Back in 2006, one of my favorite things on TV was this little number called Heroes. It was a superhero show about these people who had powers—they just didn't know it yet. And they were mysteriously drawn together—though they weren't sure why, or how. All they knew was that there was an atomic bomb set to explode in New York City, and they had to stop it. It was pretty awesome. Which brings me to four TV seasons later, and this show that I hate. It's about these people—all of whom have worn out their welcome—who don't understand their own motivations or even remember what they said 10, maybe 15 minutes in the past. They talk about doing something for a long time, then do it, then talk about how they just did it and what it all "means." It's completely unrealistic. Oh, and they also have powers or something, sometimes. That show is called Heroes; and if you figured that out pretty easily, you're way smarter than the viewing audience Heroes is striving to engage. Yet the show trucks on, wrapping up its fourth season on Monday; and though it hasn't been renewed yet for a fifth season, given Heroes' track record of weaseling its way into line-ups at the last minute (not to mention NBC's decision to pick up another superhero show that could complement it), I'd be cautious of ruling it out. If the show's going to return, I've got a few suggestions to fix this horrible mess.
Do it. Don't find a way to get rid of his powers, don't simply make him disappear for a bit, don't put him in anyone's head (again. Ugh). Just kill him already. Kill him dead. In Season 1, Sylar was this untouchable badass with an unquenchable lust for power(s) and zero remorse—the depths of his evil knew no bounds. In short, he was the perfect villain to kick things off. Those eyebrows were so menacing! But then the show decided to keep him around, so they stripped him of his abilities and followed him in hot pursuit. Then he tried to be good, that failed, he was bad again, then good, then who knows, then sharing a brain with Nathan Petrelli, and now he's decided to ally himself with Peter and Do. Something. It's not quite clear, though it's most certainly "good" and due to that remorse he never would feel ever. The writers can flip-flop all they want, it just shines an even brighter light on the fact that they clearly have no clue what to do with the guy anymore. I get that Zachary Quinto is a popular actor, but his dramatic piano score and uncomfortably linger-y speech pattern have become tiresome. He's like that guy who graduated college a few years ago who hangs around forcing his face on underage ladies (read: Claire—oh, it happened).
While I'm at it, get rid of half the other heroes, "specials," people with abilities, or whatever the descriptor-of-the-moment is.
I know the show struggled with introducing new characters while keeping old favorites around. But at this point, Heroes can only support roughly three major storylines an episode, and there are enough people at play where multiple weeks go by between cliffhanger resolutions. If those "Previously on Heroes" openers are necessary for both newbies and long-time "fans", then it's time to cut, cut, cut—or, at the very least, relegate a few to the guest-star level of The Haitian (ahem, Renee). Thankfully, Ali Larter's animatronic Tracy Strauss seems to have all but voluntarily withdrawn, but might I suggest also significantly reducing Matt Parkman, Mohinder Suresh, Angela Petrelli, half the new characters the show plans to introduce, and Sylar. You know, cause he's gonna die, remember?
Figure out what's up with Hiro's time traveling, and stick with it.
My guess is that the writers thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if one of the people could travel through time?" Then they realized, "Oh crap, he can just go back to when [insert villain]'s in the womb and push [insert gender-specific pronoun] mother down the stairs." So they went about creating elaborate scenarios in which Hiro's time traveling ability is effectively neutralized. They sent him into the past to "learn how to be a hero"; they had him generically "break"; they even gave him a freakin' brain tumor. (No one puts Heroes writers in a corner, except themselves.) And all the while, they made it perfectly clear that Hiro couldn't go back in time to mess with the past. Until he did. To stop a guy from photocopying his butt. 47 times. Not 46, or 48, or any other integer, but 47. Oh, and then the show explained that the awesome, fluent English-speaking, samurai sword-wielding, soul patch-owning future Hiro I saw in Season 1 didn't exist, because it was a future that was stopped in the season finale. But the future from a few seasons ago, where Ando and Hiro duke it out, is totally going to still happen. If Hiro's going to be a game changer, at least figure out what game he's playing.
Make Noah Bennet less obvious about his motivations.
Sort of the counterpart to Sylar in Season 1 was Noah Bennet (or, as he'll forever be known, Horn-Rimmed Glasses guy, aka HRG). He did what he had to do to protect his family in spite of the fact that it usually included questionable deeds. As our liaison to the mysterious "Company," he remains a staple in the storytelling. His moral shadiness loses all power, though, if he tells me every two seconds what his motivation is. Yes, I understand that your "Claire Bear" might not understand that you had to let that guy go, and that you only did what you had to do to keep your family safe. I've been watching—yes, the whole run of the show, but certainly for the last 10 minutes when you said it before. It's fun to try and figure out why TV characters do the things they do; the least you can do is give me a running start.
Plan out an entire season. Not just a few episodes. This is very important.
Most comic books (this show is still supposed to mirror those, right?) make sure their readers understand the stakes right from the get-go. It gives the action a sense of purpose if you know what's in store for the heroes if they fail. We almost got that this previous go-round, when the show introduced Samuel Sullivan and the carnival of creepy wanderers/slow walkers. He was gathering heroes for a sinister purpose. It was going to be sinister and purposeful. But about halfway through, it turned out he was simply using people's abilities to woo the love of his life—whom we found out about one episode prior. Then, when that failed, he got angry and destroyed a diner with his earth-moving power—purportedly because he was sick of playing by society's rules. Even though he was gathering heroes under the guise of living amongst themselves. It was only in the next episode when someone said, "The more specials that are around, the more powerful Samuel becomes." That episode was the second-to-last of the season. If you're going to introduce this type of qualifier for his deadly ability (it rings awfully similar to that Fear-Punch guy from last season—anyone remember him?), it's, you know, good to know up front.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, stop insulting my intelligence.
I'm a savvy TV viewer. I watch my favorite shows every week, and remember roughly what happened and why it is that I'm continuing to tune in. I've seen enough drama to understand what kinds of characters I find compelling, and enough comedy to recognize when "jokes" occur. I don't know for sure, but I'm gonna venture to say if you're reading this site, you're like that too. Yet Heroes plays to the lowest common denominator—and we all know what happens when you try to divide by zero. Hey Heroes: If an idea has set sail, let it go. The more you keep the show at bay, the more I come back to the immortal words of 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan, "I'm gettin' too old for this ship."