In 2006, NBC launched Heroes, an ambitious attempt to take comic book superheroes and adapt them into a primetime TV drama that the average person could relate to. At first, Heroes seemed like it was spinning a new-age superhero mythology that could stand toe-to-toe with Marvel or DC Comics, but as the seasons (or "volumes") kept coming, the dream of seeing Heroes become a new icon in superhero mythology slowly cracked, ultimately crumbling with a final lackluster installment.
But that disappointing down slope doesn't have to be the last word of the story; Heroes Reborn has come along to give show creator Tim Kring and Co. the chance to redeem some of the series' past mistakes and provide a better footnote to what Heroes did in its time on the air. In preparation for the Heroes Reborn experience, we're going to recap all five volumes of the original Heroes series (four seasons), and discuss how those past storylines may set the stage for Heroes Reborn.xNeedless to say: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR HEROES VOLUMES 1 - 5 FOLLOW!
Volume 1: Genesis
Heroes Volume One successfully introduced the concept of everyday people manifesting comic book super powers within a real-world context. The show introduced a cast of (mostly) interesting characters, through a combination of slow-burn mystery reveals (H.R.G., Sylar, The Hatian) and genuine character development (Nathan and Peter Petrelli, Claire Bennet, Hiro Nakamura, etc.).
The arc of Genesis' storyline involved predictions and visions by various people, like scientist Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), painter Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera), and nurse Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), foretelling of human beings manifesting great (and terrible) superpowers. Those whispers of mankind's evolution soon converge with a line of destiny that leads from the brutal murders of a telekinetic serial killer known as Sylar (Zachary Quintno), right up to the doorstep of Claire Bennet, a Texas cheerleader with a Wolverine-style healing factor. We also learned that a shadowy government agency called The Company (or Primatech) - led in part by Claire's adoptive father, Noah (Jack Coleman) - had been keeping tabs on, and working with, supepowered people, in a history extending far back before the events of present day.
At the end of the season-long prophecy ("Save the cheerleader, save the world,") came a flashpoint event wherein the various good or bad superpowered people (or in the case of Ali Larter's Nikki Sanders, good/bad split personality people), all converged in New York, where mild-mannered Peter finally came into his own as a super power siphon, taking on Sylar (who was running rampant with his own collection of stolen powers) and saving the city in the process. The fallout? Peter and his brother Nathan seemingly sacrifice themselves trying to stop Sylar from blowing up Manhattan.
Volume 2: Generations
Like so many properties in the year 2007, Heroes season 2 was heavily impacted by the WGA strike. The season was supposed to be 24 episodes split into three volumes; due to the strike, we only got 11 episodes of the first volume, "Generations." As the title of would suggest, "Generations" opened up the history of super powered people secretly operating in the world, building on storylines implied in season 1, while introducing some key new threads.
The main story arc involves Hiro traveling back to 1671 feudal Japan to meet his hero, Takezo Kensei, in order to learn how to be a warrior. In the past, Hiro discovers that Kensei is actually a cowardly Englishman named Adam Monroe (David Anders), who like Claire Bennett, has a regenerative ability making him nigh invulnerable. It's ironically Hiro who teaches Monroe how to become the great hero Takezo Kensei, although that act of kindness has unforeseen ramifications, as Adam betrays Hiro and forces a deadly duel that seemingly pushes Takezo Kensei away from his chance at destiny.
In present day, we pick up four months after the defeat of Sylar in Kirby Plaza, and a lot has changed. Peter and Nathan are alive, but Peter has amnesia; Suresh and Noah Bennett are working to bring down Primatech; Nikki develops a new alternate personality that kills her husband D.L.; Nathan gets drunk a lot, having suffered a terrible injury while stopping Sylar; psychic cop Matt Parkman is divorced; and Claire is forced to start life anew in California, off The Company's radar. In short: things have not gone well for our heroes. A glimpse of the future predicts that a virus within the superpowered community (the "Shanti Virus") will break out mutate, and infect the larger human population, causing catastrophe.
While the threat of an outbreak grows, we learn that parents of the modern heroes we know also had their own adventures, and eventually formed The Company, pulling strings in the superpowered community for years. Some, like Hiro's father Kaito (George Takei) or Charles Deveaux (Richard Roundtree) went on to use their powers to build fortunes and use those fortunes for benevolent ends; others like Matt's father Maury Parkman used their abilities in not-so-good ways to obtain power or control.
The big twist in the season came when we learned what happened in the missing four months between seasons 1 and 2, culminating in the revelation that Adam Monroe is the big bad at the center of the world-threatening Shanti Virus plot. Thanks to Adam's regenerative ability, he'd survived the duel with Hiro and barely aged through the centuries, manipulating events (like bringing the first generation of heroes together to form The Company), and slowly taking on the warped perspective that the world needed a great cleanse of man's wickedness. To that end, Adam wants to unleash the Shanti Virus, drastically reducing humanity's numbers.
Heroes like Peter, Nathan, Matt and Hiro unite to stop Adam and the Shanti Virus; Claire and Noah redoubled their efforts to stop The Company; while side characters like Nikki, "evil eye" Maya (Diana Ramirez), "copycat" Monica Dawson (Dana Davis), or Company man Bob Bishop's (Stephen Tobolowsky) sadistic electric powered daughter, Elle (Kristen Bell) rounded out their throwaway storylines. By the finale, Adam Monroe was locked away (buried alive for all time) and the Shanti Virus neutralized - but the cost was high, as Nikki perishes and Nathan is left critically-wounded during an assassination attempt, after trying to expose The Company and its knowledge of super humans, publicly.
Volume 3: Villains
It's revealed that Nathan Petrelli's would-be assassin is none other than a future version of his brother, Peter, who hails from a timeline in which Nathan exposing superpowered people led "normal" humans to hunt powered individuals. Nathan survives the attack, gains spiritualism and new political sway, which brings him into contact with advisor Tracy Strauss, who turns out to be the long-lost (and ice powered) triplet sister of the dead Nikki Sanders (yup, they went there). Future Peter vows to find a way to fix the timeline, while trapping present day Peter in the body of a super villain who's been incarcerated by The Company.
Chickens come home to roost as Sylar launches an assault against Primatech, and during a battle with Elle, inadvertently releases the twelve worst super villains on lockdown. Angela Petrelli uses a fake story about being Sylar's mother to convince the power-hungry killer into working with Noah to track down the escaped villains. A separate arm of The Company, Pinehearst, shows up on the scene, providing a haven for some of the escaped villains, and developing a formula that would give ordinary people super abilities.
It's revealed that Pinehearst is run by Petrelli family patriarch, Arthur Petrelli (Robert Forester), who can steal powers through touch. Poisoned by his wife (Angela) and left crippled, Arthur gets a new lease on life when he drains Adam Monroe of his healing powers (and later Peter's multitude of abilities), with the intention of leading the superpowered evolution of humanity. With his supervillain agents and stolen powers, Arthur acquires both halves of the formula from Hiro and Angela, manipulating people like Mohinder (who gains new superpowers via the formula) and Sylar (who reforms for a time, learning a non-murderous way to acquire powers) into becoming his allies.
Angela tries to use heroes like Claire and a recovered Peter to fight Arthur, but they are thwarted by Arthur's new enforcer, Sylar - that is, until Sylar goes rogue all over again. After betraying and killing Elle (now his lover), Sylar kills yet again to acquire the power of lie detection - a power he uses to figure out that Arthur isn't his long-lost father. Understandably mad, Sylar allows Peter, Angela, the power-canceling Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louise), and the escaped villains to finish the job of killing Arthur and destroying Pinehearst. Nathan, now on his father's side, is almost killed in the fall of Pinehearst, forcing Peter to inject himself with the powers formula in order to return the favor from season 1 and fly Nathan to safety, as the building is destroyed.
Volume 4: Fugitives
After the fall of Pinehearst and Primatech, the heroes try to resume "normal" lives as average humans. Things take a turn when Nathan Petrelli decides to move ahead with his season 2 agenda and informs the president of the existence of superpowered beings. This provokes an extreme reaction, as the president authorizes a task force headed by ruthless hunter Emile Danko (Željko Ivanek) to capture all powered humans living among the populace. Although Nathan tries to keep things civil, Danko proves to be a wild dog off the leash; he captures Peter, Claire, Tracy and others, throwing them on a plane bound for a secret prison. Using Tracy's powers, Peter crashes the plane and the heroes go on the run from Danko.
Peter and Tracy link up with Mohinder, Matt Parkman, Hiro and Hiro's friend Ando (James Kyson) to fight Danko and Nathan. The group gets unexpected help from a mysterious tech operative named "Rebel," who turns out to be the late Nikki Sanders' son, Micah. The battle goes back and forth, eventually drawing Angela Petrelli into the fray; meanwhile, a once-again resurrected Sylar avoids Danko's forces long enough to hunt down his true father, Samson Gray (John Glover), who is dying of cancer. The reunion of papa and son Gray doesn't end as warm and fuzzy as one would hope.
With his origins finally discovered, Sylar starts an alliance with the disgraced Danko (who was publicly embarrassed by Peter Petrelli), and soon gains the ability to shape-shift. He uses that ability to wreck Noah and Claire's family bonds, and eventually sets his sights on replacing the president. Thankfully, Peter and Nathan repair their rift fast enough to battle Sylar in Washington; unfortunately, the battle costs Nathan his life. At the end of the season, a grief-stricken Angela uses Matt Parkman's telepathy and the Haitian's power-negating ability to brainwash Sylar into not just mimicking Nathan's form, but believing he IS Nathan.
Volume 5: Redemption
In this final volume of the original show, heroes like Peter, Claire and Matt Parkman have all resumed "normal" living (YET AGAIN), while Hiro and Ando continue their heroic activities, until learning that Hiro is dying as a result of using his teleportation ability. This new status quo is broken as a new threat emerges: a carnival of super powered people posing as "freaks," led by one Samuel Sullivan (Robert Knepper), who had the power to manipulate geological materials like earth and rocks. Samuel wanted to make the carnival a safe haven for people with powers, but his thirst for power was so great that it even drove him to kill his own brother and close friends, in order to achieve his goals.
As the carnival threat grows, so does the ticking time bomb of Nathan/Sylar. Using his intuitive aptitude ability, Nathan/Sylar begins to discover more and more new powers, which confuses his "Nathan programming" and starts to reveal the return of the old Sylar. After a failed assassination attempt, Sylar's physical body reverts to its old form with no memory of his killer nature - a dark piece of his soul now stuck in Matt Parkman's head after the mind-wipe, causing Parkman psychic torment that threatens to drive him crazy.
Sylar lands in Samuel's hands, and for awhile his physical and mental halves try to reconnect, even though having a clear conscience starts to feel good to him. This leads to Peter and Claire learning the truth about Nathan's death, forcing them to wrestle with the grief. Claire, estranged from her adoptive father Noah, almost falls under Samuel's sway, until she realizes he's a mad man bent on evil intentions.
When Samuel plans to mass murder a bunch of regular humans in Central Park using the sonic abilities of Peter's new love interest, Emma Coolidge (Deannne Bray), Sylar tries to piece himself back together, body and mind, in time to thwart the plot (and possibly devour a new collection of powers). A psychic battle with Parkman leaves Sylar mentally crippled, but Peter ventures into his mind (for what seems like years) and helps bring Sylar back to the real world. Feeling redeemed, Sylar actually helps Matt, Peter and Claire defeat Samuel - though the sting of Nathan's death still hangs between him and Peter. At the end of the show, Sylar decides to be a hero, and Claire jumps off a ferris wheel in front of a watching crowd of onlookers and media, exposing her powers and ushering in what Sylar calls "A brave new world."
Heroes Reborn will revolve around a pivotal terrorist attack in Texas, which leads to superhumans (now outed) being blamed for the event. A couple who lost a son in the attack - Luke (Zachary Levi) and Joanne (Judith Shekoni) - are bent on hunting down superhumans, while a new crop of heroes begins to emerge.
In the midst of this uneasy world balance (people crave heroes, but also fearswhat bad superhumans are capable of) we see old faces like Noah Bennet, Hiro, The Haitian, Suresh, Parkman and Micah all returning to guide the new kids through some familiarly treacherous waters - with (0f course) a looming threat to mankind and the world once again hanging over them.
Here's a breakdown of some of the new characters we will meet in Reborn:
- Malina (Danika Yarosh) is a courageous girl, who was brought up much overprotected, but she finds out she is destined for greatness.
- Erica (Rya Kihlstedt) is the head of the highly successful tech conglomerate called Renautas, and she has her own dark goals.
- Awkward teen Tommy (Robbie Kay) tries to live a normal life and just has eyes for his dream girl, Emily (Gatlin Green), but he discovers a new terrifying ability that makes his will almost impossible.
- In Tokyo, Miko (Kiki Sukezane), a unique and quiet girl is looking for her missing father, but she hides an extraordinary secret that can be dangerous to her.
- Somewhere, a singular type of hero is emerging through Carlos (Ryan Guzman), a former soldier.
The show's trailer and previews have teased the idea that the world needs to see extraordinary humans return to the forefront (meta message: we need to see more heroic examples back on TV). The question is whether this particular approach is enough of a distinction from the other five volumes of the original show, which (as you can see above) ran the (on the run / back in hiding / emerging to stop big threat) formula until it was thoroughly exhausted.
However, if Heroes Reborn does truly take an anthology approach - a la American Horror Story - then rotations of characters and storylines could keep things fresh. After all, that was the original plan showrunner Tim Kring was going to go with, until TV politics (like recasting a core staff of actors) derailed things.
Will you be giving Heroes Reborn a shot?
Heroes Reborn airs its 13 episodes on Thursdays @8pm on NBC, starting on Sept. 24th.