Check out our full review coverage of new and returning fall TV here.
Bringing back old franchises has become something of a standard practice for networks these days. ABC has a new primetime series in The Muppets that just premiered this week, Mulder and Scully are returning to their whacky hijinks in Fox’s upcoming X-Files revival, and here we are with a return to an NBC series that debuted in 2006 and went on for a four-season run in Heroes. Certainly, looking into a world populated by people with powers struggling not only with themselves, but with the public perception of themselves is interesting, but is this latest reboot able to harness that quirk and intrigue that made its predecessor such a hit? Unfortunately, the answer to that is a disappointing “not really.”
When it comes to accessibility, the series unfortunately can’t find a balance between trying to win over a new audience while simultaneously throwing in story aspects that are so linked to the first outing that it’s almost incomprehensible to pick up on what’s going on without having an encyclopedic knowledge of the world in front of you.
Heroes Reborn drops us right into the world of the “EVOs,” the series’ moniker for those with powers similar to that of mutants or meta-humans from the funny books. We’re shown a gathering of regular people and EVOs, as they celebrate what is a day that will surely unite the two races — until of course a bomb is detonated that wipes nearly everyone at the event off the map.
The characters, of which there are many, run the gamut from the former G-Man, Noah Bennett (Jack Coleman) to a couple targeting EVOs in the forms of Luke and Joanne (Zachary Levi and Judith Shekoni respectively) to a reluctant-hero luchador named Carlos (Ryan Guzman). These characters are only a paltry representation of the bloated cast that are moving through the plot so quickly that you hardly have time to get to know them past their powers, setting, and appearance. A perfect example of this is found in Luke and Joanne, two seemingly normal people who have sworn revenge against those with powers, blaming them for the explosion a year prior, which so happened to take their son’s life. This could be an interesting premise in seeing how loss completely destroys a loving family and the need for revenge becomes all consuming, but the clunky dialogue and lukewarm plot doesn’t do enough to make us care about these characters. To be honest, thanks to their lack of chemistry, I had no idea Luke and Joanne were supposed to even be a couple until I looked at the press material.
Heroes Reborn suffers by never following through with any of the great ideas it presents. In every scene, you can almost see the great show that’s dying to spring out from underneath the weight of the predictable story and characters. In one example, a super-powered Underground Railroad is set up as a way to help EVOs escape from the U.S. into Canada. This comes out of nowhere, with no build-up or examination into what makes this idea compelling, or how this may affect someone who has to leave their nation for what’s inside of them. I almost feel like this series would have been better served as a collection of vignettes only tangentially connected within the world of Heroes, where it could have had time to fully explore the concepts being thrown our way, but alas, everything is shuffled around with such haste that you never have time to warm up to anything.
In speaking about the characters of the series, you need to look at what came before. The most interesting character, to me, was presented within the first five minutes of the premiere: a man trudging through the icy north, pursued by the military with a weight handcuffed to his wrist. This character has absolutely no dialogue and he only has around a minute of screen time, but it was the most captivating of any of the proceedings, which is really saying something for the quality of the series overall. In the original series, we had characters we grew to know and care about as they interacted with one another, struggling with their powers, and what that meant for them moving forward. With Heroes Reborn, we’re given characters that all seem like shadows of people we already knew, but are far less compelling. With Miko (Kiki Sukezane), for instance, we’re reminded of Hiro from the first series and his life as a salaryman dealing with having the ability to manipulate time. Miko’s story however isn’t anywhere near as interesting, as her powers allow her to jump into a video game to find her kidnapped father (those video game effects, by the way, dragged me totally out of the seriousness that the show was trying to convey).
To be fair, there are some intriguing characters, as there would hopefully have to be considering the size of the cast. The character of Molly, interacting with a hustler who is using his powers to earn nice paydays at the casino, delivered some nice twists along the way. The chemistry between Noah and his conspiracy theorist tag along, Quentin (Henry Zebrowski) is also worth watching as the two play the roles of the show’s “Laurel and Hardy” quite well. But once you start getting into the idiosyncratic friendship, you’re pulled back into the confusing world of Noah, who introduces old characters and ideas that speak only to die-hard fans.
The effects for the powers themselves are serviceable, with people changing into smoke, running at light speed, and punching people through walls. The originality of the powers shines here and there as well, with the young boy Tommy (Robbie Kay) having a unique ability of teleportation. However, with so many powered people hanging around, things tend to get lazy, falling back on the standard of “Super Strength” or “Telekinesis” to fill the quota. In a sense, I think the series may have suffered from being a 13-episode mini-series in that it feels as if they needed to rush through so much to make sure that all these ideas somehow made it in, while cutting corners along the way for things that could have sustained a longer series.
Heroes Reborn, love it or hate it, is absolutely a continuation of the original series. It’s a bi-product of an age where mysteries were often more important than characters, but I feel that television audiences have moved past that. Shows like Lost and Prison Break were definitely great for their time, but audiences want stories that provide answers to questions that also take time to delve into each player, such as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. The mysteries need to be compelling enough to bring viewers back each week and you need to give a little bit more of the carrot than the stick when you’re balancing everything. Heroes Reborn, unfortunately, loses itself within its mysteries, setting up so many questions that you start forgetting about entire plotlines as new enigmas are fired your way like shotgun blasts.
So much of the show feels like characters, moments, and events we’ve seen done before not only in other movies and TV shows, but in the Heroes franchise itself. They needed to take more risks in the series’ return to set it apart from the superhero franchises that now litter our TV streets. The bottom line is that if you’re a fan of the original series and absolutely want to see what happened to some of your favorite characters, give the premiere a shot. However, if you’re new to the series, and were thinking of diving in, watch the first season of the original run and give this revival a pass.
Rating: ★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated
Heroes Reborn premieres Thursday, September 24th at 8 p.m. on NBC