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Heroes Reborn: Heroic Death
In online culture, we seem to exhibit extreme behavior when considering life and death. PC Gaming is DEAD. The Wii U is DEAD. Final Fantasy is DEAD. Statements like these appear all of the time, both in forums and from members of the press, and are usually disproven given time. But there’s something to be said about our fixation with killing franchises. Maybe it is a psychological thing picked up from gaming, not that we like to kill, exactly, but when we perceive something is no longer worthy of consideration, we seek to blot it out of our attention space and concentrate on what we think really matters. Conversely, we seem to have a similarly strong relationship with life. Nerd-culture sees the return of beloved franchises all the time. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s Man of Steel, but for the franchises loved by geeks everywhere, death really isn’t the end. The most recently announced franchise to get the ‘Jean Grey’ treatment is Heroes, but is this a good thing? Or will it go Dark Phoenix on us?
I loved Heroes. The series started out in a great way- a smart, witty journey of a dozen or so people affected in some way by super powers. It had a great premise, look and feel. But most importantly, it was a fantastic character drama. Each member of the main cast was a three dimensional, interesting character with their own hopes, desires and dreams- most of which were torn away by the events of the show. You had the cuckolded, underachieving cop, the nurse who knew he couldn’t save everyone, the cheerleader suffering from depression and the Japanese office worker who- who was just pretty great, actually. You gotta love Hiro. And then you had Sylar- the villain you didn’t even get to see until halfway through the season. The psychotic, cool-guy villain who, it turns out, was actually suffering from severe mental illness. And, if the fantastic main cast weren’t enough, they were backed up with Nerd Hero guest appearances from the likes of George ‘Star Trek’ Takei, Christopher ‘Doctor Who’ Eccleston and Malcolm ‘Clockwork Orange’ McDowell. Slowly, and steadily, all of their lives began to cross. Each and every one of them began to change for better for worse, culminating in a touching, personal and yet suitably epic finale.
I wish it had ended there. At the time I didn’t- I wanted it to continue. Unfortunately, nobody knew how the series would be killed by the unlikeliest of villains- people campaigning for better pay. Production for Season 2 of Heroes fell right in the middle of the 2007-2008 Writer’s Guild of America Strike, and it paid for it. I want to make it clear that I am and was in complete support of the strike, but it doesn’t make me any happier about what happened to such a fantastic show. To put it bluntly, Season 2 was cut in half. It was short. And, with no new ideas coming in, it just tried to tread the same ground Season 1 did. The same actions and scenes and progression played out in the same way it all did in Season 1, until it all rushed towards a flat, anti-climactic final scene. Season 3 suffered for this. With complaints that the show was becoming repetitive, Season 3 shook up the order to a ridiculous degree. Story-lines and character development became an unwinnable, convoluted mess- a mess which Season 4 valiantly, if futilely, tried to save. It did, however, end on a note of hope- ready to restart and pick up where the franchise left off at the end of Season 1. Then the show got cancelled. And very few people wept.
Now, things are different. It seems there’s a light over at the Frankenstein place. They’ve thrown open the switches on the sonic oscillator, stepped up the power reactor three more points, and are preparing to bring back the series- at least in the form of Heroes Reborn, a short, mini-series, in 2015. I’m not about to start speculating about the content of the series. When the information released amounts to a title card, there’s very little that can be done in that sense. It does leave me wondering, however, whether I want to see it again.
There’s a natural tendency to want to see more of something you’ve liked- I’m guilty of it. I’ve already admitted that I wanted more Heroes, despite the fact that Season 1 would have been a fantastic and worthwhile ending. And it’s not to say that wanting more of something is inherently bad. The infamous campaign to get Firefly finished with a movie worked well, giving fans some measure of closure to the stories and characters they cared about. But another Joss Whedon outing went slightly differently. The TV series Angel began as a spin-off to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but ended up as a show with very much its own identity. The series ends in Season 5, with the death of one of its main characters and the rest of its cast squaring up to take down an entire army from hell. And people didn’t like it. People felt cheated, like it wasn’t really an ending, complaining that the conclusion left a sour taste. Eventually, these people were sated- Angel returned, just like Buffy did, in the form of a comic series- but, would you believe it, the answers people got did not live up to the expectation they had. The fact is, the final episode of Angel ended perfectly. The show had many themes, such as redemption and morality, but each of them was portrayed as an ongoing struggle. Nothing anyone did could solve a problem completely- there would always be a new problem to face after, and another one after. Angel wasn’t about saving the world in one fell swoop. It was about the daily fight against what was wrong with the world. We joined the cast already part-way through that fight. It made perfect sense to end it the same way.
A good ending doesn’t have to answer every question or fulfill every promise. It just needs to work for whatever it’s ending. And to my mind, Heroes doesn’t need a continuation. It needs to be let go. All of the characters in Heroes have been through just as much as the show itself had. It was damaged, beaten and bruised along the way, but it reached a point of peace at the end of Season 4. The threads of story had been straightened, most of the characters had reached some form of epiphany and, led by Claire Bennett, the world’s heroes were ready to enter into the spotlight. It hints at a tumultuous time for these characters, but one that should change the world for the better. It’s a time when they can take over from the legacy their parents left, shunning secrecy and lies for openness and truth. My question is; do you really think a continuation of Heroes will adhere to that? Or will we see a regression to the same problems and the same issue we saw in the latter three seasons of the show? I truly hope that Heroes Reborn will prove me wrong, but I fail to see how it can save a show that’s already reached its end. Twice.
I’d rather the show died a hero than lived long enough to become a villain.