through dialogue.
The last scene of volume 2 shows Angela Petrelli acknowledging the shooting of Nathan Petrelli as a necessary act and commenting on the consequences32. This effectively sets up suspense for the next season. However, the third season instead finds us circling back to the future warning of impending doom and the main characters scrambling to prevent the catastrophe.
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1. Robert Hanke, “QUANTUM LEAP: THE POSTMODERN CHALLENGE OF TELEVISION AS HISTORY,” Film & History (03603695) 30.2 (2000): 41-49.
2. “In the Beginning,” Supernatural, CW, 2 October 2008, DVD.
3. “In the End,” Supernatural, CW, 1 October 2009, DVD.
4. Sandra Gonzalez, “Supernatural: 15 Best Episodes,” Entertainment Weekly.com, September 24, 2010, http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20361165,00.html
5. Jay Ruud, “Back to the Future as quintessential comedy,” Literature Film Quarterly 19.2 (1991): 127.
6. “In the Beginning,” 2008, DVD.
7. Supernatural, Seasons 1-3, CW, DVD.
8. Syd Field, Screenwriters’ problem solver . S.l.: Roundhouse Publishing Ltd, 1999.
9. “In the End,” 2009, DVD.
10. “In the Beginning,” 2008, DVD.
11. Darren Franich, “23 TV Shows That Missed Cue for a Graceful Exit,” Entertainment Weekly.com, 19 July 2010, http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20402674,00.html?stitched
12. “Genesis,” Heroes, NBC, 25 September 2006, DVD.
13. “Hiros,” Heroes, NBC, 23 October 2006, DVD.
14. “Six Months Ago,” Heroes, NBC, 27 November 2006, DVD.
15. “Five Years Gone,” Heroes, NBC, 30 April 2007, DVD.
16. “How to Stop and Exploding Man,” Heroes, NBC, 21 May 2007, DVD.
17. “Five Years Gone,” Heroes, NBC, 30 April 2007, DVD.
18. “One Giant Leap,” Heroes, NBC, 30 April 2007, DVD.
19. Robert Seidman, “Heroes Ratings 2007-2008,” tvbythenumbers.com, 18 November 2007, http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2007/11/18/heroes-ratings-2007-2007/1812/
20. “Inside the Alternate Ending: What if Peter didn’t catch the virus?” Heroes Complete Season 2 DVD, 26 August 2008. DVD.
21. Jeff Jensen, “’Heroes” Creator Apologizes to Fans,”Entertainment Weekly.com, 7 November 2007, http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20158840,00.html
22. “How to Stop and Exploding Man,” May 2007.
23. “Four Months Later,” Heroes, NBC, 24 September 2007, DVD.
24. “Four Months Later,” September 2007.
25. “Lizards,” Heroes, NBC, 1 October 2007, DVD.
26. “The Line,” Heroes, NBC, 29 October 2007, DVD.
27. “Cautionary Tales,” Heroes, NBC, 19 November 2007, DVD.
28. “The Line,” October 2007.
29. “Out of Time,” Heroes, NBC, 5 November 2007, DVD.
30. “Four Months Ago,” Heroes, NBC, 12 November 2007, DVD.
31. “Truth and Consequences,” Heroes, NBC, 26 November 2007, DVD.
32. “Powerless,” Heroes, NBC, 3 December 2007, DVD.