By ELIZABETH TAI
Orginally published in The Star on May 23, 2010.
So what went wrong with the series that started out heroically with tremendous buzz and promise?
SO, NBC has cancelled Heroes. Alas, Heroes. I barely knew ye.
No, actually, I knew you too much. Unlike some of the millions who abandoned its creaky decks in its second season and in greater numbers in the third season, I actually stayed on to watch.
I took in every ridiculous plot, wince-inducing dialogue (“Save the cheerleader, save the world”) and every character assassination, with my fists clenched at my side and my face twisted in despair.
What has become of my beloved show? The same show which prompted my bunch of Heroes-worshipping friends to organise a “wrap-up party” to watch the first season finale, cheering Peter on as he faced Sylar? But I still watched the train wreck, and kept hoping that it’d return to its glory days.
Well, no such luck now.
When it debuted in 2006 on the American network NBC, it attracted 14 million viewers. In its final season – its fourth – only five million tuned in. What’s more tragic, news of its cancellation was greeted mostly with sighs of relief. Tragic, for a show that started so well.
Just what did Heroes do wrong?
They never killed Sylar
Look, I get it. Sylar was awesome. Zachary Quinto made him mysterious, evil yet vulnerable at the same time. We’ll miss him if he’s gone, but because Season One was about putting an end to the menace that was Sylar, fans deserved that closure at least. But no, they decided to let Sylar live and drag on the Heroes vs Sylar thing. By the fourth season, the fearsome slicer had become a joke. And turning Sylar into a joke is a crime of monumental proportions.
They neutered Peter
In the third season, Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) lost his powers only to regain them in a more limited form. Instead of being able to absorb powers at will, he had to touch a person to get them now.
One of the coolest things about Peter initially was that he’d felt that his life was without direction (i.e. he felt like a loser). But then his amazing powers manifested, and he had to struggle to use those abilities responsibly.
Remember that amazing Season One episode, Five Years Gone, where we saw Peter at his prime, facing Sylar as an equal in terms of powers? Peter was the only one who could face Sylar. With his powers reduced, there just wasn’t a balance anymore.
They made Hiro a joke that ran too long
Hiro (Masi Oka) was just kawaii (cute), but at one point or another, he must grow up. But by the fourth season, he was still indulging in his kiddy superhero fantasies by building a detective agency where he rescued people with his super powers. Been there, done that. And it wasn’t funny anymore.
They stopped grounding the heroes in reality
The lovely thing about Heroes’ first season is that the super-powered people were just regular folks from all walks of life trying to survive the rigours of modern life. Albeit with a little help from super powers.
But in its following seasons, we had government conspiracies, secret formulas, mutant detention centres, shady experiments and family members with Godfather-like ambitions. I kinda prefer to watch more about Peter being a nurse and trying to be a normal dude.
They forgot that the show was about the characters, not just the plot
And because they were so busy making the heroes run around saving the world, they forgot – or perhaps, didn’t bother – to develop the characters. They did a good enough job with Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) who had to wrestle with his desire for power and his need to do good, but almost all the other characters (and there were just too many of them) were mere pawns on the crowded chess board.
They made characters do things that they wouldn’t have done
In Season Three, Heroes just went nuts. Nathan started rounding up fellow super-powered folks, and Mohinder became a mutant with superstrength and a bad skin condition. We just didn’t know those people anymore. It didn’t help that the plot was just simply ridiculous.
Since its third season, fingers were pointed at show creator Tim Kring for the series’ amazing decline. But Kring – once beloved by fans – laid the blame on fans for not watching the show live on the night it aired, and disastrously, called those who did “saps and dips***s”. (Lesson to all show creators: Don’t ever, ever, insult your target market.)
Then, in an interview with IGN.com, Kring said that network interference and the inability to delete characters were at fault.
I suppose we don’t really care now, because Heroes is done no matter whose fault it is. Still, Kring should do himself a favour and just exit quietly without making another comment that will infuriate former fans. Especially if he wants to create another show … because people have long memories after all.
RIP Heroes: 2006-2010.
Elizabeth Tai concedes that ‘Heroes’ Season Four was a major improvement, but it happened too late.