Review: Heroes Reborn 1×1 (US: NBC)

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC

It’s probably almost impossible for the kids of today to appreciate just how exciting Heroes was when it first started, all the way back in 2006, when this blog was still quite young itself and had none of those twinges in its knee.

How fabulous it was to have an intelligent TV show that took superheroes seriously. How we thrilled at its weekly cliffhangers. How we marvelled at its pacing, its interesting characters, its interlinked serial narrative. How exciting was that! Each episode we’d wait to see which characters would turn up, what secret powers would be revealed and how it would all tie in with what we’d already seen.

The BBC acquired it very quickly, created its own tie-in TV series of documentaries, promised to simulcast it with the US and more, we were that desperate for Heroes content. As was the rest of the world. The cast went on world tours, where they met people thrilled by the new show. I even ended up reviewing every single episode of the show and starting Random Acts of Ali Larter

And, of course, we were all waiting to see what would happen in the season finale, when Peter and Sylar finally came face to face with the full range of superpowers they’d each spent a season acquiring and learning to use, while all those disparate characters were going to join in to help out. How awesome was that going to be, hey? It was going to be Marvel’s The Avengers only five years earlier, that’s how awesome it was going to be.

Except that’s pretty much the exact moment when the series went to shit. As the finale aired around the world, time zone after time zone went at the exact same time-shifted time: “Was that it?” Whatever it was we were imagining was precisely 6×10^23 times more exciting than seeing Peter twat Sylar with a parking meter and fly off.

Who was responsible for the disaster is subject to conjecture. There were whispers that the super-duper finale, full of the best fight ever, had had to be cut because two of the cast members (cough, cough, Milo Ventimiglia, Hayden Panettiere, cough, cough) had held the show to ransom and refused to film the finale unless they got epic pay rises, resulting in a corresponding special effects budget cut. 

That wouldn’t have explained season two, though. Or most of season three.

More likely, as show creator and former Crossing Jordan creator and showrunner Tim Kring testified, was that he’d never read a comic and didn’t know how to do cool stuff. He thought origin stories were the best things about superheroes and it was those network bosses and the stupid old general public who were cramping his style by forcing him to have the same characters come back for the subsequent seasons.

Letting show and comics killer Jeph Loeb have anything to do with the show may have been the problem, too.

Anyway, that killed it. Interest in Heroes died and even the resurgence of quality in ‘Volumes’ Four and Five weren’t enough to bring the audience back.

So with many people regarding the show as one of the most promising then subsequently disappointing TV programmes in US history, it’s something of a surprise to see NBC bring it back for an event mini-series – if a 13-part series can truly be described as mini-, rather than “a standard length to quite-long-by-modern-standards single season’.

Both a continuation and a new beginning for the show, Heroes Reborn brings back everyone from the original series who doesn’t have a functioning career right now – Jack Coleman, Greg Grunberg, Jimmy Jean-Louis – manages to lure in Sendhil Ramamurthy and Masi Oka for a couple of quick cameos during their lunchbreaks, and then makes Tim Kring’s wish come true by allowing him to create a whole new set of new characters, who are much cheaper and far less interesting than the original series’.

Then, taking everything Kring failed to learn from his next epic failures, Dig and Touch, it serves up a lukewarm, slow-moving version of the original series that just occasionally tries to be heartwarming but is just plain old nauseating instead.

And there’s not even any Ali Larter in it? What’s the point of Heroes, without Ali Larter, I ask you?

All the same, despite how not good it is, thankfully, it’s still not as bad as Volume 3.

From Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, who imagined NBC’s original critically acclaimed 2006 Heroes series, comes Heroes Reborn, an epic 13-episode event series that chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities.

A year ago, a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas left the city decimated. Blamed for the tragic event, those with extraordinary abilities are in hiding or on the run from those with nefarious motives.

Two such vigilantes include Luke (Zachary Levi, Chuck) and Joanne (Judith Shekoni, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2), who are seeking to avenge a tragic loss.

Noah Bennet, aka HRG (Jack Coleman, Heroes), has gone off the grid, but conspiracy theorist Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski, A to Z) finds him and opens his eyes to the truth behind the Odessa tragedy.

While in hiding, some are discovering their newfound skills. Awkward teen Tommy (Robbie Kay, Once Upon a Time) just wants to be normal and win the girl of his dreams, Emily (Gatlin Green, Criminal Minds), but normalcy is virtually impossible after learning of a new ability that terrifies him. Coming from a very sheltered upbringing, a bold and ethereal teenager, Malina (Danika Yarosh, Shameless), has been told she is destined for greatness. In Tokyo, a quiet and unique young woman, Miko (Kiki Sukezane, Death Yankee 3), is trying to track down her missing father while hiding an extraordinary secret that will make her a force to be reckoned with. Elsewhere, a different type of hero is emerging through former soldier Carlos (Ryan Guzman, The Boy Next Door).

Meanwhile, Erica (Rya Kihlstedt, Masters of Sex), the head of the highly successful tech conglomerate Renautas has an agenda of her own.

For better or for worse, some are fated to cross paths with assorted heroes of the past, including Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) and the Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis), among others. Yet, together, their ultimate destiny is nothing less than saving the world and mankind.

Joining Kring are Executive Producers James Middleton (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Peter Elkoff (Sons of Anarchy). Heroes Reborn is produced by Imperative Entertainment, in association with Universal Television.

Is it any good?
To be fair, the show does its absolute best to catch the lightning in the bottle that was the first season of the show, by mixing together a whole bunch of very familiar ingredients while trying to catch up with all the advancements in superhero storytelling of the past five to ten years. To be even fairer, Tim Kring*’s first episode is relatively decent.

But it’s just not great. It’s really not. Not awful, but not great. And the second episode is incredibly dull.

The problem is that as well as winding up with the least interesting characters from the original series, the ones who used to spend all their time staring intently at other people to use what powers they did have, we’ve got a whole bunch of new characters that are really hard to give a toss about and in some cases are just plain ridiculous: Chuck‘s Zachary Levi and his Manc wife as unlikely vigilantes who are trying to kill ‘evolved humans’ or ‘evos’; a Japanese girl who can become a video game character; a Latino soldier who has to decide whether to put on his brother’s Mexican wrestler’s mask to protect evos and fight crime; and a schoolkid Evo who can teleport others and has trouble fitting in.

Yawn and really? It’s season two but worse.

As a backdrop to this, we have a potentially big thing happening, possibly a conspiracy involving the Evos, maybe something celestial. I don’t know. As with most Kring things, I doubt it’ll be until episode 13 that we find out, but you never know, it might be episode 12. 

But whereas Heroes gave us little mini quests along the way to keep us interested – save the cheerleader, save the world – cool cliffhangers, and characters we could get to know and care about, here we just have Kring’s general hope that we won’t switch channel. Which given these days we could be off binge-watching Daredevilon Netflix to get our superhero fix is a bold move.

The show does have cool moments. It’s shown us some cool superpowers and it is good to see Jack Coleman back. But it’s nearly 10 years later. Time has moved on. Heroes may be reborn but it needs to grow up quickly.

* I say Tim Kring, but Kring pioneered a weird writers room model for Heroes, in which everyone wrote storylines for individual characters across multiple episodes and then the storylines were all brought together and assembled into a set of episodes. Whoever wrote the most for any given episode got the writing credit for that episode. So it might have been Kring who wrote this or four or five other people.


  • Rob Buckley

    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.

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