Skip to main content

'Heroes' and villians

We find Hiro in his father’s corporate office with Ando, his best friend and confidante. Hiro is bored out of his mind and wants a mission and destiny. Then a man walks in and gives him a DVD that his father, Kaito Nakamura, made for him before he was killed. Hiro is beside himself with excitement as he stands back to watch the image of his father on the video screen.

Kaito Nakamura (on the DVD): Hiro, if you are watching this, then I am dead. I left you my fortune, but more important, I leave you with a sacred duty. You are now to be the sentinel of a dangerous secret.

Hiro (his eyes widen in excitement): A secret?

Nakamura: One that you must keep, as I and my father before me had done. It resides in my personal safe. In the wrong hands, this secret will destroy the world. So it is your task now:

There's a brief, dramatic pause.

Nakamura: Your sacred duty is to never open the safe.

Heh. You gotta know how that one ended up.

Hiro—arguably the purist-hearted hero of the bunch who’s already “saved the world” twice—is aghast at his father’s admonition, and tells Ando, “I don’t want to be a sentinel! I want to be a hero!” Of course, Hiro opens the safe—and promptly has taken from his hands the very thing his father swore him to protect.

I couldn’t help but let out a loud guffawing (and I must admit, delighted) laugh as I heard Hiro’s father admonishment, which happens during a series of opening scenes during the first episode—aptly called “The Second Coming”—of two during the premiere of the new “Villains” season of NBC’s Heroes. This scene could encapsulate the entire episode, which found many of our heroes facing the temptation to play God, tinker with things over which they had no power to control and give into their own vanity—even our best-hearted Hiro.

But the main reason I laughed aloud is because I couldn’t help thinking of Paul’s infamous words from his letter to the believers in Rome:
The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of "forbidden fruit" out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God's good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel. (7:8-12)
Give us a good and righteous law—something that will protect us and make the world a better place—and even the best us want to break it. Not because the law is bad—in fact, Paul tells us that that if we “can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary” (7:14-16). But there is a bent within us, one that “keeps sabotaging my best intentions” (7:17-20), as Paul puts it. We want to be good people, to save the world and make it a better place. But, Paul says, we don’t have what it takes in the end:
I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (7:17-23)
And this all reminds me of the heroes this season. They want to do good, but they’re tripping themselves up. These are good people; they really want to save the world and make it a better place—but just when they least expect it, they’re seduced into doing something questionable or even wrong in the name of good (or their own vanity).

For Paul, the solution to internal tyranny is Jesus. “He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different,” says Paul (7:25). Jesus frees us from this internal tyranny. “Even though you still experience all the limitations of sin,” says Paul, “you yourself experience life on God's terms” (8:9-11). Those who welcome him and trust his action will “find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God!” writes Paul, leading us “out into the open, into a spacious, free life” (8:5-8).

In other words, Paul is telling us that when we believe Jesus is who says and can do what he says, we rediscover the relationship we were created for—a relationship in wide open spaces of grace and glory and love and right-ness. We find that God’s Spirit has taken up home in us and he’s freed to do his work. He begins to change us, helping us learn to live the way we were created to live—to work with God in bringing life, love, grace and right-ness to a broken but renovating world. (If you’re interested, awhile back I started collecting images of what this open, spacious, life looks like and you can find them here.)

Needless to say, I’m hooked on the themes this season is setting up. I’m really curious to see how they play out and how the heroes’ experiences and choices comment on and challenge us to examine our own bents and brokenness and why we do what we do. There’s already a plethora of these kinds of opportunities in these first two episodes: Like Hiro, what parts of my life would I rather play hero than sentinel? Why is that? And where do I, like Mohinder, crave personal power more than healing and helping the people around me? Or how have my well-intentioned but misguided actions, like future-Peter, harmed others? How can we help each other to do what is good and right rather than expedient and self-guided? What path am I walking—and why?

As a final comment, I was also delighted to hear one of my favorite poets and all-time favorite poems quoted at the end of that episode, William Butler Yeat’s “The Second Coming” (from which the episode obviously takes its name). It deepens the mythic foundations of the series as well as the themes this season is taking on.

All in all, a great opening set of episodes for the series' third season. Let’s hope they can keep it up.

(Image: screenshot from “The Second Coming,” NBC) heroesctgy

Comments

SolShine7 said…
That scene with Hiro was nicely done. And it does reveal something about human nature.
Carmen Andres said…
thanks for stopping by, solshine!