Thanks to my buddies at Sci-Fi Philippines, I've discovered the joys of the new TV series Heroes. Thanks to the Internet, I actually get to enjoy it without waiting for a local programming exec to pick it up. Hooray for the Nissan Versa!
The story may be taking its own sweet time in coming together. All the better because it never fails to surprise with a character twist or two each episode.
Now we have quite an ensemble of, well, heroes. There's the cheerleader with a healing factor. There's the precog junkie artist. There's the mimic and his brother the flying congressman. There's the mindreader. There's the persuader. Each character is turning out to have a superpower of his or her own.
So who's the best character so far? Hands down winner: Hiro Nakamura!
Oh, sure, Hiro's powers are just about the coolest there is. "I bend space and time," he says, and how. He can freeze a moment. He can teleport (and to the ladies' washroom, too!). He can go forward and back in time. And his future self carries a samurai.
But all that barely just skims the surface of why Hiro is by far the best of the lot.
Of all the heroes in the show, only Hiro thus far deserves the label.
Everyone else seems intent on hiding their powers (Claire, Nathan), fearing them (Nikki), using them for personal gain (DL) or for self-validation (Peter, Isaac). When they do something heroic, it's done simply at the spur of a moment. Only Matt the mindreading police officer comes close, but he's still nowhere near Hiro's stature.
Only Hiro is driven by selfless altruism, making the sacrifice of travelling halfway around the world to prevent a cataclysm. Only Hiro embraces his powers wholeheartedly. Only Hiro wants to make something of himself as a hero.
Hiro is the first of the heroes to experience guilt, inadequacy, and doubt. It's this desire to be a hero that shows him his limitations. "Why couldn't I have saved them?" he asks, talking about the gamblers who would have had no compunctions about killing him and his friend Ando.
It's clear that Hiro's motivations come from an education in comic books. He explains his powers via X-Men and Star Trek. He and Ando resolve a moral argument by referring to Spider-Man. And while it looks like it's played for comic relief (pun intended), it's tremendously more important:
It provides us, the comics lovers, with our true connection with the show.
No doubt about it, "Heroes" is a show for people who grew up with comics. Without Hiro Nakamura, it might still be interesting. But our depth of empathy with the characters would still be one or two steps removed: because we're not cheerleaders, congressmen, Internet strippers, nurses, or painters.
With Hiro, it's a different matter entirely. Salarymen we might not be, but we immediately feel the kinship in a way that we can't with the other characters. Hiro is the nerd, out of place in the world, yet heroically trying to set it right. Hiro is the heroic soul of the show.
And that is why Hiro Nakamura is so cool. Because we are Hiro Nakamura.