"What?! How could th-yeah, that might actually be for the best."
Still, I own the Season 1 DVD set. And in fact, I still like Season 1. I recommend Season 1. I got my sister addicted to Season 1. But I can't watch Season 1 for myself. Season 1 is ruined for me. Why is that?
For comparison, a lot of people dislike the Star Wars prequels. And yet, those same people can watch and enjoy the original trilogy. Why is the same not said of Heroes? Why do people never talk about watching Season 1 over and enjoying it? Here, in 2013, when it doesn't matter anymore, I think I may have figured it out.
How does Season 1 end? The heroes avert the exploding man disaster, but Sylar escapes alive, and Hiro is stuck in the distant past in feudal Japan. That is not an ending. That is a "To Be Continued," or an "End of Chapter 1." And it was continued, but we wish that it wasn't.
If I may again compare this to science fiction, consider Joss Whedon's short-lived series Firefly. I LOVE FIREFLY. Famously, or perhaps infamously, it only lasted one season, yet I can watch it over and over and over, despite it having no ending. We never get resolution with River, Shepherd Book, Inara, or Mal; all of our questions remain unanswered. Frustrating? You bet. But it is marginally better than getting the answers and having them suck.
Imagine you're a child being told a story about Aragorn, Bilbo, and Optimus Prime going to defeat Darth Vader, and you're hooked. You follow every plot twist, and then, it ends with Aragorn being horribly burnt to death along with Bilbo while Winnie-the-Pooh gets shot by a firing squad for no reason and Darth Vader cuts Optimus prime's head off. You might not want to hear that story again, no matter how much you may have liked the first part.
What I'm trying to convey with this long, increasingly odd rant is that all four seasons of Heroes work together like a single story. A story that ends so badly that you don't even want to hear your favorite parts again.
Now, I didn't come here just to complain about a show that's been off the air since before I graduated high school. A question I've been toying with is: "How could this have been avoided?" The answer seems to be simple: It should have been planned out more.
I don't know for sure, but the way they handled the left over plot threads from Season 1 (Sylar alive, Hiro in the past, etc.) indicates to me that they didn't know what to do with these points when they wrote them into the season finale. Sure, Star Trek: TNG's best two-parter ("The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1" if you're wondering) had a cliffhanger that they didn't know how to resolve when they wrote it, but you're not guaranteed a good episode by this tactic. In fact, just the opposite, it takes a lot of skill to make such a thing work, and it is often argued that not even Star Trek managed to pull it off again.
Not planning out stories and seasons in advance has killed much better shows than Heroes. Quite notably, The X-Files. The thing that killed X-Files wasn't the fact that they were aiming for a niche demographic, because they were pulling in a surprisingly large audience. It was the fact that with every question that was answered, two more appeared in its place. This lack of planning led to lack of resolution, and X-Files fizzled out, only reemerging with two movies that barely anyone saw and a new ongoing comic series.
Back on task, Heroes should have planned things out the following way:
- Season 1 should have been a stand-alone season.
- Season 2 should have led directly into Season 3, but still picked up on plot threads that the audience didn't even know was dangling.
All in all, where did Heroes go wrong? Before the first episode aired. Firefly had the answers for every question, but never got the chance to reveal them. Heroes got ample opportunity to do so, but had no answers to give.