Heroes Reborn (Thursdays, 8/7C) rejuvenates NBC’s superhero franchise.
The first season of Heroes burst upon the world like a nuclear blast. It was fast-paced and driven by a host of characters who were unlike anything a network action/sci-fi series had ever been before. Those characters were compelling; the plot arcs were beautifully developed, and the show got terrific ratings.
Then, it began to fall apart. In season two, the show began to be about the powers and not the people wielding them. The arcs weren’t as well developed and we met new characters who just didn’t have the depth of those from the first season. By the fourth and final season, the show had devolved to a point that only a comparative handful still watched every episode.
Now, after five and a half years, Heroes is back as Heroes Reborn and, like the new show’s title, the franchise feels like brand new – and it’s exciting as hell. The magic is back. Now the trick is convincing skeptical fans (like me) that it’s worth taking a shot on.
Normally, it would be lazy to use the network press release as part of a review, but the story is as complex as the first season of the show’s first incarnation, and the press release summarizes the characters pretty succinctly – better than I could, in fact. So…
After a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas, left the city decimated and lives in shambles, those with extraordinary abilities are in hiding after being blamed for the catastrophic event. A new world order has them being hunted by those with nefarious motives, such as Luke (Zachary Levi) and Joanne Collins (Judi Shekoni), who are out to avenge the tragic loss of their son, Dennis. Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) has taken measures to put his old life behind him and start over, until he comes face to face with Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski), a conspiracy theorist out to uncover the truth behind the Odessa tragedy.
Elsewhere, some are discovering their newfound skills. Awkward teen Tommy (Robbie Kay) just wants to be normal and win the girl of his dreams, Emily (Gatlin Green), but normalcy is virtually impossible after learning of a new ability that terrifies him. Coming from a very sheltered upbringing, bold and ethereal teenager Malina (Danika Yarosh) has been told she is destined for greatness. In Tokyo, quiet and unique young woman Miko (Kiki Sukezane) is trying to track down her missing father while hiding an extraordinary secret that will make her a force to be reckoned with. In Los Angeles, a different type of hero is emerging through former soldier Carlos Gutierrez (Ryan Guzman).
Meanwhile, Erica Kravid (Rya Kihlstedt) — the head of highly successful tech conglomerate Renautas — has an agenda of her own.
Heroes Reborn is structured like the original show – this season has a title, Awakening, and each episode is a chapter with the premiere being Chapters One and Two: Brave New World/Odessa. A third episode – Chapter Three: Under the Mask – was also made available for review.
Like the first season of the original series, Heroes Reborn cuts back and forth across the arcs of all its main characters (and all the characters listed above get pretty much equal time except for Tommy and Miko, whom we see more of, and Malina, whom we see very little of (but is suggested might be a key player later).
Tommy and his mom, Anne (Krista Bridges), have moved constantly since the Odessa accident/incident/attack, but they seem to have found a place where they can be stable and he can find friends – and even have a bit of a crush on a girl, Emily (Caitlin Green).
Miko is the daughter of a man who has gone missing and finds herself in possession of a katana that, when taken from its scabbard, places her in a video game called Katana Girl (she discovers this after a fan of the comic and the game tracks her down and leaves a copy of the comic for her to read).
Our old friend Noah Bennet has discovered his memory has been wiped because of The Plan and his encounter with EVO (evolved humans aka powers) conspiracy theorist Quentin Frady leads to death and fears that Renautas, the company that bought Primatech (the shadowy government agency that collected and experimented on EVOs in the original series) is doing the same with an even darker and greater agenda.
Tim Kring (Brave New World) and Peter Elkoff (Odessa) and directors Matt Shakman (Brave New World) and Greg Beeman (Odessa) have fashioned an introduction to the new series that casts the post-Odessa era as a kind of post-9/11 place with a negative, knee-jerk response to all EVOs that feels like the anti-Muslim response following 9/11.
Thanks to the X-Men movies, it may not be a unique base for the storytelling, but it does ramp up emotions in a way that’s even more confusing and frustrating because EVOs come in all colors and belief systems – and are inconspicuous when not actually using their abilities.
Kring and his team also play with more overt superhero tropes in a way that also alludes to America’s darker past with a character in Los Angeles who takes on a masked identity, El Vangador, to protect EVOs who are using an underground railroad to get them to Canada, where anti-EVO hatred is practically non-existent (we Canadians, so welcoming and tolerant…).
As with the original series, we meet a lot of characters who have unexpected connections to other characters – and not just because they have powers. There’s a lot of criss-crossing in both character arcs and plot arcs – both plot and character start out as a pretty good pace and escalate throughout the first three eps.
Overall, Heroes Reborn feels more like the first season of Heroes than later seasons when it got bogged down with plot devices that required the characters to behave uncharacteristically in order to make them work. Instead, every arc feels like a necessary part of a larger puzzle – a puzzle that slowly becomes apparent as each new bit of information is revealed.
The new characters are fresh and, mostly, fun – as the series progresses, there are some lovely developments for several main characters (for one of whom, that is extremely ironic…).
I’ve enjoyed all three eps, thus far, more than most of the new fall shows. It’s fun without being insubstantial and walks a nice tightrope between dark and light elements. I kinda wish that the original show – at least after season one – had been limited to thirteen eps per season. It might have maintained its quality much longer.
As it is, I can heartily recommend Heroes Reborn.
Final Grade: A