Some TV shows end with a bang, and others with a whimper. And some end with a collective groan from whoever is still watching. Such was the case for Heroes, a show that was ahead of the curve in telling captivating superhero stories back in the pre-superhero-boom days of 2006. By the time we reached its series finale in 2010, only die-hard fans remained, as the show’s inconsistent writing and convoluted, sluggish plotlines had driven most everyone else away. But the show closed on a cliffhanger: Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) jumped off a Ferris wheel for all the world to see as news crews looked on—exposing her self-healing powers and, effectively, outing all of her fellow evolved humans (“evos”). Too bad we never got to see how that turned out.
Until now. Only five years after the show left the air, it’s returned for a 13-episode “event miniseries,” Heroes Reborn, which premieres Sept. 24 on NBC. And while the first two hours don’t quite explain why this reboot ever needed to exist, they hit several nostalgic notes with an ironic touch that nostalgic fans (who will presumably make up the bulk of its audience) will appreciate.
The premiere opens on an idyllic field, where Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) sits on a park bench and calls Claire. He knows his daughter might still be mad at him (presumably related to her Ferris wheel stunt, which she pulled in response to his assertion that she and the evos should never reveal their secrets). They haven’t talked in years, but he misses her. “So much has changed since I saw you last,” he says, as we pan over a colorful campus in Odessa, Texas, full of signs that proclaim “Evos & Humans United.” We think, for a split second, that the future Claire hoped for when she jumped—the same future that her father couldn’t imagine—has become a reality. Then we see the protesters: “God hates evos.” Whoops. A few evos happily practice their powers in public at what is apparently a “Unity Summit,” but now it’s nothing but ominous. Sure enough, a huge explosion follows. It’s a terrorist attack.
After just a few minutes, evos are pushed back into the shadows. Outside of these brief moments, none of the original Heroes premiere’s optimism makes it into the reboot. The show is set in a different political landscape now, one that not-so-subtly mirrors the atmosphere of our own—paranoid and full of threats to evos that range from a shadowy corporation to a husband and wife duo hunting down evos for vengeance. Where in the original Heroes, evos like Hiro and Claire initially reveled in figuring out their powers, and marveled at how their gifts could change their lives, we now have characters like Tommy Clarke (Robbie Kay), who resents his powers and must constantly move from town to town in order to conceal his ability to make anything he touches disappear. Perhaps the only character in the reboot with any shred of optimism is Miko Otomo (Kiki Sukezane), a young Japanese woman whose father has been kidnapped. Whenever Otomo wields a special katana, she suddenly enters into a video game—where she may be able to save her kidnapped father in real life. This is definitely the most outlandish power we’ve seen so far, and it’s unclear how Miko will join the others—or be of any real use to them—yet, but at the very least she brings the same energy and hope to the show that Hiro once did in the first Heroes.
As a whole, the reboot dexterously presses all of our nostalgia buttons—there’s a quick cameo from Jimmy Jean-Louis as the Haitian memory wiper, and other actors from the original series, including Masi Oka and Greg Grunberg, also return. Those who remember Noah Bennet’s relentless stalking of Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) in the original premiere will appreciate the ironic reversal of watching Bennet contend with his own stalker. And Suresh makes it into the reboot, too—he might have been just a professor looking into his father’s research on evos when the series started, but he’s come a long way since then. During Heroes he gave himself artificially evolved powers, and now in the reboot, the media have dubbed him an “evo supremacist.” And as with the original series, Ramamurthy once again provides the pilot’s dreamy voiceover narration.
The reboot’s aesthetic overall is ominous, but so far it’s notable that the show lacks its own central villain. There are plenty of prospects: Whenever we hear about Suresh, it’s through media reports that he was behind both the terrorist attack and another act of violence that happens during the pilot. There’s also the aforementioned corporation and husband-wife assassin duo. Though there’s a general atmosphere of menace, no one character seems fully ready to step up to the plate as a supervillain. But if there’s one message that Heroes has always had at its core, it’s that people are more complex than they seem. Hopefully, the same can be said for this reboot, too.