I don’t really know what to say about the season premiere of Heroes. Nothing about it — not the episode, not the ratings, certainly not the “countdown” thing — indicated that the show has been redeemed, but nothing about it was that bad, either; it’s just that the novelty has worn off, and it’s hard to watch the show with any confidence that it’s going to take us somewhere interesting. This is the big hazard of a heavily serialized show: since most of the individual episodes aren’t meant to be evaluated on their own, we have to look at them as down payments on the big climax to come. But once a show has proven that it doesn’t know how to deliver a decent climax, it’s hard for the audience to really believe that this is going anywhere. In that sense, Heroes sealed its fate not in season 2 but at the end of season 1, when Tim Kring proved that he wasn’t kidding when he said he didn’t know how to end the season.

Heroes is also an example of how fast trends can change in TV. When it started, ultra-serialization was (thanks to Lost) the cool thing, and everybody wanted to do ongoing mysteries and complicated mythology. Tim Kring had wanted to do serialization on his previous — and best — show, Crossing Jordan, but NBC wouldn’t let him; but by the time of Heroes, Kring and Lost creator Damon Lindelof joined together to celebrate the networks’ newfound acceptance of Total Serialism. Two years later, most shows still have serial elements (the days when every episode’s events were completely forgotten by the next week are gone, even though I think there are some shows, like Chuck, that would actually benefit from that approach), but treating the entire season, or half of a season, as one long unit is no longer something that most shows want to do; the showrunner of Sarah Connor Chronicles announced that this season would be less serialized and have more self-contained episodes. So Heroes‘ approach looked cutting-edge in 2006, and now it just looks kind of confusing.

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