Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 31, 2007)
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, because this website keeps me focused on DVDs, I watch virtually no broadcast TV. That means I only ever check out various series when they come out on DVD, and even then I’m pretty selective about what I view. These reviews take so much time that I can’t take on many TV packages; if I did more, I’d only be able to generate one or two reviews a week.
Usually I stick with tried and true favorites like The Simpsons or The Odd Couple, but occasionally a current series intrigues me enough to give it a look. That proved true for Heroes, the breakout hit of the 2006-07 season. I’ll look at all 23 episodes of this superhero show in the order aired. The plot synopses come straight from the DVD’s package.
Genesis: “Events are set in motion as a total eclipse casts its shadow across the globe and a genetics professor (Sendhil Ramamurthy) uncovers his father’s secret research revealing that people with super powers are living among us.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the series’ first episode, though I thought it’d probably offer a slam-bang, action-packed affair meant to overwhelm the audience. What better way to attract viewers than to convince them they’ll get the equivalent of a major superhero movie every week?
To my fairly pleasant surprise, “Genesis” takes the opposite approach. It intrigues us with possibilities more than with realities. Rather than throw rock-‘em-sock-‘em action at us, the episode teases us with small glimpses of the characters and what they can – or will be able to – do.
The best intros come for Claire and Hiro. Both offer the show’s most clever moments and we get a better sense for those roles. The others are a little more subdued and not quite so much fun, but they serve the episode well. On its own, “Genesis” isn’t the most fascinating show, but it doesn’t need to be a killer. It serves to set up the framework for the series, and it does that pretty well.
I appreciate the fact that “Genesis” leads us into the roles in a pretty gentle manner. It integrates the various introductions well and makes them both smooth and painless. When the program ends, you might think that you’ve only met three or four main characters. Instead, when you think about it, you realize that a full seven “heroes” and various related parts receive intros here. That fact shocks me, as the show moves through them so well that it feels like we get much more time and depth per personality. As a stand-alone show, “Genesis” isn’t the most exciting, but as an “origin story” of sorts, it works quite well and it gives us a nice opening for the series.
Note that this DVD also includes a longer version of “Genesis” under the moniker “Unaired Pilot”. I’ll discuss it more fully when I get to the extras, but it includes all the footage seen here plus an extra 20 minutes or so of additional bits. If you want to watch it, I think it probably makes more sense to skip “Genesis”, though that’s not a perfect solution either, as the “Unaired Pilot” develops some threads that would never appear in the series.
Don’t Look Back: “Discovering new abilities, Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) listens in on a girl’s thoughts, Niki (Ali Larter) finds herself capable of brutal strength, Claire (Hayden Panettiere) deals with high school life after a seemingly deadly fall, and Hiro (Masi Oka) investigates New York.”
Today’s question: how in the world did they get a show with this one’s graphic nature on broadcast TV? We find some material I’d think would push a feature film into “R” territory and yet Heroes appeared on NBC! I won’t judge if this is good or bad, but it really surprises me.
As a narrative, “Back” helps broaden the series’ horizons in a mild manner. We get a new “hero” via Greg, and we also find hints of a villain named Sylar, though the latter doesn’t make an onscreen appearance. As with the first episode, those who desire lots of action will leave disappointed, but I don’t mind. “Back” draws us into the characters and situations even more. I can wait for actual heroics as long as the shows create intrigue like this one does.
One Giant Leap: “Claire comes under attack by a high school quarterback, Hiro looks for support from Ando (James Kyson Lee), and Niki makes a gruesome discovery.”
Three shows into the series and someone other than Claire actually does something heroic! Hiro takes that role in a quick bit. We get our first real glimpse of Sylar and start to develop his side of things, and “Leap” offers a little more action than its predecessors. It’s a good episode, though the absurdly obvious product placement for a certain automobile annoys.
Collision: “The heroes have the possibility to connect with one another as Mohinder puts together the final clues to their whereabouts, but will it be too late for the cheerleader?”
Four shows into the series, we start to see the various character threads intertwine more clearly. I like that trend, though I really could live without the Peter/Simone/Isaac love triangle; that seems a little sudsy for my liking. I’m also not wild about the subplot with the rapist quarterback, as it feels a little Afterschool Special to me, though Claire’s powers mean that story’s conclusion is unusual. Hiro offers the best moments, as his gambling session is fun – and even sneaks in a clever Rain Man allusion.
Hiros: “The consequences of the heroes’ abilities become more evident as Matt reads his wife’s thoughts, Hiro is attacked by Las Vegas casino personnel, and Niki loses track of time.”
Though we’re only four episodes into the series, I think Hiro will be my favorite character. At this point, his personality borders on stereotype, but he’s so fun and likable that he avoids those pitfalls. I also like the fact that Nathan is such a politician he can continue to lie about his abilities; Adrian Pasdar’s delightfully smarmy performance helps. Matt gets some good moments as he uses his powers to try to save his marriage, and the disparate characters start to run into each other.
The series pulls off that last side of things in a surprisingly natural manner. It could have used awkward, forced connections among the characters, but instead the show connects the roles with ease. That factor allows “Hiros” to be a good one.
Better Halves: “Niki comes face-to-face with her husband DL (Leonard Roberts), and Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) relays a life-saving message to Hiro.”
After lots of talk, we finally meet DL – and learn that his wife isn’t the only super-powered one in the family. Unfortunately, “Halves” concentrates too much on the Niki story, which is turning into my least favorite. Niki and DL are not an interesting couple, and their tale tends to deflate the episode. We do find an interesting revelation about Eden, but overall this is a lackluster episode.
Nothing to Hide: “Relationships are at risk as Matt brushes aside his wife to join the hunt for Sylar (Zachary Quinto), Claire discovers where her missing tape has gone, Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) strategizes with his family, and Niki confides her ‘secret’ to a friend.”
More secrets emerge here, as we find out a regular who also has powers, and we discover what’s up with Nathan’s wife. Unfortunately, those elements aren’t enough to elevate this episode over the level of “blah”. The Peter/Nathan side of things has some moments, but I think the show as a whole isn’t very interesting.
Seven Minutes to Midnight: “Determined to lead a normal life, Claire focuses on homecoming, and Mohinder returns to India to bury his father.”
After a couple of mediocre episodes, the series rebounds here. It moves the overall arc along well, especially in terms of HRG, Mohinder and Sylar. The Hiro cliffhanger ending also leaves us with the appropriate charge and helps turn “Minutes” into a winner.
Homecoming: “The time to save the cheerleader has arrived, and one night could change the fates of Claire, HRG (Jack Coleman), Peter … and the world.”
Another strong episode, “Homecoming” puts a good emphasis on action and tension. I don’t think the series really explained Peter’s powers well in the past, but this show makes sure we understand what he can do. It also puts Mohinder back on track and develops Sylar. All of those factors ensure that there’s a lot to like about “Homecoming”.
Six Months Ago: “Time jumps back to reveal Mohinder’s father in New York, Claire’s startling discovery, and a legal case that could have dire implications for the entire Petrelli family.”
Want a belated “origin episode”? “Ago” is your show! It provides an intriguing look at the characters before they gained their powers and fleshes them out well. We get a better feel for Sylar’s quest and Hiro moves beyond goofy comic relief to gain an emotional edge. Heck, even the Niki section succeeds in this one!
Fallout: “Isaac’s (Santiago Cabrera) paintings reveal more about the predicted New York City nuclear bombing, Mohinder takes first steps in his new path, and Niki makes a tough decision to protect her son.”
After all the drama of the last couple of shows, “Fallout” acts as a pause to let us catch our breath. It’s something of a placeholder show in that way, as it does nothing major. However, it moves along the overall arc of the series and ends with a big revelation, so I like it.
Godsend: “As Claire faces the consequences of her deal with the Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis), and as Hiro and Ando set out to find a new samurai sword, one new hero makes a shocking debut.”
Mostly a character development episode, this one deepens some relationships, especially in terms of supporting characters. Some of those folks learn what their loved ones can do, so that broadens matters. We also meet a new character, an invisible man who works with Peter. It’s a little flat after some of its predecessors, but it gives us enough to be decent.
The Fix: New faces appear to teach the heroes as Hiro talks business with his father, Claire searches for her biological parents, and Peter tries to learn from an invisible man (Christopher Eccleston).”
This show is similar to “Godsend” in that it focuses more on character topics rather than move along the overall story. Claire gets closer to the truth about her past, though, and a few revelations emerge. Unfortunately, we get a lot of DL/Niki, and that side of things continues to bore me.
Distractions: “Family bonds are put to the test as Hiro struggles to make his father understand his new path, Niki makes a choice regarding her future with DL and Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey), and Sylar visits the Bennet home.”
The massive revelation at the end is this episode’s big deal, but that’s not the only reason to remember it. We find a lot more drama after the last couple of character shows, and the series takes a darker turn in some of its subplots. It’s a good episode.
Run!: “Mohinder meets a dangerous new hero, Matt comes under fire from Linderman’s newest assassin, and the identity of Claire’s biological father is revealed.”
Hey, whaddya know – an episode in which the Niki/Jessica plot isn’t a drag! “Run!” offers more action than usual – guess that’s why there’s an exclamation point in the title. Claire’s side of things veers into soap opera territory, but at least Ando finally gets to do something active. There’s more to like here than to dislike, so I think it’s a nice show.
Unexpected: “Matt joins forces with a ‘wireless’ hero (Stana Katic) and a radioactive man (Matthew John Armstrong), Claire strikes out at her father, and Peter learns of a painful betrayal.”
Although I still see too much soap opera in Claire’s tale, the episode’s overall tone of darkness makes it memorable. Matt’s work with his little team creates intrigue, and some shocks come along the way. “Unexpected” moves this along and allows us to really feel like the series is gearing up for something big.
Company Man: “HRG’s shocking past is revealed, and Claire’s home life is changed forever after a terrible explosion.”
As implied by the first part of that synopsis, “Man” gives us the backstory about Claire’s dad. It’s one of the more focused episodes since the majority of it takes place in or around the Bennet home; it doesn’t skip among characters like the usual episode. “Man” really deepens the series’ mythos, and it packs a greater emotional punch tha usual as well. It’s a solid show.
Parasite: “Terrible glimpses of the future shake the heroes as Linderman is revealed and Isaac paints his most terrifying painting yet.”
Essentially there are three kinds of Heroes episodes: those that develop character relationships, those that expand on backstory, and those that push along the plot. “Parasite” falls into the latter category, and it does so pretty well. Hiro gets his groove back, Claire discovers some news, and we finally meet Linderman. It’s not a great program, but it develops matters well.
.07%: “Sylar’s rampage continues with Mohinder’s unwitting assistance, and Hiro resolves to ‘save the world’ when faced with a grim reality.”
Linderman receives extra detail here, as we learn about his powers and backstory. That side of things is the most intriguing, but some other elements create good interest as well, though the big battle between Peter and Sylar is too short.
By the way, if the courier at Isaac’s loft looks familiar, you probably saw Air Guitar Nation. David “C Diddy” Jung plays that part.
Five Years Gone: “Hiro and Ando teleport into the future to find that people with extraordinary abilities are being killed as ‘terrorists’.”
Time travel stories can be a mess, and “Gone” is no exception. If you think too much about all the various conundrums, your head will explode. Better to go with the flow and enjoy this as the fun semi-fantasy program it is.
The Hard Part: “As Nathan prepares for the election, Hiro and Ando’s determination to save the world is truly put to the test.”
Here we finally get some real backstory for Sylar – to a degree. We get a little better handle on what makes him tick, and young Molly from all the way back in episode 2 returns – with a big revelation. Overall, this is a placeholder episode, though, as it moves things along in a moderate way but lacks much excitement.
Landslide: “Nathan reflects on the cost of becoming a member of Congress, and Peter and Claire try to leave New York before the explosion.”
This episode exists to set the stage for the climax, and it does so well. It ties together many threads and we finally learn how Nathan will overcome his deficit and win the election. The program creates a lot of intrigue to get us ready for the finish.
How to Stop an Exploding Man: “Isaac’s shocking predictions unfold in Kirby Plaza, where the heroes face pain and peril.”
Does “Man” conclude Season One with a bang or a whimper? A little of both, actually, as it turns into a moderately satisfying finale but not a great one.
On the positive side, it does wrap up loose ends and finish the main thrust of the season’s narrative. We find a little action, some emotion, and a few surprises. It’s not the most heart-pounded climax, but it does its job for the most part. It also gives us a cliffhanger ending to keep us hooked for Season Two, and a couple of moments that may foreshadow that season’s events.
Unfortunately, this comes with more than a few moments that just don’t make much sense. I get the feeling that the folks behind the series came up with a conclusion they liked and simply crammed the narrative into that finish rather than allow things to connect more naturally. I don’t want to discuss the illogical elements because I like to avoid spoilers, but there were some things that left me confused.
Still, it does more right than wrong, and it finishes the season reasonably well. At least it leaves me hungry for more, so I look forward to Season Two.