Saturday 10 October 2009

Why so still?

Contains spoilers for the fourth season of "Heroes" (including "Hysterical Blindness"), also a bit of "Dollhouse".

For the past couple of weeks I haven't really blogged much, apart from the regular stuff like the Watchlist and some occasional list of things that I haven't mentioned, but didn't feel like going deeper into. On the other hand, over at cellar door, I have to restrain myself from obsessing over "Dollhouse" and "Heroes", for two completely different reasons which should probably be explained because otherwise naming these two shows in one breath would seem a bit odd.
First of, "Dollhouse" surprises me again every week. I watch an episode, my initial reaction (not really in the season premier, but definitely in "Instinct") is being a bit disappointed because I imagined something else, and then slowly realizing how many details I didn't miss, but could only make sense of and interpret after having them lie around in my brain for a while. I realize how subtly the characters develop, how significant small scenes are, the importance of how scenes are built up, what kind of references they envoke, how expectations are sometimes met and sometimes used to say something completely different. While I love "Buffy" dearly, and will probably still be crying over "Angel's" "Hole in the World" even after seeing it for the twenty-fifth time, "Dollhouse" is a completely different story. It is not loveable, it does not feel like family, I don't want to go there and have an adventure. It is sometimes so painful that I can't believe it's on TV (though not here, always important to remember), so shocking and intense that it feels ever more unlikely that this is a regular FOX-show. "Dollhouse" would have been a different show in the late Nineties, when TV shows still had seven seasons and 24 episodes each, but this way, in this ever so precarious format of 13 episodes and after two there are already rumours of cancellation, it kinda feels like the LAST show, like that one huge thing that happens before an entire system ends to make space for something new. It feels, more than anything else, UNLIKELY. And I could fill pages and pages, and I read even more about it and envy others for their perceptiveness and how well they convey complicated ideas.
"Heroes", and once again it feels odd to write about these two shows so closely together (do I ever reference the other when I write about any of them? They seem like their is no common ground between the two), is a different story. This is a show that I initially liked for its quirkiness, for the character of Hiro, for the fact that it was a frakking show about superheroes who saved the world. Then it "jumped the shark" in a major way and I stopped loving the characters, and not in an "these characters are morally ambigious and I can not love them" kinda way, but in an "I just really do not care any more what happens to them" way, which is the most horrible feeling any story teller can invoke in his audience.
And then, Season Four happened, and Claire became a college student, and I obsessed about the idea that a show I watched could attempt to portray this specific time and what it does to an individual well, although the show had wronged me before. I actually cared what would happen to her, although her character had not intrigued me the least before (she dated a boy who could fly! Her best friend went on to become John Connor! She was WHINY!). The other story lines were okay as well - would Tracy Strauss become a vengeful demon and leave all humanity behind? What about Noah, the "man with a plan", who all of a sudden found himself in pretty much the same situation Giles was in after Sunnydale High burnt down (just that he also destroyed his marriage)? How would he deal with "Civilian Life"? What would happen to Matt, who has the power to manipulate people into anything? And Sylar, on the one hand in Matt's head, acting as the "voice of un-reason", on the other hand forced to become Nathan, an ever-so precarious arrangement? In what other show could one find storylines like that, this kind of potential to tell tales about identity and change, and how people deal with having power? "Heroes" disappointed me so much during the second and first part of the third season because it betrayed its own potential, and now it seems as if, maybe, things might get better.
Or they might not. Gretchen, the girl who is in love with Claire / or has an evil agenda / or originally had an evil agenda and is now really in love, might die, or become a villain, whichever lesbian stereotype the show decides to follow (note that characters who say "I am not stalking you" usually don't end up in happy, long-term relationships). Claire might return to her old self, and the show might have no idea where it is going, although it has followed the theme of "orientation" well this season, with all of the characters struggling to re-define themselves as they adapt to new situations.

I had to get this off my chest, and I will probably be over with "Heroes" after the next episode, but it just seemed as if these fictional stories were more important and thought-provoking than anything I read in the newspapers lately, which I hope will change soon, and after this tiny obsession ends.

[By the way, just as a random side note: I LOVE newspapers. Nothing can replace the work of professional journalists, in whatever format they might publish their original research. They are an essential part of political culture, one that can not be replaced. We should all cherish them, and think about ways to make sure that they can continue to do their work AND earn a living. When I link to newsstories, I don't do it to claim any journalistic qualification on my part, I do it because it helps me to keep track of issues that I would otherwise read, but immediately forget later. It helps me to follow how a discourse evolved, how policy is discussed. Writing about what I read in newspapers helps me to make headlines into more than just driftwood that grazes my perception and then goes away without leaving any marks, and I am incredibly grateful that I can read so many newspapers online - but whenever I link to a story now or quote from it, my head will whisper "parasite", and that is not a nice thing to hear from your own head. And now it feels odd to have this added to this post. Out of practice much?]

No comments: