There are a lot of people who are going to tune in to the two-hour premiere continuation of Heroes — retitled Heroes Reborn — with the events of the first, 2006-2010 series firmly in their minds. Those people are in for a treat, because show creator Tim Kring respects his audience and knows the kind of comic-book mind that will appreciate what he’s doing. “We’re saying that’s the exact time span since the story left off,” he explained recently. “We’re treating this as if it’s not the fifth season, but the 10th season — as though there were actually unseen seasons that took place in between.“ That’s a mini-mind-blower, a real devotion to a certain kind of storytelling.
But there are also a lot of people — perhaps more than the first audience I just described — who are going to switch on Heroes Reborn with no knowledge of the first series, or perhaps a partial knowledge based on Heroes’ first two seasons (i.e., before its ratings took a significant drop). Those viewers are liable to be scratching their heads and saying, “Wait, what is going on here?”
These days, TV audiences are sophisticated enough to put up with a certain amount of puzzlement and mystification about where a show is headed, as long as they are intrigued by the premise. This is what NBC is banking on, in giving Kring 13 episodes — a so-called “event series” — to re-explore the Heroes world, where some people possess superpowers and others want to hunt them down and suppress (and/or kill) them.
I remembered horn-rimmed glasses man Noah Bennet, a.k.a. HRG (Jack Coleman), and his daughter, Claire, from whom came the show’s rallying cry/tagline, Save the Cheerleader, Save the World. Hayden Panettiere is now singing country weepers on Nashville, but Noah is still searching for the truth about Evos — the extraordinary evolutionaries — and the reasons why they’re being tracked down by a company called Renautas, which is Heroes Reborn’s big-bad.
Renautas and its head, Erica Kravid (Rya Kihlstedt, who could give Carly Fiorina lessons in charismatically chilly leadership) has come up with technology called Epic that looks like Google Glass — put a pair of these spectacles on and you can see the outlines of any outlawed Evo trying to pass for normal human.
Among the new Evos are Tommy (Robbie Kay), a kid who can teleport people and objects from one place to another instantly, and Miko (Kiki Sukezane), who possesses a sword and sword-wielding skills highly reminiscent of the first series’ Hiro (Masi Oka). Among those hunting them are a married couple played by Judi Shekoni and Chuck’s Zachary Levi, out to avenge the death of their son.
The problem with Heroes Reborn is that it’s got a lot of subplots — ones for almost as many new Evos as it wants to chronicle — but all of these characters end up doing the same thing: going on the run, being chased, shot at, captured, or escaping. The imagination of the show is all front-loaded, in the conception of the characters, yet what they actually DO when they are met by Renautas Corp is tiresomely predictable: they engage in yet another chase scene.
I respect Kring’s respect for his audience, and as he’s proven in other shows he’s worked on, like Touch and Crossing Jordan, Kring is a humanist with generous impulses. It’s just that he hasn’t dramatized humane generosity sufficiently enough in Heroes Reborn to elevate the show’s narrative above the rather ordinary running, jumping, shooting, stabbing, and fist-fighting on display.
Heroes Reborn airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.