Friday, January 22, 2016

Heroes Reborn

Heroes Reborn is a thirteen-episode follow-up to the original Heroes series that ran from 2006 to 2010. The new series just finished its run this week. I enjoyed about the first half of the original series, before it degenerated into characters following complex and confusing plot-lines that made no sense given the abilities they supposedly had. Unfortunately, the new series follows just about exactly the same formula.
The basic premise of both series is that "evos," or evolution-advanced humans, are present in the world, with various kinds of powers from the mundane (create some pretty lights) to insanely powerful (move freely through time and space). It's an old formula, well represented in comic books, moviesanime, etc. Television dramas such as the Heroes franchise aren't nearly as common, in large part because it's hard to pull off.

The best part of Heroes Reborn is the first six episodes, where new characters are being introduced and older ones are busy setting the scene. There's a lot of mystery around Noah Bennet in particular, who has gaps in his memory and is busily trying to fill them in. A whole raft of new characters are introduced, which of course includes revealing what kinds of powers they have. This whole initial introduction and set-up-the-big-mystery phase is really well done, and I had fun following it and guessing where things were going.

Unfortunately, the answers start coming around episode seven, and things start to fall apart. Part of this is because the writers decided to make heavy use of time travel (more on that below). Another reason is that the introduction of characters is pretty much over. Digging deeper into the existing characters is a lot less fun than discovering new ones (or rediscovering old friends). To me, it felt like the last half of the series was being stretched out just to cover more time, avoiding the resolution as long as possible.

It's really, really hard to pull off time travel correctly even when it's very difficult to use. In Heroes Reborn, there's a character (or two, but not at the same time) who can do it basically at will, with the only restriction being some vague ideal around changing as little as possible. This means that every single moment of drama becomes an opportunity for the viewer to say to themselves, "hmm, that could have been avoided with just a little past change." This kind of massively overpowered ability just kills the viewer's suspension of disbelief.

If you were a fan of the original Heroes, then it's probably worth watching Heroes Reborn to see what's happened to some of the older characters. Otherwise, don't bother.

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