I don’t think I’m alone on this: Heroes represents one of the greatest ongoing disappointments of my life. I’ll never get those hours back. The good news is that Heroes Reborn just might be the redeemer. Surely, I’ve had more acute disappointments than a TV show, I did go to high school after all, and I like sports, so I’ve experienced a typical amount of letdowns for a lower class kid in a first world nation. But Heroes, man, that was a parade of successive “wah-wahs” from a suicidal trombone. What constitutes disappointment? Unmet high expectations. Heroes embodied that. It was a blank check never cashed; A silent promise that never enacted; The television show equivalent of a deadbeat dad that promises to take you out for ice cream but instead drops off an ice cube tray. Like most shows I end up investing a lot time in I came into Heroes late, relying on word of mouth to eventually convince me to sit and watch. Despite my lifelong affinity for comics and capes I didn’t dabble until I found myself laid up with a minor illness with a symptom of major insomnia. A friend lent me the first two seasons on DVD and in the tradition of modern times I binged like all holy hell. Blasting through Season… I’m sorry VOLUME One in just about 24 hours (yes, all 23 episodes ) I found myself in some type of Schrödinger’s Cat quasi-state of being super interested and utterly bored. The characters, like Hiro, Sylar and Peter had an unmistakable charm, and a good bit of the plot mechanics and twists had a tinge of inspiration in them, even if much of it was co-opted from the lush mythologies of DC and Marvel comics, the X-Men in particular. However, despite that smooth veneer I was quite frankly annoyed and offended by the show’s pace. Volume One was, and still is, largely lauded for its effort, but I consider it one of the most anti-climatic stories I’ve ever seen on serialized television. We were promised a devastating explosion and got nothing kinetic in the slightest. Chekov’s Gun would be ashamed. Still, in what would be a pattern that continues through the writing of this very sentence, I was somehow hooked. I ventured into the dystopian Volume Two, which had some merits despite the 2007-08 writers’ strike truncating it, but still, much aimlessness, meandering and turgidity still plagued the show. The addiction continued. I took in the atrocious Volume Three villain-centric season, and then the hunted-prey (again) dystopian Volume Four and finally the capper, the at-times interesting, but ultimately futile Volume Five, the season where our “heroes” faced off against a literal circus of antagonists. This may be cold but in many ways I viewed the end of Heroes like the passing of a suffering love one — it’s probably best for all of us. With a whole host of ailments, and no clear sign of improvement, it felt appropriate to put it out of its misery. But the potential. Oh my gosh, the potential. The series moved along for multiple years without really anything marquee to promote, bolstered only by its initial success and the promise that it could be great. During the latter stages especially, when films like 2008’s Iron Man and The Dark Knight were proving that with a bit of craftsmanship and ingenuity superheroes could transcend their station and become something truly great, the show failed spectacularly over and over with half-deaths, constant rejiggering of power sets, ineffectual bad guys, ineffectual good guys, a great actor who outgrew his part and a whiny overtone that brushed up against the rhetoric of daytime soaps. In this current epoch of rehash and reboot no one should be surprised that a show, any show really, is revived, and truthfully, Heroes was always a likely candidate due to the subject material, the early hype and that specter of untapped potential that continues to haunt every conversation I have with someone about it. Point is, the rebirth of Heroes is no shocker. Heroes Reborn seemingly started as a comic book sequel before being picked up as miniseries by NBC. By ordering 13 episodes it seems the network at least partially remembers that the original struggled at times to maintain its audience and was marred by spaced-out storytelling and subplots that dwindled into nothingness. What’s interesting about the two hour series premiere of Heroes Reborn is that the formula isn’t all that different. The diverse, ensemble cast is still a focus, and there is still a bit of alluring humanity to the whole thing that evokes times of old. It remains clunky, with lines like “The first rule of tailing someone: know how to tail someone” and a teenage romance that’s overtly awkward and a bit insipid, but marked improvement is noticeable. There’s a certain degree of risk-taking that points to a more cerebral sense of plotting by executive producer Tim Kring and his team. Much like the first season of Heroes the show begins in splintered fashion, zig-zagging all over the place to meet the characters who will save the world from a (massively vague) ominous event. The show opens from the POV of the most significant holdover from the previous installment, Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman), the former shadowy agent also known as HRG (named for his distinctive horn-rimmed glasses). In many ways this is a perfect fit even if characters of Peter, Claire and Sylar were more of the main focus, the viewer-stand-ins, as the roguish HRG had one of the best (that is, most consistent and logical) character arcs over the whole run. We find out immediately (and then a bit more later) that HRG has not spoken to daughter Claire, the rapid-healing cheerleader of the “Save the cheerleader, save the world” tagline, in four years after she “came out,” which is a sly and duplicitous reference to both the Claire’s kinda-sorta lesbian relationship with her college roommate and her public revelation as a powered-individual in the Heroes closing moments. The breakout star/villain Sylar said at the time that her choice to jump off a Ferris wheel in front of a crowd was the dawn of a “brave new world.” Hey, that’s the name of the first episode. Nifty! Claire’s reveal prepares the setting for Reborn, a world where people with “abilities” (a term that, thankfully, seems to be retired) are now known as “Evos.” The show’s preamble lays the foundation by finally giving us that explosion promised way back in the Volume One. Odessa, Texas, Noah’s hometown, is partially destroyed by a massive firebomb predicated by what seems to be an eclipse (a major callback to the show’s prime imagery). Odessa is also the home to what was long-known as “The Company” aka Primatech Paper Company, an organization that was primarily antagonistic, though, like Noah, painted as misguided in its attempt to research, corral, neuter and manipulate the Evo population. There’s a touch of irony in Noah’s designation as lead character as he was one of the most clandestine figures in the original Volume, a man of many secrets and the apparent holder of larger answers. The crux of nearly the whole premiere is exactly what happened in Odessa, and again Noah is at the center of the mystery, except this time he doesn’t remember anything about the massacre due to a mindwipe by The Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis) (who he subsequently kills in a really odd misunderstanding). A year after “June 13th” he eventually finds out about the level of his involvement through Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski), a theorist who suspects a deep and sinister plot related to Odessa which he determines is connected to Noah one way or another. The deets are unclear on what exactly ‘doesn’t add up” to Quentin but it’s clear that Zebrowski, who I enjoy immensely on Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, is a best new addition to the cast and a great foil for Noah/Coleman. The most marquee inclusion into Heroes Reborn, a show that purposely cut ties with many of the previous crop of characters/actors, is Zachary Levi, he of Chuck fame. Levi delivers a fantastic career face-heel turn as Luke Collins, a character in the mode of a misguided Punisher-type. With his heavy-handed wife Joanne (Judith Shekoni) they’ve taken on the duty of becoming active and proficient killers of Evos following their son’s death in the Odessa incident. The couple are unsympathetic, but somehow very watchable, and the focus on these antagonists shows a bit of innovation to the Heroes formula and headiness in regard to the makeup of modern TV. The atypical approach to the new characters continues with one of the Collins’ main targets, El Vengador, a masked Californian vigilante who works on the side of good. Yes, you read that right, this franchise finally introduced its first true masked and costumed character. Over the entire run of Heroes the fear/disdain/reluctance/apathy toward the traditional aesthetic of superheroes was palpable. Very rarely did fights happen onscreen, and even more rare were codenames or festive uniforms. The show borrowed liberally from comics but only seemed to be into using the melodrama and none of the cool stuff. In Los Angeles we meet Carlos (Ryan Guzman), a military hero with a healthy sum of self-destructive flaws, and discover quickly he is estranged from his brother due to a disagreement over his enlistment. The schism ends when Carlos walks in on his shot and dying sibling and discovers he’s El Vengador. Carlos spends most of the rest of his screen time brooding and mulling over this revelation, and comforting his nephew Jose (Lucius Hoyos). Through some cajoling Carlos is convinced to take up the mantle of El Vengador, and tries to live up to the name by avenging his brother’s death at the hands of crooked cops. The idea of a mantle hero is a great angle for Heroes Reborn to take up but the most interesting aspect of the this thread is that Carlos does not appear to be an Evo like his brother (super strength, I think) or his nephew (intangibility). He’s just some dude with a bunch of anger and military training. The idea that one of the titular “heroes” extends past those with powers is a great idea, introducing somewhat a Batman or Hawkeye element to the show. Another of the Collins’ targets is young Tommy Clarke (Robbie Kay), a teleporter who has been on the lamb since “June 13th.” A good chunk of the premiere concentrates on Tommy and he serves as one of the main cogs of the plot machine when he mistakenly ‘ports the murderous married couple to the old site of Primatech. Luke and Joanne escape the facility by killing everyone there just as HRG and Quentin arrive to find answers. The HRG/Luke/Tommy stories line up very nicely and succeed in the Heroes motif of connectivity between unaware parties. Despite the time devoted to it Tommy’s tale is a bit undercooked and drags a tad. His only apparent friend, Emily (Gatlin Green) seems to be crushing on him hard, but she’s also dating misunderstood bully Brad (Joke Manley) so there’s a muddled, distinctly adolescent aspect to that triangle. Their dynamic appears to grow and mature when Brad tasks Tommy with making his abusive stepdad disappear, a deed Tommy skips out on, only for it to be completed by mysteriously intentioned man (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who appears to able wipe minds with coins. A seriously refreshing aspect of this new installment is that Heroes Reborn is not afraid of its own continuity, and the writing team found some really interesting ways to embrace it. One is the use of Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), the scientist who often worked as a pseudo-liaison between those with “abilities” and the human’s who feared them…that is until they turned him into a human fly in Volume Three. Through small details we find out Suresh has been branded as the terrorist behind the June 13th catastrophe, but is never seen in action at any point. We do however get one of his pitch-perfect voiceovers at the midpoint of the finale, a nostalgic nod to his role as the “voice” of the series. Another holdover is the re-intro of Molly Walker, the young girl with the power to find any other Evo in the world. She was prominently woven into the first half of the Heroes and then was never mentioned again. Through coy writing an adult(ish) Molly is presented as a sexy swindler played by Francesca Eastwood (who gives her half-brother Scott great completion in the category of Most Gorgeous Spawn of Clint), and she’s sought by both the apparent successor to Primatech, Renautus (“born again” in Spanish), and the Noah/Quentin contingent. Per tradition there is a lot going on in Heroes Reborn, and the challenge will be to congeal the diverse storylines into one big climax. In both positive and negative ways the first season of Heroes was notorious for its methodical weaving, the slow combining of the disparate parts cumulating in a disappointing showdown in New York City. So far, these characters here have less of a roadmap with the only unifier being some type of dangerous event that an unnamed Evo in a parka (Danika Yarosh) seems to be repelling. Everything, even in roundabout ways, seems to be pushing toward a pivotal moment, and that’s some good storytelling…and then there’s whatever the fuck is happening in Japan. Miko (Kiki Sukezane), aka Katana Girl, and Ren (Toru Uchikado), fanboy incarnate, are the only non-North Americans in the premiere, continuing what I assume is Kring’s fascination with Japanese culture. Ren appears at the door of Miko to say he’s been summoned to her by a video game in which she is a prominent character. Miko is bewildered by how much Ren seems to know about her, but through his suggestion she finds a magic sword left by her missing father that transports her in to a video game called Evernow. Yeah, I don’t know either. The Miko/Ren thread seemingly has nothing to with anything else and I have to assume that when one of the show’s production assistants was running the episode’s script around the NBC lot he/she accidently bumped into someone holding a script for Ready Player One and the pages got mixed up. On the real, I don’t even know what to say about the video game side-journey because there are no fibers linking up what happened in those scenes to anything else in the two-hour episode. While on the subject of Japan it was pretty disappointing that Hiro, the lovable time-traveling samurai, didn’t make an appearance after so much face-time in the promotional material. Pair that with the omissions of Angela Petrelli and Matt Parkman it’s pretty clear that this show was built to be wholly new and to rely on none of the previous actors aside from Jack Coleman. If you might recall that was the initial intention, to have a rotating cast, but that algorithm was untested and was swept aside for star power and ongoing narratives. I detailed my misgivings about the show’s legacy and with that in mind I thought this a perfectly suitable opener for the next chapter of the Heroes mythos. Anyone even marginally affiliated with art can tell you how valuable it can be take a break from a work to reevaluate and improve it and I think that has helped Kring and this team of writers tremendously. I wouldn’t say there is a passionate effort to right all wrongs, that’d be misguided, but there is a certain indication that some of the egregious sins of the show, like its missing action and the refusal to embrace some of the more colorful aspect of superheroes, may be corrected. Somehow, through all the disdain and frustration I had in regard to Heroes, I was able to enjoy the first two hours Heroes Reborn. There is a lot here that is very right, and some that is the same old. The tonal quality is still hokey, but earnest, and there are slight nods that the plot might take a few surprising turns. I’m looking for this “rebirth” to be adventurous and innovative, and not to rest on the laurels of the subject material to simply allow it coast. Bend the genre, break it, smash it to pieces and build it back up. It’s no longer 2006. In the last decade superheroes have blown open the box office and are beginning to dominate television. Heroes Reborn builds on its legacy, the good and the bad, and once again holds that nugget of potential of something profound. Now do the work. Heroes Reborn 1.01 and 1.02Jamil's Rating3.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.