Why Is Heroes Back? It Deserves To Be
As I mentioned in my review of Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters, I was at least half terrified that the new series would repeat the mistakes of Heroes. So now that I’ve had the chance to see the full two part pilot episode, am I still afraid? Well, a little, but mostly I think they’ve managed to plant the seeds of something interesting.
Let’s get the obvious questions out of the way right off the bat: does Heroes Reborn’s pilot succeed as well as Heroes’ did? In a nutshell, no. But on the other hand, it does enough of its own thing right that maybe things will still turn out okay. Let me elaborate a bit. I’ll start with the bad and end with the good, ’cause that’s just how I roll.
What Heroes Reborn gets wrong.
The first thing that struck me was: there’s a lot of nostalgia play here for fans of the original show. How that’ll play with people who never saw the original, I don’t know. But it comes off as a little annoying to me, and I really liked the original (at least the first season and the Bryan Fuller flavored chunks of later seasons). I think playing too much into nostalgia is generally a mistake. A prime cinematic example was Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns movie back in 2006. It was fairly serviceable as a film (certainly better than the desaturated trash that was Man of Steel), but it leaned so heavily on nostalgia for the Christopher Reeve Superman films that it didn’t play well to modern audiences. That may not be as much of an issue with Heroes, given that it hasn’t been 30 years since the last iteration, but only the ratings will tell.
The second was the bizarre use of some of the original characters. I was actually really excited to see Jimmy Jean-Louis in the trailers for the show. Without going into any spoilers, his entrance and exit left me with a bit of “what the fuck?” in my mouth. I don’t like that flavor.
There’s a little too much convenience at times. For example, the two villainous characters wind up with a list of Evos all over the country a little on the easy side. Like, so easy they literally stumble into it with no idea they’d ever even find such a thing.
Finally, I felt the show made too many assumptions about the audience’s familiarity with Noah Bennett’s past. I can’t really say how it looks to someone who never saw the original show, but to me it felt like the assumption was everybody knew he used to work as some kind of secret agent involved with Evos.
Okay, I lied about the “finally”. The other thing that bugged me was the term “Evo”. Yeah, it’s shorthand, but I think I’d prefer to see them embrace the term “Evolved humans” and just run with it instead of running away. There are way too many times in genre fiction where the assumption is that humanity “as it is” must necessarily be the best thing, and I think that’s selling our species short.
What Heroes Reborn gets Right.
There’s a lot to like here, with the caveat that every story arc launched in the two hour pilot essentially stood up, straightened its shirt and took only one step forward. But those steps are, on the whole, pretty good. Let’s start with the characters.
First, Tommy, the kid who can teleport stuff but doesn’t know where it goes is an interesting take on Hiro Nakamura’s ability. I liked that rather than introduce it as something full of wonder, they started with the scary side. What if, rather than, say, comically teleporting yourself into the women’s bathroom while your friend grabs a beer, you accidentally teleported someone or something far away–and had no idea where you’d sent it? I’d say that’d make you a little worried. His reaction to this power is exactly the opposite of Hiro’s to his, yet it appears to be the same ability. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tommy winds up becoming a time traveler himself.
Tommy is paired up with a not-powered girl named Emily, who befriends him and even gets him a job. She doesn’t freak when she finds out he’s an Evo, instead being rather excited by his gift. It’s a fairly close analog to Claire’s friendship with…whatever that kid’s name was in season 1 of Heroes. Hopefully they keep this one around a little longer.
Next, Miko, the game jumping sword-swinging badass Ninja chick who seems a little more confused than I’m sure I understand. I’m fairly sure she’s Hiro Nakamura’s daughter. First, because she found what looks like Hiro’s sword under the floorboard of her house. Second, because her father is trapped at Yamagato Industries, the company Hiro inherited from his own father during the original show’s run.
Her power is so flipping weird, though. When she unsheaths Hiro’s sword, she’s transported into a video game called “Evernow”, where she’s–you guessed it–a bad ass ninja on a quest to find her father. Moreover, some of the game’s environments seem to be an analog to the real world. When she goes to a certain place in the game and then returns to reality, she’s in the real world version of that place. Could be a weird play on Hiro’s power (I guess that’s sort of a teleportation thing? Sorta?), but whatever else it may be, it’s bizarre, cool, and in a world obsessed with “dark and gritty”, it had to take some gumption to do something so goofy.
On that note, I enjoyed that the kid who showed up at her apartment had a comic book that showed her how to discover the way to her father’s sword. Kind of a cool nod to the original show, too.
Zachary Levi and Judi Shekoni as Luke and Joanna, a husband and wife murder duo out to avenge the death of their son (kind of extreme, guys, but…alright) by killing other evos are an interesting concept, but I felt like most of their dialog was fairly poor. And it’s pretty clear, too, that the wife is the more unhinged of the two. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Levi’s character do an about-face halfway through the series.
Penny Man, played by Pruit Taylor Vince. I have nothing else to call this dude. At first I thought he might be, essentially, a still-employed Noah Bennett circa 2006, but there’s definitely more going on. He’s following Tommy around and cleaning up after him, apparently with his briefcase full of magic pennies. At one point it seems like he might’ve partially wiped one character’s memory, but then later it seems that he just…disappeared some kid’s asshole stepfather. He’s probably the biggest enigma so far, and I’m genuinely interested to see where they go with him.
Carlos might be the character I actually like the most. He’s about to take up his brother’s mantle as a masked vigilante dressed like an armored luchador (hey, he’s gonna be Bane! Neat!). Early on he and his brother have a strained relationship that sort of reminds me of the Petrellis from the original show, but trust me when I say, this one turns out quite differently from the get-go. But Carlos seems to have a really good motivation for doing what he does, and at least so far, it doesn’t appear that he has any powers–but he is motivated to become a hero. He’s the only one who looks like he’ll wind up in a costume, and I have to say, I like the idea.
Towards the end there was an unnamed girl in an Eskimo outfit (okay, maybe it was just a parka) at what appeared to be the North Pole, dicking around with the aurora borealis. She had literally one line in the entire episode, so I can’t even begin to tell you what I think of her, but hey–neat VFX trick, so I guess that’s something. My guess is that she’ll be connected to whatever cataclysm is set to be the focus of the next 12 episodes worth of “to be continued”-ing, and the remainder of our cast will ultimately have to team up with her to stop an exploding man or something.
Noah’s teamed up with conspiracy nut Quentin Frady, brother of Phoebe Frady (both from Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters), who really just wants to find his sister and thinks Noah is the key. He’s hilarious at times, bringing a much needed sense of levity to the show. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily call the show overly dark; I lived through however many seasons of Battlestar Galactica’s magnificently written pit of despair, after all–but still, it’s good to balance out an intense character like Bennett with someone a little more prone to just goofiness. He’s sort of like a Seth Rogen type. I would actually be shocked if he doesn’t smoke a truckload of weed at some point.
Finally, in this episode we also meet Zoe, who’s trying to con a dude out of some money by flirting quite effectively. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you: she’s actually Molly Walker, the little girl from the original show who…grew up quicker than I think makes a lot of sense. However, suspension of disbelief is a writer’s best friend, so I’m gonna run with it. She’s trying to escape from someone, and it looks like it’s probably Primatech or its analog in this show. They directly reference “The Walker System” from Heroes season 1, which utilized her ability to find people anywhere on earth. Couple her with a list of Evos and blam, you have a plot device tied up with a character. Could work well, although it does feel a little “second Death Star”-ish to me. Time will tell. But I’ll tell you right now: if slingshot-wielding teddy bears show up at any point, I’m out.
The Long Haul Request of Heroes Reborn.
So, clearly there’s a bunch going on when you’ve introduced all the characters I just mentioned. So many it makes my fingers tired. We have some shades of conspiracy already: Noah’s missing a bunch of memories and doesn’t know why. Claire’s presumed dead, but there’s been no body yet (and at least according to Sylar from the original show, she couldn’t be killed anyway, but who knows). There was some kind of terrorist attack on June 13th, 2014, and Mohinder Suresh is apparently to blame. There’s also some kind of catalysmic event incoming, but we don’t really know what it is yet. It apparently involves a blonde in a parka.
What I can tell you from the premiere is this: Heroes Reborn is asking you to go along on a 13 episode ride, and from the outset it’s asking you to trust it. Should you? I guess that depends on your patience level and how burned you felt by seasons 3 and 4 of Heroes. Personally, I felt there was enough in the pilot to get me interested. If this were a show that might go on for five years, I might feel differently, but I don’t think 13 episodes is an unwieldy commitment, so I’m willing to give the show a chance.
But bear in mind, that’s all coming from someone who loved season 1 of Heroes, and a few episodes thereafter, but really hated watching it limp to the finish line. If you never saw the original, you might see the new one in a totally different light. In fact, if you are watching the new show but never saw the original, drop me a line! I’d love to hear your thoughts and even have you post them if you’re game.
My take? It’s worth a shot. And hell, Jack Coleman alone is worth going on the ride. He’s a vastly underrated performer.
Review: Heroes Reborn Gets A Lot Right...and Some Wrong
Heroes Reborn review. The pilot has launched, but how was it? Surprisingly, pretty good, with some caveats.