Back in 2006, the TV industry was starting to discover that science fiction thrillers were turning into a big genre that was loved by the audience and critics alike. Much of that credit belonged to Lost (that premiered in 2005), and as we know, if one thing works, it becomes the order of the day. And it was then that creator Tim Kring’s Heroes premiered on American television.
Quite like Lost, Heroes had a big ensemble cast with separate story arcs for all and a unified mythology that tied those characters. The show started with a bang and was touted to be the new Lost, even when Lost was at it its peak. And for that memorable first season, Heroes delivered on all its promises.
What was Heroes all about?
Heroes was a show that told the story of regular people who discover their extraordinary powers. They become superheroes in real-life but take a bit of time to realise the greater use for their powers.
Hayden Panettiere’s Claire Bennet finds her power to regenerate which makes her immortal. One of her escapes turns into a viral video and the caption ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’ becomes a rage. Masi Oka’s Hiro Nakamura can manipulate space and time. Soon after he discovers his superpower, the character tries and fails multiple times in correctly applying his power.
Adrian Pasdar’s Nathan Petrelli has the ability to fly and watching him do that for the first time came as a complete surprise. His brother, Milo Ventimiglia’s Peter Petrelli is a nurse who can mimic the superpower of anyone he comes in contact with. And Greg Grunberg’s Matt Parkman was a cop who could read people’s minds.
The first season perfectly established their individual stories but also carried the larger arc where the heroes had to come together and save New York City from an explosion.
What worked for Heroes?
With Lost running successfully, the audience already had an appetite for science fiction thrillers and Heroes satiated that demand perfectly. The first season, if you watch today, is completely binge-worthy. Back in the day, it had the appeal where every cliffhanger stood for a new revelation, and every new angle of the story was discussed widely with fans coming up with their new theories.
The story format had ample space for creating its own mythology and with the central character of Mohinder Suresh, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy, we knew there was a connection between all the heroes.
The introduction of ‘The Company’ (kind of like Dharma in Lost) made way for a villain that had to be defeated and Zachary Quinto’s Sylar was the perfect face for that. The graphic novel-like treatment of the show, especially with the paintings of the future, Hiro’s comics was fresh and novel at the time.
What went wrong with Heroes?
After a stand-out first season, Heroes entered the second season aiming to scale new heights, but the plans were butchered by the 2007-08 writers strike. The makers had planned the seasons in volumes and each volume was supposed to handle a new chapter. Soon after the second season went on air, the writers strike commenced which led to a rushed finale that did not resonate with the audience. The plotlines for the second season were never fully wrapped and it left space for a lot of loopholes.
The effect of a wobbly second season was seen on the third season as well since the story had strayed far away from its origin. From a show that was loved dearly, it turned into a show where the characters were knee-deep in mythology that was not communicated effectively.
Creator Tim Kring tried to bring back the show’s original charm in the fourth season, but by then, the plotlines were so scattered that a large part of the audience had lost interest. Thus, the show was cancelled.
A 13-episode mini-series called Heroes Reborn started in 2015 but failed to generate the same interest that was generated by Heroes and lasted only one season.
Heroes is a binge-worthy show, but that appeal ends midway through Season 2.
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Heroes is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.