Heroes: Can It Be Great Again?

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Not much has happened during Season 4 of Heroes. The characters have talked, used their powers sparingly, and, for the most part, stayed out of trouble. For any other show, that would be a big snooze. And indeed even some Heroes fans are getting bored. Yet this is a positive turn. There hasn't been much action yet, but Heroes is doing some house cleaning -- and that may mark the beginning of the show's revival.

At the end of last season, most of the characters were fooled into thinking Sylar (Zachary Quinto) had been murdered. But a handful of people -- including Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) and Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose) -- knew better. For those who don't know Sylar is still alive, Season 4 has been a cooling off period, a time for self-discovery.

Season 4 has concentrated on the lives of just a handful of characters -- most notably Tracy Strauss, Noah Benet and Angela Petrelli -- and it has stayed faithful to telling just their stories and giving these characters greater depth. Before this season, Heroes had become bloated as more and more characters showed up to show off the cool things they could do with their special powers. It was fun at first, but the overall story line became muddled and confusing. Now, for the first time since Season 1, Heroes is consistently focusing on the same small group of characters in every episode -- mainly Hiro, Samuel, Nathan, Peter, Noah and Claire.

The writers have also cut pointless story lines. Instead of focusing on the banal marital relationship of Claire's parents, her father Noah Benet is now going stag, and the simplicity of his bachelor story has provided a backbone for the season. When Claire, Peter, or Tracy are in trouble, they go to Noah for advice and fatherly support. He may not be ecstatic about his own life, but he's a pillar of support for everyone else. Likewise, Ali Larter, who has played several identical looking characters over the course of the show, is also getting more screen time. Until this season, the connection of Larter's characters to the rest of the cast was poorly explained, and we were left wondering: Why was she still on the show? But the first three episodes have set her up to play a crucial role this season.

But will that be enough? Ratings have been abysmal for Heroes during the last two years, and the first few episodes of Season 4 haven't gotten better. Worse, on Monday nights Heroes goes head-to-head with House, one of the most anticipated shows of the summer. This week, Heroes drew 5.41 million viewers, while House landed 13.06 million viewers. The difference is astounding -- and hard to ignore for fans who wonder: Will Heroes be renewed? Despite the more mature look of Heroes this season, it's going to be hard to attract healthy TV ratings against a medical mega-drama like House.

Few shows recover from the viewer purge that Heroes has experienced, but it's not time to give up on the show just yet. If you miss Monday night's episode, scoot on over to NBC.com to watch full episodes of Heroes online.

Heroes airs on Mondays at 9:00 p.m. on NBC

Sneak Peek of next Monday's episode