Two years ago, Heroes was the hot new show. Fueled by the “Save the cheerleader, save the world” hype, everyone was talking about it. And for the most part, the show lived up to the hype. It was viewed as a more realistic version of X-Men.
But now, the show just completed its third season (or technically, the first pasrt of the third season, but a contained story arc, so I’ll consider it to be a full season) and the show has been disappointing at best, and just plain stupid at worst.
So what happened?
From what I’ve read, the show’s producers originally planned on introducing a completely new cast each season, and the characters from season one would be replaced by brand new characters. While this is unheard of for a drama, I can understand their thinking. Reality shows completely replace their cast each season and only the basic concept of the game remains the same. I assume they figured that if the concept would work for reality shows, it might do just as well with a scripted series.
Of course, the flaw in their thinking came when fans grew attached the the characters of season one. After all, a drama pretty much hinges on the characters involved. While the basic concept is a good one – ordinary people suddenly have super powers and need to save the world – if the audience doesn’t connect with the characters, the show isn’t going to do well. Concepts alone can fuel reality shows or procedural police shows like CSI, but serial dramas really need strong characters.
Thinking that there was going to be only one season for these characters, the writers may have gone too in depth into exploring some of their backstories. Any mystery we might have had about any of these characters was pretty much removed. That lessens some of the appeal.
Anyway, in season one, the heroes prevented New York from being destroyed in a nuclear explosion. So now that they’ve made a decision to keep the same cast, where do they go from there?
Basically, they’ve done the same thing over again. The first few episodes meander along, with no real threat as we catch up with the old characters and introduce new ones. Then, a threat slowly develops, and we learn the full extent of it when someone travels into the future to see the horrible place that its become. After that some of the characters go about stopping it, and the rest of them just kind of wander along, eventually working into the main plot almost purely by coincidence.
How to fix the show?
1. Fewer characters – There are just too many characters around. Lost, another show with a large cast, has gotten around this problem by focusing on only a couple characters in each episode. Heroes seems to try to fit most of them in to every episode, making it harder to follow what’s happening. Focus each episode on a small group of characters. Or better yet, kill off some of the dead weight to make things seem slightly meaningful.
2. Enough with the conspiracies – In season one, we learned that the true “bad guys” were the members of “The Company” who ran a global conspiracy. But now, since they needed to up the stakes a little, there’s apparently another group who’s conspiring against them. And in this season, we learned that Linderman, who was seen as the mastermind behind everything in season one, was really subservient to this season’s head conspirator, Arhtur Petrelli. It’s all become too damn confusing. Find a new threat that doesn’t involve vast conspiracies.
3. Let them use their damn powers – In season one, most of the series dealt with the heroes discovering and learning to use their powers. By now, they all know how to use their powers. So why not let them actually cut loose? To me, the season first started on a decline towards the end of the first season when Hiro travelled to the future. We had future Peter and future Hiro about to embark on a Matrix-style fight through the building. But for whatever reason (inability to show too much violence on TV, limited budget) we didn’t really see much of the battle. This trend continued in the season finale when the built up battle between the heroes and Sylar never really amounted to much.
Peter and Sylar are the two most powerful characters on the show. But despite all the buildup to a showdown between them, when they’ve actually squared off, its been brief and disappointing. In a show about people with super powers, eventually you’ve got to see them fight each other with those powers. Otherwise, the show just becomes another conspiracy drama.
4. Limit people’s powers – The writers essentially created a dilemma for themselves by letting Peter mimic the powers of anyone he’s ever encountered. Considering how many characters they’ve introduced, this gives Peter pretty much the ability to do anything he wants. Between he and Sylar, they have so many powers that they’re essentially godlike in what they can do. Because of this, the writers have to make the characters either conveniently forget about some of their abilities, or behave in an idiotic manner. When people have simpler, more limited power, we might actually get to see them use them, and not have to limit themselves for whatever reason.
5. Stop making the characters so stupid – It’s like the characters are in a constant fight to see who can act the dumbest. Peter rarely uses any of his powers in an effective manner. Mohinder Suresh is supposed to be the brilliant scientist, yet he comes off like a complete idiot. But the absolute dumbest character has to be Hiro. In the first season, he started off as a loveable, naive goofball. We then saw the future, badass Hiro, and during the first season, Hiro slowly started to grow into that. But since then, Hiro has done one stupid thing after another. Every time you think he’s on the right path, he just messes up again.
6. End the plot holes – OK, if you wanted to keep Ali Larter on the show, then why’d you kill off her character? Oh, its fine, she’s got a long lost identical twin sister! Anyone remember the girl Peter was in love with but he accidentally stranded her in the plague ridden future in season two? Apparently not. Kudos to Peter for getting over her so quickly too. And hey, Arthur Petrelli can absorb and use the powers of anyone, as shown when he absorbed Adam Monroe’s healing powers. I guess those healing powers just conveniently stopped working when he got shot in the head and died.
The next season deals with the government hunting all of the superpowered people. Which sounds OK at first, but it seems slightly derivative of what we’ve already seen. And I’m guessing that for the government to effectively hunt and capture these people, the heroes are going to have to make stupid mistakes.
Maybe I’ll be wrong, and it will kick all sorts of ass. Maybe.