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May 17, 2010

Geek Out!: Farewell (or good riddance) to 'Heroes'

Posted: 04:17 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it, you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Let's travel back to the year 2007. Back then, Marvel was working on a very risky movie version of "Iron Man" with Robert Downey, Jr., the idea of a musical TV series sounded preposterous, and viewers were excited about the season finale of a show called "Heroes," which had become a phenomenon.

The phrase "Save the cheerleader, save the world" had successfully entered the public lexicon, with no small help from the NBC promotions department, and Masi Oka was a breakout star for his portrayal of the lovable time-stopping, time-traveling Hiro. The next-to-last episode of the season had the villainous Sylar set on attacking New York City, with a bunch of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities preparing to come together to stop him.

Here was an exciting show with a continuing story arc that actually answered questions, unlike the then-floundering "Lost," and fans ate it up. Then a funny thing happened: the season finale was not that great. Nathan flew into outer space with his brother Peter, averting disaster before he exploded like a nuclear bomb. All in all, it was pretty anticlimactic.

Season two spent a lot of time in feudal Japan where Hiro ended up, and we were introduced to a few new characters who were about as interesting as watching paint dry (with the exception of Kristen Bell's electro-charged Elle). The second part of the season was scrapped due to the writers' strike, so the show made an attempt to get back in the good graces of fans by screening the season three premiere at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Season three was just a mess. It seemed as though the writers threw everything they could at the wall to see what stuck. New plot points were introduced and old ones forgotten on a regular basis.

If you want an example of how to handle time travel in an interesting way, check out the fifth season of "Lost." If you want to see an example of how to handle it badly, check out the third season of "Heroes." At one point, all of the characters lost their powers in a solar eclipse, a plotline which ultimately went nowhere. And then there was the time when Hiro literally regressed to being a child. The less said about that, the better.

It also looked like Sylar might redeem himself but that didn't take either. It seemed as though a solution had been found to get rid of Sylar, by making him believe he was Nathan, but eventually that was reversed in the increasingly confusing fourth season.

Sylar was a fascinating character, no doubt, and Zachary Quinto chewed the scenery whenever given a chance. But eventually the show seemed to be all about him, never mind the title.

So, at long last, "Heroes" is over, and that's probably for the best. There were some great moments no doubt (usually when Bryan Fuller was writing), but it was a slow death that was hard to watch.

It's a cautionary tale for other shows which capture the public's imagination early on. There are reports that the show might wrap up as a TV-movie in the coming season. Either way, I look forward to the new show "The Cape," which on the surface bears a lot of similarity to Batman, and hope that it can succeed where "Heroes" failed.

Filed under: Geek Out! • television

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Jhardain   May 17th, 2010 4:49 pm ET

They went downhill from the 1st season on. 🙁

Peter Vee   May 17th, 2010 4:52 pm ET

So sad, and so true. Future editions of the Geek Dictionary will feature the Heroes 1st Season poster next to the definition for "Wasted Potential."

alexis   May 17th, 2010 4:57 pm ET

There could've been so much done to save this show on the writers' part. Consistency, despite the strike, would've helped in the story construction. The original season got butchered by the other seasons SO much, I felt at times I could fly myself to LA, get hired as a writer and do a better job myself. It was a slow death, and it was painful, because what could've been was still being hoped for and it never happened. I do hope the writer of the movie follow up would be Joss Whedon because it would be an incredible story for sure.

Jim   May 17th, 2010 5:06 pm ET

The show started downhill the moment that Sylar began to speak.

Mitch   May 17th, 2010 5:24 pm ET

Consistency. This show frankly had none after season 1. I blame the way the writing team broke up the story, so that there was a pronounced lack of communication between the teams.

This style of writing, where on team works on one storyline, other teams work on other -with little to no communication until the end of the season- just does not work on shows like this. Good growth in one aspect has to be annuled (or forgotten) when storyline X meets up with storyline Y, because the writes did not make any but the barest of plans for their plots.

Ah, Heroes, I will remember you fondly; with bittersweet nostalgia. I will watch my Season 1 DVD far into the future. . . and pretend that the rest never happened.

TL   May 17th, 2010 5:29 pm ET

I was one of the faithful who kept hoping it would get better lol. I also kept wondering just how much they were going to borrow from the X-Men, esp. the last season (you can't tell me that Samuel wasn't a poor-man's Magneto) . I'l always have a couple of questions, but truthfully, it's long overdue.

Todd M   May 17th, 2010 5:32 pm ET

More is not always better. The firat line straddled the line between interpersonal and fantastical. After that it was completely on the rollercoaster in a nosedive.

Jenifer   May 17th, 2010 5:54 pm ET

Seems to be a common sentiment, but I'll say that I've certainly enjoyed a lot of the post-Season 1 Heroes. While I thought it hit a low-point early in Season 3, I really enjoyed the last season and a half or so. But it certainly had run its course, and I liked the way they wrapped it up the finale. I'm not sure it needs a tv movie, but Heroes-geek that I am, I'll probably watch it if there is one. Looking forward to The Cape, for sure.

Joshua Baecker   May 17th, 2010 6:02 pm ET

Wasted potential through and through. I famously remember listening to an interview during the first season when Tim Kring said that he wasn't a comic book guy and thinking to myself with a forboding feeling "Here's hoping he learns fast." Then season 2 came, I slowly began to realize that he didn't really learn anything about comic books OR heroes. I gave up on Heroes after watching the season opener of season 4.

Sakura2000   May 17th, 2010 6:25 pm ET

Yes, very poor writing. My (least) favorite inconsistency: Nathan's radiation burns are healed by being injected with Claire's blood. Noah gets shot in the head and Claire's blood brings him back from the dead. Then Sylar cuts Nathan's throat. What she should we do? I know, let's hide his body and turn Sylar into Nathan.

h1   May 17th, 2010 6:56 pm ET

Heroes was only meant to be a ONE season show. The producer and creator (Tim Kring), only wrote the first season. he was bought out by the producers to continue after the "save the chearleader" line was known by every pre-teen and teen boy around. I dont believe he actually wrote any of the other episodes... im sure they were done by underwriters at that point.

Tony Sosa   May 17th, 2010 7:22 pm ET

You're on drugs. Kristen Bell was head-smashingly awful in Season 2.

Summer   May 17th, 2010 7:34 pm ET

I was so upset because I used to watch season one of Heroes over and over again; it was so amazing! Season two just quit with no rhyme or reason. It was saddening. The latest season, with the carnival and what-not has just been awful. It's almost as if the actors gave up when the writers had given up as well. It sucks because it was a great show, and it could have still been a great show, if the writing and the plot lines were better.

Steena   May 17th, 2010 8:04 pm ET

Okay, I loved ALL of the seasons! The fact there was something on regular TV besides crimes-being-solved-in-one-hour dramas and all the other garbage of reality TV shows etc., etc., etc., was a much needed respite. So, once again those in charge of the non-cable television decide yet again to cancel the show that actually come from creative thinking from creative minds – those minds that create other than rely on the days headlines. Ugly Betty, Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone and now Heroes. Gone. All creative writing gone down the drain. I will miss Heroes and will now have the TV permanently turned off.

el duderino   May 17th, 2010 8:14 pm ET

It's interesting to compare Heroes with Lost- both came out about the same time, both captured the public's imagination, and both floundered in the second and third seasons. Then, somehow, Lost managed to get its act together and really start hitting some home runs, especially in the 5th and now the last season. Heroes, on the other hand, just continued to spiral down the toilet. Sad. I really liked Heroes and stuck with it through the 2nd and most of the 3rd season. Then I just gave up. But I'm glad I stuck with Lost, because this season is truly awesome.

ghostpanther   May 17th, 2010 8:59 pm ET

the show lost its way and forgot what made it interesting in the first place.

After Sylar became such a buzz character, they made the fatal mistake of humanizing him into an on-gain, off-again anti-hero.

Character motivations changed way too much.

Often times they would write themselves into a corner, then use some half-baked reason to explain away the crisis.

I don't think they planned long-term to sustain themselves. And if they did... gosh guys I am sorry but you earned the cancellation.

Rather than change the personality of the mainstays over and over, how about you let those characters reach a resolution and then let them just go?

And for goodness sake, they went to Sylar too many times as their ultimate bad guy. Every other villain was just a placeholder until Sylar decided to go eat some brains. ( I know he really didn't eat them but he was a more interesting character when we THOUGHT he did).

Applesfinctor   May 18th, 2010 6:52 am ET

This show was still on the air?!

Ben   May 18th, 2010 8:28 am ET

Am I the only one that saw this show as showing what it really means to be a hero? Asking the question is a hero someone that ONLY does good, or someone that does 1 very good thing, or just the most recent thing is good.

Peter is human, he struggles and in the end is a realistic character, never really emotionally beyond being a child though.

Sylar is the same but mostly struggling with the inner evil.

Unlike most people I feel the first season was the worst. It was TOO cliche. Too "the good versus the bad" rather than realistic situational based heroes. People throw around the word Hero like it should make one glow and stand out amoung everyone but the true heroes do good then get on with their life.

What lost viewers in season 2 was the writers demanding more money on online sales. If the writers hadn't whined begging to get paid 4 times for 1 piece of work it would have flourished more. They made up for it in season 3 giving 2 full story arcs separated into "half seasons". It showed a new idea that you didn't need 22-24 episodes to get a full season worth of drama, you just needed a plan.

ZachFan   May 18th, 2010 9:26 am ET

100% accurate. Hung on for Sylar, and the fantastic acting of ZQ. Would love to see a well-written spinoff.

Derek   May 18th, 2010 9:58 am ET

I liked the first 2 seasons. The third had some interesting episodes & quite a few boring ones. I had to force myself to watch the fourth season. I had no idea where it was going. The whole carnival thing could have been done better if they made the carnival leader some kind of mutant terrorist that our "Heroes" had to defeat.

AGuest9   May 18th, 2010 10:18 am ET

TV writers don't do sci-fi well. Network TV is riddled with the remains: Battlestar Gallactica, Space: Above and Beyond, V... Chris Carter's X-Files was the only exception, and just because, I think, it didn't have to closely follow a story-line, where Heroes and Lost did. It was sort of a Twilight Zone-ish episode-by-episode gallery of individual stories, with a few, whispy threads to tie the shows together.

Lost is an example of where things just get too wierd and seem like the writer has run out of ideas. Heroes should have been a short-installment series, or perhaps a few films, ala the Fantastc Four franchise. There wasn't enough there to keep either series interesting, and they both outlasted their usefulness a long time ago.

peyote   May 19th, 2010 2:05 am ET

claire is a lesbian side show freak in a carnival. I wished they had stopped after season 1. somebody owes me some money for the time they wasted off my life.

Mike   May 19th, 2010 1:00 pm ET

I think someone hit the nail on the head above. Heroes definitely dropped off since the first season, but relative to what else is on prime time television, it's Shakespeare. Practically every other non-reality show on television is a trite crime drama. How many different incarnations of Law and Order and CSI do we really need? This was one of the few shows on regular television I could tolerate watching. With Lost ending, there is not a single network television show I will regularly watch.

Fabrice   September 6th, 2012 4:54 pm ET

Heroes is captivating? I'm sorry i dont agree. where as every csi eodpsie has its own storyline, QT was able to create a stand out mini story. Heroes is just one dragged out story. an eodpsie by QT would have no purpose cos he'd be just directing a next segment of an extremely stretched out storyline, (which probably could have been streamlined down to 12 eodpsies for season 1 and still had the same story told!) but i guess it might improve in season 2. couldn't get much slower! however QT acting in heroes as a part time hero on the show would be interesting .

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