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.
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.
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 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.
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)