Heroes is often used as a case study of just how far from grace a one-great show can fall directly after its first season. The first episodes of the show back in 2006 helped define the superhero genre on television and were soon followed by three subpar seasons, each worse than the one before. Plagued by bloated story arcs, more characters than anyone could keep track of, and a confusing mythos, it wasn’t long before it found itself wallowing in obscurity. Cancellation became inevitable, and so it went off the airwaves for good.
Heroes Reborn was devised as a way of taking the show back to its roots, hoping to capture the original magic of what made the show so great in its early days. Just five episodes in though, the seams are already beginning to burst. We’re seeing the same problems resurface all over again, and it’s getting harder to stay invested in the story every week. As io9 noted in its review of the last episode, the show’s main issue revolves directly around “not giving a shit about its audience, its quality, or even basic storytelling.”
Right now, we’re being asked to emotionally invest ourselves in a bunch of people we barely know. Outside of a couple familiar faces, we’ve never met any of these people, and the show does a poor job compelling us to care. We’re currently being asked to not only keep track of, but invest our attention and care into upwards of 10 different characters. This juggling act is what led to the eventual downfall of the original Heroes, and it’s happening all over again with Reborn just halfway into the season.
Showrunner Tim Kring hails from the Damon Lindelof school of screenwriting that forces an audience to sit through episode after episode of secrets and intrigue. A good writer will make you realize at the end why you had to wait to find out the answers. What Heroes (and Lost before it) have done, though, is present a mystery for the simple sake of confusing an audience. This kind of writing uses a secret as a tool to bludgeon viewers into tuning in regularly, and fails to understand the nuance needed to successfully wield that tool.
Heroes Reborn presented a host of mysteries within its two-hour premiere that still have yet to yield any answers: What happened on June 13 in Odessa, Texas? Why did HRG wipe his own memory? Why in the name of all sanity was Hiro Nakamura trapped inside an MMORPG videogame by a monolithic corporation? When you present a laundry list of mysteries to solve, it becomes hard to figure out what’s important and what’s simply window dressing.
Nothing in the Heroes Reborn mythology seems as exciting or appealing as the show itself seems to think. We know some sort of global catastrophe is imminent and that our characters will need to rally together to stop it. But recapturing the magic of Heroes Season 1 isn’t about copy-pasting its story into a new show (which, let’s face it, is what’s happening right now). It’s about a small handful of sympathetic characters thrust into a role bigger than themselves. While Reborn spends its time trying to convince you that its story is important, it lends little attention to actually telling an important story.
Perhaps as the season continues on, the show will finally pare down the characters and loose plot threads. Based on what we’re seeing so far though, we’re not entirely confident in its ability to right the ship. This series is already heading full steam ahead into the iceberg, and there’s little to be done that’ll turn things around now. It’s unfortunate the show hasn’t been able to recreate what made it great all those years ago, and at this point, staying tuned in is akin to rubbernecking.
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