In 2006, Tim Kring’s series Heroes somehow made “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” a household mantra. Unfortunately, while season one (the “Genesis” volume) of Heroes was nearly pitch perfect, the rest of the series was terribly uneven.
Season two (“Generations”) suffered from two major handicaps. After closing off most of its key stories running through season one, Heroes struggled to find new footing. Then the writers’ strike forced a shortening of the story, making season two merely filler before season three. I’ve re-watched the whole series recently, and let me tell you, it’s a lot better than some might remember. There actually is a flow. It just was badly disrupted.
Which is, I suspect, why it’s been revived. Or, if you will, Reborn.
So what mistakes did the original series make that we’re hoping Heroes Reborn doesn’t make?
Give Us Time With New Characters
Heroes started off season two on a bad note with Maya and Alejandro. They’re not terrible characters, but the writers seemed intent on inserting Maya first into Sylar’s story and then into Mohinder’s. We were never given the chance to grow an affection for the characters naturally.
Heroes actually had a pretty bad track record with introducing new sympathetic character. Its success stories came with initially villainous characters like Elle, people we saw long enough to eventually sympathize with their brokenness.
In “Genesis,” the characters were artfully introduced and their stories were organically interwoven to create a masterpiece of an incidental world-saving team. It was a defining characteristic that these people were not the X-Men, didn’t team up for crime-fighting, weren’t anything but everyday people.
Keep the Mythology Simple
The later seasons of the original series also got bogged down by complex mythology. It was easy to lose track of who was whose parents, who was part of the experiments, and (especially) what powers Peter had. Can we just take a moment to grieve for Peter’s original power to mimic the powers of others? There was so much cool stuff that came out of that simple setup.
Later seasons became unnecessarily concerned with complex twists of fate. This was particularly true of the Petrelli brothers. From week to week it was impossible to figure out if they loved or hated each other. Moral grey area is always interesting, never being sure of someone’s parentage gets boring. And don’t even get me started on the time travel mess that was just abandoned.
For Heroes Reborn to be successful, especially with just a 13 episode arc, the mythology needs to be steady so the characters have something real to strive for.
Don’t Dumb Down the Characters
Heroes in its later seasons had a bad habit of dumbing down the characters for the sake of plot. For instance, too many people fell for Samuel’s schtick and for too long. It’s one thing if he were really good at hiding his nefarious deeds, but he wasn’t actually. And many of our heroes knew he wasn’t a good person, but still they trusted him just because he had powers, too.
If there’s hope, though, it’s that the Dark Matters webseries made to bridge Heroes to Heroes Reborn seems to be taking this idea head-on. Dark Matters centers on the registration of “Evos” (mutants by any other name) and their powers, and Reborn is tackling a world where Evos are targeted and killed. This is actually going to bring to the fore the issue of innate trust for people who are like you. It’s a survival instinct, but trust is going to be hard to come by in Heroes Reborn. As long as it keeps its characters questioning everything and everyone around them, it ought to make strides in the right direction.
So what is the hope for the reboot? The hope is that the limited order will organically eliminate many of these issues. The tough part might be explaining where all the heroes are (at least the ones that won’t be returning). Hopefully they won’t just rely on what we hear in the trailer: “they are all gone; they’re either hiding or dead.”
Heroes Reborn is starting out relatively fresh, and there’s been time to really think about how to properly end this series. This truly does feel like a final volume because so much of the original series dealt with how those with abilities could eventually function out in the open, or whether they ever could. Since Reborn doesn’t need to leave room for more, the hope is that it can reacquire the original magic of season one. The magic was never completely lost, only bogged down. Heroes never ceased being a great television show, it just never lived up to its origins.