Heroes Reborn (2015)
I so loved the original show, the first season especially was wonderful, and with the producers promising to recapture that, have they actually managed to do so?
Years after the events of season four of ‘Heroes’, Noah Bennett (Jack Coleman) has left Primatech and his past far behind him, but is forced back into the world of humans with special abilities when a young man (Henry Zebrowski) tracks him down and tells him that something is coming and all they are being told about a terrorist attack that changed the world is not true.
Back in 2006 I was on board with ‘Heroes’ right from the very beginning and got completely swept up in the buzz of it when it first came out, in fact I’d say I was one of the people driving that buzz, it was exactly my sort of show and I was determined that everyone know about it. When the show went off the boil in subsequent seasons however I got quieter, though I never stopped watching. I stuck with it hoping that things would get back to their former glory, and I was still watching when season four recovered some of the initial brilliance of the show and revived it partially, glued to my screen for the final scenes of the last episode, thinking “this is brilliant, this moment will completely change the fabric of the show, next season will be so different”… and then it was cancelled.
I didn’t really hold the hope that it would be revived, they were different times just a few years ago before streaming services took off and started rescuing shows. So when NBC announced that ‘Heroes’ was returning I was equal parts thrilled and sceptical. A total reboot seemed like a waste of the incredible season that started it all off, but a full revival would be so tricky to get right, especially with many of the cast members committed to other things.
This week I sat down to watch ‘Heroes Reborn’ and determined to do it properly I made a large coffee and started with the prelude shorts that had been released online with the title ‘Dark Matters’. Shows should be able to stand on their own without any ancillary materials being compulsory, and while I’m glad to say I don’t think ‘Heroes Reborn’ cannot be seen without having seen this first, I’m very glad I did. It was an excellent way to start, a brilliant preamble to the show, expounding certain events, completely filling in the gap directly from the final episode of season 4 and adding a lot of motivation and back story to the pilot episode.
The pilot this week was not alone, it was aired as a double episode, so I’ll consider it as such. When networks fully commit to making a show a success and do a double episode to kick things off like this it enables viewers to get totally engrossed in the story. Here the pilot moved quickly, establishing the new state of the world with those with abilities are now known as ‘Evo’s’ who after a terrorist attack have been hugely restricted. The U.S. has brought in mandatory registration, with other nations said to be even harsher and there are some even hunting them down.
‘Heroes Reborn’ uses the sci-fi setting to deal with big issues, evoking issues such as segregation and Chernobyl in just these two episodes yet thankfully not doing so in a heavy-handed way that required exposition to make the links. The story threads that focus on personal and family implications of the situation are the strongest for me, that was often the key to the show working in the past, seeing how having these abilities really affects the characters and their loved ones.
Throughout the episodes there was a good mix of different abilities showcased, ones we will have seen before and others that are quite original. There’s also a nice balance of old and new characters, it doesn’t feel too swayed in one way or the other and I’m sure we’ll get more of each as the season progresses.
Stand-out new addition to the cast is Zachary Levi (‘Chuck’) as Luke Collins playing against type in a villainous role. There’s already hints of extra depth to the character and the way he will develop, but again you’d really want to see how subtly his backstory was incorporated into the ‘Dark Matters’ prelude, though he explains it in the pilot too.
The weakest parts for me were a couple of video game sequences, it’s such an outdated (even cheap) look. I remember many shows in the 90’s and early 00’s doing V.R. and game bits to look cool and cutting edge, they have dated badly. Now, with the huge advancement of video game graphics and the way we see them shown even more beautifully rendered in advertisements, these sequences in the show felt woefully sub-par. It’s even more a shame as I liked the characters in this thread of the story, and they were out of the United States too, being set in Japan and adding brilliant international variety and interest. I’m hoping that the necessity for portraying those bits the way they are will become abundantly clear so that the story is strong enough to outweigh the disappointing visual style.
Otherwise the show looks superb throughout, even the prequel episodes were of a very high standard in both cinematography and visual effects. The production values are clearly as high as ever they were before and it feels so current and fresh. I’m sure there will be lots of surprises to come, characters popping up from the past, for example I already know that Masi Oka is set to reprise his role as Hiro and let’s be fair, besides Hayden Panettiere coming back as Claire Bennett (still could happen though I won’t hold my breath) that’s what we all most wanted!
Still it’s hard to say if they have yet fully recaptured the brilliance of the first season of ‘Heroes’ as it was in later episodes where the full twists and complexities were revealed that the true extent of the original storyline came to light. So far though, of all the shows I’ve seen so far this season, both new and returning, this has been the most promising which is brilliant considering it was potentially the biggest disappointment due to having my highest hopes.
There’s even a chance this could end up being better in hindsight than ‘Heroes’ (as a whole) as the shorter run gives less opportunity for wasted filler episodes or for Tim Kring to get off track as he often does. If he can keep this 13-episode run all focused and coherent it could be really very special indeed! YATTA!