Heroes Volume Two Analysis: Peter Petrelli
Subject: Peter Petrelli
Volume Two Summary: Wound up in Ireland sans shirt, sans bangs, sans memory, sans intellectual curiosity. Joined a gang of thugs just for the hell of it. Romanced a cute Irish lass named Caitlin. Teleported to a plague-devastated future with her. Teleported back to the present without her. Got his memory back. Decided his new best friend was immortal ne’er-do-well Adam Monroe. Set out with Adam to destroy the plague-causing virus. Took far too long to realize Adam was actually trying to release the virus. Got bawled out by Nathan for being stupid. After an unseen assailant riddled Nathan with bullets, cradled his dying brother and, ostensibly, felt pretty bad about being such a jackass all season.
Analysis: By the climax of Volume One, Peter had become vastly more powerful than anyone else on the show, Sylar included. It’s a fair problem: what do you do when you have a main character who is so much stronger than everyone else? In the case of Peter, Heroes pressed the reset button at the start of the new season and took away his memories, including all knowledge of his multiple abilities. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, Peter lost his personality at the same time and became downright sullen and unpleasant (Milo Ventimiglia also transformed physically from a little wisp of a thing with long bangs, fine features, and a pointy chin to a behemoth with a powerful upper body, thick neck, and a military haircut. This is not our waiflike, sensitive Peter). As with Volume One’s other breakout star, Hiro, Peter was granted his own solo showpiece plotline – his Irish escapade – and his own dreary romance (Katie Carr brought grace and charm to the role, and her Caitlin was more substantial a character than Hiro’s Yaeko, but Peter’s sudden wild infatuation felt contrived, and her abrupt exit – abandoned by Peter in a dire future – was jolting). It grated that Peter had so little curiosity about his missing past: Peter, apparently, found his newfound gang of Irish stereotypes far more interesting than did the audience.
Peter, we were told repeatedly in the first season, was the dreamy kid with the big heart, and even if we saw relatively few examples of said big heart, we accepted it without argument. (This is the Heroes method of character development: Why go to the trouble of letting the audience find out about characters through their actions when you can crank out a few clunky lines of exposition instead? Thus in the pilot episode we have Nirand telling Mohinder about Chandra Suresh, “You were always seeking his approval,” and Angela telling Peter about Nathan, “You hero-worshipped him, and those feelings were never returned.”). In Volume Two, however, even the lip-service about Peter’s big heart dried up. Save for a tender reconciliation with Nathan in the finale, Peter was a self-absorbed drag. The way he did Adam’s bidding without question made him seem more like a recent lobotomy patient than a nascent superhero.
Prognosis: Fair to middling. Peter lost ground in Volume Two, but struggled his way back up by the finale. Now that Peter is back in the fold with the other characters, maybe Volume Three will find something interesting to do with him.
Suggested Course of Action: Throughout the first season, Peter was smeared with a bewitching air of epic tragedy: this is the boy who knew he was destined to be special, and who then discovered his special qualities were destined to not only destroy him but kill thousands of innocent people as well. Peter’s abilities spiraled constantly out of control in Volume One; his mysterious (and unmentioned) mastery of his powers in Volume Two seemed like a cop-out. To get back to the epic, comic-book feel of the first season, Peter should never be sure of his control over his powers. This lack of control should inform his character and all his relationships: he should live in fear of someday exploding, or, like Ted Sprague, of accidentally irradiating those closest to him. Peter has the potential to become that most memorable of comic book archetypes: the lone wolf, the silent vigilante. Think of the various iconic images of Peter throughout Volume One: staring out over the city from rooftops, or soaring through the air with his long coat flapping behind him, or holding glowing balls of radiation in his hands. This is mighty cool stuff, and what a shame we were deprived of it for an entire season.
Like any self-respecting super-powered vigilante, Peter needs both a spiritual mentor – Christopher Eccleston’s Claude fit the bill nicely in Volume One, and it would be swell if the show could lure him back for a repeat performance – and a worthy arch-nemesis. Peter is far too powerful to be a good adversary for Adam, and while Peter is Sylar’s Holy Grail – Sylar would move heaven and earth to get his mitts on Peter’s abilities – their scuffles haven’t had the bite they need to make this a legendary pairing.
Keep Peter solitary, but don’t give him any more prolonged solo escapades. Because their fraternal love/hate dynamic has the overwrought, epic potential the show so desperately needs, Peter should remain close to Nathan (oh, come on, Nathan’s not really dead. I say this not with inside knowledge, but simply with faith that Adrian Pasdar is indispensable. Barring contractual disputes or scheduling conflicts, Nathan will be on Heroes for the long haul). Peter also genuinely loves Angela Petrelli: he seems far less clued-in to his mother’s innate evil than the other characters, which lends itself to all possible manner of subterfuge and betrayals. Volume Two made Peter mundane and prosaic, which is perhaps the greatest wrong that can be made against a future superhero. Volume Three can make him extraordinary.
Next Subject: Oh, Claire.