Remember back in 2006? A simpler, more idealistic time. George W. Bush was still president. The top grossing film was Pirates of the Carribean. Twitter was something that one went “all a-“. And there was this brand new show, name of Heroes, that got so much buzz and good will that it seemed poised to take the rabid-fan-base crown from Lost and Buffy? And for one, glorious season, popular culture was happy to follow along with the X-Men-esque exploits of Mohinder, Peter and Nathan Petrelli, Nikki/Jessica, Hiro Nakamura, and The Cheerleader who needed saving (in order to save the world). And although the big season finale payoff was never as big as it seemed like it needed to be, all seemed poised for an even better season two.

But Season Two felt lost, aimless, and missing so much of the fun of Season One. It had a complicated virus/time travel plotline, a bangs-less Peter, and some Guatemalan chick whose eyes turned all Willow-esque and then she killed people. Although I made it through the season to the better-than-average season finale, it didn’t leave me with a lot of faith in either the show or its promise. In an over-crowded television viewing season, I was happy to let Heroes slip through the cracks. Honestly, it just wasn’t that good a show.

But… as Kelly will happily attest, I’m a sucker for genre shows. I can’t tell you the number of dramas/dramedies that I’ve given up on (Grey’s Anatomy, for one) and only given a passing thought to over the years. But… I’m addicted to genre television. Even not very good television. So although I was fully aware that Heroes would continue to disappoint me again and again (the common theme in Heroes criticism is that it continually squanders its potential and just when you think that it’s going to get good again, it sucks), I sat down to devour Heroes Season Three.

I’m going to do a full “season in review” after I’ve finished, but right now I want to talk about the good things about Heroes. Because despite all of its many, many, many flaws* (and believe me there are a lot), there’s a lot of good stuff inside Heroes.

Sylar- Okay, yes it was partially my innate calling towards genre shows that brought me back to the Heroes fold, but it was also a little movie called Star Trek and the eye-brow raising sexiness that was the Number Two commander of the Starship Enterprise. Zachary Quinto is just a damn fine performer, and although Sylar’s arch rarely makes sense (Super-villain turned mama’s boy turned daddy’s boy turned the Clyde to Kristen Bell’s Bonnie), Quinto’s extraordinary talent helps sell every nonsensical moment. And he continually gets the comedy in his scene (especially those with Bell) such as the moment when the two realized that all their special-abilities have disappeared.

ADDENDUM: Kristen Bell. Elle is kind of a stupid character. After her and Claire bond, and Claire basically saves her life, she turns on her with almost no motivation. Her and Sylar bond over trying to overcome being monsters, and then all of a sudden she’s trying her damndest to help him go off the abstinence-only policy Gabreel’s been following as far as villainy is concerned. I’m not sure what’s coming next for the electric blond, but I will say this: despite how stupid this character is, I love her. Bell is a damn fine performer who continually shows her ability to outshine her material (anyone else see The Pulse? No? Probably a good decision). When Quinto and Bell get together, it’s like an awesome explosion of charisma. I’m aware Kristen Bell (and for that matter Quinto) is way too big a star to stay on the show forever, but my interest will wane as her (and his) character arch does. Also, the Elle and Sylar stuff is the clsoest this show has to an epic lovestory.

Nathan Petrelli- Adrian Pasdar has a similarly onerous responsibility in that Nathan Petrelli has, within the course of the three Heroes seasons, betrayed everyone he’s ever cared about, completely shifted his moral compass (or lack thereof), and had sex with both Nikki/Jessica and her twin sister Tracy (which is ooky). But Pasdar somehow sells it, from his pouty lips to his defined jaw, and it helps to make Nathan seem like he actually has a defined character. On top of that, the brother chemistry with Milo Ventimiglia provides Peter Petrelli with his best scenes. That character never seems more real than when he’s with his brother and dealing with all the familial problems inherent therein.

Its Sense of Humor- I was going to originally applaud the use of Hiro and Ando to provide much needed comic relief, but I actually think that often that’s a bad crutch that the writers use to set off otherwise craptastic episodes and although I find it funny, I wish they were more true to Hiro’s character arch. That being said, the show is at its best when it finds the hilarity in all of its situations. The show has a lot of great actors and occasionally really good writing, and it occasionally does a really good job playing with the superhero conventions (in particular, the early Season repetition of “Nemesis!” at The Speedster by Hiro and Ando was super cute). And it makes me more willing to deal with the melodramatics and strange plot turns of the rest of it when I have scenes of Matt Parkman trying to talk to a turtle (or Seth Green and Breckin Meyer as goofy comic book store employees).

More in depth plot and character analysis at the end of the Season, but for now, I just wanted to throw some Heroes-related positivity out there. I think one of the reasons people hate on the show so much is because it seems so rife with possibility, but for me, upon lowering my expectations, I found a surprisingly fun, goofy, occasionally frustrating show that consistently features good performances.

*My least favorite thing about Heroes is the way it has completely taken the claws out of the most powerful story telling device: death. Death means nothing on Heroes. With the exception of Isaac Mendes in the first season, characters continually “die” only to have it completely rewritten in the next scene.