Heroes, Season 4 Episode 1

Yes, I’m already a week behind on blogging about the latest season of Heroes. Blah.

Heroes is noteworthy for being one of the few shows on primetime to feature a multi-racial cast of characters. With the generally abysmal representation of Asian American faces on television (although Jee of 8Asians notes the growth in number this year), series regulars Masi Oka (playing self-described “hero” Hiro Nakamura) and James Kyson Lee (playing Hiro’s buddy Ando Masahashi, the show’s original straight man who later developed superpowers) were — and perhaps still are — among the most identifiable Asian American faces on television.

So, it’s hard to understate the disappointment I experienced with last week’s season premiere.

Hiro possesses arguably the most powerful ability of all the Heroescharacters: he is capable of bending time and space to freeze time, teleport himself and others across the globe, and to go backwards and forwards in time to change history. Hiro had the makings of a true bad-ass. Indeed, I don’t think I got greater chills from Heroesthan when a future version of Hiro appears before Peter Petrelli –insightful, confident, clad in black, wielding a ninja sword, and speaking flawless English. Future Hiro was the promise of what Hiro could be: a righteous, ass-kicking good guy.

Instead, what we get is Masi Oka’s best impression of a bumbling idiot.

Hiro Nakamura is little more than a walking stereotype. Perpetually clad in a short sleeves white dress shirt and black tie, Hiro represents the Japanese working stiff meets child-like imbecile. Despite his awesome powers, Hiro is an incompetent superhero, and has been indirectly (or directly) responsible for setting in motion the events that lead to the rising of a Big Bad in at least two of the last three seasons. Four seasons after his first appearance in the series premiere, Hiro is still obsessed with an infantile definition of the “superhero”, striving to emulate the heroes of his mangas and imported comic books. And though Hiro should be considered the powerhouse of Heroes‘ good guys, he’s relegated to secondary status perpetually living out minor story arcs of irrelevance and impotency. Hiro is an Asian Billy Batson, and no one ever takes Captain Marvel seriously.

And while this might be a good place to start a character, after four seasons, I’m wondering why none of Heroes‘ writers have let Hiro Nakamura grow up. Last week’s season opener showed Hiro struggling with more of the same: trying to force himself to be a hero, while dealing with his powers not working properly. Didn’t we see this already last season? Oh, and maybe he’s dying, but even here Hiro’s more concerned with hooking Ando up with his sister than with dealing with impending death.

Meanwhile, Ando’s developed an abilities amplification power but spends the season opener pining after Hiro’s sister, Kimiko (as well as falling on his head while trying to save a cat). Does he get the girl in the end? Well, sort of — apparently, Kimiko doesn’t date Ando because Ando once spilled a slushie on her dress. Hiro goes back in time, takes a slushie for the team, and lo and behold, Ando and Kimiko have been doing it like rabbits ever since. I’m sure that plot point sounded a lot better on paper.

Meanwhile, what’s up with Kimiko? When we first met her, she was the frustrated and undervalued daughter of the Nakamura household, infinitely more competent running the family business than Hiro but never in line for the job. She was kind of a strong character in her own right, exasperated by her idiot brother and trying to do right by herself. Sure, she was a bit of a dragon lady, but at least she wasn’t taking crap from people. Now, we see she’s as flaky as a schoolgirl, whose affections are literally as capricious as the aim of a falling slushie? Disappointing and cliched are just two words I would use to describe this latest turn of events.

I’m still waiting on the kick-ass Asian American superhero on Heroes. It could be Hiro. It could be Ando. It could be Mohinder. Shit, let’s give Kimiko a power if there’re going to cheaply these days. But let’s get one APA superhero on this show who has a power that a) he can actually use (unlike Hiro), b) doesn’t turn him into a power-mad villain (unlike Mohinder), and c) doesn’t render him a sidekick (unlike Ando).

I’m not exactly holding my breath.