Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Heroes" Finale:Back with a Purpose

"And everything under the sun is in tune/
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon."
-"Eclipse" by Pink Floyd

So last night, HEROES wrapped up the latest chapter, "Villains," and very well, I should add. I (like ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY) noted the lack of direction and purpose after the first season as well as many missteps and plotholes. But after last night, and the preview for the next chapter, I think the show will find its feet again. And yes, Sylar is back to being one of the scariest villains ever!

 But Sylar is not the biggest threat to our heroes, rather, it is their own moral uncertainty and lack of a realistic morality; which is well-dramatized by the constant "switching" of sides: Monhinder, Sylar, and Peter Petrelli (especially the later, who destroys the formula to prevent Nathan from creating new "heroes," only to inject himself with it at the end.) In fact, Sylar, as he points out, is not the most monstrous threat: it is the dark side of the heroes themselves. Sylar acts as a Jungian "shadow" to the hero's dark side, and the "eclipse" is more than a plot device, it is a metaphor best expressed with a line from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon: "Everything under the sun is in tune/but the sun is eclipsed by the moon."

 We see how characters as innocent have the potential and capacity for evil. In keeping with the current theme of examining "flawed" and "tragic" heroes, this episode was very timely. Mohinder's closing monologue sums everything up nicely:

There is good, and there is evil; right and wrong... heroes... and villains...and if we're blessed with wisdom, then there are glimpses between the cracks of each where light streams through. We wait in silence for these times, when sense can be made...when meaningless existence comes into focus...and our purpose presents itself. And if we have the strength to be honest, then what we find there, staring back at us, is our own reflection, bearing witness to the duality of life. And each one of us is capable of both the dark and the light, of good and evil...of either, of all...and destiny, while marching ever in our direction, can be rerouted by the choices we make...by the love we hold onto, and the promises we keep..."

 I'd like to add a personal note here. I've written elsewhere on Jung's hero cycle in relation to Ayn Rand's concept of heroism. I've since distance myself from that work, as I don't think the tragic aspects of the hero cycle are directly applicable to what Rand meant. But I've come to learn something; even if a hero is not destined to become the shadow, the very thing one sets out to defend against, is it still a possibility. One doesn't denigrate the  idea of heroism by pointing out the possiblity that heroes are not infallible, and can, in fact, become the villain. (Even Rand acknowledged this via the character of Robert Stadler in ATLAS SHRUGGED.) The difference between the Jungian "hero cycle" and Rand's view is that heroism, as the creation and defense of a moral path, requires choice, and constant vigilance, and Mohinder's monologue captures that perfectly. Sylar's mistake is that of the antihero, that heroes are impossible because we are all monsters inside. Heroism is not a one-time achievement that excuses a hero from future transgressions;  it requires a constant, consistent dedication to one's moral values. A hero need not be infallible, or omniscient, a hero can make mistakes. But what separates a hero from a villain is the willingness to own those mistakes and atone when necessary. 

 But back to the show, next season, renewed with the sense of purpose Mohinder spoke of, presents a new challenge for the heroes: Nathan's presentation to a certain recently elected president to "apprehend" these "heroes." (Which is funny, considering a recent story about Obama's favorite heroes being Spiderman and Conan the Barbarian.) Nathan now sees them as a "threat"  because of their abilities. This rings familiar (X-men: Days of Future Past), but to an Objectivist, this has the added familiarity of the plots of THE FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED, where those who work for the "greater good" intend to shackle those with ability. (This also is a key point of Kurt Vonneget's Harrison Bergeron.

 The heroes will now face a new challenge. So far, it's been "save the cheerleader, save the world." Now it could be: "Save the world? Better save yourself!"