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The Show On Which Shit Actually Happens

February 27th, 2007

I am enjoying the heck out of NBC’s Heroes, though I suspect that at least part of my satisfaction with it has everything to do with my recent dissatisfaction with Lost and its steadfast refusal to let loyal viewers see any of its cards.

The producers of Lost have said in countless interviews that they recognize the pitfalls of a series built around a central mystery, and took to heart the lessons of Twin Peaks and The X-Files, two shows which collapsed under the weight of their ever-mounting pile of unanswered questions. After last fall’s mini-season in which virtually nothing happened for six episodes, we were promised that answers would be forthcoming sooner rather than later.

And so, last week we finally learned the origin…

…of Jack’s tattoos.

Which, by the way, are actor Matthew Fox’s actual tattoos. The “5” is a reference to his days on Party of Five.

So, while Lost continues to push its metaphorical button every 108 minutes and answer questions no one was asking, last night Heroes rewarded its fans with a HUGE info-dump of an episode. We learned the mysterious Mr. Bennet’s backstory, his previously unhinted-at connections with two recently introduced characters and much of his true motivations. Mind-reading Matt switched sides to save Bennet’s family, Claire revealed her fast-healing powers to everyone, and nuclear Ted went off (he got better). In other words, shit happened, and lots of it.

And that’s why I’m so frustrated with Lost. In recent interviews, its producers have demonstrated that they simply don’t understand why people are getting fed up with their endlessly delayed gratification. They seem to think that there are only two positions on the answer spigot, Trickle and Total Exposure.

Heroes puts the lie to that by showing that it’s possible to give up major information without selling out all its secrets. We learned much more about Bennet in this one episode than Lost has told us about “the Others” in two-and-a-half seasons, but there’s still plenty to learn about the organization for which he works.

I remain convinced that Lost could next week tell us the exact nature of the Island and still have plenty of story left. Even if the castaways (and the viewers) had a true understanding of what was happening to them and why, it wouldn’t mean that they were equipped to deal with the reality. They might even–oh, I don’t know–have to do shit.

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