Heroes (Season 1) TV Review

I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!

I remember when Heroes was must watch TV. Alongside Lost, 24 and Prison Break, Heroes arrived when American network TV was delivering thrilling, imaginative drama that wasn’t consumed in one, binge-watch but week-to-week with effective cliffhangers. Re-watching Heroes brings back some of that initial feeling of excitement but also demonstrates how rose-tinted the glasses you fondly view the series through may actually be.

Ask most people about their memories of Heroes and they will probably repeat the iconic phrase the series made famous; “Save the Cheerleader. Save the World.” Simple, effective and shrouded in enough mystery to keep you hooked. What people will probably forget is that this phrase, which the season builds itself around, with all characters being involved in the message’s significance in some way, only actually covers the first 9 episodes.

Save the Cheerleader. Save the World

What a 9 episodes though. From the first moments when we watch a man seemingly jump from a rooftop – and then fly – the series drip-feeds information and takes it’s time to cleverly introduce and develop it’s core characters. Some are instantly likeable, from cheerleader Claire Bennet, who can’t die no matter how hard she tries, Peter Petrelli, who seems to have many powers but no clue what to do with them and best of all, instant favourite, Hiro Nakamura, whose enthusiasm could be his superpower but can also teleport, stop and travel through time.

Some of the other characters take some time to get behind but with sheer persistent and some decent storytelling, you may find yourself eventually caring about Niki Sander’s blackouts or Mohinder Suresh’s obsession with his Father’s work. This is just a scratch at the service of the many varied, well-written and different characters that are included in the series. Luckily, the series knows which to focus on and which to offer a more drip-feed approach to.

Characters like Hiro stand-out and shine

The story the characters inhabit is just as important though and the title of the show is quite misleading. You’d think a series called Heroes would focus more on the superpowered, comic book variety of hero but this isn’t what it is about at all. There are plenty of hints at the comic book themes, from title cards, captions and even the inclusion of a vital comic to the series’ story, but this isn’t about superheroes saving the world.

The show’s strength is in the story of normal people coping with the fact they can do extraordinary things. Claire is just trying to find her place in the world and understand her powers, Peter believes there is more he should be doing and ironically enough, the only character that wants to be a superhero, Hiro, is the one characters struggling to control his ability. Add to these individual stories the over-arching threat of a super-powered serial killer and a shady company kidnapping people with abilities and you have an exciting, interesting and engaging sci-fi drama… for the first 9 episodes.

After the first 9 episodes, it didn’t take long for the series to begin to lose it’s way

After the episode entitled “Homecoming” it seems to become clear that the writers weren’t expecting to have to write another 14 episodes, or if they were, they didn’t have the same focused plan that made the show a success. The rest of the season feels like it’s treading water. They know where they want to the season to end but they don’t know how to get there. It means we have characters who go on new paths which lead no where relevant or begin stories which wrap themselves up neatly within one 45 minute episode with no longer lasting impact.

The actors playing the roles do a great job keeping you engaged. Hayden Panettiere is great as “The Cheerleader,” as is her shady Dad, played with menace and charm by Jack Coleman. The saving grace for the remainder of the series is Zachary Quinto’s Sylar. Once the serial killer is finally unmasked and introduced, the series gets the injection it needs and manages to hide the floundering story flaws that emerge in the second half.

Zachary Quinto saves the second half of the series

Overall, Heroes begins as a thrilling, interesting and imaginative science-fiction drama. It has iconic characters, all discovering imaginative powers and heading towards one key point halfway through the first season. Once that episode has played out, the show does begin to lose it’s way though and the gaps in effective story-telling and clear direction begin to show quite clearly.

Best Episode – “Homecoming” – The whole episode is the culmination of what the season had been heading to and makes “Save the Cheerleader. Save the World” actually come to fruition.

Best performance – Zachary Quinto as Sylar

Should there have been another season? – Definitely. The series has so much promise – if they can keep the storytelling tight and the direction clear. 

Season Rating – 4

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

The series has a lot of potential still

 

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8 comments

  1. What timing! I’m also doing a rewatch before Heroes Reborn (well, eventually it will just be a “watch” as I stopped in season 3). I binged through season one in about a week last week, and I don’t really recall a big drop after Homecoming. If anything, I’d say it FOUND its focus and direction. “Save the cheerleader, save the world” is such a nebulous concept and there were so many characters to introduce and make people care about, that to me those first 9 were the ones that lacked focus. But then, my early season views are colored a little by the fact that Hiro’s enthusiasm, while great for his character, got on my nerves quickly and the Isaac/Simone drama wasn’t really my jam. But even still, man, do I love season one. Mostly for the Petrellis and Bennetts, but it’s all good.

    • Ah, that’s the difference between us then because Hiro (and his enthusiasm) made season 1 for me. Isaac was a solid character but they over-used the picture seeing the future ability.

      What annoyed me about the second half of the season was the stories that went nowhere. Hiro meeting his Dad, who banned him from his journey, then in one episode changed his mind. Or their experience at the Casino which again, went nowhere. The best way I could describe it was “treading water.”

  2. It’s been a while since I watched Heroes, so bear with me. I’m only going on my memories of it….

    The show worked well in the first half. But it was really all downhill once we get past the episode that looked back at HRG and introduced Christopher Eccleston’s character to the show. As you said, the second half of the season is all about treading water to get to the big battle on the plaza — which is a dud after all the build-up. (Honestly, what short of the Avengers battling in New York in the first installment could have really lived up the build-up).

    Part of what I think hampered the show was that Kring wanted to have a beginning, middle and end of the story for all the characters, then wipe the slate and start over. Someone decided that wouldn’t work because audiences were invested in the Cheerleader, Hiro, etc. So we had to stretch things out or have characters stay past the natural end of their stories.

    I’m curious to see what Kring can do in the new series that airs this fall. But given that Kring can do good beginnings but so far hasn’t given any indication that he can stick the landing, I’m wary.

    • The idea of stand-alone seasons would have worked very well and would definitely have helped with the flagging of the second half of season 1 (and later seasons).

      I’m hoping that is what Heroes Reborn is. It’s hopefully a different story but with some clever links to the past.

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