... and I think that is one of the most important lessons to be learned from this series.
Though I wish I could give this show a 10, I know that it wasn't perfect and that it would be purely biased of me. I love it, and I love what it represents and what I associate it to and it's imprinted my life in a way that at first I may not have understood the significance of but have now started to fully grasp. Because that's what television should be about, it should be able to reach out to people from all walks of life and touch them. I do recognize the flaws and wrong turns Heroes had and took. I also believe the show suffered from the writer's strike and never made a full recovery.
But at the end of the day, I realize, that's not what is important. In spite of the plot holes or incomprehensible writing decisions, I can say in all honesty that Heroes is one of my favourite all time shows and probably my favourite live action show. Because at the end of the day, while Heroes may've lost its way from an artistic and technical point of view, it never lost sight of its message and remained true to it throughout. Hope. And when I feel awful I just have to watch it because it gives me hope. And reminds us that anyone can be a hero. So I will try my best to do it justice in this review.
It's been nearly three years since this series ended and yet it feels longer, perhaps because of its abrupt ending? Perhaps one of the highest profile shows to be hit by NBC's draconian cancellation policies even though ratings were still technically viable. Many people have been left desolated and starved after the ending of the 4th season. Indeed, the show was cancelled, not finished, and it came as a shock to them, enough that they hadn't planned much of a real ending. While the open end leaves place to the imagination the uncertainty is what is primarily disappointing... perhaps that is just a reflection of the uncertainty of life. On the positive, the open end was set up in such a manner that it leaves space for the series to have a sequel, either serialized or as a film, though whether or not this will ever see the light of day is an other matter entirely.
But let us start by the beginning.
The first season of Heroes kicked off in an absolutely fantastic manner. The storyline reminded me immediately of a mosaic type narrative, like in the type of ensemble films where multiple characters have different plots attached to them but their destinies all end up crossing paths with one an other. In that sense the show powerfully backed up its original tagline: Ordinary people with Extraordinary abilities. The wide palette of characters meant that there was something for everyone, reaching a larger audience because it allowed many different people to identify. Characters from all walks of life who have a single thing in common: a genetic mutation giving them super powers. In spite of this, most of them are fantastically human, and layered. The intrigue and suspense introduces multiple threats to these characters, with other elements perfectly shaded grey wherein for the longest time you do not know who is good, who is bad, who wants to harm and who wants to help. The character that exemplifies this is the man with the Horn Rimmed Glasses also known as HRG, later revealed to be named Noah Bennet. He will turn out to probably be one of the most badass characters on the show and on television in general. Though his greatness didn't hit me the first time I watched the show, because I wasn't focused on him, upon reflection I cannot laud the writers and Jack Coleman enough for the character that is Noah Bennet.
In fact, while we're talking about characters, one of the show's strongest selling points is perhaps the evolution and devolution of all those in the original first season cast. For most of them it felt real, human. They grew, or in some instances regressed, just like real people in real life either find ways to cope with what is thrown at them, or are unable to do so. Claire Bennet is by far my favourite in terms of evolution and growth, and indeed perhaps hers was more striking by the fact that she starts the series as a high school freshman and ends the series as a college freshman. From teenager to young adult, that is for most people a tremendous leap, even from year to year, and more so for this character who has gone through a lot- both on a regular human level, and a more traumatic life experience. And what to say of Sylar? Sylar. This despicable but fantastic villain, this "monster" who turns out to have humanity still, in spite of it being choked to near extinction, driven mad by his own, unfortunate power. I think some unfortunate writing decisions were taken in regards to him. He either should have died when he was supposedly killed, or his road to redemption should have started much earlier. There was a brief moment, a glimpse during the third season where the character took interesting turns before going back to square one.
But I'm wandering off here; in short, fantastic characters were introduced in the first season, each with a unique ability (or not, a few of the important characters don't have any powers), a unique story but that ended up being interconnected, each bringing an equal contribution to the show. The writing was airtight, the consistency and continuity a delight. All the makings of an unforgettable show. I'm not generally speaking a huge fan of SciFi, I find fantasy more appealing because it strikes the imagination in a different way, but I think that's simply because of the kinds/styles of show SciFi is usually put to use in. The way in which it worked with Heroes, was woven in to the fabric of every day life and captured my mind because it had that resonance that rang true. It didn't feel far away- like you would have in a futuristic setting, or a space-exploration setting. In a sense it had the real/original science fiction feeling that made you almost believe that this could be possible. It made the suspension of belief almost unnecessary because it was teetering on that line- both in terms of the sci-fi content (superpowers) and the storylines/human content (character behaviours, reactions where it seemed plausible. If nothing else, the first season alone is well worth a watch.
The second season started off strong. While I've seen complaints about the introduction of new characters, I personally loved it, as it continued on the show's initial premise about having all kinds, and all walks of life being represented. It also brought out some very interesting angles to the inner workings of what was behind the curtains in regards to certain organizations and gave a better insight in to the goals of the antagonizing forces. It also introduced one of the most beloved characters in the series; Elle Bishop. Unfortunately for the show, however, the writer's strike happened and the season was cut short. While you could sense that the build up was happening, it wasn't as satisfying as it should have.
This is where the show hurt the most. After the writer's strike, the show never truly recovered. The third season is my least favourite of the four. Though there were some good moments, overall I felt like the show spun out of control. You could have driven a truck through the plot holes, the villains felt a lot less substantial and a lot more like ridiculous devices, some of the decisions made in regards to certain main characters were plain incomprehensible. A disaster. To its credit, it had a lot of action, so I guess if you're in to that sort of thing, that's good, and it was faster paced than the previous season, which a lot of people had complained about. But, the numbers speak for themselves, Season 3 to the best of my recollection saw the sharpest drop in ratings.
If however by then the show hadn't lost you, you were good to go in to Season 4. While season 4 wasn't stellar and far from being on par with Season 1 & 2 overall, it gave a feeling that the show was on the path to recovery. Unfortunately not enough to save it from the gallows though enough to at least give it an end with a modicum of dignity. Now, the thing about Season 4 was its radically different direction. The vibe and feel was different from the other previous seasons, because the structure was changed, especially the nature of the threat to the characters. That being said it was decently executed and in the end most of the characters flourished or kept growing or changing in a noticeable but believable manner. Self-discovery, self-doubt, questioning, etc. All the good stuff one likes to see, especially for someone like me who is very character-oriented.
At the end of the day however, in spite of its triumphant highs and terrible lows, the show never truly lost sight of its original message, and it was lovely to see that while the quality derailed the direction and true north was never lost throughout: everybody and anybody can be a hero. You just have to reach out and rise to the occasion when it comes. And that is a comforting thought, one that brings hope.
So if nothing else, for that reason alone, I tip my hat off to Heroes and hold it near and dear to my heart, with a glowing recommendation. If you haven't already given this show a try, do it, at least for the first season.