On Heroes, the best powers are reserved for a select three to four people who move the plot, such as it is, forward. For every lead who can instantly heal or fly, there are about a dozen who can learn things fairly quickly or who have super duper hearing. Today, we examine the losers of the Heroes world and discuss why having their powers is more embarrassing than just saying you didn't have the power and showing people your stamp collection instead.
He has a precognitive painting ability and the ability to turn pupils white, thus disguising one's self kind of as an albino if necessary. Imagine someone chasing you and you had to blend in with a number of albinos provided you could only see their eyes. It gets complicated, right?
Why It Sucks:
The ability to paint the future, as long it narrowly concerns a limited set of people with whom you've never met, sounds like the power equivalent of being handed the scripts to the entire next season of As the World Turns. Assuming you don't watch As the World Turns (and we assume you, not being a 40-year-old woman, don't), this power would be all but worthless.
You never saw Isaac painting something useful such as next week's stock ticker or the result of horse races or lottery numbers. Instead, he'd just paint pictures of a nuclear explosion which never happened. And, the power's not even that accurate. Why didn't he paint a picture of Nathan Petrelli flying Peter to safety, seeing as how that's what actually happened?
With this power, you would get up each day, turn your eyes a milky white color, and paint something like your next door neighbor buying a new Dodge Stratus six months from now. Add to this power the cost of canvasses, oil paint and brushes, and you have what amounts to one expensive and fairly useless hobby.
He can hear other people's thoughts.
Why It Sucks:
Kind of Counselor Troi-esque in its scope, this ability allows one to perceive the thoughts of anyone around them. This doesn't make sense on several levels, primarily because thoughts, if you think about it (ha!), are extremely disjointed and nonsensical, kind of like a slightly less disturbing David Lynch film with fewer fish babies and more fantasies of yourself as a sports hero.
However, assuming you could hear thoughts beyond the typically random commercial jingles and incoherent half-thoughts evaluating the need to go to the bathroom now or if they can hold it, you'd find out what people would really think of you. You'd walk into a room sporting a new moustache and nine out of 10 people would be thinking "child molester." On the upside of things, you'd pretty much always know when your zipper was down or if you had a whistling booger. So there's that.
Of course, in the second season Parkman developed the ability to alter people's thoughts, but that's pretty much an entirely different power. Presumably the writers decided to give themselves a mulligan after realizing that his original power basically enabled him to listen to people's internal evaluation of how comfortable their underpants are and disjointed "director's cuts" of their sentences.
Why It Sucks:
Hana Gitelman was only around for something like 2 percent of one episode, and do you have to wonder why? Her power was the ability to communicate with machines, but not like the way Micah Sanders can. That's different ... somehow. Hana's power was more like just having a form of built-in Wi-Fi in that she could email without the aid of a computer. So can we. It's called our cell phone.
They introduced her under the radar and had her MSN chat with Ted Sprague once, and then we don't really remember ever seeing her again. Maybe Sylar killed her and used her power to upgrade his DISH Network subscription wirelessly.
Don't get us wrong. The ability to communicate via computers without the aid of any kind of technology whatsoever would be handy. But, compared to controlling the space time continuum, flying or instant healing, this ability is right up there with "really bendy elbow" or the power to win at paper-rock-scissors over 85 percent of the time.
Spirit guide/Dream traveler
Why It Sucks:
You know if you had the option, you probably wouldn't want to read people's minds ... well, most people would be unlikely to visit other people's dreams, too, even if by doing so you could "guide" your subject back through their past.
Why anyone on the planet would want to do this is anyone's guess, but we're thinking it would primarily have application in the ex-boyfriend department. Your girlfriend dumps you and you're pining for her endlessly so you hop into her dreams wherein she's making out with her new boyfriend and you spiritually guide her back to her past where she was dating you. What you do after that point is a bit more unclear, because it's not like she's going to wake up and feel that dreaming about the early stages of your relationship will erase the fact that you ran her grandma over with a hay combine on a drunken rampage.
At best, if you told people you were a dream traveler you could maybe hook up with some really unintelligent older chicks who misunderstood and thought you said you were in Blues Traveler.
He is nuclear.
Why It Sucks:
Being nuclear seems like it would be a pretty handy power. You could solve the nation's energy crisis in a safe and clean manner, but environmentalists who haven't read up about nuclear power's benefits since 1979 would constantly picket you. On the plus side, you could create fission with your hands and reduce them to a gooey, gurgling mass similar to what happened to the evil Gremlin after they put him in the microwave.
None of this really explains how you'd come out ahead, though. Would people pay you for generating power? We suppose. Then again, if you needed money you could hold the world hostage for $1 Million in exchange for not liquidating their most cherished cities, such as wherever you live, because who wants to endure a really long car drive to somewhere more strategically advisable with gas prices what they are?
This power would be great if you wanted to blow up an entire large city as part of the aforementioned hostage situation or if you had a radical agenda you wished to inflict upon the unbelievers. But what if you don't? What if you're just a normal guy with a crappy job, the same as everyone else? At best, you'll just use your power to get ahead in line at the grocery store and to punish people who cut you off in traffic. They flip you off, you make it so they can no longer have children. Seems fair.
Why It Sucks:
Who wouldn't want to hear everything so sensitively that the sound of a pin dropping is the aural equivalent of the International Space Station falling out of orbit and crash landing 2 feet away from your ear drum?
Dale Smither, who is a woman (or at least was scripted as one, though "she" was pretty butch), could hear everything from distant wind to the sound of people's beating hearts. She would have to constantly wear headphones to drown the absurdly overwhelming sound of the world out. How this didn't make things far worse, we're not sure, since if a mouse hiccuping from a mile away makes you double over in pain, why would jamming headphones into your ear canals and cranking the latest Disaster Area album be any better?
Anyway, massive plot holes aside, we don't see any benefit to having super hearing that wouldn't be massively outweighed by the obvious drawbacks. There would be the constant blowing out of your eardrums, the not being able to function in normal society, and/or the going insane and taking it out on whomever gets in the path of the rifle you'll carry with you to the post office roof.
Molecular manipulation. Translation: Can melt toasters.
Why It Sucks:
As depicted on ,Heroes, the possibility of gaining the ability to manipulate molecules made Sylar so happy that he waited a full 42 seconds to crunch Zane Taylor's head in with a blunt object and steal it. This would seem to be awesome, assuming you could rearrange molecules into something else, turning a spork into a diamond the size of your head or a pair of socks into Angelina Jolie. Unfortunately, the ability seemed to be confined to pretty much just melting various household appliances and causing one's living room to resemble an IKEA display.
This would seem to have application for bank robbers, except the power takes several seconds to work and by the time it did and you went into the melted vault and got your money, you'd be shot in the face several hundred times over on your way out. Primarily, it would seem to only be useful for practical joke purposes, such as for melting the chair of the person in front of you in class, or perhaps fusing the fly on their pants together so that they'd pee themselves. It would be funny the first few hundred times, but we're pretty sure it would eventually get old.
Kills people with her eyes/unkills people with his hands.
Why It Sucks:
What we have here is your basic Hulk super-power formula. Just like how you "wouldn't like" Bruce Banner when he's angry; you won't like Maya Herrera (ever, because she's an incredibly weak character that doesn't seem to have anything to do whatsoever with the show other than to take up time and cry a lot). When she gets stressed out, her mascara starts to run and everyone within about a 1-mile radius chokes and dies, eyes bugging out in horror as if they'd just seen Rosie O'Donnell doing lunges.
Fortunately, her brother Alejandro is there to suck Maya's mascara back in using only his hands and a constipated look on his face. This sometimes causes people to come back to life, but sometimes not.
There are, of course, myriad ways in which this power/co-power would be useful--namely to temporarily kill people who stress you out, which would only be limited to everyone driving on the roads, holiday shoppers, college professors, girlfriends and your family. And friends. And co-workers. And that one guy who always quotes The Office at work.
If you forget to resurrect the people you kill, it's a given that you and your constipated sibling would be the only ones left alive on the planet after a few weeks of running amuck with this power. And, unless you're Angelina Jolie and her brother, it's unlikely the two of you will be willing to repopulate Earth.
Pyrokinesis. Translation: Saves $.22 cents a year on matches.
Why It Sucks:
As Claire Bennett's biological mother, Meredith Gordon has a unique power shared only by anyone who's ever spontaneously combusted and Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four. She can create fire with her bare hands. That's one better than Pyro from the X-Men, who can only "manipulate" the fire but can't create it. With a power like that, Meredith Gordon could, dare we say, take over the world. But instead she primarily uses it to light her smokes and her propane stove, which is precisely what most people would do with it.
Sure, you'd go through at least a few boxes of plastic utensils for the first several weeks as you melt fork after fork, but after that, then what? If you really think about it, how often do you actually need to make a fire? If you're a hippie and you light candles, incense and campfires and burn your bra a lot, then sure, we'll give you that. But most normal people, especially the non-smokers of the planet, will call on this power two to three times a year, and even then, mostly to just dispose of old boxes from storage or piles of leaves in the yard.
Of course, you could use it for evil, but you need only turn to modern gun statistics to find that less than 1 percent of gun owners use it on another human being. Why would having fire hands be any different? At best, you'll be able to realistically portray the Wicked Witch of the West in your school's production of The Wizard of Oz when she says, "How about a little fire, scarecrow?" Everyone will ooh and ahh, except for the actor portraying the scarecrow, who will unfortunately be incinerated alive.
Why It Sucks:
Having a split personality is a super power the way that Alzheimer's is a super power. The same way that it would be really cool to forget how to go to the bathroom by yourself, it would be every bit as fun to be so emotionally damaged that your personality would splinter into separate entities whenever life becomes even remotely difficult.
This is one of those instances where Heroes confuses a real life disease with super powers and then tries to make it entertaining. Next season, we're sure they're going to trot out an AIDS patient and show off their heroic ability to swallow copious amounts of pills, and then maybe they'll hook up with Elle Bishop and have some sexy and exciting adventures in the intensive care unit.
If you're still playing along at home, Niki's "power" consists of turning into the slutty but violent Jessica when something violent and/or slutty needs to be done. She also turns into the slutty and coked out Gina when something slutty and/or drug-induced needs to be done, such as if you somehow needed to sleep with Screech from Saved By the Bell in order to save the world. That hasn't happened on the show yet, but the way the show has been going lately, we wouldn't be surprised if it's the entire premise of the third season.
If you like this article, check out our weekly Heroes analysis on the Official Cracked Blog.