Review: Heroes 2×1


In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, NBC

In the UK: BBC2, very soon

Characters re-cast: 0

Major characters gotten rid of: Some are MIA, some are KIA

Major new characters: Three so far

Format change percentage: 20%

Number of odd faces in mirrors: 1

If humans were to live the dream while evolving through the eye of a needle into the rainbow blue sunset of Thomas Hardy’s pleasure dome… Sorry, I’ve been listening to the Heroes voiceover again.

Yes, it’s back. The breakout series of last year, a tale of everyday folk becoming superheroic and not being sure, necessarily, that they like it, is back again to frustrate, tease, annoy and excite, four months on. Or should that be 400 years off?

Four months (let alone 400* years) is a long time in Heroes-world as well as the real world. Although the finale was – how shall I put this? – a little less than everybody had been hoping for, we’ve still all been panting for more tales of our favourite heroes (and fewer tales of Ali Larter, no matter how hot she is) over the summer.

Fortunately, this season opener is much better, although the number of powers on display was remarkably few. Most of the heroes are in new situations, and we’re not exactly sure how they ended up that way. In particular, one of them has ended up in Japan and another has ended up in possibly the worst version of Ireland I’ve seen outside of a Tom Cruise movie. Seriously, why, when US TV tries to do Britain or Ireland, do they give us those stupid cloth hats from 1930s movies about miners?

In true Heroes style, we don’t yet get to see what all the heroes have been up to, so a few of them could be dead. Most of our favourites are back though (for a bit anyway). We’re also teased with sights of heroes we’ve yet to encounter, as well as two Spanish speakers to add to our international superhero roster, although they seem a bit irritating at the moment. With all the Internet mutterings about Lost and Heroes being set in the same universe, have we found the Heroic versions of Nikki and Paolo, soon doomed to end up buried in a pit? We also get David Anders from Alias, who appears now to have perfected his fake English guy routine, providing most of the laughs in a slightly grim piece.

The introduction of new heroes means we have to guess at their powers. And since some heroes can look like others, we’re not sure who’s new and who’s old. Heroes plays with what we know about dramatic forms and each character and uses that to mess with our minds. When one character flies off, even though he’s not the character we know can fly, we think to ourselves, “They wouldn’t give another character the same power. That must be the same character. Except it can’t be him because…” and with remarkably little effort, makes us do mental somersaults as we try to fit the jigsaw puzzle together without having all the pieces yet.

This all makes the first episode very satisfying, if a bit Nietzschian in the same way as The Incredibles, with various heroes wondering if they should be hiding their lights quite so much. Since season one was carefully plotted to have everything dovetail into one great conclusion, the episode also has to grind the machine back into life to create new questions, some built on top of questions left over from last series. It’s to the show’s credit that it manages to do this without taking too much time about it and without leaving us feeling rushed either.

New recruits to the Heroes fun should be able to leap straight in without too much worrying, although a quick trip to the DVD store probably won’t be regretted. Old fans will be glad the show’s still got the magic.

* I don’t pay that much attention, so give or take a century or two if necessary from that figure