Apparently the most recent episode of "Heroes," in addition to the whole season, has left a bad taste in a lot of critics' mouths.
Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune is kissing the series goodbye. And she's listed a number of other writers who are frustrated with the show.
I agree with the notion that the alternate futures seem more interesting than the real present, and the latest trip to one of them is probably a trip too many. Creator Tim Kring & Co. should do something about that.
In fact, there's probably a lot of things that they should look to do to make the series better. I was willing to cut them some slack before, either because they were a freshman show coming out of nowhere to be a sensation, or because they had a writers' strike looming. I still think the show's one of the most interesting on TV. But I do feel like there's too many plot holes and loose ends, and yes, questions that remain unanswered.
So here's my list of top 10 things I would do if I had the superpower to make Tim Kring and NBC do my bidding. In no particular order:
1. Neuter Hiro, Sylar and Peter
Realistically, there's not much that these characters can't do. Which opens up a question any time one of them is on-screen. For instance, in the Oct. 6 episode, it makes little sense that Peter and Sylar had trouble with a strong guy, a speedster and a woman who can regenerate. Peter can stop time. Sylar can use telekinesis to hold them all in place. They could teleport out of the area.
Similarly, any mistake Hiro makes could hypothetically be fixed by going back in time.
Now that Sylar has Claire's power, he is, according to the show, unkillable.
Where's the fun in seeing those kinds of characters interact? Which brings me to:
2. Develop Characters and Play to Actors' Strengths
One of the strengths of the show as originally conceived was that it was as much about the individuals as it was about them having cool powers. Yet somewhere along the line, that's gone by the wayside some.
There haven't been many scenes this season, for example, with Nathan and any members of his actual family. Somewhere amid all this action, it would be nice if Nathan and Angela or Peter got together and discussed all of what they've been through. Just take Nathan: "I learned I can fly. I almost signed on to a plot that would leave New York City a smoking crater. I almost died. I miraculously healed. I lost my family. I gave up my life's ambition to be a representative. I almost died again. I got miraculously healed again. I miraculously got appointed to the Senate. I'm talking to the version of Linderman that apparently no one else can see. And now I've found someone who's an identical twin of a woman I've had a fling with."
By contrast, I'm sorry, but Hayden Panettiere can't play a tough, embittered girl to save her life.
3. Idiot-Proof All Plots
Too often, I find myself asking, "Why would a reasonable person do this?"
For instance: Why would Mohinder inject himself with an untested serum when anything could go wrong? Particularly when he goes to some random dock to do it, instead of a controlled environment? The answer, of course, is to provide a convenient opportunity for random thugs to hassle him and then get taken down by his newfound Spider-man like powers. But there's no in-story reason.
Why would Future Peter shoot Nathan, rather than simply go back to some point in time prior to the big speech and explain to him, "If you out us superpowered people, bad things will happen"?
Why would he further go on to put Peter -- in all places -- in the body of a villain imprisoned in Level 5 and Parkman somewhere randomly in Africa? Obviously, the plot wants them to be there.
If someone were to try hard enough, you could "fanwank" an explanation for these and the various other elements of bizarre behavior on the show. But the point is that you shouldn't have to fanwank anything. The writers should not force you to actively suspend disbelief beyond certain basic concepts.
4. Mix in Standalone Episodes
One of the problems with season-long arcs is that it can seem incredibly slow getting from point A to point B, and it asks a lot for a viewer to stick with it all the way.
Few shows pull them off well over the course of 24-episode seasons. Those that do generally have individual episodes that have beginnings, middles and ends of their own.
I think it would behoove "Heroes" to go that route from time to time. Instead of gradually building up the threat level about the season's Big Bad (the exploding man, the virus, the power-granting serum), have an episode that provides a little more immediate gratification.
As Maureen said, probably the best episode of "Heroes" was "Company Man," which looked at the evolution of H.R.G. Part of the reason that worked so well is that it was focused and delivered a complete package.
In fact, I would consider for next season going arc-less.
5. Revisit Some Plots and Questions
I think the "Heroes" writers should rewatch the first two seasons of the show as objectively as they can and think of all the characters and ideas that have gone by the wayside. Just to name a few, we have lost Matt's wife and FBI partner, Peter's girlfriend Caitlin. We haven't delved into what the "S" symbol means or who exactly saved Sylar back at the end of Season 1 or what became of Matt's dad. There are probably dozens of others things that have been dropped unceremoniously.
6. Separate the Wheat From the Chaff
It's a noble experiment having an ensemble show with a whole host of characters. But the fact is that too often "Heroes" doesn't juggle them very well.
Most of the time, I think the show would be better off if it dramatically reduced the roles of about half the characters. In particular, I would love to see less of Niki/Tracy and Mohinder.
At the same time, there needs to be the flexibility to increase the prominence of characters who become interesting. The Haitian and Angela Petrelli, for example, are much more interesting to watch than many of the headliners. H.R.G. grew from a secondary character to someone central to the show.
7. Avoid Stereotypes
Call me PC, but it bugs me that the women on the show tend to be victims, insane or [expletive]es or some combination of the above. It bothers me that the weakest characters on the show tend to be the minority ones (Hiro and Ando excepted).
8. Explore the Moral and Social Dimension of People With Powers
It seemed like they were going to do this last season with the idea of Monica becoming St. Joan. Being able to read minds or run superfast or fly would bring with it a lot of temptations. Throw a few of them in the way of the characters.
9. Bring Back Some of the Humor and Joy
There have been, it seems to me, relatively few laughs on the show of late. Few moments where someone exults like Hiro, "I did it!" or remarks like H.R.G. that something is cool. The whole purpose of the show, as Kring originally explained it, was to counteract some of the gloom, cynicism and doom that came with Sept. 11. I think it should go back to that purpose again.
10. Chart Your Own Course
Each of the three seasons have had homages to classic comic book series. The first was patterned after "Watchmen," the second after the "X-Men" storyline about the Legacy Virus, and, although I didn't originally realize it, this current one mirrors "Kingdom Come," a graphic novel about the proliferation of superpowered people causing Armageddon.
It sort of defeats the purpose of showing what would happen if people had superpowers in the real world if you're just going to parrot comic book themes.
I've been saying this from the beginning. It's almost unwatchable for me now. Too confusing plot, plot holes, stupid decisions made by characters & "why the heck did/didn't you do this?" events. Hey, that's the stuff you get when you give characters certain powers. You can't expect the writers to write miracle scripts.
I've only seen episode 1 & 2 of season 3 so far & I just gave up trying to put everything together. Now I'll just turn my brain off & try to be entertain one way or another.