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HEROES REBORN: Better or Worse than HEROES?

By on September 18, 2015
HEROES: REBORN -- "Awakening" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Zachary Levi as Luke Collins -- (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/NBC)

HEROES: REBORN -- "Awakening" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Zachary Levi as Luke Collins -- (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/NBC)

If you’re reading this review it’s probably because you have one overriding question on your mind.

Is Heroes Reborn as good as Heroes? To answer that question, I need you to do two things. First, cast your mind back to the original series and remember what it was that made it good. Why did you like it? Was it the dark thrill of Sylar’s killing spree? The large ensemble cast of nuanced characters whose paths kept crossing in different entertaining ways over the course of the show? Or maybe it was Hiro’s sense of naive optimism in the face of impossible odds. And then there was the “Save the cheerleader, save the world” catchphrase that went round the world, along with a sense that not only the characters, but the fans too, were all connected.

Now for the second part of this exercise. What was it that made Heroes bad? What were the elements that were responsible for the decline and eventual cancellation of the show? The way once intriguing characters hung around after their A storylines ended? The subsequent B, C and D storylines invented just to give them all something to do? The new characters with far less interesting powers? The sheer number of now not-as-interesting characters who required screentime, lest we forget who they were and why they were important? The way, over time, even the darkest of bad guys (yes, we’re looking at you, Sylar) were redeemed by means of a good talking to?

Like the years following a traumatic breakup, it’s only with time that we’re able to look back at our relationship with Heroes and see it, unbiased, for what it was, warts and all …

… Which brings us back to the present day, and NBC’s limited run Heroes Reborn event series. And your question.

Is Heroes Reborn as good as Heroes? In a word, no. But it does have its moments. In order for Heroes Reborn to match the season one greatness of its predecessor, or even surpass it (and why shouldn’t that be a creative goal?) the new series should have learned from its pitfalls of the past. But it hasn’t.

Once again, there’s a large ensemble cast of characters, each with various powers they are attempting to keep under wraps. Following a very brief moment in the first hour in which powered people (or Evos as we’re calling them now), are accepted by society, a terrorist bomb, supposedly orchestrated by one Mohinder Surresh (yes, that Mohinder), turns the world against the powered, seemingly for good.

Why would the Evos deal themselves a killing blow, especially when on the cusp of global acceptance? It’s obviously a setup, but thus far, no one seems to question the motives behind the catastrophic event. And for that matter, why would Noah Bennett (yes, HRG takes center stage in Heroes Reborn) assume his daughter Claire — the indestructible cheerleader — had died in the blast? Again, the answers are not forthcoming. Perhaps the show is too busy setting up the many many characters we will be seeing over the next couple of months to worry about the details just now.

As far as characters go, we’ve got a rather reluctant bunch. For a show about people with amazing abilities, few of our heroes strut their stuff to any great degree over the course of the first two hours. There’s shy teen Tommy (Robbie Kay) who has the ability to send people and things to other far away places, but would prefer to woo the girl of his dreams (Gatlin Green) instead. You’ll see a lot of wooing and not a lot of accidentally sending things to other places.

There’s also Miko (Kiki Sukezane) who appears to be able to slip in and out of video games as a sword-wielding warrior princess slash computer-generated character (we kid you not) in search of her missing father. Viewers are either going to love or hate this particular storyline. This reviewer saw the game plot as a cringeful misstep, and a flight of fancy the show could do without.

In Los Angeles, the sexy and brooding Carlos Gutierrez (Ryan Guzman) debates whether or not to don a mask and become a vigilante. There’s a lot of debate, and very little vigilante action in the first two hours.

In the non-powered camp, we have HRG (Jack Coleman), ably assisted by nerdy but comedic conspiracy theorist Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski) as they set out to uncover the truth behind the Odessa tragedy. There’s some shady dealings over at Renautas, which is essentially Primatech 2.0. The point of interest here is that this time around, HRG is working to crack the organization, not operate from within it.

Then there are highlights Luke (Zachary Levi) and Joanne Collins (Judi Shekoni), a dysfunctional couple on a road trip killing spree. If you’re an Evo, these two are sure to come after you at some point. Levi steals the show as the dangerous and singular Luke who wants to take revenge on every ‘freak’ he blames for the death of his nine year old son back in Odessa. We’re not sure if it’s deliberate, but Levi is tapping into some serious Sylar vibes with his dispassionate and merciless portrayal, and thus far he’s the only character capable of surprising us.

There are cameos too – from all of the characters you didn’t particularly think you wanted to see again. The Haitian. Mohinder Surresh. Matt Parkman. The voice of Claire Bennett on an answering machine …

… Overall Heroes Reborn feels like a pair of worn slippers. It’s comfortable and familiar, but it lacks edge of the seat tension, intrigue and genuine surprise — all of the things you probably loved when you started watching Heroes for the first time. Rehashed storylines (evil corporation attempting to control and harness the powered, Evos on the run from a serial killer, teens experimenting with abilities) coupled with a lack of forward momentum create a sense of déjà vu and fail to elevate the series to the next level.

If these would-be heroes are going to save the world, and win a legion of fans, they should get to it. The clock is ticking.

Heroes Reborn premieres Thursday Sept. 24 (8-10 pm ET) on NBC.