After a five year gap, Heroes returns to prime time with a bloated, overstuffed premiere that introduces a ton of bland new characters.
Let’s bitch it out…
Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: this is not a great way to reboot Heroes. The two hour block that NBC debuted last night held true to all of the elements that made the original series an initial flashy success before ultimately dooming it to failure. The fact that creator Tim Kring tries to echo the original’s pilot – with its diverse but scattered group of heroes embarking on individual (read: often boring) adventures – without priming new or casually interested viewers who are not caught up on the webseries does not seem like a savvy business decision.
Consider the return of original series stalwart, Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman). Noah was the titular ‘Company Man’ in Heroes version 1.0 when he worked for Primatech, a mysterious organization that hunted evos (I will never get used to that name) until his own daughter, Claire, “came out”. You’d be forgiven for not remembering all of the details considering they were introduced back in 2006, but Heroes Reborn doesn’t care. There’s virtually no exposition other than the pretentious voice over about fate, which automatically alienates a large population of the audience who can’t remember things like the Haitian’s real name.
Which is not to say that Heroes Reborn is difficult to follow. There’s a smattering of approximately five or so story lines that – because they are all distinct and fail to intersect – are easy to keep up with. In no particular order they are:
- Tommy (Robbie Kay), the high school teleporter who just wants to fit in and possibly romance ice cream girl Emily (Gatlin Green). Zzzzzz…
- Carlos (Ryan Guzman), the war vet who discovers his brother is a masked luchador vigilante and must keep his evo underground railroad open.
- Japanese duo Ren (Toru Uchikado) and Miko (Kiki Sukezane) who discover a window into a video game world that involves her absent father.
- Bennet, who needs to recover his memories with the help of a conspiracy theorist named Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski) and finally,
- Luke (Zachary Levi) and Joanne (Judith Shekoni), a grief stricken couple hellbent on murdering evos in retribution for their son’s death.
If there’s one element of the premiere that works well, it is the opening in Odessa, TX. There’s a definite X-Men vibe in the idea of a unification celebration between politically suspicious sides erupting into violence, driving those who are “different” underground lest they be hunted down and killed. It’s a well-worn premise, but it’s repeated because it is effective. The bombing at Odessa helps to set the stage and plunges us quickly into the brave new world.
Unfortunately most everything else is a slog. The decision to focus primarily on new heroes means that we’re starting from scratch with a bunch of people with whom we have no investment. This approach worked in the original series because it was new and fresh and exciting; it is less successful here because, despite the world being reshaped by the Odessa blast, we’re already cued into the way this works from the original series and literally every comic/graphic novel story in history. In this sense, Heroes Reborn plays it both ways: half of the time the writers want us to pretend that this is a brand new show filled with bland new characters, and the other half they treat the material as a continuation of the original series, expecting us to recall all of Heroes‘ mythology and characters. The middling result is an underwhelming show that doesn’t really work in either capacity.
- The Odessa bombing is blamed on original series character, Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy), who is briefly glimpsed in a picture. He is, however, heard in the ponderous voice over dialogue. This New Age philosophizing was a staple of original Heroes and it doesn’t play any better a decade later.
- I’ve got to say, those evos in the church basement are pretty weak. They’re taken out far too easily by Luke and Joanne, and with simple firearms to boot!
- Just in case there aren’t enough new characters in the first hour, the second hour packs in a subplot about Taylor (Eve Harlow) and her con artist boyfriend picking up grifter Molly Walker AKA “Zoe” (Francesca Eastwood). Judging by the fact that they know her name, it’s a safe bet that they’re holding her for the launch of the new Primatech weapon/program, though it’s unclear yet why we’re supposed to care.
- In both episodes, Tommy is guided by a mysterious character (played by Pruitt Taylor Vince) who appears to be protecting him. Casting Taylor Vince is a gutsy move considering he always plays the same kind of character: mentally unstable murderer. So unless he’s playing against type, we can expect this character to be a homicidal maniac.
- Luke / Joanne are basically just human versions of original baddie Sylar, no? Their whole purpose is to hunt down and kill evos for their abilities.
- P.S. I cannot stand Joanne – she’s incredibly abrasive and unlikeable and Shekoni and Levi have no chemistry. It’s also clear that Luke is already second guessing their current line of action, which makes for boring TV when we already know that he will inevitably stand up to her.
- Ren and Miko are kind of fun, but they smack of subpar versions of Hiro and Ando.
- Wouldn’t it have been more fun to make Carlos the vigilante straight off, rather than have to see him go through the (always boring) reluctant hero phase?
- In case you want to check out the back story of Quentin, his sister and Renautus, be sure to check out the Dark Matter webseries that precedes the official series. It appears that it may have been compulsory viewing for at least parts of the premiere.
- Tommy (when he is accused of being a radical): “I’m a passivist.” Brett: “Yeah, whatever that is.”
Your turn: what did you think of the supersized premiere? Are you glad to have Heroes back? Who has the most interesting story line? Who do you want to go? And do you think this would have played out better has it only been a single hour instead of two? Sound off below.
Heroes Reborn airs Thursdays at 8pm EST on NBC