Heroes Reborn plays a dual role for both NBC and creator Tim Kring. On the one hand, it’s an attempt to bring back a past success, utilizing the established world of Heroes, which ran from 2006 to 2010, as a foundation for something new. The original series was initially a phenomenon for NBC and for a while looked like it would give the network a mythology-rich series to compete with Lost. But it’s the other hand that holds the more interesting story, the one involving a need for redemption for a series that stumbled in the wake of the 2007-2008 Writers’ Guild strike. That’s what makes Heroes Reborn a gamble for the network and Kring, giving both a second chance.
Heroes Reborn gets off to a good start in reclaiming that glory, blowing up the original series and setting high stakes. Although it does get a little concerning when characters start talking about conspiracy within the first half hour of the show, this is happily offset with a lot of action short introductions of the new crew of characters joining the familiar faces returning from the original series.
Jack Coleman returns as Noah Bennet (a.k.a. “HRG” or “The Man With The Horn-Rimmed Glasses”) from the original series, acting as the bridge between that world and the new EVOs (folks with superpowers) that have popped up since the original series’ finale. The first episode opens with Noah attending a peace event between EVOs and normal humans in Odessa, Texas, a central location in the original series and the spark point for this one. (It doesn’t take an encyclopedic knowledge of the original series to follow Heroes Reborn (you don’t even need to watch the prologue web series), but having some sort of background is going to help a bit in the start.) Catastrophe strikes Odessa in these opening moments, telegraphed by all the mentions of peace and smiling faces — and we’re off as characters start dealing with the aftermath.
Noah mourns the loss of his adoptive daughter Claire (originally played by Hayden Panettiere, now nestled away on ABC’s Nashville) and ends up going into hiding during the one-year flash-forward following the attack. He runs into conspiracy nut Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski) and both head back to Odessa to get to the bottom of what happened during the attack.
Also affected by the attack: Luke and Joanne Collins (Zachary Levi and Judith Shekoni), a couple who also lost their child and decided to take another route in solving the mystery by using hot lead. We’re introduced to them in passing during the opening attack montage and our next glimpse shows them blowing away a group of EVOs during some sort of superpowered support group. They’re not the only ones running around with guns, blasting heroes, and it seems that life has gotten pretty difficult for the powered. In between all of this, we’re quickly shown a Chinese man dragging a weight during a desperate escape from prison. To get that point across, he ends up slicing off his own hand to fly away from his pursuers.
All this quickening of the pace would play like a response to the criticism surrounding the show’s slow burn in its later seasons, if the film otherwise felt like it was dwelling on its past. It’s clear it isn’t. In many ways, Heroes has little to do with Heroes Reborn past these early connections and character appearances, which leaves room for the new characters to breathe a bit.
Beyond the murderous Collins couple, we’re also introduced to the troubled teen Tommy Clarke (Robbie Kay) whose powers seem to blink people out of existence (or to a childhood bedroom with no exits); Miko Otomo (Kiki Sukezane) who has a run-in with Ren Shimosawa (Toru Uchikado) and finds out she looks eerily like the heroic video game / comic-book character Katana Girl; and Carlos (Ryan Guzman) who finds out that his brother is the heroic El Vengador, a street-level hero who ends up on the wrong end of a bullet, sparking Carlos’ entrance into heroism.
There are a few others, but it seems like they need a few episodes to get fully into the mix. And from this premiere, it looks like Tommy and Carlos will provide the emotional entrance into this show, especially for those not versed in series canon. There’s plenty of interweaving and mythology-building going on, but not to the same degree that sometimes bogged down Lost or the original Heroes. There is the need to save the world, though, so it seems we can never get away from that.
It’s not necessarily the overarching story that makes the show intriguing with this first episode. Miko’s storyline is the one that is most interesting to me so far and it seems removed from the other stories. Yet it has to connect sooner or later. It has to or the show risks pissing off its audience and wasting time. Thirteen episodes doesn’t leave much for dilly-dallying.
Heroes Reborn has a lot of promise and did the right thing by stripping away baggage from those later seasons to start fresh and connect it to the first successful run. There are interesting characters running around with only a slight bit of ridiculousness to bog it down, like Levi and Shekoni shooting anybody they come across and Francesca Eastwood as grown-up Molly Walker getting roped into some sort of kidnapping scenario. She’s apparently important to the plot, so hopefully it turns into something more than Heroes Reborn‘s version of Nikki and Paulo.
This is the pitfall of a fast-paced premiere, though. This first episode attempts to stuff a lot of plot and characterization in to placate all viewers at once, leaving it disorienting at first until a conclusion that begins to put the puzzle pieces together. That’s the beauty of this kind of series, and part of what allowed Heroes to become popular following the success of Lost. By hitting the restart button, viewers get a chance to enjoy that piecing-together process again. This outing succeeded in making me want to see more. Heroes Reborn could easily have just been a stunt by the network, but so far instead plays like new start. Now it just needs to do something with that second chance.