It’s Tuesday. It’s my lunch break. I’m taking the subway from my office to Universal Studios, where the Heroes staff writers are picketing as part of the WGA strike. A bunch of the cast members are scheduled to show up at noon, a fact which is not lost on me. I haven’t picketed anywhere yet, and it’s high time I did: I think the writers deserve a fair break and a better contract, and I think the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) has been, for lack of a better term, buttheady in their dealings with them thus far (the low point being the way they tossed around ultimatums and stormed out of negotiations over the weekend). I’m out of the industry at the present, but I have my degree in screenwriting from USC’s film school, and I’ve worked extensively in television. These are my people by proxy. They have my full support. I also want to see pretty actors.
My goals for today are twofold:
1. Show my solidarity with the WGA.
2. See if Sendhil Ramamurthy is really that beautiful in person.
One of these goals might be somewhat more self-serving than the other.
The protest is held at the base of Universal City Drive, the long path leading up to the theme park and, yuck, CityWalk (I don’t believe CityWalk has officially adopted "Where Fun Goes To Die!" as its slogan, but I’m sure it’s under consideration). I sign in, collect a picket sign from a hot guy named Seamus, and join the picketers, who are gathered in two rough bunches on either side of the drive.
I immediately spot Greg Grunberg. I fall somewhere in the range between introverted and pathologically shy, and I tend to bomb at small talk. I couldn’t network my way out of a kindergarten class. Greg, however, seems eminently approachable, so I take the plunge and introduce myself. He’s friendly, outgoing, and comfortable to be around. Like most of the actors, he seems like he would be a whole lot of fun to go drinking with.
My second, shallower goal is accomplished in a flash when Sendhil Ramamurthy and Dania Ramirez arrive together, looking like an improbably beautiful pair of gazelles, all legs and great bone structure. Sendhil is resplendent in a blinding white shirt and awful pea green sneakers; Dania teeters in tall boots. The light turns against them as they try to cross the extra-wide drive, and they end up sprinting for their lives across the intersection, hair flying in all directions. Traffic stops for them. No surprise there.
Dania is smart, down-to-earth, and a lot of fun to be around when she isn’t weeping inky tears. We kill a few minutes joyously crabbing about how the AMPTP is being totally unreasonable while I mentally revise my opinion of this season: due to the awesomeness of Dania, Maya is now one of my favorite characters, Black Eye Goo of Death notwithstanding.
In his blinding white shirt, it’s easy to monitor Sendhil’s progress as he streaks like a comet through the assembled crowd. I fall into his orbit and approach him. Like so many actors, he’s built on about three-fourths the scale of a normal human being, without an unnecessary ounce of flesh anywhere on him. He seems to be sculpted entirely of spun sugar; when I shake his hand, I’m thankful it doesn’t break off in mine. He’s lovely and gracious. He makes some remark about the good turnout. The turnout, thus far, is not good – it’s surprising not more people are here – and I can’t tell if he’s being polite or brilliantly deadpan. I could stare at his smile forever. And yet, I can’t. I meet, I greet, I move on.
A mystery is solved: you know on Heroes how Mohinder appears tiny next to Matt and Sylar, and yet Monica appears tiny next to Mohinder? It’s not an optical illusion: Dana Davis is built along the general diminutive lines of an Olympic gymnast. She’s also every bit as cute and bubbly as she is when she’s playing Monica.
More people arrive. The crowd fills out. Greg Grunberg accidentally backs into me and gives me a quick hug in apology. I highly recommend colliding with Greg at any possible opportunity. He’s fun to hug.
Cristine Rose is a hoot. She’s as awesome as her onscreen alter ego Angela Petrelli, only not nearly as terrifying.
Jack Coleman: Unexpectedly tall. Unexpectedly handsome, too, clad in an Army jacket and jeans and minus Mr. Bennet’s trademark horn-rimmed glasses. He’s whip-smart and funny; I make a mental note to invite him to every dinner party I ever throw from now until the end of time. We engage in what I’m pretty sure is the world’s most insightful and meaningful conversation about the strike. As soon as I move on, I can’t remember a blasted thing that was said. I realize I’m developing a crush on Jack Coleman, which disturbs me to no end, because I’ve spent most of the past season thinking Mr. Bennet is pretty much a dick.
Ali Larter arrives in a flurry of happy chaos. She passes out holiday cookies, then wins my heart forever by diving into a box of Sees candy. There are few happier sights than a tiny blonde bombshell chowing down on chocolates. If she bears the writing staff any ill will for sticking Niki in a scant handful of episodes this season before giving her a (presumed) fiery death in the finale, she sure doesn’t show it.
I chat with the writers and various strike supporters. There’s a lot of frustration toward the attitude of the AMPTP, and a great deal of enthusiasm for continuing the strike as long as it takes until progress is made. I introduce myself to producer-director Greg Beeman, who used to work over on Smallville before he defected to Heroes. Beeman keeps a lively and informative behind-the-scenes blog about Heroes. He’s also a kick on DVD commentaries. Of the staff members I meet, he’s my favorite.
Masi Oka arrives late. Unlike the rest of the cast, who are gregarious to the point of hyperactivity, he seems a little subdued, though he’s polite and friendly: he introduces himself and makes a point of getting my name right.
The actors pass out T-shirts and comic books. Dania approaches me and holds out a comic. She frowns: "You don’t want one of these, do you?" I kind of love Dania.
The crowd grows. Everyone’s getting their comic books signed or posing for photos with the actors. I don’t want autographs or photos, so I pick up my picket sign and wave it at the passing cars for a while. It is, after all, still a strike, albeit a strangely glamorous one.
Show creator Tim Kring gives a quick speech. The actors are corralled together and forced to sing Christmas carols with the lyrics changed to pro-WGA jargon. Sendhil and Greg mysteriously vanish into the crowd while this takes place. Sendhil and Greg are the smart ones.
Sendhil takes off at the stroke of one o’clock. The last I see of him, he’s booking it madly across Lankershim Boulevard, as though he’s late for a terribly important appointment. If he leaves his glass slipper behind on the palace steps, I don’t find it.
I’m mangling my metaphors. He’s a gazelle, he’s a comet, he’s Cinderella. Take your pick.
I stick around for a bit longer. There’s marching and chanting. It’s still going strong – in fact, it might be building up speed -- but my lunch break ended, oh, an hour ago, and I have a desk job to return to. I catch the subway back to work.
You know what? The Heroes actors are a mighty nice bunch of people, all of them. They’re charming and unspoiled, smart and funny, charismatic and engaging. They don’t have a chance of staying that way: the longer the show goes on, the more publicity they get, the more their private lives are exposed and dissected, the more likely they are to develop thick protective shells, to view events like this as a job obligation, not a fun way to spend a Tuesday afternoon. And that makes me sad, because they’ve got something special here in the way they seem to genuinely enjoy their work and each other’s company.
Here’s hoping they make it last.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Mohinder arrives at his apartment and finds Sylar sitting at his desk. Sylar welcomes him home and expresses concern about his broken nose. Mohinder asks what he wants. Sylar advances on him and, after he’s whipped up a suitable aura of menace, smiles and replies, “Breakfast.” Mohinder turns to see Maya in his kitchen, cheerfully cooking up a mess of chilaquiles. Because this scene was insufficiently preposterous on its own, she’s also wearing a “World’s Greatest Dad” apron.
Maya gushes about how she’s honored to meet Mohinder – she’s read his father’s book and has so many questions about her own abilities. Mohinder asks if she’s aware Sylar’s a murderer. She confirms she is, but it’s okay, seeing as she’s killed many, many people herself with her own ghastly power. Maya guides a shell-shocked Mohinder to a chair, and they all settle in for a deliriously uncomfortable breakfast. Maya paws Mohinder and yammers on about the Black Eye Goo of Death, while Mohinder blinks back tears and wonders why his only meaningful relationship on the entire show has to be with the brain-stealing serial killer. Sylar mentions he spent some quality time snooping on Mohinder’s laptop and asks about the Shanti virus – specifically, does it really take away special abilities? Maya, bless her, asks Sylar, “Is that how you lost your powers?”
There’s a pause while Mohinder processes this nugget of information, then he grabs his butter knife and lunges for Sylar. Sylar draws a gun and jams it into Mohinder’s neck. Advantage: Sylar. Thanks to Mohinder’s files, Sylar knows Mohinder’s blood is the cure for the virus. What’s more, he knows about the Mohinder/Claire turbo-charged mega-blood. It finally – finally! – dawns on Maya that Sylar might be a bad egg. She flips out and unleashes the Black Eye Goo of Death. Everyone collapses. Even little Molly staggers from her room, wailing and dripping black goo from her eyes. Sylar reigns in the mass hysteria and gets Maya under control by convincing her if she kills Mohinder, she loses her best chance of getting help with her abilities. Mohinder comforts Molly and agrees to help Sylar get his powers back.
Apparently, Matt and Nathan went to Maine and found Victoria Pratt’s body in a scene we didn’t get to see. Both Adam’s and Peter’s fingerprints were discovered at the crime scene. Matt and Nathan meet with Angela Petrelli, who gives them some background on Adam and tells them Strain 138 of the Shanti virus is held at Primatech in Texas.
At Primatech, Hiro stops time and confronts Peter about Adam’s ill intentions. Peter still thinks Adam is swell. Peter hurls around lightning bolts, but Hiro teleports here and there and dodges Peter’s blasts, until Peter finally manages to electrocute him. Hiro falls unconscious, and time unfreezes. Adam steals his sword back from Hiro and heads off with Peter.
Claire is still bent on her lunatic plan to reveal her abilities to the world. When her mother tries to talk her out of it, Claire tells her she can’t understand how she feels because she isn’t special like Claire. Claire has been a real charmer this season.
Bob bawls out Elle for escalating the conflict with Claire. Chastened, Elle visits Mr. Bennet and asks for more details about how her father tested the limits of her electrical abilities as a child. Bob comes in, shoos Elle away, and tells Bennet Claire is becoming a problem for the Company.
Adam and Peter hack and blast their way through Primatech until they reach the vault containing Strain 138. Peter tries to open it with telekinesis.
Mohinder takes Sylar, Maya, and Molly to his laboratory in Isaac Mendez’s old loft. Sylar orders Maya and Molly to stay out of the way so he can manhandle and intimidate Mohinder without interruption. Sylar points out the exact spot where he murdered Isaac. Sylar hasn’t quite mastered the art of appropriate small talk. Mohinder insists on drawing blood from Sylar to make sure he has the virus. Sylar, who has good reason to be wary of Mohinder wielding needles after last season’s unfortunate incident with the unanaesthetized spinal tap, balks at this. They stare each other down and growl at each other until, amazingly, Sylar gives in and lets Mohinder jab him with sharp objects – which, by the way, Mohinder enjoys far too much. Mohinder spent all season being hapless and ineffectual with everyone he dealt with (Bennet, Bob, Elle, Niki), and yet he’s the only one who can get away with bullying Sylar. When Sylar’s attention is focused elsewhere, Mohinder shoots a desperate glance up at a mysteriously blinking wall fixture…
Elle sneaks into Bob’s office and snoops about on his computer. Bob has surveillance cameras fixed in Mohinder’s lab; Elle wonders aloud if Mohinder knows Bob is spying on him. Based upon the way Mohinder just looked right at the hidden camera, the answer to that is plainly yes, but it doesn’t look like Bob knows Mohinder knows this. Mohinder: not as dumb as advertised. On the monitor, Elle sees Sylar in the lab with Mohinder.
The comic book-stealing arsonists tie up Monica in a deserted building and set it on fire. Micah and Niki search for her; Micah uses his ability to tell his cell phone to find Monica’s cell phone and pinpoint her location.
Nathan and Matt fly to Primatech. Technically, Nathan flies, with Matt riding piggyback. Upon their graceless and mortifying landing, they make a pact to never mention their flight again. Outside Primatech, a jubilant Hiro greets Nathan.
West stops by the Bennet house to tell Claire he thinks her plan is idiotic. Claire breaks up with him, and West sadly flies away. This would be a touching scene, if only these two weren’t so vile. Mr. Bennet shows up at the front door, alive and well, and greets his daughter.
In the lab, Molly and Maya are left to twiddle their thumbs while Mohinder and Sylar circle each other and exchange meaningful glowers. To cheer Maya up, Molly offers to use her ability to locate Alejandro. When Molly can’t find him, Maya realizes her brother is dead.
Mohinder examines Sylar’s blood and discovers he’s got the same strain of the virus as Niki. Sylar is outraged to learn the Company deliberately infected him. Just as he’s working himself up into a righteous lather, Maya storms up to him, shrieking about how he murdered Alejandro. Sylar shoots her in the heart. He demands Mohinder produce the turbo-charged mega-blood, whereupon Mohinder reveals he’s been carrying it around all this time. Showing a gift for understatement, Sylar tells him, “You and I have trust issues.” He orders Mohinder to test out the blood on Maya: if it brings her back to life, he can use the remaining syringe to cure Sylar.
Bennet reunites with his family. To keep them safe, he’s struck a deal with the Company, but it means he has to leave them. He walks out of the house and meets up with Bob. Again, this would be a touching scene if the entire Bennet clan hadn’t exhausted every ounce of my good will in recent episodes.
Peter finally opens the vault. When Hiro tries to stop him, Peter hurls him out of the way. Adam advises Peter to get rid of Hiro permanently. Matt tries to mentally persuade Peter of Adam’s evil; Peter refuses to believe him. Nathan confronts Peter and, at long last, gets it through his brother’s thick skull that Adam is trying to release the virus, not destroy it. Hiro grabs Adam and teleports away with him, just as Adam drops the vial containing Strain 138. Peter catches it before it smashes on the ground, then creates a mini-nuclear explosion in his hand and destroys it while Matt and Nathan watch. A hidden camera in the vault records their actions.
Mohinder injects Maya’s corpse with the blood. The bullet wound begins to heal. Sylar picks up the remaining syringe and tells Mohinder, “I’m sure Maya will understand if I’m not here when she wakes up.” He turns to leave. Wow. Sylar really intends to let Mohinder and Molly get out of this alive. Yes, Mohinder, there is a Santa Claus. Elle arrives and hurls blue lightning bolts at Sylar. He opens fire at her. The two of them blast each other for a while until Elle knocks him out a window. Sylar takes off, with Elle in pursuit.
Niki intercepts the arsonists as they make their getaway. Even though the virus has deprived her of her super-strength, she does a pretty impressive job of kicking the crap out of them. Niki rushes into the burning building and saves Monica, but it explodes before Niki can escape.
Hiro teleports to his Tokyo office and reunites with Ando. Ando asks about Adam. Because Adam can’t be killed, Hiro buried him alive in a coffin. For such a sweetie, Hiro has a mean streak.
Maya comes back to life. Elle slumps back to the lab, afraid her father will be furious with her for letting Sylar get away. Mohinder reassures her, claiming she saved all their lives. This is kind of a lie, seeing as Sylar was on the verge of releasing them anyway, but it seems to make Elle happy. She beams at Mohinder.
Nathan decides to go public with his powers. Nathan, honey, this wasn’t a good idea when Claire wanted to do it, and it’s not a good idea now. He throws a lame press conference where he spouts some tripe about how he’s seen wonderful and amazing things; honestly, Nathan, I expect more from you. Before Nathan gets to the punchline (i.e. “Oh, by the way, I can fly”), he’s shot twice in the chest by an unseen assailant. Pandemonium erupts. Matt searches the crowd and sees the back of an unidentified man in a dark coat walking away.
Angela Petrelli watches a news broadcast about the shooting. She speaks to someone on the phone: “You do know you’ve opened Pandora’s box.”
Sylar, in an alley, injects himself with the mega-blood. The wounds from his fight with Elle heal themselves up. He tests out his telekinesis by trying to move a tin can and discovers that, yes indeed, his powers are back. And it’s about time, too.
Volume Two comes to a close. Volume Three will start up at some nebulous point in the future after the WGA strike is resolved.