Five Years Gone

People seem really excited about this week’s episode of Heroes, “Five Years Gone”. I enjoyed it too, but I don’t quite get the widespread enthusiasm for it.

(Spoilers for Heroes follow.)

First of all, it’s the sort of episode I wish they’d had, oh, in the fifth or sixth episode. It would have jump-started what was an extremely slow beginning to this series. (At least half of the first six episode seemed superfluous, intended to maintain suspense, while really just making the show boring.) Granted, the Sylar reveal (which was cool) wouldn’t have been possible had the episode occurred that early, but that and other obstacles could have been written around. For instance, Hiro could have made multiple trips to this future, revealing more a little bit each time. (Heck, it would have been better than Hiro and Ando’s tedious adventures in Las Vegas.)

Second – and more importantly – the story in this episode isn’t really new to me. The story is actually a pretty clearly templated on (if not lifted from) “Days of Future Past”, a story from the X-Men comic book series from 1981. This doesn’t really surprise me, since comic book writer Jeph Loeb is a co-executive producer of Heroes, and no doubt creator Tim Kring and many other members of the writers and crew are comic book fans. Both stories feature a dystopian future in which superpowered figures are being oppressed and marginalized due to political reactions in the wake of a superhuman-driven disaster.

The story is substantially similar to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, too, down to the pyrrhic-victory-in-the-present-but-returning-to-win-a-full-victory-in-the-past conclusion. Someone in Ceej’s entry on “FYG” said he wanted to see the outcome of the fight between Peter and Sylar, but it seemed clear to me that nothing in the future was going to end well for our heroes; probably Peter and Sylar managed to annihilate each other and take out the rest of what was left of New York.

Sheridan’s trip to the future in the Babylon 5 episode “War Without End” also bears some similarities, although the crux of that story is basically different. But my point is that the key elements of “Five Years Gone” are hardly new; the story has its chilling elements, but to me it was basically old-hat.

Heroes is a moderately entertaining series, but I find it frustrating because it’s so slow. Several of the characters frustrate me, too (I wish someone would just smack Mohinder, for instance, and I really hate the Niki/Jessica character). I am glad that the main story will actually conclude this season, and they’ll have a new story next season. A seasonal cliffhanger I think would just make me give up on the show.

Rampant Traffic Problems

The big news around here is the tanker truck which destroyed a ramp connector in the Macarthur Maze Sunday morning. Amazingly, no one was killed (although the driver was badly hurt). But the accident caused part of a ramp to collapse onto another connector, which is snarling traffic in the east bay (in the Oakland/Berkeley area). It sounds like traffic hasn’t been as bad as people had feared, but it may be only a matter of time.

Here’s a nifty PDF showing the vicinity of the ramp collapse.

Mom, Debbi and I drove along the lower ramp (from I-80 to I-880) last weekend when we went up to Berkeley – an unusually close experience, since I only go to Berkeley a few times per year. And of course Scalzi was up there on his book tour last week (I’m pretty sure he’s innocent, though).

I’m glad I don’t have to commute over any of the bridges. Modern bridges are a boon compared to the olden days (when ferries were the main way to cross the bay to and from San Francisco), but there are so many people in the area that the traffic grid is getting more and more bogged down. And there’s very little redundancy to deal with even partial outages like this one.

We need to do something, but what can we do?

And what happens when the next major earthquake hits?