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Heroes: Season 4 Post-Mortem

With its fourth season, "Heroes" saw its fortunes plummet almost immediately. Once one of the most-lauded genre entries on the schedule, especially during its first season, the series suffered from a lack of consistent direction. Every season has seen a drop in audience, and many would argue that every season has seen a similar drop in quality. And sure enough, this time, there wasn't enough hype, audience, or interest left for NBC to keep it on the schedule. It's hard not to place the blame right at the top: Tim Kring. Instead of sticking to his creative guns, he caved towards the end of the first season and abandoned his plans to tell one complete story with every season arc. What followed was a constant attempt to recapture the glories of that original voyage of discovery. Every season was launched with significant fanfare, as if the hype itself could convince the audience that the sins of the past had been avoided. The third season was rife with problems, not the least of which a failure to remain true to the established character and timeline continuities. The "Villains" arc constantly changed the rules to suit the needs of the plot, even when it didn't seem all that necessary, and character motivations were all over the map. The second arc, "Fugitives", never lived up to the promise of the premise. The fourth season seemed like it was going to start off well, with the return of Bryan Fuller to the series and the "Redemption" arc. But both bits of news turned sour almost immediately. Fuller left without warning very early in the story-breaking process, which suggested that salvaging the faltering series was simply too big an undertaking for any mortal man. On top of that, the first wave of press releases for the fourth season were altogether too on the nose. The writers and cast discussed how the characters were going to seek redemption in an active capacity. And many thought the idea of a metahuman carnival was a bit too contrived, even with Robert Knepper delivering a near-perfect performance as Samuel Sullivan. To the writers' credit, they did try to make changes to the format of the series in response to the harsh criticisms. The number of plot threads in a given episode were reduced, and while the pace was requisitely slower, this allowed for more attention to detail. This structural change was in and of itself positive; however, success or failure was always going to come down to the strengths and weaknesses of the story arc. Almost from the beginning, there were signs of trouble. Many of the characters openly discussed their intentions to seek redemption, which left many fans wondering where the skills of the writers had gone over the years. Characters don't talk about seeking redemption; they either earn it or not through actions and choices. Instead of organically taking the characters in directions that would accomplish redemption (or not), the writers chose to tell the audience that they should accept that the characters were going to redeem themselves. It just doesn't work that way! The writers also seemed to fall victim to that decision made back at the end of the first season. Because Kring chose to keep the same set of characters in the forefront each and every season, the audience became bored, apathetic, and occasionally hostile towards the subplots featuring the too-familiar faces. Other characters were shunted off into ridiculous and continuity-altering subplots. Because of the structural changes to the series as a whole, some episodes were left with only one intriguing subplot, surrounded by much more of the same tired old characters and plot. The carnival characters turned out to be the one saving grace of the season. Without the likes of Samuel, Lydia, or the questions posed by the existence of a hidden refuge for metahumans, the season would have fallen apart completely. This strength, however, was undermined when Samuel's goals went from deliciously grey to utterly evil about 2/3 of the way through the season. It was almost as if the writers had no idea what they had right in the palm of their hands. But perhaps the biggest problem was the same one that had been plaguing "Heroes" since the first season: the inability to close the deal. Ever since the finale for the first season failed to deliver the Peter/Sylar smackdown that was all but promised from the very beginning, the writers have continued to bait the audience with big payoffs, only to deliver small-scale resolutions. Even as the season crawled towards its conclusion, the writers seemed to be pointing to something huge in the finale. Instead, it seemed like the writers just couldn't think big. Samuel's control over the earth could have pointed to a much deadlier plot to announce the existence of metahumans and their desire for control over their own destiny. Instead, Samuel conceived the deadliest classical music concert in human history. Add the unfulfilled hints that Peter would take the reins of leading the metahumans that were dangled in front of the viewers, and it just fell short. Some cited the unforeseen Haiti earthquake as a possible reason for the late switch. However, it doesn't take much consideration to notice that the writers were carefully cultivating Emma for her eventual role in Samuel's endgame from very early in the story. In other words, it wasn't a last-minute decision; it was something planned ahead of time. And frankly, that just makes it worse. Personally, I knew the writing was on the wall when the producers issued a press release, many weeks before a key episode aired, announcing that a character played by an original cast member was going to die. This turned out to be Nathan, a character already technically dead. It was an obvious example of screaming for attention at the expense of one's credibility. (And the less said about Claire's much-promoted foray into homosexuality, the better.) The third season of "Heroes" earned a Critical Myth rating of 6.8, which is just below the average. The fourth and final season earned a rating of 6.3, which is a significant drop. With such a massive drop in overall quality, it's not surprising that the series was canceled. Despite its strong and popular beginning, "Heroes" may go down in the genre history books as a series that never lived up to its own potential, thanks to producers and writers that never understood why.

Reaction Time: An Epitaph

This is my last piece about Heroes. Ever. Wow. It's official: NBC has cancelled Heroes and definitively crushed all hopes (however minimal) for a fifth season. And I'm sad. I will miss it. Heroes is incredibly special to me for several reasons. For one (and this is really important), it is the first show that I've watched the entirety of while it was on air. I've been with Heroes from the beginning - heck, I was with Heroes when it was in the promos-and-trailers stage. It was, in a lot of ways, my gateway into the world in which I now live: the world of TV geekdom. Heroes, the show itself and the supplementary material (i.e. simultaneous commentaries) gave me my first real introduction into the production of television and how the elements came together. Heroes sparked my interest in television as an artistic and narrative form. And it taught me that becoming invested in fiction is not necessarily a terrible thing. It also familiarized me with a whole array of incredibly talented people - writers, directors, and actors - several of whom I anticipate I'll be keeping an eye on for most of their careers. So, Heroes is integral to both my past and future as a lover of television. But moving beyond my sentimental attachment, I will readily admit that this cancellation is not the least unexpected. And that it is right. Sad fact: after a first season that started out slow but built to phenomenality, Heroes never peaked that high again. I love Heroes. But that doesn't mean I won't rail intently against the second and third seasons (particularly the second). Those were disastrous, and I think just about any Heroes viewer, die-hard fan or not, will agree. Those were highly disappointing periods of time for me, though the disappointment certainly didn't damper my intense investment in the show, especially since there was always something after those worst parts to help redeem. Case in point, Season Four and the season finale (now definitely the series finale) "Brave New World." That episode is one of my favorites from the entire series. It was beautifully done and it served its purpose to the absolute fullest extent. And, most importantly given this most recent development, it was conclusive. Some commentary I've read about the Heroes cancellation has expressed disappointment on grounds of What A Shame To Cut Off The Story In The Middle Like This. I disagree. Not about it being a shame. I mean the part about being in the middle of something. To me, "Brave New World" felt like an end - even better, an end I could be happy with. Sure, there were some loose ends. There always are. I can live with it. Especially since I feel like the major plotlines are all tied up. Nathan finally actually died. And the villains got taken care of in one way or another, which is really the main business of the series. It may be titled Heroes but, for me, it's always been the bad guys who drive everything. So, with the season's major villain Samuel in shackles and Sylar, perennial Big Bad, at a definite (if totally unexpected and frankly rather disturbing) stopping point in his character development arc, I'd say a conclusion has been successfully reached. One could, of course, argue that the story was not done because the tail end of "Brave New World" set up for more storyline with that little Claire-revealing-herself stunt and the unknown elements regarding other characters. But think about it: if those last few minutes of the episode got cut out (or you just had no idea they existed), would you have any real feeling of being at an inconclusive transition point? I say nay. If there is one thing I know to be true about the end of television series, it is that it is more like the closing of a curtain than an orchestrated apocalypse. The story doesn't need to absolutely get wrapped up down to the tiniest detail, the characters don't all need to be fully explained and their futures laid out. Those things don't end; our being able to see them does. That in mind, the ultimate goal of a series finale ought to be to pull out the stops to make that one episode the best that it can possibly be. Bring everything to a close, not a stop - keep some things open-ended. And above all, let the show go out with dignity intact. And so, put in those terms, I find "Brave New World" utterly successful as a series finale. I'm glad that Heroes went out strong. I'm glad it made it through the insanely rough patches to get to the end of Season 4 where we saw a near-recovery of Heroes' original appeal and excellence. And I'm glad that it ended when it did. The story closed on writer/producer terms, not ratings and network execs, with a pleasing mix of finalization and unknown. Heroes, I love you. I'll miss you. Best wishes to everyone involved in the show from Tim Kring to Zachary Quinto on down - I hope to see you all working again sometime soon. And congratulations. It really is a hell of a show. (This piece also posted on my blog at //meltedbrain.wordpress.com .)

Heroes Review: It's Finally Over! Season 4, Episode 19

For months on end, season four of Heroes has caused us nothing but anger and anguish. It's been an abysmal, illogical, slow-developing series of episodes. But we were finally able to laugh out loud at the conclusion of this week's episode, which revolved around Claire and HRG fighting. Yes, again. If that doesn't get your heart-racing for another season of this show, nothing will! Overall, "Brave New World" was simply weak and uneventful. As always, it was filled with utterly random actions - hi, Tracy, thanks for stopping by out of nowhere, slithering through mud and disappearing again! - and storylines with no exciting pay-off. But more than anything, it was simply... there. To Read More Click here . If You Missed This Episode Watch It Here Online Now

Heroes 4.19: "Brave New World" Review - Featured

For many former and current fans of Heroes , Tim Kring has become the true villain of the series. Not only did he cave to network pressure and alter his plans for the series late in the first season, subsequently delivering a horrible first season finale that started the downward spiral in quality, but he has cast the blame for his own mediocre creative decisions onto others. This has led to writers and producers being fired. Even the best creative minds from the first season, such a Bryan Fuller, were unable to come back for very long. The unfortunate truth is that every volume of Heroes starts out with potential and promises. It seems like that potential is never realized, and those promises are empty PR. This season is a perfect example. The season started off with enormous potential, especially in terms of the new characters and a streamlined approach to the storytelling. There were several episodes that were quite strong, and the character of Samuel was an early highlight. Unfortunately, the execution never seems to be as edgy and daring as the producers, particularly Kring, would like the public to believe. Claire's foray into homosexuality was more about sensationalism and press than it was about a progressive character turn. The death of an original character was all over the press, but turned out to be less a shock and more an extension of the third season finale, leaving fans feeling underwhelmed (especially when it was announced to the press weeks before the fateful episode aired!). And after more than a dozen episodes building towards a massive finale, this episode comes up remarkably short, even by Heroes standards. The stage was set for Sylar, a character that is about as irredeemable as it gets, speaking atonement for his atrocities. Peter, a character in search of a purpose, was ready to help take down Samuel, who was preparing to kill thousands in public view. And there was Noah, also adrift, seeking a way to protect mundanes from "Specials" and metahumans from mundanes. All of this taking place within the confines of the carnival, where dozens of metahumans had gathered, seeking safe haven and family. In other words, the writers had set the stage for Sylar to sacrifice himself to take down Samuel, a man with amplified powers and an ever-escalating desire to unleash them, and for Peter to take his place as the leader of the largest "family" of metahumans revealed to date. Noah, having ties to the old Company, could have set up the community's security force. Add to that a potential public unveiling of the "Specials" in the process, and it would have indeed ushered in a "brand new world" for the series. Instead, what did we get? Sylar delivering some of the most overwrought, on-the-nose dialogue the series has ever seen, showing a less convincing brand of redemption than ever before, and surviving to ostensibly go bad yet again should the series continue. And Peter, after all but taking down Samuel himself, showing little to no interest in what comes next. And don't even get me started on how Hiro's character arc came to nothing, as he barely factored into the final battle. The only thing that did happen was the unveiling of the metahumans to the public, and even that was poorly handled. Could it have taken any longer for Claire to get to that platform? And the media seemed rather muted in their reaction to a young woman apparently committing suicide on live television! Even the resolution to the Charlie plot element seemed to be a copout. While it's understandable that Jayma Mays would not be available, given the popularity of Glee , that's something that the producers should have taken into account before opening this particular door in the first place. Sure, this resolves that part of Hiro's past and forces him to see the error in attempting to "fix" the past, but didn't he already learn that lesson? The biggest problem was the execution of the finale itself. The producers of "Heroes", particularly Kring, have never understood that the finale of a given volume should bring the story to a rousing climax. It shouldn't be less impressive than episodes halfway through the arc. While Kring did manage to factor Samuel's ability into the finale, something that was not at all a sure thing, the implementation of that ability amounted to shaking the camera. After seeing buildings and towns brought to ruin, that just doesn't cut it. The finale does end on something of a cliffhanger, but I could see how this might serve, however poorly, as a series finale. And let's be realistic: the chances of renewal are not as good as some might want to hope. One could argue that Claire's decision at the end of this episode brings the overall arc of the series to a relative close. While I would be vaguely interested in seeing where the writers might take things in a fifth season (glutton for punishment that I am), I don't see any lingering plot elements that demand exploration. The unfortunate fact is that "Heroes" has lost relevance in the public domain. The show that once rivaled "Lost" as an example of a crossover genre success has fallen apart due to a distinct lack of long-term vision. For a season that was all about redemption, the failure to achieve that goal creatively may be the most potent argument to bring the series to a close.

Heroes Season 4, Episode 19: "Brave New World" Review

The fourth season of Heroes came to an end Monday night with "Brave New World." It was exciting in parts, touching in others, and overall a fairly decent way to end the season. There were some head-scratching moments to be sure, and some glaring shortcuts in the storytelling, but the overall effect of the episode worked for me. This was one of those episodes where you had to let go of how we got here. The second half of the season failed to build on the momentum of the first set of episodes, causing a bit of a lull in the last few outings. But accepting that we are where we are, the confrontation in Central Park brought the season to a decent conclusion. All year, we've watched Samuel Sullivan build his power and become increasingly unstable. He's been controlling and manipulative and the master of his carnival flock. So it was fitting that he would be brought down by that same group of people deserting him. But first we had to get to that moment. Claire and Noah Bennet were trapped inside a trailer 30 feet underground. I liked that Noah realized he wasn't going to survive, but his regenerative daughter would, even if it took her a month or more to dig herself out. I wasn't completely sold on their teary goodbyes, but the scene was effective in presenting Noah's dying wish: "Promise me you'll hide." In the intense moment, the only thing he wanted is for his daughter to stay hidden with her power. This made Claire's leap from the top of the Ferris wheel at the episode's end all the more powerful. Not only was she revealing her secret to the world, she was doing so against her father's strongest desire. To Read More Click Here If You Missed This Episode Watch It Here Online Now

Review: 'Heroes' - 'Brave New World' (season finale) Season 4, Episode 19

Volume Five came to a climactic end, and as with past volumes, it was both exciting and a little bit of a letdown. But also in keeping with tradition, it left the door open for exciting possibilities in Volume Six, teased at the end of the episode, despite a fifth season not being a certainty at this point. I suspect, though, that NBC will in fact bring the show back, despite it's lackluster ratings performance. A reboot, of sorts, to the franchise could revitalize it in the same way 'Chuck' has seen ratings improve this season. Properly handled, 'Heroes' is a show that could go several seasons. "Properly handled" is the key to that phrase, and it has been mismanaged for too long. The biggest flaws have been the transitions between volumes, the seeming lack of overall continuity, and tired and repetitive character arcs that seemed more repetitive than innovative. This season has been the strongest since the WGA Strike (which killed a second season that showed promise and potential). To Read More Click Here If You Missed This Episode Watch It Here Online Now

Reaction Time: "Brave New World" and Volume Five

"Brave New World" was a superb finale. I wasn't sure how they were going to find the time to take care of Hiro AND the Bennets AND Samuel AND Sylar, but it all ended up working out spectacularly. And it was beautiful. Performances were out their best, and everything was highlighted by some exceptionally beautiful camera work. All the storylines got wrapped up. So...now what? Everything has been put in place for another season. Claire just outed the Specials to the world - it may or may not work out. HRG owes Tracy a favor. (Side note on Tracy: WHY? She did basically nothing this season and her only vital function was to get the Bennets out of a trailer in a ground, and I'm sure that could have been solved another way. Why couldn't she just die, again?) And the kicker: Sylar is a hero. Yeah, there could be another season. But is that really a good plan? Obviously there's the potential for some pretty interesting things. But, call me jaded, I have some serious doubts about how this could all turn out. Heroes hinges on a good guy vs. bad guy conflict. That's just how it is. So who's going to be the bad guy? Trying to work that conflict into the Normals vs. Specials is going to be beyond tricky, especially since there needs to be one major player bad guy and making that one a Normal just doesn't provide enough excitement. (We saw how it worked with Danko: Yeah, he was bad. But guns are only so exciting when you've got characters who breathe fire or whatever.) Samuel could be the bad guy, I suppose. He's not dead. But I can't help feel as though he's run his course and that trying to stretch him out further would just weaken the character. And, of course, there is always Sylar. Don't get me wrong, I think Zachary Quinto has been beyond brilliant in this character, but enough is enough. Stop beating the horse; it's dead. Is the Heroes saga totally over with? No, clearly not. Not in the minds of the writers and producers, anyway. But I think this may be a moment where it is truly better to quit while they're ahead. "Brave New World" was marvelously crafted. Heroes finally managed in this season to redeem itself from Seasons 2 and 3. So let's not ruin it. Let's not allow an opportunity for things to get bad again and sully this. Let Heroes go out with some dignity. (This review also posted on my blog at //meltedbrain/wordpress.com .)

5 Reasons NBC Should Cancel 'Heroes'

Now that Heroes has finished season 4, the ball is in NBC's court about renewing it for yet another season. Given NBC's recent track record of decision-making, we suspect Heroes will be renewed for another five seasons right after The Biggest Loser is expanded to three-hour episodes. But this is a very bad idea. Despite ending with "To Be Continued," the start of Volume 6 is as good as any place to end the series. Keeping Heroes on the air is a deadly mistake NBC should avoid at all costs. Here are just five of the best reasons we can think of to cancel Heroes right now. To Read More Click Here .

'Heroes' Season 4, Episode 19: 'A Brave New World' Finale Review - Featured

If past Heroes finales have thought us anything, it's that we can expect to see all the good people with abilities, even those long-forgotten ones, to band together to bring down one big baddie. And that's exactly what happened tonight in the episode " A Brave New World ," only this time, the villain we've come to know and love since Season 1 actually turned out to be a hero. The final episode of the fourth season (or possibly the last episode of the entire series) picks up right exactly where Heroes' last episode left off. Noah is still holding on for dear life while her daughter Claire shouts for help. It's pointless, though, because they are about 50 feet underground, thanks to Samuel, who obviously put Claire with Noah so she can watch him die. For the time being, Noah and Claire make use of their time left to sort of their father-daughter issues. It's pretty emotional to see Noah, who is usually described as a man with a plan, feel hopeless and helpless. He asks for Claire's forgiveness for the things he's done in the past but reassures her that he did all those things to protect her. He also tells her that he loves her and that he can now die a happy man because Claire changed everything in his life for the better. And before taking what looks to be his final breath, he makes Claire promise that her true identity will remain hidden from the world as Samuel makes his big carnival reveal. To Read More Click Here If You Missed This Episode Watch It Here Online Now

Heroes 4.18: "The Wall" Review - Featured

Perhaps because of the scheduling, which has involved fewer and shorter breaks, this season has seemed to be cut down to the bone. In reality, it is only a few episodes short of the average network television season. It occurs to me that the slower pace has also made it feel like the season is shorter, because in an overall sense, less ground has been covered. The pace has been a mixed blessing. In many cases, it actually allowed for character exploration, which is one of those things that always fell short in earlier seasons. Some characters motivations have been a lot more defined as a result. On the other hand, many of the characters have already long since worn out their welcome, and what begins as deliberation can devolve into stagnation. As the penultimate chapter for this season (and quite possibly, the series), this felt a bit like writers' room navel-gazing. For all the build-up in the previous episode, this seemed to take what could have been five minutes of a typical hour and stretched it to the breaking point. That it largely focused on everything that has been wrong with this season is both appropriate and unfortunate. I'll start with the Sylar/Peter plot thread. It appears I was wrong about the body swap that was suggested at the end of the previous episode. Instead, the writers went for the notion that time seems to pass much more quickly in Sylar's dream-world, thus forcing the two enemies to spend years in isolation. The notion being thus: if Peter can eventually come to terms with Sylar's professed restored humanity, then Sylar can be redeemed. In essence, it's a cheat. It's a way to skip over the actual hard part of redeeming a character. And maybe we shouldn't be surprised by that choice; the writers already played at having Sylar abandon his evil ways, and then completely undermined it in the third season. Even taking into account in internal influence of Nathan and Matt on Sylar's psychological state, Sylar's tortured character journey makes any attempt at redemption hard to swallow. At this point, however, it's still possible for the writers to do this right. They could have Sylar make the effort to do the right thing, realize that his impulses are still overwhelming his desire to change, and sacrifice himself to take down Samuel. It wouldn't be redemption by any means, but it would give the character a chance to go out on a high note. Though, to the eternal damnation of the writers, it would also mean that the oft-promised throwdown between Peter and Sylar would be negated by, literally, years of talking it out. And since the writers have done everything to avoid that scenario since the first season finale, the downfall of Heroes still traces right back to that decision to soften the ending, let Sylar live, and abandon the original intention of replacing the cast every season to keep the series fresh. That might have long since eliminated the frustrations with Noah and Claire. Claire's character arc has been more tolerable this season, if only because it was connected to Samuel's plot arc, which has been the season's saving grace. Noah, on the other hand, has been all over the map. Did we really need to tack on more information about how he came to work with the Company? Noah has already lost his edge in several ways, and these flashbacks only serve to further water him down. Instead of a character that embraced a world that is morally gray, Noah is now someone who was led astray by his grief and anger. Even Samuel's arc is pointing towards disappointment. I understand the argument that Samuel's "earthquake" ability, taken to the extremes allowed by focusing the energy of his "family", would probably be uncomfortable for many viewers in the wake of the tragedy in Haiti. And if the episodes were coming later in the spring, having been written after Haiti's decimation, I would agree that the changes would be understandable and perhaps even justified. But that's not the case. These episodes were already in the can before the Haiti disaster, so it accurately reflects what the writers thought was a good resolution to the plot. They honestly felt that it would be a better payoff to replace a threat to destroy a major city by shaking it to the ground (the logical progression of Samuel's escalating instability) with the Classical Music Concert of Doom. Apparently Samuel thinks that nothing will strike fear into the hearts of New Yorkers than thousands of people dying because of out-of-tune music. (There's a joke about American Idol auditions or country/western singers in there somewhere.) The fact that Emma was introduced very early suggests that the writers had something like this in mind from the start. So as the writers build Samuel up to be more and more powerful, and outright foreshadow that he could destroy cities in the Coyote Sands video and through his destruction of a small town, they know that they will never deliver! It's the same formula that has plagued "Heroes" in each and every volume: build up the story towards a climax, and then undercut it as severely as possible - and then complain that the criticism from genre fans is unfair.