by Robert Canning
Season 3 of Heroes was divided into two volumes. Volume Three was entitled "Villains." Volume Four was called "Fugitives." I'd argue that there was also a Volume Four and a Half thrown in near the end of the season that could have been called "Bryan Fuller Returns to Try and Fix This Broken Series and While It Wasn't Perfect, It Was Enough to Give NBC the Faith to Renew the Show For Season 4." That's an overly long title for a mini-volume, true, but still quite accurate. Season 3 was a mess of poor character choices and sloppy storytelling and only found a renewed focus in the last few episodes. But it just wasn't enough to prevent this from being a lackluster season.
The season started with a notable difference from Season 2: faster pacing. No longer would it take multiple episodes to get from point A to point B. Things moved much faster, sometimes moving from points A, B, C and D in an episode or two. But this quick pacing was done at the expense of character building and eliminated the viewers' ability to grow attached to characters and ideas. The perfect example of this was the introduction of speedster Daphne. She could zip from place to place in a matter of no time, taking us from Japan to Paris in the blink of an eye, but we never really got to know her. Everything was at a surface level. Hiro called her his nemesis, so she was his nemesis. Matt Parkman said they should be a couple, so they became a couple. No matter that very little took place to actually make any of it believable.
So, yes, the pacing had improved, but at the cost of storytelling. And where the pacing didn't screw things up, the writers seemed to make the extra effort. Sylar became a badass fan favorite in Season 1, but Season 3 turned him into anything but. He went from a killer to Noah Bennet's partner to a Petrelli to a captive to a lover to a babysitter looking for his Daddy. The character was all over the map, with multiple new back-stories, different partnerships and ever-changing motivations. And he wasn't the only one. Things were never the same for a character for very long in Season 3. Nathan was ready to reveal the truth about his powers, then became a born again Christian, then sided with his father's idea that everyone should be given powers, then led the round up and imprisonment of people with powers. Ridiculous.