In season three, Heroes seemingly went from bad to worse. Now, with Bryan Fuller deserting NBC's sinking flagship, we're left wondering: Can Heroes really can find Redemption in its fourth season?
What happened? Villains marked an all time low in your ratings, and lost you a significant portion of your core audience (myself included). You broke my heart, Heroes. Fugitives won me back in much the same way your ex does when he or she promises to reform, to be better and try harder. But the make-up sex just wasn't that great; the second half of the third season was just too little too late, with the writers and network executives over-compensating furiously with its Con Air plot line and conspiracy theories pieced together with duct tape and hurried exposition. Heroes, if you really want to win me back, here's what you have to do.
New Talent. With Bryan Fuller off to pursue new projects, there are some pretty big shoes to fill. If Fuller's replacement generates the same buzz you did around Fuller's return to the show, and then deliver on it, you may just win many of us back. Carlton Cuse, who is wrapping up his epic run with Lost, might just be the hero you need. Other people capable of filling the void could be Adam Horowitz (the Lost scribe, not the Beastie Boy) or David Fury, the uber-talented Joss Whedon alum. I'll even put in a plug for Rob Thomas (creator of Veronica Mars), who has an amazing gift for crafting characters we love - and love to hate.
"You know how this works; one of us, one of them." Heroes is at its best when pairing up a hero with a human. For the first two seasons, and well into the third, Hiro and Ando formed the beating heart of the show for just this reason... and then you had to go and give Ando super powers. Why? The show is at its peak when specials and non-specials are grappling to understand one another and find common ground (Yes, I would even use Claire and her relationship with the Bennetts, overplayed as it is, as an example here). Continuing to team up specials and non-specials is a sure fire win.
We need a new geek. Look, I'll be honest; The moment you lost me in Villains was when you gave Mohinder powers. Dr. Suresh was originally conceived as a fifty-something scientist, until hunky hero Sendhil Ramamurthy was cast in the role. You never quite reconciled the fact that the geeky scientist who was there to serve as an anchoring point to the show and deliver much needed exposition was also part of its beefcake buffet. We need a scientist whose theories we believe, and who can deliver lines like "The virus is breaking down her DNA and turning her into something altogether... different" with a straight face. Perhaps a long-lost protege of Mohinder's father, or a government-funded geneticist can turn up to espouse the comic book science we've been missing (Someone like much underrated and underused character actor Ian Hart would be a perfect fit). Heroes, you need to find your Daniel Faraday.
Focus. The cast has gotten wildly out of control. Too many specials, too many superpowers, and an endless supply of shape-shifting characters, twins, and future selves is just mucking up the works. Slim down the cast and find your focus - the core group of characters we care about. Kill off the characters who only annoy us. Ali Larter's character comebacks have gotten ridiculous. Besides, we only tolerated her in the first place so we could have Micah. He, along with his super-mimic cousin, and human GPS Molly almost disappeared entirely from the show, with Micah just making a recent comeback. These kids are now perfectly poised, as they hit their 'tweens, to be the subjects of mutation-as-puberty-metaphor story arcs. You are already mining every good X-Men device ever conceived, why not just steal that one as well?
Everybody loves bad girls. I miss your sexy villains; I loved Elle, and I howled in horror when she got killed off last season. Madeline Zima is joining the show next season, and could very well fill the sexy female villain role, with the storyline in the hands of the right writers. Summer Glau is also looking for work in Tinseltown these days, and playing a full-on femme fatale would be a challenge we'd all love to see her take. Ray Park, the sexiest Sith, also joins the cast next season, reportedly as an evil carny character. I'm keeping my fingers crossed you match him up with some equally amazing female character.
Kill the cheerleader, Save the show. Hayden Panettiere has a film career now, and it's time to let her go. Between her bad acting and on-set temper tantrums, she is completely destroying the show. Besides, killing Claire off would give many of the characters, HRG especially, some great motivation.
One last thing...9th Wonders needs to come back in a big way. Please?