Heroes: Season 4 

Good news: Season four of "Heroes" is a little better than season three of "Heroes."

Bad news: That's still not saying much.

After an absolutely fantastic first year, NBC's super-powered sci-fi drama took a jaw-dropping nosedive in quality as it started its second. Creatively, the show never recovered, and should have been put out of its misery earlier. Instead, the network let it limp along like a beloved pet dog with a couple of broken legs and one blind eye.

This year, regenerative former cheerleader Claire (Hayden Panettiere) goes off to college and tries to fit in, yet danger follows. Disgraced politician Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) discovers he has the ability to see objects' history by touching them, and unearths a family secret. Time-stopping Hiro (Masi Oka) worries he might be near death's door.

The one element with the potential to make this final season better is the introduction of the Sullivan Bros. Carnival, from which something wicked this way comes —? namely, Samuel (Robert Knepper of "Prison Break"), who travels back in time (geez, another person again?) to alter the past. But its freaks aren't put to good enough use.

All the problems of the previous two seasons remain: Too many characters to keep track of. No true emotional stakes, as supposedly dead characters miraculously come back to life, or as someone else. Sylar this, Sylar that. The same old thing happens, over and over again, without going anywhere, like doing donuts in a school parking lot.

At least the five-disc set doesn't cut corners. As with previous seasons, extras are plentiful, with one expounding upon "Heroes"' expanded universe across all media, such as websites and comic books. It's a nifty look at how series nowadays have to strive to build fervent fan bases, doing much more beyond just getting a weekly show to screen. —?Rod Lott

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