Heroes was the new millenium’s mainstream X-Men- a whole bunch of people discovering how it is they have come to be able to do some incredible and some terrifying things other people cannot. Regeneration, painting the future, telepathy, pyrokinesis, super strength, intangibility, being able to speak to technology, time travel at will- a whole range of powers that people across the globe beginning to discover that they can do things reserved for the wet dreams of comic books nerds. Its character centric stories made it Crash meets X-Men, with each character discovering their powers and handling their lives with this new revelation away from others. It was a huge success and its popularity grew.And it went downhill. It went down fast. Head over heels, bone scrunching, three week hospital stay, dislocated shoulder, deargodinheavenwhyamIinsomuchpain fast.
This is why.
The first season of Heroes was pretty phenomenal and groundbreaking in the sense that is set out to demonstrate what Kring intend- people struggling in a cruel world and trying to make the best of it. However, instead of doing this through medical or cop drama, he adapted it for the superhero geek in us all in giving people powers to do so. Well written, a nice sense of timing and pay off, Heroes’ first season was better than the standard first season. Season two is where Kring tripped on that rock and gained momentum to pain and cancellation.
For starters, the cast of characters was already extremely substantial in the first season with over ten actors and actresses listed as main stars, an already hefty amount for a team of writers to juggle. However, the second season begins by introducing people to more characters repeating the same actions as the characters from the first season. Up to a cast of 16 in its second season, the audience was still trying to identify with the first batch. In terms of cast, it is no Game of Thrones or Twin Peaks, but still pretty substantial given that each of these characters has their own story and many do not interact directly with one another for a majority of the season. So, creative efforts were divided with a heavy load to pay attention to. In addition to the cast of 16, there were still minor characters and plot twists to contend with.
The tone of the show was of course affected by all of these additional characters being added. Trying to devote screen time to enough all of the new additions and new storylines made the second season feel even slower than the first. It was muddled drawn down. There was extraordinary buildup with the first season, which is understandable. These people are learning they can’t die after having almost been raped, or taking vacations without passports and jumping off roof building because they think they can fly. Now this is happening all over again with new people and with the characters from the first season really not taking too much action. Important stories and plots were introduced too late, in particular Peter’s vision. Season 2 is where many fans simply stopped watching because they had no idea what was going on, who was who, and why we were watching the child of one of the main character’s cousin from the first season beat on some robbers. Pretty cool, but an unnecessary story and devotion to character that would not be seen again after the second season.
In addition to just the run of the mill creative issues the show did not realize it was having-it also had to deal with the uncertainty of the WGA strike and adapting their already complicated story arcs and really specific storytelling structure to the issues presented with that. The viewership for the premiere episode of season 2 was around 16 million, the highest that the show has ever had before plummeting to just 11 million for the season finale. Not only that, but that idea of real people with superpower trying to change the world became very, very depressing very, very quickly. What went to from suspense and edge, and at times fun stories were becoming heavy and were repeatedly thrown onto audiences throughout the remainder of the series.
In a sense, Heroes really became a series that went too big too quickly and then fizzled out. What went from a simple series about people discovering powers and trying to better their world went on to people becoming depressed as Eeyore with AIDS fighting secret societies and viruses and people trying to hunt them down and kill them. What was the tag line first season” Save the cheerleader, save the world”- simple, straightforward, and compelling. By the end of the second season there was a slew of characters (and god forgive you if you tried to keep up with the storylines of Ali Larter’s characters) and too much going on to fit in one television show.
Before the show even ended there were queries as to whether or not it had and what happened in the series finale. Drawn out, too many characters with too much buildup and too little payoff- Heroes would probably have at least another two seasons under its belt if Kring and the creative team thought to stay simple and straightforward as opposed to twenty characters, with twenty stories, and a slow moving plot as a result.
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