Well. It’s been awhile. As in, almost decade since the premiere of the original series, Heroes. So long, in fact, that “Save the cheerleader, save the world” is to many people either a punchline or completely bereft of meaning. When Heroes first premiered on NBC all those years ago, 30 Rock was still in it’s first season, The West Wing had just ended and people were obsessing about Lost and Prison Break (Oh my god, remember Prison Break!?). Needless to say, the television landscape has changed quite a bit. Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad brought intense and dark antiheroes into our homes. Shows like Veep, Silicon Valley, and Louie revel in an intense cynicism that make Seinfeld look like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. BoJack Horseman and Rick and Morty have turned cartoons into laboratories of wild creativity and the bleak exploration of what it means to be human. In the heyday of Heroes, NBC was a booming enterprise full of exciting projects that seemed unstoppable. They had Deal or No Deal, My Name is Earl, The Office, ER, Medium, The O.C., 30 Rock, and all the Law & Orders. Now? American Ninja Warrior, The Voice, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris and well, Heroes: Reborn. They also have a new show called Blindspot, but that has been almost universally panned. Everything else? No one cares. So with the new landscape of television so remarkably different and with the network struggling to keep itself relevant, I guess it makes sense their Hail Mary play would be to resurrect one of their most successful shows ever. Too bad nobody told NBC that Heroes was never actually that good. It just had superheroes. And we have plenty of those now.
Here are some thoughts on the premiere.
1. It starts with a bang… and then fizzles
It quite literally starts with a bang. Evos (the term for people with powers) and humans are holding a summit to show their solidarity. But a terrorist of unknown origin blows it up, killing hundreds of humans and evos. The response is immediate. The government clamps down and the evos go into hiding. And then… well, then we get about and hour and fifty minutes of setting up plot lines for about forty other characters. And when I say characters, I use the term lightly. Noah Bennet, played by Jack Coleman, seems to be the only character that has any depth or pathos. Granted, this could be because he’s a hold over from the original series and we know him better, but I think it’s because he is the only one who is given anything like an actable story. Everyone else is acting against crazy things happening to them. There is no character creation. It’s all gun fights and superpowers tethered to nothing.
2. It’s a partial Civil War rip off
The government is forcing every evo to register with them. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the exact same plot from the Marvel Civil War series. And the plot of the new Captain America: Civil War movie. You’d think they could recycle a little more sneakily at least.
3. Shameless product placement
Noah Bennet is a car salesman now. Specifically, a pontiac salesman. We even get a scene with him listing all the features of one their cars to a potential customer. That is an A-1 way to get people to hate your show. Make it very clear to them that you are trying to sell them a product. Good grief.
4. Also, a partial Kick-Ass rip-off
There’s a character, El Vengador (cute name), who is going around as a vigilante. In a Luchador mask. That looks exactly like the mask Kick-Ass wears. Now, I’m not saying the writers were all “Heh heh heh, let’s rip-off Kick-Ass!” I don’t think they’re that stupid. What I think they should have probably done was look at that character design and said to themselves “You know what? That looks a lot like Kick-Ass. People are going to see that and think we’re being lazy. Let’s maybe switch up the design a bit.” Let me ask you: if you created a superhero that, through a series of coincidences, wound up with a red cape and giant “S” on his chest, would you still put it out there as an original creation? No. You’d change it so it didn’t look like superman. Same rule applies.
5. Those title cards a ugly as hell
Because there are so many (too many?) characters in this premiere, every time we jump to another place, we are given the character names and the place they are. Putting aside the fact for a moment that you shouldn’t need to do that if you have nuanced, interesting character writing going on, we need to discuss that font. It is hideous. I couldn’t find any screenshots of it online, but if you watch it, you’ll know what I mean. That font is heinous.
6. The video game sequence is the coolest part
Calling to mind Hiro from the original series, the time traveller with the katana, is “Katana Girl.” Who, after being told her life is basically chronicled in a comic book, discovers she can teleport into a video game where it appears her father is trapped. When she enters the game, everything becomes animated in the style of, I’d say, a 2010-era Call of Duty game. It’s the most exciting thing about this episode, for the sole reason that it’s new. If NBC wants another hit on their hands, they’re going to have to explore some new territory like this. Push the envelope. Do we really need another character discovering that they can *gasp* move through walls!? Which brings to my next point…
7. Most of these powers are dull
Flying, levitation, teleportation. Most of these powers are old news. What I would really love is more of something akin to Katan girl’s power. She can go into a video game. That’s AWESOME. Let’s see some more of that! Every single plot line with those other powers have been done before and done better.
8. Soo… Hayden Panettiere is dead?
Claire Bennet (the cheerleader) appears to have been killed in the original explosion. On Wikipedia, it says her last appearance was on this very episode. So she’s dead? That does not bode well for the show. She was the best part of the original series. My guess is that the writers probably wanted her back, but she has much better things to do now than retread her break out role on a dying network. Oh. That’s kinda harsh…
9. The show makes the deadly mistake of assuming you watched the original
I did. But I remember about 4% of it. Because by the end, the show was pretty terrible and watching it was a chore. The writers are assuming that we are all very familiar with all the plot points that occurred over the four year run. Most people are not. So most of the nods and character stories that are occurring are going to go right over everyone’s head. It makes for a jumbled mess of a premiere. It feels like hanging out in a room full of people that you vaguely remember and they keep coming up to you and saying “Oh, my god, remember that time we…?” and you’re like “No. I stopped hanging out with you in 2007.” But they keep winking at you, so you decide that maybe you’re going to leave the party early.
10. Why should I keep watching?
I have been given zero idea as to what’s going on. The stakes are vague and undefined. The connection between characters is flimsy. The only reason I’ve been given to come back is “Weird stuff, right? You’ll have to stick around to see what’s going on!” But if your viewer is not tethered to any sort of meaningful characters, there’s no reason for them to come back. And if I have a choice, I don’t think I will.
Tags: Heroes, Heroes Reborn, Jack coleman, NBC