Can "Heroes" be fixed?

Rather than hijack the existing “Heroes” thread, I’m starting a new one to look at the series as a whole rather 'sode by 'sode.

There seem to be a lot of folks on this board who have two things in common - they like the “Heroes” series, and they are concerned that it is slipping into “Lost” land. Vague storylines, ambivilent characters, enough plot holes to fill the Albert Hall. So let’s just say that an open post from Tim Kring shows up on this board, something like this:

Dear Dopers,
My writers and I would like to apologize for our just-finished Season 2. Somewhere, we slipped off the path and have not been able to find it again. Our declining ratings and the discontent among our fans bear this out. So I have decided to post this question: What would you suggest that would help us fix it? We’ve had notes from NBC up the ying-yang and look where that’s gotten us. Thanks in advance for your brilliant insights.
-Tim

Dear Tim:

The reason Kryptonite became such an indispensable part of the Superman mythos is that any fictional character needs a critical weakness to sustain drama. So far Peter Petrelli’s only weakness is his incredible naiveté. He needs some limitations or to be permanently killed off, or his presence will distort every story arc that involves him, because he’d be able to overcome any obstacle in ten seconds flat, if he can remember the vast array of abilities at his disposal.

Love, Bryan

P.S. More to follow

Kring actually did apologize (the strike must be liberating in that he’s not so beholden to his corporate masters) and did do a good job diagnosing the problems with this season.

Can’t recall exactly what he said, but one of the big ones was introducing a bunch of new characters that we didn’t care about, instead of going forward with existing ones.

Me, I’m mostly annoyed that the season so closely mapped to season one. Claire is lying to her family. HRG is ambiguously evil. Mohinder makes a critical error in character judgment. Sylar goes on a road trip. A visit to the future reveals a catastrophe only our heroes can fix.

Do something different. Radically different if you have to.

Dear Tim: Get back to your original premise – superheroes in the real world. Stop sliding into comic book storytelling conventions (incredible coincidences; selective stupidity on the part of your characters; characters not communicating with each other when they clearly should; and perhaps worst, fighting the same damn villains over and over). You’ve got some good characters; let them exist in a plausible (given the acceptance of impossible superpowers) character-driven drama (with a lot of action, of course).

Make one of the principle characters a llama, or an aardvark, or maybe even a giraffe or rhinoceros (with super powers of course) and at the end of each show Simon Cowell can critique their performance.

Yes, it’s not beyond redemption but season 2 was a major stumble.

Step 1: Either go completely nuts with it or be willing to step back. Repetitive soap opera plots are not the way to go with the show so if they’re going to keep the personal conflict trapped in the cycles they have then they need to be willing to go crazy with the rest of the background. Alternatively they need to be willing to break the setting and let the low key stuff move forward. Going public with the powers would have been an excellent way to mix things up for the next season but now it looks like everything is back to square one and we’re trapped in the same plot loop. If there’s one thing Heroes should not have is a status quo.

Step 2: Screw up Peter and Hiro bad. They’re indestructable dynamos right now. That’s fine for a boogie man like Sylar (who isn’t much of a boogie man now that we’ve seen him neutered for a season) but not for protagonists. They played with the idea of Hiro screwing things up but weren’t willing to take it all the way (see step one). Why should Peter no long be in danger of going nuclear again? Move him out to the desert and let him blow up from time to time (which coincidently makes a few new plot directions available even if you exclude repeating season one).

Step 3: More conflicts. I liked Adam. Okay his characterization wasn’t the greatest but in that last episode he was a pretty nifty villain. We need more people like him. Not necessarily out to cause mass murder but antagonists who feel threatening and are entertaining. Sylar was very effective throughout season one (right up until he stood around and let Hiro run at him with a sword).

[ul]
[li]Reduce the number of concurrent storylines.[/li][li]Increase the team-ups.[/li][li]Recognise the full extent of the characters’ strengths, and don’t write plots that conveniently ignore an ability we know they have just to make it more dramatic. The finales of both volumes so far could’ve been ten times as exciting and dramatic if there was real Spider-Man level action if you let the characters actually use their powers.[/li][li]When someone is killed off, they’re dead. It worked so well in the first season. Undermining that exciting aspect of the premise reduces the tension and unpredictability.[/li][/ul]

Have some “normals” find out about the supers and not be entirely okay with the idea. Maybe their afraid of wandering into X-Men territory with having the government learn about supers and trying to round them up, but it doesn’t have to be to that extent. We’ve never really seen normals reacting to supers except Sylar’s mother who was batshit crazy, Claire’s mom who knew she was special and Claire’s brother who freaked out for 1 episode and got over it. It would have been interesting to see Nathan’s wife learn of his ability and freak out about it and have that lead to their breakup. Her role was a waste of a perfectly decent actress.

Bringing in new people we don’t know or care about was a mistake, if they wanted to do something like that they should have shown us the younger days of the older group. I kept thinking they were going to do something like that this season.

I think a lot of stuff started off too slow and then they had to rush to pick up the pace and got a little sloppy. I find it hard to believe that other people in the writing sessions or while directing episodes don’t see a lot of the stupid factors. I just don’t think they had time to fix them. The blog linked to in the other thread said that they were sometimes shooting 3 episodes at a time.
That said, I still like the show and hope it comes back stronger. The writer’s may be on strike but I’d find it hard to believe that people that like to write are not occasionally jotting down ideas. Perhaps they’ll have time to work out some plot holes in their heads.

Add a comedic anthropomorphic monkey to the show.

Claire must die. Magic cheerleader resurrection blood makes character death all but meaningless.

Step one: kill Peter, Adam, Maya, Claire, and Saylar.
Step three: Profit!

Mohinder is kind of getting old, too. He had that neat Xander feel in the first season, what with being one of the only normal people involved in a world of superheroes, but his second season role seems to have been reduced to speaking with an accent and stabbing people with hypodermic needles.

I’m liking season two better than the first one; I don’t think much needs fixing. Though the Wonder Twins, I could’ve done without.

Everyone else has pretty much nailed it.

All I would add is:

  1. Get rid of any romantic subplots. There are too many characters at this point to keep track of who is in lurve with/shagging who, and no one really cares anyway. The only purpose of setting up a romance should be to kill one of them off. See: Peter and Simone from Season 1. That worked!

  2. Stop setting up interesting character arcs and then abandoning them! I would attribute this to the writer’s strike except they did it in Season 1 as well: Sylar developed a conscience and lost it again within like one episode. This season it was Peter flirting with getting all dark and scary as he discovered his powers again. Both were completely forgotten. I think it would have been cool to see Peter helping Adam, not because he’s stupidly trusting, but because he wanted to.

  3. Too, too many characters. Near the end of this season, I was completely lost. Kill some of them off (permanently!) or something. And then…

  4. Bring back Claude!

I’m glad several dopers in this thread are not in charge of the writing. It’s not that the show’s writing couldn’t be improved. It can, and Kring admitted it. It’s that some of these ideas would make a show I would turn my back on in a second (and I’m not considering the joke ideas).

(1) Ensemble cast is good, but if you just keep adding, it makes it difficult for the audience to follow the character(s) they are most invested in. Plus, less time to expand / explore existing characters.

(2) Tie the stories together a bit more. I can accept some coincidence, but by now the returning characters have all interacted with no more than one degree of separation, and they’ve all dealt with The Company. No need for Sylar driving Claire’s stolen Nissan Rouge to pick up a hitch-hiking Bob and Elle who just had their starter wires in their Nissan Pathfinder stolen by an invisible Peter - all in Fargo, ND.

(3) While the easter eggs for comic readers are nice, don’t go out of your way to appease the comic book readers (like those above). This isn’t the Justice League. Sure, after years of reading comics and role-playing games, I always think of the most efficient way to do things. However, as long as it is in character, the eponymous Heroes necessarily don’t need to use the best possible method. That said, Peter’s idiocy (it is beyond naivete) is crippling his character.

(4) Example of a good relationship: Hiro / Charlie. Example of a bad relationship: Claire / West. Peter / Simone was in-between. Relationships don’t need to end tragically, but they need a better foundation.

(5) Do not expand Molly’s role. We are getting the child in just about the right dose.

Stop it with the incredible coincidences. Nathan is Peter’s brother and they both happen to be Heroes. Linderman is a close friend of the Petrelli family and happens to collect art from Isaac, who is also a Hero. Nikki owes Linderman who happens to be the person to bone Nathan on demand. Nikki is also a Hero. Linderman also happens to have the sword that Hiro, a Hero, needs for his quest. Oh yeah, Linderman? A Hero as well.
Christ, when everyone is a Hero, nobody is a Hero. Shitloads of convenient “surprises” make my eyes roll out the back of my head. The best episodes of Season 1 were the first few and the last one (a genuinely interesting episode). The few I’ve seen of Episode 2 made me cringe.

It’s clear that I need to burn the Season 1 DVDs that my girlfriend has and pray to Og that I never have to watch any more of season 2.
By the way, I’m with you on Claire/Peter. A Kyrptonite has to be found, because they’re invincible.

It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that Hiro, Peter, and Sylar aren’t going anywhere. They’re too important to any plot that may happen.

No, I don’t think “Heroes” can be fixed. Season one had serious problems, but was generally more good than bad. Season two has been almost entirely terrible. Plot-wise, the writers screwed up right away by making many of the characters too powerful. Character-wise, the writers screwed up right away by making many of the characters boring, annoying, and without realistic motivations or reactions. The multiple-episode arcs have some good ideas, but the journey through the points of that arc are often downright silly. Characters seem forced into the plot whether or not they really fit.

I don’t think they need to do anything. I say that because the show started to suck with all of these problems in about the 4th episode of the first season, yet people still watched it and started long ass threads about it. The show has always consisted of extraordinarily improbable coincidences, episodes and story arcs that go nowhere, exceedingly unsatisfying “showdowns” between good guys and bad guys, poorly developed characters, and nonsensical forgetting of powers on hand.

I haven’t really paid a great deal of attention to the show this year, but my wife and son still like it. I ended up seeing the most recent episode, and I don’t feel like I missed anything. Lots of stupidity and illogical stuff (like Elle goes looking in her dad’s office, where she finds a giant box marked with her name that I guess she never saw before, but it’s empty. She decides for some reason to get on the computer, and what does her dad have as a desktop? Apparently its the camera to what used to be the artist’s apartment studio. She conveniently sees Sylar, and in another example of the really bad dialogue of the show, expresses how she’ll win her dad’s love back. Running into the loft, she chooses to yell out “Sylar! Here’s your chance to avoid me and run away!” (okay that last part was implied in the yelling of “Sylar”, rather than directly expressed). Apparently this girl can nail things flying through the sky and peg things with pinpoint accuracy, but somehow Sylar evades her and exits stage left.)

That’s just really bad stuff. It was bad last year, and it remains the same.

(Oh, and how godawful cheesy and cheap was the shot of Nathan landing with Parkman at Prima Tech - the shadows and the foot and the cheesy cornball poorly timed attempt at humor. While I’m on the topic, what was the strategy behind the three good guy heroes confronting Peter individually, one after another, rather than together? Wasn’t time of the essence? Speaking of time, when Hiro confronts Adam, why doesn’t he just stop time and freeze Adam?)

Sorry for the sidetrack. My point is that it’s always been bad, but it seems to be plenty popular. Why change?

Powers are genetically based and at least one of Peter and Nathan’s parents had a power. Why is it a strain to think that both of the offspring of a powered individual would inherit the genetic makeup to have powers?

Linderman is a “close friend” of the Petrelli family because people with powers (like Linderman and one or both of the Petrelli parents) from the previous generation sought each other out.

Part of what that previous generation did was to seek out and track others with powers. Like Isaac. And Niki (with just the one K, not that hard to remember).

One of the powered people with whom Linderman associated was Adam, who possessed the sword. With Adam locked up, Linderman took possession of the sword for his collection.

These aren’t coincidences. They’re backstory.

Did anyone ever take an essay test - and get caught up in writing the introduction and their first supporting point (coming up with a ton of relevant examples, a perfectly executed argument, exacting word choices) just the best paragraph ever. And then did they hear the teacher say “3 minutes left,” think “oh shit,” and then throw in two more two sentence (well, run on and fragmented sentences, but the words are mostly coherent) paragraphs and then write a one line conclusion?

That’s how Heroes seems to me. It’s not just that the front half is too slow (which is something that Kring admitted), it’s that the final episodes are far too rushed and generally unsatisfying. If they come back from the strike and plot out “Volume 3” so that the action builds and climaxes at an appropriate level, then I’ll be willing to forgive a lot of other sins.

Backstory? More like crapstory to me.
Okay, no more purile stuff.

It’s not so much a coincidence that both brothers have mutant powers. It would make more sense if they had the same power, but that’s a very minor quibble. Eventually, down their family tree, there has to be someone that DIDN’T have a superpower, perhaps the one that can turn food into brown smelly paste after a few hours as his power. I would think that’d it’d have been a better story if only one of the brothers had a power, instead of both, but such is life. Also, it is a pretty big coincidence that all these players are all tangled up here. Really, what are the chances of the brunt of these Heroes happening to be in America with such relatively few international ones?

What about my other point, that there are more and more and more people crawling out of the woodwork with powers? It’s not even going to be like an X-Men vs. rest of United States, because by the time they’re done with introducing new characters (ones that can make people die just by thinking really hard!) the Heroes are going to be the majority of the populace of the united states.

I still don’t get it. It’s coindence, pure and simple. Color me very unimpressed. At least say that a Hero seems to have an affinity for other Heroes in the world or something. That’s still weak, but at least it explains how and why all these people happen to get in the same room time and time again.