13 Ways to Get Heroes Back on Track

hayden-panettiereNormally, the announcement of a fourth season of a popular television series would be grounds for celebrations, but one has to wonder how many fans are saying enough is enough already.

Heroes, as everyone who is actually reading this post knows, had an incredible first season that gave NBC a much-needed hit, made “Save the cheerleader” a household phrase and became internationally known. Then came season two. For a little while, it went fine – while not as good as the first season, it still developed its characters further and progressed the story at a reasonable pace.

Then… the writer’s strike. Facing a chapter without an ending, the Heroes writing staff made the massive mistake of accelerating their storyline – about a virus that ravages the world – toward a clumsy conclusion far earlier than was ever meant to happen. The result? Subplots were dropped, stories were accelerated to the point where nuts and bolts were flying off at the seams and fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouth.

As awkward as season two was, it did have some strong storylines:

  • The introduction of the Nightmare Man – a man who, at the end of season one, was described as “worse than Sylar,” added another great villain to the mix.
  • New “heroes” Maya and Alejandro had some of the most interesting and disturbing powers ever imagined.
  • Hiro gets stuck in 17th century Japan, a seemingly goofy (but entertaining) storyline that ends up revealing yet another sinister villain, an immortal who is fine with killing everyone in the world off for good.
  • Claire starts dating a flying boy – who is scared to death of “the man with horn-rimmed glasses,” i.e. her father.
  • Peter discovers that the world will be destroyed by a horrible virus.
  • Nathan is apparently assassinated on the verge of revealing to the media that some people have special powers.

It wasn’t perfect, though. There were some issues:

  • The show continued to introduce new characters, not all of whom were good. The New Orleans girl who can learn how to do anything was not particularly interesting and added little to the overall plot.
  • They leave Caitlin (Peter’s Irish girlfriend) stuck in the future and just drop her story.
  • They kill off Ali Larter’s intriguing character… to save the stupid New Orleans girl.
  • The last several episodes move way too quickly, forcing characters to do unexplained things that don’t fit their nature. The season finale is particularly painful as it is clear that the writers decided to cut the story short rather than just leave us hanging until the show’s return half a year later. Sometimes less is more.

Season3 has had its moments, but has suffered since the first episode and doesn’t show any signs of improving. In fact, there are a lot of things wrong with this season:

  • Nathan has a “religious” experience and his character completely switches gears again. He becomes the most unbelievable flip-flopper in the history of fiction and non-fiction.
  • Ali Larter is introduced as an entirely new character, whose power is that she can turn things to ice. She goes from having one of the most interesting powers to the dullest, and as such gets very little screen time. The writers cop-out big time by explaining that she and Nikki were a result of a medical experiment.
  • Sylar temporarily becomes a good guy with mommy and daddy issues. One of the most cunning and creepy villains is manipulated beyond belief.
  • Noah Bennett continues to switch sides and loyalties, but his argument that he’s just trying to protect Claire is starting to sound really old. The writers believe it, however.
  • Peter becomes trapped inside a villain, while the villain gets his body. Oh, Jesus, are you serious?
  • Noah Bennett runs around calling “bad guys” “villains” because that’s the name of the chapter and what bad guys are called in comic books.
  • Matt develops the same painting-the-future bit that other characters have had, which was interesting the first time around but isn’t anymore. He and many other characters also have to deal with a stupid African prophet who is more annoying than anything else.
  • Another horribly annoying character is introduced: Daphne. She’s killed, which is good… but wait, she isn’t actually dead, convincing us that the writers have no interest in permanently killing any character for good.
  • The writers take us into the future, but this go-around the episode isn’t nearly as good as the excellent one from the first season. Penis envy persists.
  • Matt becomes an increasingly annoying character.
  • The writers give sidekick Ando special powers. Do not ever give regular people powers. It ruins the balance of the show. His powers also suck.
  • The writers give Mohinder special powers, as if he wasn’t already annoying enough.
  • Mohinder’s special powers turn him into a villain (did he murder Maya? I can’t remember. If not, what happened to her?). Unfortunately, the writers decide that he would annoy us better if he switched sides once again and became a good guy with super-strength but no barnacles. Cop-out.
  • An eclipse takes away everyone’s powers. The eclipse lasts for multiple episodes, raising the question as to why no one is disturbed that the earth has stopped rotating and the moon has stopped orbiting. The earth would also be destroyed if this happen, and we would all die.
  • One also wonders how an eclipse can take away powers. This is stupid.
  • Peter goes from being a bad-ass who absorbs powers at will to only being able to use one power at a time. Suddenly, he is not the awesome anti-thesis to Sylar but just another boring hero.
  • Sylar learns how to take people’s powers without cutting open their heads. What’s the fun in that.
  • Hiro still doesn’t have his powers back. Hiro and Ando split up.
  • Sylar gets a sidekick who has to be one of the most annoying people on the planet. Viewers wonder why Sylar doesn’t kill him immediately. If Sylar doesn’t do it soon, I will.
  • The characters continue to return to the Mendez suite, as if everybody looking for heroes wouldn’t keep a constant eye on that place.
  • Nathan commits his biggest flip-flop yet and, for no particular reason decides that it be best if he pit the government against all heroes – except for himself, his brother and his daughter, of course. Nathan is confused when this plan backfires on him, and we wonder how even a politician on a television show can be so stupid.

The Heroes writers can still turn this ship around, and they’ll have to if they want a season five. It’s going to be hard, but not impossible. They’re going to need to be disciplined and create some rules for themselves that cannot be broken. My suggested solution is at the bottom of the post, but here are some general ideas/rules that the writers should implement to improve Heroes:

  • Bring back Molly, the little girl that could find anyone, anywhere. She was an interesting character that has been crucial at times.
  • Kill off Mohinder. Make fans happy. Destroy him.
  • Give Matt some Zanax. He has way too much anxiety and becomes annoying as a result.
  • Make it a rule that no character’s power can change for the sake of changing. They can evolve, but not completely change.
  • That being said, give Peter back his kick-ass powers.
  • Keep Sylar a bad guy, and if you want to make him temporarily good, offer a common villain. Don’t allow him to be so easily manipulated.
  • Make it a rule that no character can lose their powers unless another character (like Mr. Petrelli) has the ability to do so. Silly things like the moon moving in front of the sun should have no effect on what is a genetic trait.
  • Keep the stories grounded in reality… only with superheroes. This stems from the eclipse thing. Do all the crazy stuff that comes along with people having powers, but otherwise don’t give in to cheesy comic book gimmicks.
  • Slow things down. Stuff is happening way too quickly. Progress the stories slowly, add some mystery to things that span entire seasons, and allow time for your characters to progress and develop. If you want to make Nathan a bad guy who starts hunting down all heroes, develop this transition over 20 episodes – not one.
  • Don’t allow characters to switch sides multiple times in a season. If a good guy becomes bad or a bad guy becomes good, make their transition a series-long one.
  • Plan your show out more than five episodes at a time. Don’t switch gears on a minute’s notice, unless it’s an intentional twist that makes sense.
  • Bring back Ali Larter’s original character.

I’m sure there are more, but those could start moving Heroes back in the right direction. But, the writers shouldn’t waste several episodes trying to do this. All of this could be accomplished in one or two episodes, and I strongly believe that, if done right, this could solve the problems of the show:

Hiro is not the only time traveler. There is another time traveler, a bad one, who goes back in time to do some really bad things. Everything changes in the future, but Hiro, who partially exists outside of the time-space continuum, is the only one who isn’t affected. He goes back in time, back to either the end of season one or even the end of season two. He fights with the evil time traveler, and past Hiro is killed. Future Hiro takes his place amongst a group of characters that haven’t been affected by the Villains or Fugitives storylines. Peter still has all his powers, Nikki is still alive somehow, and all of the horrible character development that we’ve witnessed areerased. And things continue on as if nothing happened.

Typically, I’m not a fan of doing something like this, but considering that Heroes does involve a lot of time travel, wouldn’t the easiest solution be to just return to a part of the story where fans generally agree that the ship was still on course. If the writers could work the virus storyline back into the fold, that’d be awesome, but if not, just go back to the end of season one and go from there.

What do you think?

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: TV Series
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