If, like me, you were blown away by the immense drama and excitement of Heroes Season one, you perhaps remember the ever-fading sense of optimism you had as each preceding series began. The meteoric rise from possible X-Men plagiarism to standalone awesomeness was equalled only by the monumental failure to reach those same heights ever again as each new series failed to capture our imaginations in quite the same way.
Never has the cancellation of a show been met with such anti-disappointment. I remember watching the final episode and thinking “At this point, I really don’t care what happens next”. This was in stark contrast to the uncontainable excitement I felt as season one unfolded.
So now we have a spin off approaching, and I find myself in a very confused position. Should we be excited? Have the team behind the original run learned any lessons from their previous effort? One can only imagine that this new offering was only green lit with the promise of a new approach or some kind of mind blowing idea that the studio feels will sell. This is the faint hope I cling to. I’ll certainly give it some time to grab my attention. Here are just a few of the aforementioned lessons I’m hoping the producers have learned.
The idea of symmetry in a character has always fascinated audiences. Heroes who show their dark side and villains who surprise us with their softer side from time to time. This can humanise a character and remind us that nobody is perfect. We all have our flaws and weaknesses and exposing them gives our protagonists a new angle to explore, perhaps a less predictable one; but where Heroes seemed to go wrong was dramatically shifting one of its main protagonists from good to evil and back again a few more times.
I speak of course of Sylar, who’s mysterious and evil demeanour was one the most captivating aspects of the first season. A dark, unknown psychopath on a bloodthirsty killing spree who’s apprehension proves to be the linchpin that unites the paths of the various characters who’s journeys we’ve been following.
Originally, the Sylar character was to be included only in season one, but his popularity was such that he was kept on for multiple seasons, which I believe proved to be a mistake. Over the course of the show, Sylar swung back and forth between good and evil so many times it became a boring regular twist. You just kept wondering when he was going to turn again and rolled your eyes when he did. I preferred the blood-thirsty psychopath to the suited company man or the stay at home dad. Credit to actor Zachary Quinto for putting up with these vicious mood swings for as long as he did. It no doubt prepared him for his role as new Spock who similarly can’t seem to decide what mood suits him best. Luckily he has declined a role in the new show which opens the door to new and hopefully more consistently nasty villains.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT
One of the most frustrating aspects of the first run was how our favourite heroes were stripped of their amazing abilities and drip fed them back over the course of three seasons.
Peter Petrelli was the everyday man who, like many of us, dreamt of being and doing more with his life. Upon discovering that he was indeed capable of so much more than the rest of us mere mortals, Peter struggled to control his new found abilities which were constantly growing in numbers with every new hero he met, culminating in the ultimate struggle against his inner Nagasaki.
Damn! It was this struggle for control and focus coupled with an almost child-like desire to help people that made Peter an endearing character, until he lost all his power and became me, or you, or any other Joe Soap on the street. Likewise, Hiro Nakamura, who followed a similar path to Peter in terms of his struggle to control his power in the midst of a mission to save humanity, and at one point lost his own abilities which up until that point had given us some of the most intriguing insights into the origins and futures of the characters, linking the overall universe together across time and space.
These were arguably the most interesting characters in the show, but alas the writers decided they were too powerful and made them suck instead, at least temporarily. Bad move guys. At least when Tony Stark had no suits he was still a technological genius who could overcome enemies with his geekness. What could Peter Petrelli do without power? Take a step backwards. Yawn.
A less obvious flaw perhaps but a big one for me, was the decline of The Company.
Some of the intrigue around the first few seasons was the idea of the first generation of powerful individuals forming a secret organisation with a suspicious and ethically unclear mandate. The more we learned about the origins of The Company, the more it made us wonder about the future of our current protagonists. Will their good intentions ultimately lead to the realisation that the world as it is needs control and some kind of shadow governance from those with abilities, who are most likely the only people in a realistic position to maintain order among specials while protecting their anonymity?
I mentioned earlier similarities between Heroes and X-Men, which is a fairly obvious comparison, however the biggest difference between the two franchises (aside from Heroes omission of spandex) is that in the X-Men universe, the world is fully aware of the existence of special abilities, whereas in Heroes, for the most part, the world is oblivious. The Company seemed intent on maintaining the status quo and using their anonymity to further their objectives behind closed doors.
Without the company, you simply have powerful individuals running amok doing whatever they like, regardless of their impact on others. This would no doubt lead, eventually, to a more X-Men-style universe, with a central theme being more in line with the “humans vs mutants” arc of X-Men. This was touched on with the military involvement in Heroes but civil disturbance would surely follow a more widespread knowledge of the existence of special people, something which can hopefully be avoided in the new show, despite Clare Bennett’s very public display of invincibility in the Heroes finale. I’m certain Heroes Reborn would benefit from having its own unique identity rather than following the examples of similar franchises.
In today’s entertainment world, Heroes certainly has a place. All the big comic book franchises have found homes on television and audiences seem happy to take more and more of this genre, so hopefully the lessons have been learned and the show is a hit. I miss the winning formula of the first season. Give me more of the same and we can rekindle that old flame. Heroes is like an old girlfriend. It all seemed to be going so well until she became comfortable farting in bed and lost her appeal. Let’s get back to the start and try again!