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Television: The end of Heroes

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Wikipedia fact: "The series tells the stories of ordinary people who discover superhuman abilities, and how these abilities take effect in the characters' lives. The series emulates the aesthetic style and storytelling of American comic books, using short, multi-episode story arcs that build upon a larger, more encompassing arc."

Ah, Heroes. It had an excellent first season, focusing on a varied group of people who developed supernatural abilities related to their personalities – the empathic carer could absorb other abilities, the mother juggling multiple lives developing the ultimate split personality – and steadily bringing them all together to stop a disastrous explosion in New York. It told good, personal stories with plenty of surprises and was genuine highlight to watch each week. Then everything went wrong.

With the explosion plot wrapped up nicely at the end of the first season the challenge for season two was to present a new threat and find a way to bring the heroes back into it, and it failed miserably. The main threat took a long time to be properly established (and felt less significant despite being much more serious than season one’s explosion), some of the characters were stuck in dull scenarios, others were killed off for seemingly no reason, and all in all there were essentially no traces of what made the first season so enjoyable. Season three picked up a little, especially once Bryan Fuller returned just a few episodes from the end (having been absent since the end of season one to work on Pushing Daisies), but by that point Heroes was too set on its current course to completely turn itself around.

Spoilers follow

Season four was another improvement over the previous season but still far from the relatively lofty heights of season one. The big threat was Samuel Sullivan and his carnival of people with abilities. For some reason Samuel’s earth-moving powers were enhanced by the presence of others with abilities, making the carnival a refuge for them and a power source for him. It still took some time to properly establish him as a threat though, and in the meantime we had pointless scenes with Claire (including the regular storyline of Claire not trusting her dad again), Peter and Matt trying to live normal lives, and Sylar forgetting who he was.

Part of the problem seemed to stem from having a fairly large main cast, which meant that one episode would focus on half of them and then the next episode would show us the others, so at points it was essentially slowing the pacing by half and sometimes felt like it was focusing on some cast members just to include them rather than because they had anything to add.

There were a fair amount of good moments to this final season and I liked Samuel as a villain. It is a little disappointing that the series was cancelled right as Claire finally got over her obsession with wanting to be normal (which in latter seasons was a big, dull waste of time) and the writers finally seemed to settle on whether they wanted Sylar to be good or evil (ultimately redeeming him in a Deep Space Nine influenced prison where time passed much more quickly than in reality, allowing him to reform in a short space of time), which would hopefully have meant the end of him never quite fitting on either side, shoehorned awkwardly into one side or the other. However, the death of Heroes was entirely of its own making and they were fortunate to have those three extra years at all, so I can’t say I’m honestly going to miss it.

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