Oct 23 2007

How I Would Rewrite Heroes

I like the show Heroes a lot.  However, I think that it’s generally pretty poorly-written, at least flabbier than most shows I enjoy.  So many characters are thrown at us that take up an episode but have no bearing on the plot.  Like the woman that’s able to access the Internet remotely…  she was so insignificant that no one noticed that it looks like the writers forgot about her after her first episode.

I can’t tell what the remaining episodes in this season will look like, so it’s hard to tell which characters will become interesting and serve to drive the main plot, but I think that from the first four episodes we can start to tell which characters aren’t working.

In the first season, we had several main clusters of characters.  There’s a lot of overlap.  If one character could fit in several clusters, I tried to place him in the cluster that would be most affected by his removal from the script.

  • Peter and Nathan Patrelli (and their family)
  • The painter and his girlfriend
  • Hiro/Ando
  • Claire/Mr. Bennet and the other Bennets.
  • The Haitian and The Company employees
  • Linderman and his guys
  • Nicky, her kid and her husband
  • The L.A. cop, his family and the hot FBI partner.  I’d also probably put the nuclear guy and the remote control woman here.
  • Suresh
  • Syler

(I probably missed some people.  Heroes has an enormous cast).  Please forgive me for having a bad memory.

A few thoughts about the different clusters.

  • Peter was the main character– supposedly!  But he does very little.  He matters a lot more in terms of what he doesn’t do, namely destroying New York.
    • Well, he’s instrumental in saving Claire from Syler.  But that doesn’t matter very much, does it?  Remember the episode that looks at five years in the future after Syler survives the stabbing (because he had Claire’s regenerative powers)?  At the end of that episode, five years after he survives the stabbing, Syler kills Claire and takes her powers.  Most people didn’t notice that glaring plot-hole, probably because saving the cheerleader didn’t seem like a major element of the plot (because it wasn’t).
  • I would give Peter a more prominent role in the fight against Syler.  If he doesn’t tie into that fight more directly, he should probably be removed from the plot entirely.  His quest, to prevent NYC from getting nuked, really has nothing to do with Syler.
  • Syler is probably the character I enjoyed the most.  “This is usually the point where people start screaming” is one of my all-time favorite TV quotes.  As far as supervillains go, he has an interesting modus operandi and origin story.
  • I would, however, remove the scene where he kills his mother.  It wasn’t any MORE gruesome than anything else he did over the first season, but it just came out of the blue.  Why did he kill his mother again?  How did that advance the story?  We already KNEW he was damn creepy and violent.
  • I’d remove the Nicky/son/husband cluster entirely.  That ENTIRE cluster amounts to two relevant plot points: the device by which Petrelli is going to win the election and Nicky making a ridiculous cameo in the climactic fight against Syler.  As far as supervillain plots go, trying to rig an election with a wunderkind hacker is stupid and ill-conceived.
    • Let’s see… a candidate al0ready under federal investigation for mob ties moves from a 4-way dead heat to a “landslide” victory on the strength of bajillions of electronic votes.  Wouldn’t anyone get suspicious that precincts that presumably turned out pretty close in paper-voting produced enormous Petrelli majorities?
  • I like the Company, but it’s never quite clear (to me, at least) why they’re tracking the special people and what their eventual goal is.   How does Linderman tie into the Company’s goals?  I assume that they aren’t related.  If so, what IS the Company trying to accomplish?  Why does it attempt to take in Syler after it knows he’s a serial killer?  etc.  Critiques of Superhero Nation frequently offer some variation of “I don’t get the distinction between the Office of Special Investigations and the Social Justice League.”  I’d say that the Company-Linderman distinction is way hazier.
  • Suresh is OK, but do we really have to hear him narrate every episode?
  • I love the LA cop, but his role in the plot serves mainly to show what the law enforcement authorities are doing to stop Syler (not much, apparently).  He also makes an almost-cameo in the climactic fight against Syler.  I like this character a lot, but I would deemphasize his personal life– which is kind of trite– and emphasize the Syler connection.
    • The writers shot themselves in the foot with his hot partner.  The writers REALLY want this to be a world where no one really knows about people having superpowers.  To some extent, this suggests that the FBI is comically incompetent, but we’d have to believe that his partner is WILDLY stupid.
      1. She knows that he can read minds.  Ahem, he read HER mind and she knows that he is able to get all sorts of #$^# out of interrogatees.  She eventually shrugs that off with a few lines that are so painful that I can’t imagine they were written with a straight face.
      2. Syler’s kill scenes are distinctly unnatural.  Stuff like a building being iced over is par for the course.  Heads lopped off, etc.
      3. Mr. Radioactive produces radioactivity without any logical scientific explanation.  THEN Mr. Radioactive and his Homeland Security convoy are eliminated by something that threw the van down without leaving explosive residue or a collision impact.

    The easiest way to resolve all of this would be to remove the scene where the cop (Parkman) exposes his ESP secret to his partner.

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