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Remembering When the Last Writers' Strike Stranded a Heroes Character in a Pandemic Future
When Heroes shortened its second season from 24 to 11 episodes due to the 2007-2008 WGA strike, there were some victims.
The Writer’s Guild of America is currently on strike, and that strike is having a very real impact on people — most importantly the writers, who are fighting for fair pay, but also for the many other TV and film workers whose livelihood may be impacted, and the viewers who may have to go without their favorite shows. But, if one sets aside the real impact of the strike, there’s a clear answer to who has had the worst fictional impact of a WGA strike: Caitlin, Peter Petrelli’s girlfriend from Season 2 of Heroes (now streaming on Peacock!), who he accidentally stranded in a dystopian future and then everybody kind of just forgot about her after the strike forced the season to a rushed and shortened conclusion.
When Heroes premiered on NBC in 2006, the first season was a huge hit. This was pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the idea of an exciting, sprawling superhero universe on TV was an instant draw. Season 1 focused on a group of characters, including the ostensible protagonist Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), as they came to terms with the mysterious superpowers they had acquired and rushed to “save the cheerleader, save the world.”
Season 2 was not beloved in the way that Season 1 was. It’s not necessarily fair or accurate to say that the shortcomings of the sophomore season were all due to the 2007-2008 WGA strike — creator Tim Kring admitted that there were several problems with the season — but the fact that the strike made it so they only produced 11 out of a planned 24 episodes certainly didn’t help. The show rushed to wrap up the season early in an attempt to bring things to a conclusion rather than leave the season abruptly unfinished.
The big premise of Season 2 was the Shanti virus, a deadly, weaponized virus. The season’s villain, Adam Monroe (David Anders), wants to release the virus and unleash a pandemic on the world, and the good heroes must come together to stop it. (Remember, this was in 2007, when the idea of a deadly pandemic was just the stuff of sci-fi TV shows…)
Peter, whose superpower was the ability to copy other people’s powers, became amnesiac during the four months between Season 1’s climatic end battle and the start of Season 2. He ends up in Ireland where he gains the trust of a gang leader, Ricky, and eventually gets in a relationship with Ricky’s sister, Caitlin (Katie Carr). In Episode 7, Peter accidentally uses the time-traveling power he picked up from Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) to transport Caitlin and himself one year into the future — a future when the Shanti virus has been unleashed.
It’s a bleak, horrible future. The virus killed 93% of the world’s population, and the remaining humans are living in a bleak and desperate dystopia. But, in the same episode, Peter accidentally travels back to the present day, leaving Caitlin stranded. Then four episodes later, Peter and the other heroes prevent the release of the Shanti virus, meaning that the terrible future that Caitlin is trapped in… never happens. It’s unclear how Heroes’ time-travel rules work. Maybe she’s now stuck in that future with no way to get back, or maybe she simply no longer exists. It’s hard to say which fate is worse.
In any case, Peter never makes an attempt to rescue Caitlin. She’s totally forgotten about. Perhaps that’s because the writers of Seasons 3 and 4 didn’t want to revisit the rushed, abridged season that got her stuck in the first place. The original plan for Season 3 would have actually had the virus get released, and the heroes would have needed to deal with the fallout rather than simply preventing the whole thing from happening in Season 2’s quickened finale. One can imagine a world where Caitlin might have come back into play, should the virus storyline have been able to play out.
That, however, is not what happened. Though it’s hard to say Caitlin’s ultimate fate can be fully blamed on the Writers’ Strike, it seems like they’re probably related. That’s a shame for Caitlin, but if a fictional character needed to be sent to a terrible future so that real-life people could fight for a better future for themselves, so be it.
Heroes is now streaming on Peacock!