[This is a review of Heroes Reborn season 1, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
Television has its fair share of ensemble casts with various ongoing plots that force the viewer to keep track of multiple characters and storylines across the world in which the show takes place. Tim Kring's Heroes utilized this method, and so too does the continuation of that series, Heroes Reborn. However, with an almost entirely new cast of characters to follow, Heroes Reborn is tasked with introducing each new hero, their ties to the incendiary terrorist attack of June 13th, and how their lives have changed since that date - as well as set up what's to come. So far, Heroes Reborn is struggling to juggle these tasks.
The series premiere of Heroes Reborn, pulled fans in with returning character Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) who searched for answers about the attack and introduced a host of new characters. War veteran Carlos Gutierrez (Ryan Guzman) was drawn into his brother's vigilante antics and evolved human underground railroad; Miko Otomo (Kiki Sukezane) traveled into a videogame in search of her father; Tommy Clarke (Robbie Kay) exposed his powers to the girl he's interested in while pretending to be a normal high school student; Luke and Joanne Collins (Zachary Levi and Judith Shekoni) were on a mission to avenge their son by killing Evos; and Molly Walker (Francesca Eastwood) was captured attempting to steal money from the wrong Evo.
'Under the Mask' attempts to continue the stories of each of these characters in addition to introducing Malina (Danika Yarosh), an evolved human in the Arctic Circle using her powers to the Northern Lights, and Erica Kravid (Rya Kihlstedt), the head of tech conglomerate Renautas, which took over where Primatech left off. Although threads between various storylines are beginning to emerge with the introduction of Renautas, 'Under the Mask' still suffers from being spread too thin across too many characters. Though many of the actors playing the evolved and normal humans alike put in perfectly fine performances, there is little to be done about the quality of what they are given to work with.
Rather than standing as an episode with its own storyline -- made up of a beginning, a middle and an end -- 'Under the Mask' largely operates like it's checking in on the characters and moving each one a step or two forward. Since Heroes Reborn exists in such an extensive world and the show serves as an introduction to new fans, as well as reminding returning viewers of what was established in Heroes, the series seems to be taking its time to introduce all the pieces of the puzzle. In only the third episode, the show is still taking those pieces out of the box. Whether this slower pace will pay off down the line remains to be seen, but it certainly could. There is potential in each storyline and the overarching narrative, but as of yet the series has failed to successfully tap into and utilize that potential.
The main reveal of 'Under the Mask' -- which was ruined in trailers for the series -- is Renautas' Epic glasses, which use Molly Walker's powers of detecting people to allow users to locate Evos anywhere at anytime. If the concept sounds remarkably like Professor Xavier's Cerebro from X-Men, that is because they are incredibly similar, except that Renautas is releasing the glasses to a general public that despises Evos. Erica additionally announced that Epic is in the hands of the military, who will use the technology to neutralize threats, all under the guise of "Doing good is good business." All these themes have been explore before in other superhero media whether it television, movies or comic books, so it may be difficult for Heroes Reborn to offer a new enough take to provide compelling TV.
However, while the bigger picture of how characters like Tommy and Carlos will fit into the "something big" that's coming down the line has yet to be revealed, certain character storylines are following predictable paths. Tommy, for instance, is an Evo teenager with the power of teleportation who just wants to go to a party with his high school friends. This is a character that has been seen many, many times on TV and Heroes Reborn offers little development of the archetype outside the stubborn teenager who should have listened to his mother. Adding his powers to the mix allows the storyline to fit within Heroes Reborn, but the way it plays out is still extremely predictable -- even down to the episode's cliffhanger car crash.
Meanwhile, Carlos has taken up the mantle of El Vengador, the vigilante created by his brother who was murdered by a crooked group of cops hunting Evos. Carlos tracks what seems to be their leader, played by Dylan Bruce, who Carlos discovers to have the power of super strength. The plot about a conspiracy of corrupt police officers, a vigilante and an underground railroad for evolved humans to hide from those that would persecute them could prove to be compelling, but Carlos' amateur superhero antics are a reiteration of a typical origin story -- only with the added questions of where are the skills he learned while in the army.
One bright spot of 'Under the Mask' is, again, the parents-turned-assassins Luke and Joanne. Their part of the episode is rather brief, only a handful of scenes, but it is used well to further establish the rift between the two as well as depict their different methods of dealing with grief. Added to their argument over whether to continue hunting Evos is Luke seemingly developing some sort of powers similar to evolved humans. The performances of Levi and Shekoni help to elevate their part in Heroes Reborn, and the mystery of Luke's powers only adds to the compelling storyline.
In 'Under the Mask' Heroes Reborn is still introducing different aspect of its overarching narrative while further developing certain characters. Hopefully the series will hit its stride soon, especially since the season is only 10 episodes, and move past this introductory period. The reveal of Renautas' Epic technology could certainly prove to be a piece of the story that propels the characters forward, but with so many storylines spread out amongst so many characters, it may still be difficult for Heroes Reborn to ever achieve a decent pace unless they begin coming together soon.
Additionally, the series is continuing to rest on archetypes -- of television and superhero media -- to the detriment of its characters. With the roughly 40 minutes of an episode spread so thin, the show tells abbreviated stories of each character and restricts the depth to which viewers and actors can dive with these characters. Perhaps more development will come as the season progresses, but Heroes Reborn's focus on too many pieces of this elaborate puzzle is so far providing a superpowered character drama with very little character and only a little more story.
Heroes Reborn continues next Thursday with ‘The Needs of the Many’ @8pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:
Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/NBC