The first series of Heroes was great. Unashamed four-colour schlock, it got away with some iffy plotting and dodgy performances thanks to its interesting if not massively-original plot (Ozymandias called. Yeah, he wants his evil scheme back), its enthusiasm and its general charm. Even the Episode Set In The Future didn’t suck, which might be a TV sci-fi first.
The second series wasn’t great. Just like Spider-Man 3, it took a whole bunch of workable ideas then smashed them into each other at high speed. As a result there are a few fragments of story and memorable scenes (usually involving Hiro, still easily the best and most likeable character in the series) lying intact about the place but they’re largely lost in the mess and carnage.
Heroes season 2 spoilers incoming.
There were plenty of other missteps. Horn-Rimmed Glasses Guy was much more interesting when we knew much less about him. The stuntcasting, which actually worked really well and was enormous fun in the first season (wahey, it’s the guy who drove the Enterprise! Wahey, it’s Doctor Who! Wahey, it’s The Master! Wahay, it’s the bloke who killed Captain Kirk!) was toned down to wheeling out Nichelle Nichols (wahey! It’s the lady who used to answer the space-phone for the white guy!) and then giving her nothing to do. We needed more of Monica and her ace muscle-mimicry power and more of Matt Partman, whose gradual corruption by his powers was one of the few really interesting character arcs on show.
Matters weren’t helped by the fact that 90% of the characters appeared to be suffering mild concussion or else had just gotten a new prescription of Stupid Pills. Peter “Sodding” Petrelli was of course the worst offender, displaying quite literally world-threatening levels of gullibility (“I don’t care if literally every person we’ve encountered has told me that this bloke’s a wrong ‘un, he’s my friend so I’m going to hand him the Doomsday Virus rather than, say, destroying it myself or even just standing outside this incredibly secure vault door for the rest of the day and making sure nobody touches it”) and you have to question the wisdom of building so much of the second series around both him and Dr. Suresh, comfortably the worst actors in the cast.
Even accepting that hand-waving explanations storyline contrivances are a staple of the source material Heroes is emulating, there were just too many things that made no sense and even full-blown Idiot Plots (a term coined by Roger Ebert to describe storylines that would be instantly resolved if everyone involved would stop acting like a complete idiot) kicking around Season 2. Why DID the company hang on to the virus that could kill everyone on the planet? If shooting a regenerator through the head kills them, why did a small infusion of Clare’s blood bring her dad back to life after he was, er, shot in the head? If they knew how to kill a regenerator, why didn’t they kill Adam the first time he attempted to commit genocide? Why did they put Peter in the cell next to him, allowing Adam free rein to drip poison in the dopy sod’s ear? Aaaaaagh!
It’s possible the pacing and plotting of the series was adversely affected by the writer’s strike. With the third season just starting in the States that’ll probably become clear one way or the other soon. But the signs are at the moment that Heroes might be going the way of the X-Files – a brilliant core concept, but one with finite milage that ended up being stretched far beyond the point that anyone other than rabid fans were remotely interested.