I’ve taken my time to respond to the ending of Heroes, in part because I’ve been absorbing and getting some perspective on it. My first response was, “Wow. This is just some of the best television I’ve ever seen!” But then, some would say that’s not really saying much. This is “low culture,” but when it’s well done, it’s just well done. Here are some of my observations on things I think have made this show so good:
- The narrator of the story has changed as the story as changed. Mohinder has been the voice of the narrator, and he seemed to provide the logical main perspective because he was seeking out the powers. But in time that changed, particularly when Hiro began traveling to different times. What Hiro saw in the past or the future became critical to both understanding the story as it unfolded and the direction of the story. It was Hiro’s perspective that became critical to the story at the end whereas it was Mohinder’s perspective at the beginning.
- Even though the ending seemed obvious, the audience was given reasons to doubt it without becoming too confused. Whereas Lost innundates with doubt, Heroes is more focused. Even though Heroes has its own trail of questions and mysteries, they are mostly answered, even as new ones crop up. But the point here is that the suspense of the ending worked: would the future in five years that Hiro visited come to pass? Would Peter kill Sylar in a duel? Or would Hiro? Who would be the exploding threat to New York City–Peter or Sylar?
- The show didn’t end with the predictable cliffhanger about whether or not NYC is saved. Instead, they chose something completely different. Hiro goes back in time, far back into Japan’s 17th century. Why is there? Who are the men about to fight each other? What is the meaning of the ‘helix’ symbol that now appears on a 17th century banner? To top it off, it ends with a symbol for another impending crisis, as an eclipse [which has been the show's visual image but which now is actually present in the show] darkens the battlefield, suggesting something dark/evil is about to happen.
- The show is not dependent on persisting its characters, who are, instead, expendable. I know some who like consistency, but I believe that stories are driven significantly by the development of characters. And we’ve come to know most of these characters pretty well.
- Ever since the ‘five years gone’ episode, I’ve come to realize just how many different directions this show could take, and I’ve been telling my wife that it could easily spend next season focused on the past, such as telling the story of the Linderman group before those heroes split up. It appears that it went further back than that [once again emphasizing how Hiro's perspective is now the show's persepctive].
- The twists in how the story proceeds are well done. For example, why does Sylar destroy NYC? He doesn’t know and is clearly scared that he kills innocents. He goes to his mother, to find out why and, maybe, to prevent the murders. But in doing so, his visit eventually gives Sylar his reason for destroying the city. We think, briefly, that Sylar might stop himself, but no, he provides his own impetus by accidentally killing his mother.
- The show makes use of the visual, not always depending on verbal explanations. For example, at the end of the finale, when Sylar is defeated, what do we see but a cockroach . . . the creatures that will supposedly survive any disaster. It’s a powerful suggestion that perhaps Sylar is not dead . . . or maybe it’s a metaphor for evil, that even with Sylar’s death, another threat will replace him.
- I think highly of writers that introduce something obvious in the beginning, allow us to forget it, and then bring it back in some signifiant way. For example, the Harry Potter books often do this, such as the portkey in Goblet of Fire. In Heroes, we’re introduced early on to Nathan’s ability to fly and then it fades, seemingly not to become significant. After all, a character can fly . . . big deal. Then it turns out to be the way the city is saved.
There’s a lot this show is doing that I wish other shows and comics would do, such as not creating a franchise that is dependent upon a particular, static cast. [The comic 100 bullets achieves something along these lines.] There are still a lot of questions to be answered, about who the characters are, what their relationships are, what powers they have. And most importantly, who is the man who is even worse than Sylar, according to Molly?
This show is just fun . . . fun to watch, fun to talk about.