Before many of the superhero shows that now air in primetime premiered, the first season Tim Kring’s Heroes provided a critically acclaimed drama about super-powered individuals. However, the interest of fans and critics began to decline in season 2 and Heroes was cancelled by NBC after four seasons. Now, NBC brought the show back in the form of Heroes Reborn, with Kring and a number of the original cast members continuing to tell the stories of evolved humans with special powers.
Although many of the original Heroes characters like Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), and Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose) are set to appear on Heroes Reborn, the new series will largely focus on new characters, with the exception of Noah Bennet a.k.a. HRG (Jack Coleman). In fact, war veteran Carlos Gutierrez (Ryan Guzman), high school student Tommy Clarke (Robbie Kay), married couple Luke and Joanne Collins (Zachary Levi and Judith Shekoni), and Miko Otomo (Kiki Sukezane) quickly rise to the forefront of the Heroes Reborn two-hour premiere, ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Odessa.’
The series premiere opens on June 13th, the date that Kring teased during the Television Critics Association presentation to have a huge influence on the events of Heroes Reborn. As the episode opens, it’s clear that evolved humans are largely accepted by society with Evos and humans attending a peaceful event in Odessa, Texas (though there are some protestors). However, when an explosion rocks the event, killing many of those in attendance, and Mohinder takes the blame for the terrorist attack, most humans turn against Evos, and the powered individuals become persecuted in most countries around the world.
This opening, which follows Noah through the event as his voiceover leaves a voicemail message for his daughter Claire (played by Hayden Panettiere in the original series), helps fans of Heroes to quickly return to this particular world while providing a jumping-on point for Heroes Reborn. The fallout from the attack and the fear/hatred directed at Evos becomes a running theme in ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Odessa’ that will surely continue throughout the entire season.
A year after the June 13th destruction, Noah is selling cars; Tommy is running from authorities and attempting to keep his powers hidden while attending high school; Carlos is a non-powered, medaled war veteran with little direction in life; and Luke and Joanne are slaughtering Evos in an attempt to seek vengeance for their son who died in Odessa. Meanwhile, Miko is introduced as a young girl in Japan whose father is trapped in a videogame that she must enter (presumably using her power, though it could be her father’s) in order to save him — which is depicted with video game-style animation.
Like Heroes, these story threads are mostly kept separate from each other, though there is some overlap in that Tommy meets Luke and Joanne, narrowly avoids their mission to kill Evos and uses his power of teleportation to send them away. The storylines find a common theme in that they’re all set in motion by the terrorist attack of June 13th, and the series trailers hinted that they will likely intersect later on in the season, in an effort to stop whatever cataclysmic event is coming. Fans of Heroes will recognize this format, but jumping from one character to another in disparate story threads can still be jarring at times.
That being said, certain character storylines are more compelling than others. Noah, as a fan-favorite character from Heroes, easily pulls the viewer into his search for information regarding the June 13th attack as well as the death of his daughter. From the amount of time spent on Noah, it’s clear that he’s the central point in the expansive cast and meant to act as an easy entry point for both returning and new viewers alike. Heroes Reborn is successful in this endeavor, and uses Noah to connect the new series with Heroes, such as when The Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis) makes a short-lived appearance to aid in Noah’s search for answers.
Carlos seems to be the most grounded character throughout ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Odessa’. Though he starts off as the stereotypically aimless veteran with a drinking problem, Carlos finds direction when he discovers his brother is not only an Evo but the masked vigilante known as El Vengador. In ‘Odessa,’ Carlos begins to uncover the extent of his brother’s work to help Evos and gets involved, all the while contemplating what it means to be a hero. This theme may be a bit on the nose for a series titled Heroes Reborn, but the personal struggle portrayed by Guzman’s turn as Carlos feels genuine enough.
Levi and Shekoni offer equally compelling depictions of grieving parents who deal with the death of their son differently. Though Joanne channels all of her rage into the tracking and murder of Evos, Luke is more removed from their mission, seeming to simply throw himself into whatever task is at hand, whether or not that includes hunting down evolved humans. These characters, as well as Carlos, help to ground Heroes Reborn in relatable drama.
When talking about Heroes Reborn at the TCA presentation, Kring compared the series to season 10 of Heroes (the season the show would be airing now if it hadn’t been cancelled) and Reborn certainly feels that way. Because of its time off air, the main cast has been largely changed up, just as Kring originally intended when he conceived of the show as an anthology series. Although the fresh faces provide new entry points to the world of evolved humans, and those Evos being outed to the public is new to the franchise, Heroes Reborn feels remarkably like Heroes, which is not necessarily a good thing.
The formula from Heroes — separate powered individuals from around the world coming together to stop an otherwise unstoppable force — has already been established in Heroes Reborn with hints toward something big coming and specific destinies of certain heroes, like Malina (Danika Yarosh) who is mostly absent from the first two episodes. Though there are still aspects of the overarching story of Heroes Reborn that have yet to be uncovered, the path of the season is already exceptionally familiar.
Additionally, Heroes Reborn joins the current television landscape that is loaded with multiple series revolving around different types of heroes with various abilities and tones across networks and streaming services. As such, Heroes Reborn has a hard time finding a place where it can stand out in the new TV landscape. The series allows fans of Heroes another chance to venture into the world of Evos — one that is enjoyable for the most part, even after only two episodes – -but doesn’t offer much to capture the hearts of new viewers. Whether that changes as the series continues remains to be seen, though it’s seems unlikely.
Heroes Reborn continues next Thursday with “Under the Mask” at 8PM on NBC.
Photos: Christos Kalohoridis/NBC