Heroes Reborn Premiere: Which Stories Worked, and Which Ones Didn't

Friday, 25 September 2015 - 10:21AM
Heroes Reborn
Friday, 25 September 2015 - 10:21AM
Heroes Reborn Premiere: Which Stories Worked, and Which Ones Didn't
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Heroes Reborn finally premiered last night, and it was a qualified success. While it wasn't nearly as exhilarating, cohesive, or groundbreaking as the original series at its best, it didn't make us want to scratch our eyes out, as Heroes did at its worst. The writing wasn't perfect, as the character beats were often off, the exposition was often heavy-handed, and there was no humor or wit to speak of. But the first two episodes, "Brave New World" and "Odessa," were engaging, creatively confident, and most importantly, energetic. When it worked, it really worked, and it was difficult not to get swept up in the energy. 

But for every plotline that worked, there was another that fell completely flat. Heroes was never known for its complex characterizations, but even the less successful plotlines had characters that the audience cared about (at the beginning at least). The new characters on Heroes Reborn, by contrast, varied wildly in their degrees of success. Here are all the plotlines that worked, and the ones that didn't, ranked from worst to best:

Spoilers follow!

9th Wonders 2.0

Miko and Ren seem likable enough, even if they are barely even two-dimensional at this point, let alone three-dimensional. And the video game storyline started off intriguing enough, with Ren insisting that Miko is the real-life version of Katana Girl. If the video game had been made by a psychic, much like Isaac Mendez's 9th Wonders, or if Miko had served as the inspiration for the character in the video game in another way, I would have been on board with that.

But the show lost me when Miko actually entered the video game world, for several different reasons. First, the CGI is terrible. I'm not a gamer, so I can't speak to whether it's reflective of gaming aesthetic, but from a layman's perspective it looked incredibly cheesy. But more importantly, I'm convinced that it doesn't fit in with the Heroes mythology. Heroes has always flirted with campiness, but it has always been a show about people with powers, likely as a result of some kind of X-Men-esque mutant gene. Call me crazy, but I don't think any kind of genetic mutation would reasonably allow someone to enter the video game world, even by sci-fi standards. It would have been interesting if they had just attempted to visually imitate video games in the real-life fight sequences, but this just felt like pandering to the gaming community.

You have failed this city

Similarly, I don't see any need for caped vigilantes in the Heroes universe. Now that everyone knows about the existence of the poor, prosecuted Evos, Heroes Reborn has firmly placed itself in the "allegory for prejudice" realm. Vigilantism is philosophically interesting on its own, but it doesn't fit in with the themes of persecution and "othering." Plus, I just don't care about Carlos, or anything about this plotline. If I wanted to watch costumed superheroes, I would watch the ever-reliable Arrow or The Flash.

Molly Walker's a big girl now

Most of the actual storyline in the pilot surrounding Molly Walker, the young girl who was orphaned by Sylar in the original series, doesn't work. Since they save the reveal of her identity until the end, we have no idea why we're supposed to care about this random con artist. And even if we did care about her, the entire plot feels like a cheat, as she gets rescued from her captor by her captor's accomplice because... reasons? It's completely unclear what the point of any of these hijinks was, and all that really matters in the end is that Molly Walker has become a beautiful, seductive con artist. 

But going forward, there's every chance that this will become one of the more interesting plotlines. Although the femme fatale is a tired trope that should be retired permanently, the audience's knowledge of Molly's tragic backstory will add pathos to the character, especially considering that she will likely spend the next few episodes being used for her remarkable power (the ability to find anyone in the world by thinking about them). She has the potential to be one of the more layered characters, since we have more of a foundation with her than with the new characters, but it will all depend on the execution.

Chuck goes on a killing spree

If Heroes Reborn proves anything, it will probably be that Zachary Levi should be given a wider range of roles. We don't know too much about his character yet, but his performance was suitably chilling as the cold-blooded Evo killer Luke, and he was even able to lend shades of sympathy to the mostly despicable character. The motivation behind his and Judith Shekoni's characters leaves something to be desired, as it would have been much more compelling to explore quasi-religious reasons for becoming a murderer, rather than simple vengeful tendencies, and the relationship between the two characters is not explored with any depth. But the character's coldness and cruelty led to some of the most effective moments of the episode, and I'm excited to see more.

"Something big is coming"

It's not as immediately grabby as "save the cheerleader, save the world," but I'm sufficiently intrigued as to what will happen with Danika Yarosh's character and the apparent black hole. The stakes generally don't feel as high as they could, but hopefully that will change as the black hole becomes a more immediate threat.

The teen element

I enjoyed Tommy Kay's plotline more than I ever expected to. It's trifling, but it's cute, and he and Gatlin Green have an endearing rapport. There's nothing particularly special about it, but it had a charming Spider-Man/Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel to it, complete with the line, "I just want to have a normal life!" It was a great way to break up the dire tone of the other stories, and will hopefully keep the show from sinking under its own weight.

Noah Bennet's quest for the truth

We're not at all surprised that Noah Bennet's plotline was immediately the most engaging. We're already the most attached to him, Jack Coleman is a reliably great actor, and his story is the most intimately connected to the Odessa attack, which is by far the most interesting part of this reboot. There were several problems with this plotline as well, chief among them that his relationship with his fiancee was thinly written at best, but overall it was compelling, and led to the one truly shocking moment of the premiere: the death of the Haitian. Of course, this is Heroes, and Jimmy Jean-Louis has already assured fans that he will be back, but it was still disconcerting to see a major death so soon, in a good way.
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