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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

6 Things Heroes Must Do to Save Itself

by Ken Newquist / September 23, 2009

Forget the cheerleader; Heroes needs to save itself. Defying all logic, the television series about everyday people with superpowers has succeeded in getting second chance after second chance, winning back audiences with each new season only to lose them again by season's end. Here's what Heroes needs to do to save itself.

1. Work as a team

Every season of Heroes has worked the same: scatter the heroes, then slowly get the band back together again to fight an enemy (usually Sylar). They need to start with the band (or at least 3-4 members of the band) together from the very beginning. Part of what makes super hero team comics work is how the characters -- and their powers -- interact. Scatter the team, and you lose that dynamic.

2. Ditch the future paintings

In the first season, and even the second, Isaac's paintings of the future mapped out story arcs while at the same time tying Heroes to its comic book roots. But by season three, when cop-turned-telepath Matt was in Africa on half-baked vision quests, it was a gimmick that had outlived its usefulness. Its time to take off the training wheels; make up the future as you go.

3. No more time travel

Yeah, it's Hiro's shtick, but the time travel thing has been beaten to death. Too many time lines, too many futures in peril, too many lame conclusions. I'd love to see Hiro use his mastery of time to wage battle in the near future, instead of trying to prevent some distant apocalypse for the umpteenth time.

4. Bring Back Samurai Hiro

The single best scene in the first season of Heroes was when modern-day Hiro met his battle scarred cyber-samurai self. Sure it was wish fulfillment for every geek who ever wanted to wield a sword ... but that's entirely the point. There was a nice progression where Hiro was learning how to wield the sword, but I don't think we've seen it since Season 2. It's Season 4 now, and it's time Hiro started catching up with his future by becoming the warrior-hero we glimpsed in Season 1.

5. An onscreen fight between Sylar and Peter.

Every season of Heroes I've watched has built up a big battle between Sylar and Peter Petrelli. It's only natural: they're the show's only power polyglots (Sylar steals powers by killing people, Peter borrows them from others he comes into contact with) and thus, they're natural opponents. Yet time and again, their confrontations occur offscreen. We see flashing lights, we hear explosions, but not once do we actually see the battle. Now I get why -- such a scene would cost a fortune in special effects -- but we're talking about saving Heroes here; if you want to win back fans, you need to go big. An effects ladden showdown is just what the doctor ordered. Also, this plays nicely into No. 6, which is:

6. Kill Sylar

Sylar was a fun, creepy villain ... in Season 1. Since then every season has begun by robbing him of his powers, and spending 6-12 episodes watching him slowly recover them only to be defeated and repeat the whole process over again. Yes, comic books do the same thing (Magneto, Lex Luther, the Joker) but they have the virtue of rotating between boogymen. Batman might always have to deal with the Joker, but along the way he also battles Penguin, Two-Face and a host of other villains. It's time to ice Sylar for a season or two.

Heroic Destiny?

After watching the Season 4 premiere, I don't think Heroes is going to do any of this. Sylar is trapped inside his own mind, locked into the form of Nathan Petrelli, but slowly escaping. The heroes themselves are scattered to the four winds again, Hiro is back to time traveling, and our major villains (or at least, antagonists) are circus carnies obsessed with revenge and able to divine the future through the use of tattoos. Meh. I'll probably do the same thing I always do (and I suspect, most of you do as well) which is what the series for a few episodes, see if it's got legs, and then decide whether to tune out. I'm not optimistic.

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7. Hand over the reigns.

I don't think it's salvageable. At least not with their current team. Every season half way through the creative team talks about how they've listened to the fans and will fix the series. Then the second half goes on an entirely new direction which makes it suffer. THEN a new season starts and they are back to their old tricks. I had such high hopes for the series, but after two and a half seasons I gave up. Unless I hear otherwise I don't plan on ever finishing up season 3, and there are much better shows opposite of season 4.

Hi Ken,

My wife and I loved the show during season 1. We were somewhat disappointed with that season's finale, it seemed kind of anticlimactic. Season 2 had it's highlights but toward the end I think we were watching just because of the time we'd invested in it. We got an hour into the two hour season 3 preview and decided we'd had enough. From hearing what's going on in the series, I'm sad to say that it sounds like we made a good time saving decision.

I think series need to take a nod from some British shows and plan on a limited run so you're always left wishing for more instead of dreading more.


I think the single biggest problem they have is they keep trying to recreate the success of Season 1... but you can only do an origin story once (leaving aside retcons). A lot of the time they seem to try and cling to this formula, which is why we keep getting these season-long setups that don't pay off. And you're right, a big part of that is because they always seem to abandon the premise half way, and then start AGAIN after the January hiatus.

It's been moving like a half-dead, blind shark for the last season or two, and it does seem unlikely that their current writing crew can pull them out of it.

So your #7 is absolutely right; bring in some new writers, with some new approaches, and see what they can do with the material.

I agree -- a limited run would have been better. Failing that, I'd like to see shorter, more self contained arcs. I don't mind a larger overarching story or multiple ongoing plot lines, but I think the show would have more energy if they focused on particular characters, or resolving individual arcs more quickly.

I agree sort of.
My thesis: The the collective " intellegence" of American TV is about overkill [literally], a serious lack of imagination coupled with an overabundance of profit motive. You get to many people watching a certain thing and it automatically turns to sludge. Or is is a brain devouring fungus?
I suggest a movement back to book reading.

in my opinion i was extremly upset when they take peters powers because now sylar is the greatest one and now that he is unable to die its gonna be the main villan, but i hope that the producers made a stop with sylar and create new villans and that peter recover his original hability because lets face it it was so much intresting when peter has his original hability.

sorry for the spelling, im from mexico