Heroes: Reborn - 5 ways the show can successfully rise from the ashes

The Heroes reboot should learn from Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead

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The Independent Culture

Amid the interviews, spoilers, casting hints and all the trimmings at Comic Con, you might have missed the first full trailer for NBC’s Heroes: Reborn.

Or maybe you saw it and gave it a shrug. Heroes was one of the big breakout hits for NBC when it debuted; a big, character-driven saga that tackled superpowers with subtlety and nuance.

But the show quickly squandered all critical praise by collapsing in on itself. Show creator Tim Kring admitted the special-effects were expensive, so they tried avoiding them; the huge cast had a passionate fanbase, so the writers were reluctant to kill them off; and the writing team confessed they only planned a few episodes in advance, making for a show that routinely promised a lot and took the easy route out every time.

It was also, like many shows around 2007-2008, tarred by the Writer’s Strike, during a second season that was already suffering growing pains (one character managed to get stuck in a parallel timeline and, as getting her back was a bit fiddly, ended up staying there and was never mentioned again).

So the revival of Heroes might seem like an unusual one, because the TV landscape has changed considerably since it went off the air. But those changes could, in fact, help push Heroes back out the slightly niche fanboy corner into the big hit it was always supposed to be.

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Actor Greg Grunberg (left) and writer/producer Tim Kring take a selfie on stage at the 'Heroes Reborn' exclusive extended trailer and panel during Comic-Con International 2015

Here are five suggestions of what the show could do to avoid going up in flames.

Don’t rely on nostalgia

Much of the trailer for Reborn focuses on Jack Coleman’s character, Noah Bennett (known by fans as HRG, or Horn-Rimmed Glasses, due to being unnamed for much of the first season), as he begins to cross paths with special people a year after a government smear campaign.

Bennett was a complex character -  a man who worked for a shady company that kidnapped heroes but was also the adoptive father of one (Claire, the regenerating cheerleader). But as the seasons went on he felt less interesting, particularly as he had no powers of his own.

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Out of the ordinary: Sylar, Peter and co

Reborn seems to be reimagining Bennett as the protagonist in this reboot, but while he makes an interesting lens to see the world through, the show should take a leaf from OITNB’s treatment of Piper and focus on the most interesting characters as and when they arise.

Shorter seasons can be more effective

NBC ordering a 13 episode season might sound like they have very little faith in the franchise, but it’s a sign of the times that tighter, more dynamic seasons are more effective.

Heroes often had up to 25 episodes a season, but that meant the entire thing felt drawn out and exhausting. It worked in Season One, where we wanted to engage with a big cast and a complex plot could bubble away, but times have changed.

Game of Thrones has a neat, 10-episode season where it can set things up, knock them down and throw a few shocks in along the way. The Walking Dead has nailed 16-episode seasons. And Netflix shows like House of Cards, Daredevil and Sense8 have worked out how to structure a 13 episode season so it can deliver huge blockbuster moments and considered character-based arcs simultaneously.

In short: keep it short.

Appeal to new viewers as well as old ones

The appearance of old cast members – telepathic policeman Matt Parker, precognitive dreamer Angela Petrelli and kid-genius technopath Micah Sanders – gave fans plenty of reasons to get excited.

But leaning on older characters isn’t sustainable given that the same characters grew weary over time. The show should try to avoid convoluted backstories and relationships, and instead focus on new characters, new powers and , as they promised in the Season Four finale, “a brave new world”.

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Claire Bennet from the original Heroes show

Of the new cast, Zachary Levi (Chuck, Tangled, Thor: The Dark World) is the most high-profile, although his powers (if he has any) are being kept under wraps.

Don’t write a rulebook you can’t stick to

The scope of the cast’s powers versus what could be accomplished with them became a regular source of frustration in the Heroes universe.

Characters like Hiro (Masi Oka - above), who could manipulate time and space at the flick of a wrist, and Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), who absorbed the powers of other humans and became something of a genetically boosted Swiss-army knife – became so powerful that there were conceivably few problems they couldn’t solve.

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The show routinely ‘de-fanged’ its powerful characters; Hiro and Peter had their powers ‘stolen’, only for them to get slightly worse versions gifted back to them during a convoluted plot in Season Three – and Hiro was even given a terminal illness at one point to stop his brain functioning.

The bottom line: don’t write in characters with powers that are going to be problematic later on.

Misfits pulled off superpowers by making them a combination of underwhelming, undesirable, or downright hard to use, which isn’t a bad thing for Heroes to consider.

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Actors Danika Yarosh, Robbie Kay, Gatlin Green, Henry Zebrowski, and Rya Kihlstedt speaking at the 'Heroes Reborn' Comic Con panel

That said, Masi Oka’s Hiro does make a surprising appearance in the trailer, so it will be interesting to see how they intend to use him.

Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings

There’s a reason Game Of Thrones shocked the world when it consciously uncoupled Ned Stark’s head from his body: big budget shows don’t really kill off the main stars who draw in viewers.

Yet in doing so, GOT created a climate where a beloved character being offed is one of the most iconic things that can happen to them, and the tension throughout the show is one of the driving forces behind the drama.

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Sylar understands how something works just by looking at it

Heroes long-standing problem was its reluctance to kill off characters despite the overwhelmingly dangerous world they inhabited. One of the main stars, Nathan Petrelli, a politician with the power of flight, was killed off by sociopath Sylar, only for a complex plan to take place where a character who could shape-shift into other characters was brainwashed by a telepath into thinking he was Petrelli.

So actor Adrian Pasdar remained in the show, since he was actually playing a character who thought he was Nathan Petrelli. It was a complex mess and suggested the show wanted to have its cake and eat it.

The biggest lesson Heroes: Reborn can learn is that no one character is crucial to the whole thing. So even though the show is introducing new cast members and investing in some old ones, it’s probably best not to get too attached.

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