So, over the course of the last few weeks, I've watched ALL of Heroes.
This is something that I swore I was not going to do, because of all of the people I've watched who loved Season 1, stuck with it for Season 2, and then pulled a collective WTF on my flist during Season 3. Why should I fall in love with characters and then suffer, eh? I could just avoid the whole thing.
Then ZQ fandom happened to me, and I had to watch it anyway. Fortunately, I went into it forewarned. So my reactions were not typical.
First of all, I was expecting Season 1 to be PHEEENOMENAL. And, to my taste, it wasn't. There are several reasons: I went into it a bit overhyped, which couldn't be avoided, alas. Also, there are a few writerly tips, tricks, and finaglings that are simply standard tools of the trade when it comes to shows like this with an overarching plot: repetitious dialogue, repetitious dialogue, and repetitious dialogue, not to mention the repetitious dialogue, just to let any new viewers in on any plot points they missed. And the constantly cutting from character to character right at a cliffhanger to keep you glued to the screen. I think that's lazy writing, frankly. If you have to cut the scene off before something important happens in order to maintain the viewer's interest, then either your characters aren't doing enough, or they aren't interesting enough. I also resented the comic-relief treatment of Hiro and Ando... I felt that a lot of their dialogue was stilted and babyish, simply because the writers felt the audience couldn't be trusted with anything complex in subtitles.
That said, I still watched it and, in retrospect, it was pretty good.
Season 2 was slightly less good, but okay, and afflicted with the same writing habits that drove me nuts in Season 1. There was the same repetitious dialogue, the annoyance of which is magnified a hundredfold when you're watching all of the episodes back-to-back, alas. Then there's the MacGuffin of superpowers... this show tries to have its cake and smear it around the plate at the same time, neither of which makes for a happy audience (who presumably would like to EAT the cake). The show wants to be MacGuffin-based, per your typical superhero plot. But it also wants to be character based. Now, the character concepts are fantastic, and the acting and casting are out of this world. But the script isn't quite strong enough for a character-driven show. So we turn to the MacGuffin: the superpowers! Which are used inconsistently and tossed by the wayside whenever the writers consider it convenient. They constantly take shortcuts: "I want to have this character do this, so we'll take away his powers. Well, but I want this character arc to happen, so bring the powers back!" Massive plot holes really work SO much better when you have strong characters and dialogue. Inconsistent characters can be tolerated if the MacGuffin is reliably awesome. The writers trade off on their goals repeatedly, and end up achieving none of them.
Crazy-making, but I still watched all of it. The immortal guy was kinda cool in the end. That's the secret of Heroes: every so often, one or another character does something so incredibly cool that I stick with it. But it doesn't even happen every single episode. I actually wasn't completely convinced by Season 1 until Eden managed to shoot herself so that Sylar wouldn't get her brains... that scene was the first one that really made me cheer for a character.
Then I hit Season 3, and that's about the point where things started to get good. Because that's where the writers took the plot, said, "We don't want this interfering, so we'll just put it over HERE and not think about it," and proceeded to write EVERY SHINY DAMN THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY ENTER THEIR HEADS.
I understand that if you really felt Seasons 1 and 2 were setting up the characters in a way that was believable and consistent, why you might be upset by Season 3. But since I was highly irritated by the way the characterizations and the plot points were being treated throughout S1 and S2, by the time the lunatic circus that was S3 came along, I was perfectly prepared for it. Season 3 of Heroes is an absolutely fantastic good time. It's so incredibly, earth-shatteringly bad, yet so fantastically, wonderfully SHINY, that it's good.
I laughed harder than I've laughed in years, just watching some of the bullshit stunts pulled off in the "Villains" issue. Every character betrays their arc at least three or four times! Entire characters disappear into thin air, taking their plotlines with them! Hey, remember Molly? Neither do we! What about that Irish girl who got dropped into a future that got prevented? Oops! Massive plot points change! People die while imbuing absolutely no sense of peril in the viewer, because you know for damn sure they'll just resurrect somehow in the next episode!
And then there was Season 3's Sylar. I gotta give Zach his absolute props. He's riveting every time he's on the screen, and he's delivering some of the most bullshit pop-psychobabble nonsense I've ever had the misfortune of wishing I could debunk with a weed-whacker. He's crazy! Wait, no, he's just misunderstood! Wait, he's a sociopath, except for never quite acting like one! Wait, wait, we've got it: HE'S FLUFFY AND CONFUSED! And then somebody said, "He should have sex with women!" and the audience said, "Yay! Who needs a plot anyway??"
Let's face it, the highlight of "Villains" is watching Elle blast the clothes off him with electricity. "Go for the jeans! Wait, you're telling me his pants are lightning-proof? DENIED!" Quite frankly, it's a fan-pleasing formula: let Sylar smack some folks around, then let them smack him back.
When you hit "Fugitives", it's almost kind of a downer after all that clowning around. But, alas, in the fourth volume, the writers... kinda... sorta... remember that they started out this whole thing with some goals and quality and stuff. So they dig the plot back out, and dust it off, and tweak it here and there, and plug it back in. After a few starts and stops, they realize the plot is actually kind of a cool device, and they decide to keep using it for the remainder of S3.
Which means it's time to pay the piper for all of that obscene resurrecting that was done earlier. Here a kill, there a kill, everywhere a dead character. Very serious stuff. I'm clearly unable to take any of it seriously anymore, but I respect their effort. Why can't I take it seriously? Because I'm too busy laughing my ASS off at Sylar because he's having a conversation with himself as his mother. "Hitchcock's dead! He'll never know! We'll call it an HOMAGE!"
Overall verdict: a shark-jumping good time. I want to watch Season 3 about five more times. Laughing is good for the abs.
I pity the fanfic writers of this fandom. They have to select versions of their characters. "Mohinder v1.0, dammit! I DON'T WANT THE UPGRADE!"