How Heroes got cancelled

Making the hurt stop

It is official – after four seasons, Heroes has been axed by NBC and will not be returning for another volume.  Those of us at Comicdom Wrecks had fond memories of the early days of the show and are at least somewhat pleased that they managed to get the show into a somewhat decent stopping point.  Whether it gets a proposed finale event is a story for another day.

But just what went wrong with Heroes?  Its first season was arguably ‘must-see TV’ with each episode ending leaving the fans craving more.  But since then, Heroes had become a shell of its former self, with only (most of) the faces remaining the same, just without the heart and soul of once made it so good.  So let’s take a look back at three major reasons that Heroes went down so quickly.

1) A non-thought out plot…
Do you remember how awesome season 1 was?  Recall how cool it was when the Company’s tracking system turned out to be the little girl that Parkman rescued in the second episode?  Remember when all the characters’ individual paths led them to the final big confrontation with Sylar in the finale?

Now, do you remember how awful season 3 was?  Remember when Future Peter showed up for no purpose and took present Peter with him to the future and showed a post-apocalyptic world?  No?  That’s probably because the show never did another thing with it – there was no sign as to how the world would get like that, nor did any of the other characters even become aware of it.  Do you remember when Parkman gained powers of painting the future?  No?  That’s because he never did it after the episode he started.

And that was a huge problem with Heroes.  It was like the writers had a bag full of ‘shock moments’ and plot points, but didn’t bother to plot everything out.  This was especially apparent in ‘Fugitives’ when Suresh was arrested three separate times during the season.  And what ever became of Maya?  Once it became obvious that each new episode was completely ignorable except for the ending three minutes, it became a chore to watch rather than a pleasure like it had been.

2) Consistent characterization
Ah, Syler.  You were so bloodthirsty and evil in Season 1.  Then in Season 2, you had lost your powers but went to any lengths to get them back.  And then in season 3?  Well, then you decided you didn’t want to kill anymore, so you learned to mimic powers through an empathic connection (even though that made zero sense to how you had explained your powers just a few episodes before).  But then you decided you couldn’t actually change, so you became a killer again.  That is until you decided to become a hero again.  But by that point, no one cared anymore as the character had no distinct personality anymore.

And almost every character went through constant mood shifts.  Peter, Claire, Nathan, Suresh, and others all shifted back and forth so many times, it was impossible to identify with them anymore.  They ceased being real people and became caricatures of whatever mood setting needed to fit the current hobbled together plot.  And for god’s sake, just how many times could Claire not trust, then forgive, then not trust her father again?

3) Everyone is expendable – and it shows
The death of Isaac Mendez in the first season was a memorable moment that really tore at the fanbase*.  Isaac was a major character throughout the season who had become interesting through his torn mindset over his powers and responsibilities.  He had gone through wanting to save the world than through heartbreak through the death of his girlfriend Simone and finally faced with the inevitability of his own demise, redeemed himself with one final act of defiance before being killed by Sylar.  Isaac’s death was one of the key moments of season 1.

But then think of the death of some of the characters introduced in season 2.  Bob, the runner of the Company, was killed off-screen by Sylar who never even bothered to use his power.  Elle spent time redeeming Sylar (and herself by proxy) only to be killed for little more than the ‘shock moment’.  Adam Monroe, the antagonist and most interesting character of the season, was killed in the opening segment of an episode just to show how badass Arthur Petrelli was.  Hell, Nathan Petrelli’s death was the closing cliffhanger of THREE SEPARATE SEASONS!  Kaitlyn, Peter’s girlfriend, was stranded in the future and no one ever bothered to go after her, or even so much as mentioned her after the fact.

Heroes got to the point where it was impossible to enjoy any new characters introduced into the show since they were likely to be killed off fairly quickly.  Those not from the original season of the show were all pretty much cannon fodder, and they dropped in droves.  And with them went any particularly interesting stories that might have brought something new to the show.

And with that, Heroes goes.  It had a longer run than it probably deserved, but fans can rest easy knowing that they can go back and watch the first season with joy and remember what a great show it was at one point.  Farewell, Heroes.  It looks like the world you couldn’t save with the cheerleader was your own.

*2017 EDIT – I am having trouble dealing with my past self’s using the term “fanbase” to say that his opinion of a subjective content is that of everyones.  I liked Isaac a lot and it sucked that he died.  I should not have assumed that my opinion was that of every viewer of Heroes because some people probably thought that Isaac’s death was an important part of that story.  Which it was.  There I go again.



  1. I just saw the trailers for NBC’s The Cape and ABC’s No Ordinary Family. If Heroes hadn’t gotten cancelled it’d have a run for it’s money for sure. The Cape looks awesome and NOF looks very interesting as well.


    • I’ve seen posts of fans complaining about NBC picking up The Cape after cancelling Heroes. It wasn’t the concept that killed Heroes, it was the execution. Heroes started out strong but couldn’t figure out what to do once it had established itself.


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