Heroes Reborn, Season 1, Episode 1, “Brave New World”
Season 1, Episode 2, “Odessa”
Written by Tim Kring
Directed by Matt Shakman (“Brave New World”), Greg Beeman (“Odessa”)
Airs on Thursdays at 8 pm (ET) on NBC
Every new show has to work to sell the viewer on why it deserves to exist instead of, say, a new season of Hannibal. We are busy people with lives and limited time to commit to a series that is either going to bore us or break our hearts. In this era of Peak TV, FOMO is real and it is crippling. So networks have figured out that is easier to greenlight a nostalgia series (Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Fuller House) than a new series. It has a built in audience! It’ll automatically generate headlines! Though NBC appears to be making a similar decision with Heroes Reborn, deciding to bring back a series that many soured on by the end seems like a bad idea.
This new series opens with a voicemail that HRG a.k.a. Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) is leaving for daughter Claire. He is about to attend some kind of human/supers—who are now called “evos”—peace summit at Primatech. Just as the voicemail ends, there’s an incredible explosion that completely levels the Primatech campus. Cut to a year later: Suresh has been blamed for the explosion and evos are being either forced to register with the government or are being hunted by fringe groups.
Heroes creator Tim Kring is back to oversee this new batch of 13 episodes. While that could be an omen for bad things to come, this premiere is a solid couple of episodes that mostly avoids the issues that made the back, well, majority of Heroes such a slog. HRG is still the highlight. Coleman, who is the only actor from the original run returning for all of round two, was often the only thing that kept the old iteration of the show chugging along; he was not willing to ham it up like Zachary Quinto did towards the end and actually seemed invested in the weird twists that kept coming his way. Coleman still displays a calm, cool exterior whose smile reveals a knowledge and cunning that betrays his initial impressions. And while HRG does have a few too many, “Where are the plans!”-type exchanges in these first two hours, that kind of expository drama is given more slack so that the season’s conflicts can be set up.
The globe-hoping structure is also intact, which means that all the stories get nearly equal airtime, and immediately tiers of quality are established. Top Tier: HRG and evo truther/conspiracy theorist buddy comedy, working together to try and uncover the BIG PLAN. Middle Tier: Vigilante couple Luke and Joanne kill a bunch of evos and feel sad about their son; Tommy tries to control his powers while dealing with his crush on a jock’s girlfriend; returning war hero Carlos tries to reconnect with his brother and nephew in east L.A. Bottom Tier: In Tokyo (again), Miko’s father is trapped in a video game, but he left he a sword that allows her to go into the video game, with assistance provided by celebrity gamer Ren.
Most of the storylines range from good to innocuous, but the Tokyo story is just bad. Giving the only (new) Japanese characters video games powers reeks of first-draft stereotyping, and as a result we spend portions of the show trapped in this uncanny valley of the game world watching pixels slice and kick each other with herky-jerky motions; it plays almost like the Country Bears’ Samurai Jamboree. Also, Miko just knows how to fight! There’s literally no indication, through dialogue or action, that Miko is an evo or has any kind of training and yet the moment she finds the sword that sends her into the game world, she’s suddenly an incredibly capable fighter in both the game AND REAL WORLD. It would seem that her race is the only thing to suggest she’s good with a sword, reinforcing the whole first-draft stereotyping problem.
Not all of the effects work is up to par either. The big shot to end to first of the premiere’s two episodes involves a woman in a parka standing on CG glaciers controlling CG lights in the CG sky. Computer graphics aren’t inherently bad, but the execution here just makes the poor actor stick out like big, furry thumb. But people who can make objects hover still looks good, and Tommy’s power manifests in a cool trick where the objects he vanishes appear to be sucked within themselves. There’s also a quick, nasty little fight scene that takes place in the L.A. story that easily stands out in two hours of mostly talking and one-sided shootouts.
With a Miko-shaped margin of error, the Heroes Reborn premiere does nothing to dissuade curious parties. The stories have a good hook, the show looks good, and the narrative moves briskly. Whereas with the old Heroes the show would wait an entire season to give Sylar his powers back, by the end of the first two episodes, the vigilantes have a list of targets, Tommy has figured out how to control his power, and HRG knows the first stages of the plan to monetize the evos. That’s real progress! We’ll never get back the electricity of the first season of Heroes—first half of the first season if we’re being honest—but the time off appears to have allowed the show to re-figure out how to dole out story beats and not squander interesting ideas. Here’s hoping the next issue doesn’t crash and burn.