We can all agree that NBC's Heroes has floundered pretty badly for awhile. But as the third season ends this week, here're some reasons why you should tune in again when it returns this fall.
The Writing Has Improved
No, really. It's very tempting to give most of the credit for this to the return of Bryan Fuller, now acting as "consulting producer" on the show - After all, the turn-around coincided with his first episode back, which also happened to be the best episode they'd had in years - but it's not as if he's the only person who's been delivering recently. Perhaps he just made everyone else step up their game, or maybe he's been reminding everyone what the show is really about, but the show is once again becoming fast-moving, popcorn-smart, funny entertainment again... and the characters are no longer seeming to shift personalities every couple of episodes depending on who the plot needs them to be in order to move forward or shock the viewers (Well, except Sylar, but that's intentional... I think). Also, they titled an episode "Turn And Face The Strange." That's got to be worth something, right?
No More Time Travel
The best thing about "Fugitives," the current arc? There's absolutely no time travel in it at all. For a show that had continually gone back to the same idea of "Character X Has Seen The Future And Must Prevent It" for its last three "volumes," this is nothing short of stunning... and, more than that, very welcome indeed. Instead, the show is slowly coming to terms with the idea that conflict can come less from predestination and more from the characters just doing what they do. Yes, they may still be ripping off the X-Men, but at least they're not still ripping off the one same storyline over and over again. Baby steps, people.
(Also something that seems to be finally being abandoned: The Daddy Issues. Now that we've dealt with Papa Parkman, Papa Petrelli and Papa Sylar, here's hoping that the show can finally move away from basing so much of the drama around characters' unhappy relationships with their fathers. If nothing else, they'll always have the Nathan/Claire/HRG triangle for cheap therapy.)
The Cast Is Shrinking. Ish.
Whether it's essentially sidelining characters (Mohinder keeps disappearing to "find himself" or "find the truth about his father" or something similar, and that's just fine with me), killing them off (Bye, Elle! Bye, Daphne! Bye, Tracy, even though I totally don't believe that you're dead!), or even just forgetting about them altogether (Are we ever going to see Monica again? What about Maya? Actually, no, I don't want to see her again), it's as if the writers had suddenly realized that the series was massively overpopulated, and mostly with characters that no-one cared about. Even though the show has only really started to improve in the last few episodes, a small cull has been underway since the start of this season, and it's something that I hope continues next year. One suggestion, though: Let's start killing off main characters who aren't serving any purpose anymore. Yes, Mohinder, I mean you. You too, Matt Parkman.
(Actually, another suggestion: Can you stop only getting rid of the female characters? It's kind of creepy, the weird gender bias when it comes to the characters who've been disappearing.)
Someone Has Started Thinking About The Powers
More signs of intelligence from the writers room: The Deus Ex Machina characters? Suddenly depowered in a move so welcome that I won't even complain too loudly about how awkwardly it was achieved. One of the show's constant problems has always been "The Flash Dilemma" - that is, the fact that if all of the characters were thinking, the stories would be over before they'd started because everyone involved was so powerful (So named because, if the Flash is really the fastest man alive, if he actually stopped to think, he could run around at superspeed and deal with all the bad guys before they'd had a chance to boast about how unstoppable they were), but now Peter Petrelli has to touch someone to gain their power, and even then, he can only mimic one power at a time, and Hiro can only stop time, not travel in it, nor teleport out of trouble with an overly-squinty blink. Only Sylar remains all-powerful, and that's as it should be; the bad guy should always be the one with all the power, otherwise he's no threat - and, even then, his power comes with a price (Not to mention a cameo from Ellen Greene in last week's episode). The result? Tension that you can believe in, without thinking that your favorite character is stupid.
Less Episodes Means Less Filler
Perhaps most importantly, NBC just announced that there'll be less Heroes next year; they plan on making somewhere between 18-20 episodes in total, compared with the 25 of this season. This is definitely a good thing, because it'll cut down on the random, go-nowhere shenanigans that the show has used to stretch out stories past their desired length so many times in the past (Case in point: Claire helping comic store geek escape the authorities). Hopefully, it'll also make the show's PTB think more about what needs to be said, as opposed to following their desires down creative dead-end alleys (Almost all of the recent "1961" episode) in order to fulfill the season's episode order.
Don't get me wrong; the show's nowhere near perfect, still; there are still moments that you want to throw things at your television and scream that everyone involved just may be retarded, and Nathan's hair continues to get more out of control with each and every episode. But Heroes has, rather remarkably, turned itself around from the carcrash it used to be to become something that, once again, has the potential to fulfill its own potential. It's also, thankfully, become more entertaining in doing so, and is worth your attention for an hour every week again. Tune into Monday's big season finale to see the fireworks and over the top plot resolutions to see if you can fall in love with the show again... and stick around for the final scene that'll show what we have in store for us when the show returns in the fall. You know you want to.