I’m sure by now we’ve all heard the big news out of the Sochi Winter Olympics. That’s right,
Russia topped the leaderboard with 33 medals Heroes is returning to our TV screens! It’s been just over four years since NBC’s superhero show was on the air, and a good few years longer since it was actually any good. Approaching something of a phenomenon back in its heyday, it was hard to find someone who couldn’t complete the show’s slogan (Save the Cheerleader…) never mind wasn’t full-on glued to the weekly adventures of Super-nurse Peter Petrelli, evil villain Sylar and toe-clipping Claire.
Well, for the first season, anyway. The quality swiftly nose-dived as we headed into season two and beyond, with meandering storylines and the constant dangling of what was to come without ever actually getting it (seriously, when was Hiro going to stop being such a dumbass and grow a goatee?).
But perhaps enough time has passed for NBC to dust off its old superhero show and give it a new lease of life. It’s a very different TV world now – we’ve been from Smallville to Alphas, Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention the upcoming Gotham and The Flash. Superheroes are hot, and it’s not surprising that the studio is eager for a second helping of the costumed crime-fighter pie. If Heroes Reborn is to survive, however, it’s going to need more than a catchy slogan this time around. So here’s my adamantium-lined, kryptonite-powered, five point plan for superhero success.
Take A Fresh Start
We’ve already been told not to expect the old guard to return, albeit they’re keeping the door open for the occasional guest appearance, and this is definitely a step in the right direction. The fact that Noah or Matt could pop their heads in at all means it’s not a total reboot, but hopefully it’s still a clean break from what came before. I don’t know about anyone else, but the storyline got incredibly convoluted towards the end. There was an ongoing series of incestuous twists whereby every character slowly discovered they were a member of the Petrelli family, Nathan, Sylar and Matt were caught in some kind of bizarre body swap loop of hell, there was tension-evaporating magic blood that brought Noah back to life and then was never used again because hello it’s magic blood that can bring people back to life, and Hiro spent four years dicking around with his best mate, travelling through time and stealing paintings instead of buying a sword and learning Matrix.
Leave all that behind and start fresh. New characters, new powers. Keep it simple, and for the love of God, plan it out fully. It’s only thirteen episodes, so there’s absolutely no reason not to have the entire beginning, middle and end completely mapped. And if you’re going to tease future events, bloody well deliver on them!
Have A Proper Baddie
Look, Sylar was great. A guy who slices people’s heads open, takes their brains and learns their power? That’s deliciously macabre. It’s Hannibal Lector meets Magneto. But he was completely wasted after the first season; the constant switching sides was one thing, but to become increasingly side-lined by the likes of Adam Monroe and that guy from Prison Break was too much to bear. If you’re going to have a core group of heroes, they need to have a villain to rally against. Loki, Zod, Joker – a superhero is only as good as his arch nemesis.
Don’t Overpower Anyone
Pretty self-explanatory, this one. By the end of the first season, Peter’s ability to take the powers of others had turned him into the Swiss Army Knife of superheroes. He could fly, freeze time, become invisible, control objects, time travel, paint the future (lame), read minds, heal any injury… I mean, really? Now, this actually makes sense when you realise the original plan for Heroes was to have a totally new storyline and cast each season, American Horror Story-style. Peter was meant to gain all these powers because he would need them to save the world in the season one finale, and die in the process.
That last part was pretty important.
Once the show got going and smashed NBC’s ratings into the stratosphere, showrunner Tim Kring realised he had a bit of a problem on his hands. People loved the characters – too much to let them go, he said. And so we had to endure three more seasons of Peter (and Sylar, and Hiro…) continually being depowered in order to stop them being able to pretty much dominate any situation. Peter’s amnesia, Hiro’s brain tumour – just two examples of the horrible plot devices used by the writers.
Luckily, this is a problem that’s easily sorted by a little forward-thinking. Don’t give too many abilities to any one person, and if you genuinely have a solid, narrative reason to do so, then don’t lose your nerve at the last minute! Viewers will respect a show that has the balls to kill off a major character far more than one that keeps them alive so they can be dragged repeatedly through mundane storylines.
Keep The Numbers Low
A big problem with Heroes was the simple fact that the cast grew larger and larger each season. Each episode would introduce another character with powers, which meant more time had to be spent fleshing them out as we learnt what their ability was. Towards the end of the show, things got even worse with the development of a serum that gave ordinary folk powers too. Because what the show really needed was people like Ando becoming a dynamo (worst power ever) or Mohinder doing his best Jeff Goldblum impression.
The point of Heroes was to see how people with abilities impacted the normal world. If every character has powers, that entire aspect of the show is lost – not to mention the Powers Barrel gets well and truly scraped. If Heroes Reborn is only going to be thirteen episodes long, don’t clog up those precious hours trying to flesh out too many superheroes. Trim it back, and don’t be afraid to let the humans be human.
Surround Kring With Strong Writers
Tim Kring is an ideas man, certainly, but I don’t think he’s that great a writer. As a concept, Heroes is pretty solid. Very X-Men, sure, but remember this came out back in 2006, when superpowers were still relatively low-key in the media. His last show, the Kiefer Sutherland-starring Touch suffered from a similar fate as Heroes: strong idea, poor execution.
As it’s already been confirmed that Kring will be returning (as he should, it’s his baby), NBC need to make sure he’s got a solid team working with him. And I’m not talking about Jeph Loeb (what that man did to Ultimates 3 was a crime) or any of the previous writers – with perhaps one exception: Bryan Fuller.
Fuller was a major reason that the first season didn’t suck, and when he left to make Pushing Daisies (along with half the writing staff, to be fair), the show really suffered. He did briefly return during season three, and the two episodes he penned were easily the best of the bunch. Obviously he’s busy working on the fantastic Hannibal right now (also for NBC) but it would be a shot in the arm for Heroes Reborn if he was able to help out at all.
So there you have it. The five biggest problems with Heroes and the five obstacles Reborn needs to overcome. There’s absolutely no reason why it can’t succeed – you only need to glance at the top grossing films of all time to see how successful superheroes can be – but this is a show we’ve been burned by before. I’ll be keeping a wary eye on it over the next year, and take solace in the fact that no matter how bad it ends up, it can’t possibly be worse than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., can it?