Heroes Volume Two Analysis: Nathan Petrelli
Subject: Nathan Petrelli
Volume Two Summary: Suffered from grievous full-body burns inflicted when Peter went nuclear over Kirby Plaza. Made a full recovery thanks to an infusion of Adam Monroe’s magical blood. Gave up on his political career. Became a bearded, angry drunk. Sobered up, calmed down, and shaved. Hung out with Matt Parkman. Became weirdly cool. Talked sense into his idiot brother. Gave The Worst Speech in This or Any Other Universe. Got riddled with bullets midway through The Worst Speech in This or Any Other Universe.
Analysis: Many characters drowned in the wreckage of Volume Two (Bennet, Claire, Hiro, Peter), whereas some characters (Matt, Sylar, Mohinder) treaded water and managed to stay afloat, to varying degrees of success.
Nathan, however, was the only major character who improved his position from Volume One. In short, Nathan owned Volume Two.
Nathan had close to a perfect season. After suffering the consequences of Volume One’s climactic and emotional mutual-brother sacrifice, he grew a beard and became angry and awesome (my brilliant friend Dan compares Nathan to Al Gore after the 2000 presidential election. Since I already ripped off the notion of Matt Parkman’s Jedi Mind-Control™ powers from Dan, I feel compelled to give him full credit for this). His injuries drove away his wife and kids (though his evil mother Angela did her part to speed along their departures), and he deliberately estranged himself from his mother. His grief over the loss of Peter rang true: he blamed himself for Peter’s presumed death, but still retained quiet faith in the possibility of his brother surviving the explosion. Quite a change from Volume One’s soulless, conniving politician. The nobility of his sacrifice at the end of Volume One transformed him into a different person, though he has yet to figure out who that person should be. Nathan the Survivor shed the snake skin of Nathan the Politician and tried to discover his place and purpose in a post-Peter world.
His high point came when he provided backup for Matt during Matt’s confrontation with Maury Parkman. Not only was Nathan remarkably cool during the whole encounter (he toted a shotgun like a pro and dished out deadpan quips), he also experienced the single most iconic moment of Volume Two, when Maury used his mental powers to make Nathan believe he was on the balcony of the Deveaux building, looking over a ruined and burning city skyline, with ash falling like snow. It was creepy and moving and beautiful, and one of a very few moments in Volume Two that lived up to the stylized, gorgeous, comic book-esque visual standard set by the first season.
And then… and then… he went and ruined a perfect season. Not by getting shot, because I’m quite sure he’ll dust himself off and walk away from that somehow. No, he bungled it by giving a pointless and inane speech at the press conference after Peter stopped Adam from releasing the virus. I’m talking, of course, about The Worst Speech in This or Any Other Universe.
You don’t remember the speech? Let me refresh your memory. Here’s a fun game: Read this speech out loud and try to make it sound like anything other than a string of meaningless clichés strung together end on end. It’ll heighten your respect for the bang-up job Adrian Pasdar does on the show, because he tried, really really tried, to sell it. Alas for Pasdar, this speech was DOA. Here it is, in all its inane glory:
“Good afternoon. Most of you have no idea who I am. My name is Nathan Petrelli, and I was elected to Congress for the state of New York. Seems like a long time ago. I lost my position. I lost my brother. I lost my family. I’m sad to say that I lost my way. But while I was gone, I had the chance to see the world through newly-humbled eyes. Witnessed amazing things. I’ve seen ordinary people among us try their best to be heroes. These ordinary people, like you, like me, are capable of extraordinary things. You have no idea how extraordinary. But there are other people, organizations who don’t want you to know the truth. I myself kept secrets. But last year something incredible happened to me and it changed my life. At first I was afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore. I’m here to tell you the truth. I have the ability--”
At this point, Nathan was riddled with bullets by an unseen assailant, and while I do think this was an overreaction, I understand why someone would feel the need to shut him up at any cost. That speech was lethal.
Prognosis: Provided he was wearing a bulletproof vest, very strong. Not even a soul-crushingly awful speech can keep Nathan down for long.
Suggested Course of Action: Wear bulletproof vests and knock it off with the speeches.
With Nathan’s fate up in the air, it seems silly to predict what’s going to happen next for him. Still, presuming he makes it through the assassination attempt, he doesn’t have much to worry about in Volume Three. Nathan’s character is rock-solid.
Nathan lost the moral shakiness that was his hallmark in Volume One. He’s going to need to find a purpose in life, now that he no longer has political aspirations. Hint, Nathan: Revealing your flying ability to the world via a sappy and incoherent nationally-televised speech is probably not going to be that purpose.
It’d be great to see him fly more, since an airborne Adrian Pasdar is such a good sight gag. Have him stick close to Peter, because Peter was useless without him this season. Have him spend more time with Matt, and Hiro, and Mohinder, and Niki if she hasn’t been burned to a crisp, because, heck, everyone benefits from being around Nathan’s awesomeness. Most of all, give him plenty to do, because last season he raised the quality of the show every time he was onscreen.
Next: I find something to write about that has nothing to do with Heroes.