Television has started to adopt comic books’ penchant for resurrection. These days, death (read: cancelation) is never the end for television shows, which is exactly the case with NBC’s Heroes. Five years after its death, NBC decided to revive Tim Kring’s superhero soap opera with Claire Bennet’s blood as Heroes Reborn. Comprising 13 episodes, this event series takes us back into the derivative world of Heroes, where saving a cheerleader meant saving the world.
When Heroes premiered in 2006, it was one of the only superhero shows on television, which made its debut all the more exciting. Today almost every broadcast network has some superhero or comic book-inspired show, not to mention that pop culture in general is saturated with geeky content. Heroes Reborn now has the added difficulty of distinguishing itself from the rest of the pack.
To that end, Heroes Reborn takes place five years after the events of Heroes‘ series finale. Heroes ended with Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere isn’t returning because Nashville) outing the existence of evos — people with powers — to the world. In the wake of her revelation, more and more evos have started revealing themselves. Naturally, the public’s response has been mixed. There are supporters, truthers, and Westboro Baptist Church-like groups. Evos are also being forced to register with the government and some are being hunted. This time around the show’s debt to the X-Men comics is even more apparent.
Staying true to Heroes OG form, the two-hour series premiere of Heroes Reborn was an overstuffed episode that introduced a large diverse cast of characters, human and evos alike, and plenty of plot threads. NBC’s decision to air “Brave New World” and “Odessa” as a two-hour block was smart — the former on its own probably wouldn’t have hooked newcomers to the series because it culminates in the death of a returning character. Even though you don’t need to have watched Heroes to understand the show, it definitely helps you care about what’s happening if you did. Even just knowing the significance of Odessa helps…
Odessa, Texas: June 13, 2014
It’s fitting tonight’s episode is airing on Thursday because “Brave New World” opens with a #tbt to 2014. On June 13, 2014, thousands of people were killed during a presumed terrorist attack on a three-day peace summit held by Primatech, a secretive evo research company. The summit was supposed to promote peace between humans and evos, but it ended up doing quite the opposite. Notable attendees were Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman), who was there to reconcile with his estranged daughter Claire, and Luke (a very non-Chuck Zachary Levi) and Joanne Collins, who were with their 8-year-old son. Claire and the son were among the dead that day.
Evo-supremacist Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) takes responsibility for the attack and the world immediately turns against Evos. If you’ve read an X-Men comic or seen one of the movies, you’ve probably seen this done before. They are hunted down, imprisoned, and profiled. For someone like Tommy Clarke (Once Upon A Time’s Robbie Kay), an evo who can’t control his ability to make people disappear by touching them, and his mother, this means constantly moving. Over the course of the episode, it becomes clear that something more sinister is afoot: Evos have started to disappear, but no one seems to care.
The first 10 minutes of Heroes Reborn explain how the show differs from Heroes. As a reaction to 9/11 and the War on Terror, Heroes imagined a world where there were superpower beings who could come together, prevent the next attack, and save the world from a dark future. It was a fairy tale kind of like 24. In Heroes Reborn, the darkest timeline has become our present, and Heroes Reborn takes as its starting point a 9/11-level event to explore how such a tragedy can lead to prejudice and severe divisions in society as people place the blame on those who are different. There are some connections to the real world and Heroes Reborn definitely wants its evos to work as allegories to oppressed minority groups, but it comes off as trite and has been done better before… specifically by X-Men.
Chicago, Illinois: One Year Later, Present Day
One of the first new characters we meet is Tommy, an awkward high school kid who has a crush on a girl, Emily, who works at his favorite ice cream shop and is dating his bully. He’s trying to keep a low profile and survive high school, but he’s having a hard time because he has no one at school to talk to about his powers. Little does he know, he does have a guardian angel of sorts watching out for him, played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, who surreptitiously has Tommy’s back throughout the episode.
Tommy’s loneliness is made evident when we first meet him in the present day; we see him attend a secret evo meeting in a church basement. He’s looking for advice and connection, but doesn’t find much there — he ends up leaving the meeting early when he receives a text from his mother. He leaves just in time because Luke and Joanne, who travel the country Sam and Dean Winchester style hunting evos to avenge their son’s death, gun down everyone left.
Luke and Joanne are able to track Tommy down because he dropped his ice cream punchcard on his way out of the church. When they eventually find him at the coffeeshop, he’s with Emily, who invited him to interview for a job there. The couple tries to kill them both, but Tommy uses his powers and unknowingly sends them to the Primatech holding cell he was in when the company bagged and tagged him years ago.
This traumatic experience forges a bond between Emily and Tommy as she becomes the only person apart from his mom who knows his secret. Hanging out with her also helps him figure out that he can teleport people and doesn’t just end their existence like he previously thought. Brad, Emily’s boyfriend, learns about Tommy’s power and blackmails him into using it on his abusive, loser stepfather. Ultimately, Tommy can’t go through with it, but thankfully, Pruitt Taylor Vince uses his hypnotism powers to accomplish the task behind Tommy’s back.
NEXT: “Company Man” revisited