For the last few seasons, Heroes has lost viewers at a steady rate. If it was on any network other than NBC, which seems to have less concern for ratings success since the Jay Leno experiment, its cancellation would be all but guaranteed after another drop this year. But the show still has fans. Despite being frustrated by the ill-defined characters and incomprehensible plot twists, I’m one of those who has watched the show from episode one and plans to stick with it to what is increasingly looking like a bitter end.
There is still hope to salvage the show for the diehard viewers. But it will require that NBC cancel it first.
This is not unprecedented, of course. Lost is about to start its predetermined final season. A couple of years ago, the producers and ABC got together and decided how many more episodes were needed to wrap up the show. Such collaboration and scheduled cancellation should be the new industry standard for serialized mythology shows.
Still, Heroes is not Lost. It has always wanted to be Lost and it has always fallen short. It appears that the Lost team has known exactly where the show was headed from the first season. While there have been some rough patches, they have confidently pushed the ball forward. This sure hand has been felt throughout the series, which has the rabid fans of the show going into the end game with sky-high expectations.
Ever since a stellar first season, the one thing that Heroes has lacked is confidence. It is clear now that the producers never had a master plan along the lines of Lost. And unfortunately, their attempts to adjust and reinvent the show on the fly have been disastrous to its continuity. The knee-jerk response to criticism seems to be to introduce new characters, such as this season’s menagerie of traveling carnies, and take the plots in jarring new directions that do not flow naturally from what came before. There are only so many times a show can call for a do-over.
So, out of respect for the fans—however few there are left—it is time to pull the plug. The suits at NBC need to get the producers from Heroes in a room and force them to explain their vision for the remainder of the show. I’m not talking about riding out the series to the magic syndication number of 100 episodes. The people who run this show need to take a hard look at what they’ve created—all of it—and figure out how to explain everything in a comprehensive conclusion.
It seems like they should be able to pull it all together. The core characters are still compelling. Sylar is the best villain on TV—at least he is when they let him be his true self—and the Thanksgiving episode suggests that he is back in top form. Time traveling Hiro still is amusingly wise with his wide-eyed belief in heroes. The idea that powers have been passed down through generations is still interesting as is the open question as to why all of these powers seemed to manifest themselves in a short period of time. Invincible Claire, chameleon Peter, telepath Parkman—the show has long suggested that all of these people have powers and connections to each other for a reason. The first season was so good because all of these characters were being driven toward an inevitable and devastating future—the destruction of New York City—but with the promise that their specific set of backgrounds and powers could save the world. Layered on top of this were tantalizing and ultimately unrealized hints about a unifying mythology involving solar eclipses, shadowy quasi-governmental organizations and betrayals that spanned generations. The fans want to see the promise of those early episodes realized at last.
So come on, Tim Kring. If you step up to the plate and give us a final season as powerful as the first season, fans will forgive the unfortunate meandering that came in between.
One more note for NBC. It may be that there have been too many wrong turns to wrap this series up successfully. So we’re asking you to hang tough. Go into that meeting with your bullshit detectors on. If the producers can’t explain their endgame clearly and concisely, please put the show out of its misery now. It’s the right thing to do.
// Notes from the Road
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