Reaction Time: An Epitaph


This is my last Melted Brain post about Heroes. Ever.

Wow.

It’s official: NBC has cancelled Heroes and definitively crushed all hopes (however minimal) for a fifth season.

And I’m sad. I will miss it.

Heroes is incredibly special to me for several reasons. For one (and this is really important), it is the first show that I’ve watched the entirety of while it was on air. I’ve been with Heroes from the beginning – heck, I was with Heroes when it was in the promos-and-trailers stage. It was, in a lot of ways, my gateway into the world in which I now live: the world of TV geekdom. Heroes, the show itself and the supplementary material (i.e. simultaneous commentaries) gave me my first real introduction into the production of television and how the elements came together. Heroes sparked my interest in television as an artistic and narrative form. And it taught me that becoming invested in fiction is not necessarily a terrible thing. It also familiarized me with a whole array of incredibly talented people – writers, directors, and actors – several of whom I anticipate I’ll be keeping an eye on for most of their careers.

So, Heroes is integral to both my past and future as a lover of television.

But moving beyond my sentimental attachment, I will readily admit that this cancellation is not the least unexpected. And that it is right.

Sad fact: after a first season that started out slow but built to phenomenality, Heroes never peaked that high again. I love Heroes. But that doesn’t mean I won’t rail intently against the second and third seasons (particularly the second). Those were disastrous, and I think just about any Heroes viewer, die-hard fan or not, will agree. Those were highly disappointing periods of time for me, though the disappointment certainly didn’t damper my intense investment in the show, especially since there was always something after those worst parts to help redeem.

Case in point, Season Four and the season finale (now definitely the series finale) “Brave New World.”  That episode is one of my favorites from the entire series. It was beautifully done and it served its purpose to the absolute fullest extent. And, most importantly given this most recent development, it was conclusive.

Some commentary I’ve read about the Heroes cancellation has expressed disappointment on grounds of What A Shame To Cut Off The Story In The Middle Like This.

I disagree.

Not about it being a shame. I mean the part about being in the middle of something.

To me, “Brave New World” felt like an end – even better, an end I could be happy with. Sure, there were some loose ends. There always are. I can live with it. Especially since I feel like the major plotlines are all tied up. Nathan finally actually died. And the villains got taken care of in one way or another, which is really the main business of the series. It may be titled Heroes but, for me, it’s always been the bad guys who drive everything. So, with the season’s major villain Samuel in shackles and Sylar, perennial Big Bad, at a definite (if totally unexpected and frankly rather disturbing) stopping point in his character development arc, I’d say a conclusion has been successfully reached.

One could, of course, argue that the story was not done because the tail end of “Brave New World” set up for more storyline with that little Claire-revealing-herself stunt and the unknown elements regarding other characters. But think about it: if those last few minutes of the episode got cut out (or you just had no idea they existed), would you have any real feeling of being at an inconclusive transition point? I say nay.

If there is one thing I know to be true about the end of television series, it is that it is more like the closing of a curtain than an orchestrated apocalypse. The story doesn’t need to absolutely get wrapped up down to the tiniest detail, the characters don’t all need to be fully explained and their futures laid out. Those things don’t end; our being able to see them does.

That in mind, the ultimate goal of a series finale ought to be to pull out the stops to make that one episode the best that it can possibly be. Bring everything to a close, not a stop – keep some things open-ended. And above all, let the show go out with dignity intact.

And so, put in those terms, I find “Brave New World” utterly successful as a series finale.

I’m glad that Heroes went out strong. I’m glad it made it through the insanely rough patches to get to the end of Season 4 where we saw a near-recovery of Heroes‘ original appeal and excellence. And I’m glad that it ended when it did. The story closed on writer/producer terms, not ratings and network execs, with a pleasing mix of finalization and unknown.

Heroes, I love you. I’ll miss you.

Best wishes to everyone involved in the show from Tim Kring to Zachary Quinto on down – I hope to see you all working again sometime soon.

And congratulations. It really is a hell of a show.

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