Review: Heroes 4×1-4×2

Excellent, but still not quite awesome


In the US: Mondays, 8pm, NBC
In the UK: BBC2, the end of the year/start of next year

Well, as ‘please watch us again’ titles go, Redemption could hardly be bettered – and that’s what the latest volume of Heroes is called. Last season was something of a disaster creatively – at least volume 3, since volume 4 was pretty much a return to season one form – with the show haemorraging viewers for most of its run as a result.

So here we are again at the start of a season. As per usual, there are big hopes for the show. As per usual, it’s written by Tim Kring.

Oh bugger.

But actually, for a Tim Kring script, it’s really not that bad. In fact, in a whole lot of ways it was very, very good. But like Father Ted’s Ford Cortina, it seems that all the slight tapping on the bodywork hasn’t yet quite managed to get the show into shape.


Claire (Hayden Panettiere) struggles with adjusting to her new life in college when a mysterious death thrusts her into the spotlight once again. Elsewhere, Hiro (Masi Oka) and Ando (James Kyson Lee) continue their noble quest to help people by promoting their abilities. Angela (Cristine Rose) fears Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) will soon discover his true identity; while Matt (Greg Grunberg) is haunted by an unexpected visitor seeking something he has lost.

Tracy Strauss (Ali Larter) and H.R.G. (Jack Coleman) join forces, looking for the key to unlock the motive behind a horrific crime. Meanwhile, Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) uses his abilities for good, but he is soon called upon to aid an old friend. While the heroes adjust to their new surroundings, a mysterious carnival clan, led by ringleader Samuel (Robert Knepper), sets their sights on familiar faces.

James Kyson Lee and Zachary Quinto also star. Rachel Melvin, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Ashley Crow, Lisa Lackey, Assaf Cohen, and Saemi Nakamura also guest star.

Was it any good? 
There were, as I said, lots of good things here. A couple of stupid things like the location of the key (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it), but a lot more good things. Claire’s gone from being a whiny irritant to being quite a comedic girl having fun in college – well, until things go wrong with her roomie, anyway. Peter, equally, has gone from a tiresome whinger to a heroic guy, leaping from building to building, trying to help people as part of his paramedic job. Okay, he’s still only got one power at a time, but he seems to be using that ability well.

Meanwhile, glory be! Ali’s back and she’s got stuff to do! There is a God, after all. Apparently, though, Tracy’s return (yes, it is Tracy not Barbara) is a big surprise to some people, presumably those who don’t realise that blinking people aren’t dead and who didn’t see the end of the last volume. Nevertheless, Tracy the ice queen has started to thaw out now she’s all watery and has become a strong, likeable woman with really quite awesome powers. Her partnering with HRG seems a little odd, but it works, since we have two isolated grown-ups here, looking to belong to something, and their proto-relationship is handled well. She’s also part of the plot proper for once, rather than isolated off in the wings somewhere. Let us all be truly grateful.

Moving slightly down the scale of general awesomeness, we have Angela, Nathan and Sylar. What exactly is going through Nathan’s mind at the moment is tricky – it’s obvious he has a whole load of special powers he didn’t used to have, but whether he’s equated that to having nicked them off Sylar or something else doesn’t seem clear. It’s more of a spiritual journey for him, as he tries to become a better person than he recalls. It’s interesting intellectually, but it doesn’t quite feel right for some reason, and the plot isn’t advancing yet to a point where it’s justified itself yet.

Hiro and Ando, meanwhile, march to the edge of a precipice called ‘very silly’, as they try to launch their own hero business in Japan. This is just nonsense, and is an entirely feeble and unnecessary lead in to their story arc. However, Hiro’s decision to enact a bucket list of mistakes he needs to fix has the potential to be interesting and to use that great Heroes favourite, time travel, in a way that doesn’t undermine plots or raise too many questions, while simultaneously giving the show some emotional value.

Matt’s ‘addiction’ to mind-reading is also a bit trying. Why is he suddenly so fussed about mind-reading, other than because he’s got a vestigial Sylar in his head? It’s nice to see him back with Janice, but it’s an unnecessary twist to his character, designed to give him a journey to go on for no good reason. He could simply be off having mental tussles with Sylar, while being awesome as well.

Lack of awesome
And this is where the problem is. Tim Kring is not a comics book fan. It’s notorious that when he proposed the character of the German, someone with power over magnetism, his fellow writers said ‘Like Magneto?’ and he said ‘Who?’.

Which is fine, in some ways, since he’s far more character-oriented as a result than some of his fellow writers. It just means we lack a certain amount of understanding of the need for ‘awesome’.

While there were some great action scenes involving Tracy, Peter and new arrival Edgar, outside of that, there were no awesome moments – points of extreme coolness like there were in season one. In fact, it was quite slow at times. It’s like Kring understands everything the show needs except for action.

After season one, it was relatively clear that what people wanted was all of our heroes together, doing awesome super powered things while holding down their normal lives and behaving like normal human beings who have discovered something incredible. Instead, everyone’s separated again and not doing much that’s awesome.

For a volume that’s trying to recapture the people who loved season one, this is an epic mistake.

Similarly, you have to worry about this season’s big bad: a carnival. Sure, it’s a carnival of people full of scary powers: the tattoo ability of Samuel and the superfast knifethrower Edgar are great new additions to the story.

But there’s no real threat as of yet, just a bit of lingering menace at the thought that there’s a bunch of people with mirror abilities to our heroes who know all about them. Where’s the awesome in that?

Equally, where’s Mohinder? He only got a name-check this episode. Poor Mohinder.

Now, as said, this is a Tim Kring episode and they’re always a little bit disappointing. The trailer for the next episode does look very much better and – yes – more awesome. But with a viewership of only 6m for this episode, you can’t be leaving the really good stuff until the second week, particularly when you’re up against Dancing with the Stars. Will more people be around for week two, given there was also a House premiere to run against? I hope so.



  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.