Guest Review Heroes Retro Review

Retro Review: Heroes

“Save the cheerleader, save the world.”

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Before we had Arrow and The Flash to entertain our inner geek, Heroes emerged as one of the best-written and fast-paced superhero shows on television. We could argue that the show stumbled a bit during its short four-year run, but with NBC planning a reboot soon (Heroes: Reborn), I thought it’s best to relive this original masterpiece with a quick overview.

Season 1 Volume I — “Genesis”

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The show about ordinary people with extraordinary abilities quickly surfaced as one of the best serialized dramas of 2006. The show’s first season immediately attracted viewers with its sharp writing and impeccable cast. Unlike most shows on the air today that feel the need to incorporate meaningless cases-of-the-week in a dull procedural format (I’m looking at you, Gotham), Heroes was always a show about characters, and it always had a well-written story arc in mind. From the impenetrable cheerleader to the Japanese loner who could stop time, the show developed its characters (while also showing us how seemingly disconnected people could be very connected) in a way that was both entertaining and pulse-pounding. Every episode ended with a number of shocking twists and turns, and the beauty of these cliffhangers was that they expanded the characters’ dynamics (instead of simply existing for shock value). That, and a highly captivating music score by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, made Volume 1 the best and most engaging volume of the series. And let’s not forget Company Man, one of Heroes’ most talked-about hours thanks to its flawless use of special effects and an incredible script And even the season finale, while slightly disappointing, was a terrific conclusion to numerous storylines while simultaneously providing an intriguing beginning for Volume 2. By the end of its first season, Heroes had identified itself as a remarkable show that prioritized character development while taking game-changing risks in the process.

Memorable Episodes: Genesis, Hiros, Homecoming, Six Months Ago, Company Man, How To Stop An Exploding Man.

Conclusion
A stunning first season with a cast that dominated and captivated every scene, resulting in some truly unforgettable moments.

Chris Rating
A

Season 2 Volume II — “Generations”

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Sadly, the show lost a lot of its edge right into its second season. I don’t know if this was primarily due to the writers’ strike which resulted in a shortened season of only 11 episodes, but one thing was for sure: Heroes was in a slump. The storylines expanded to involve new characters, all of whom were boring or too disconnected from our original heroes. In addition, Peter Petrelli (arguably the show’s protagonist) was often shoved to the sidelines in a ludicrous subplot. As for the main story arc, saving the world from a virus just wasn’t very different from saving it from a bomb, and thus the show felt too much like a retread of season one. The one thing the show still had going for it was Sylar, television’s most thrilling villain. Zachary Quinto (who sadly won’t appear in the 2015 reboot) was pure perfection in the role, conveying the incredible transformation of a simple-man-turned-serial-killer in a way that never felt forced. Sadly, by the time the second season came to an end, the writers had wasted so much potential with meaningless characters and far too many complicated storylines.

Memorable Episodes: Cautionary Tales, Powerless.

Conclusion
Slower storytelling and messy characters resulted in a less-than-thrilling sophomore season.

Chris Rating
B-

Season 3 Volume III — “Villains”

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After a second season finale that could have reinvigorated the show, Volume 3 gradually made its way back to dull storytelling. The writers learned from previous mistakes and started telling fast-paced stories again, but all that happened at the expense of character development. Nathan for example, would switch allegiances three or more times an episode, and it was just frustrating to watch. The show introduced several new villains, all of whom were too boring in comparison to Sylar, particularly since the stakes never felt urgent enough in their presence. Furthermore, Daphne is a character I could have surely lived without, as the show introduced her far too quickly and tried to force her into a pairing with Matt in a way that never felt true to his character. Once again, the major story arc was repetitive (saving the world from a bomb); it’s like creativity literally went missing from the writers’ room. In short, this was Heroes at its worst, and missing this entire volume makes very little difference.

Chris Rating
C+

Season 3 Volume IV — “Fugitives”

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The second half of season three fixed some of the horrendous mistakes the first half created. The show worked hard on coming up with inventive and new storylines that were intriguing enough. Teaming up all of our favorite heroes in an arc that made them seem like fugitives was a genius move (we really didn’t need a save-the-world story anymore). As always, the highlight was Sylar and the lengths he would go to discover more about his past. While I could have lived without Nathan’s still-murky loyalties, it was better than watching him do nothing while his brother saved the world. Claire (perhaps my favorite hero) and Noah butting heads never got old, but the writing just wasn’t as impressive as it used be. If anything, Volume 4 worked better because the final few episodes focused on the core characters again, showing us the superb potential of this great cast, and delivering a truly shocking ending. The writer behind season one’s Company Man re-emerged in the best episode of the season (Cold Snap) but was it a little too late? Either way, while Fugitives wasn’t anything groundbreaking, it did manage to help the show get back on its feet and turn the spotlight back on the people we fell in love with in season one.

Memorable Episodes: Trust and Blood, Cold Snap, Turn and Face the Strange, I Am Sylar, An Invisible Thread.

Conclusion
A confusing season that started off messily and only took off in the last few episodes.

Chris Rating
B

Season 4 Volume V — “Redemption”

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The show did in fact redeem itself in the perfectly-titled fifth and final volume, but this is an opinion not many people share with me. There were a few changes this time: the lovable cheerleader was now a college-girl, our favorite hero was now a paramedic and the delightful Asian teleporter was coping with life and death decisions. The reason I loved this season is exactly the reason I never stopped watching the show overall—and sorry for always repeating this—but Sylar has always been a perfectly-cast, well-written, dynamic character that never bored me. His new storyline involving shape-shifting was brilliant and elevated his villainous acts into even more bone-chilling, thrilling scenes. I even loved the new characters that we were introduced to (such as the deaf girl who could visualise music as radiant energy) because this time they were all connected (unlike the mess of Volumes 2 and 3). There were also many memorable moments such as the tear-jerking funeral of a character (I promised myself I’d be spoiler-free) and the insightful Noah flashbacks that provided answers to questions that were still unanswered since season one (why Noah was working for the company in the first place). Moreover, the season finale—which sadly became the series finale—was epic on every single level. Perhaps the writers predicted their show was getting cancelled because there were so many amusing callbacks to the pilot, and despite the slightly open-ended scene as the screen faded to black, I can’t say this wasn’t a satisfactory conclusion. Sure, a Volume 6 with the title “Brave New World” would have been AMAZING especially considering the multiple storylines the finale opened up, but I’m satisfied with the ending we had. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Heroes—epic battles, momentous decisions and a cliffhanger that always leaves a smile on my face every time I think about it.

Memorable Episodes: Orientation, Ink, Once Upon a Time in Texas, Shadowboxing, The Wall, Brave New World.

Conclusion
A redemption, it certainly was. The show deserved a fifth season if only for how bold and serialized it always was. Overall, I’m fairly satisfied with the solid ending we got. I’m ready for Reborn now.

Chris Rating
B+

2 comments

  1. Thanks for covering this Chris.

    I have such mixed (and vague) feelings about Heroes. I remember all the hype when it debuted and everyone made it seem like it was the best thing on television. I saw season one and wasn't so impressed but kept with it and it slowly improved only to fizzle out in the finale which was such a letdown I remember. But I continued with the show, and believe it or not, I remember enjoying seasons 2 and 3 a lot (which EVERYONE hates), and then in season four I actually LOST interest and didn't even finish the whole circus season. So I guess this is one show where our opinions really differ.

    I never even watched the series finale, although I did read the recap and the final moment is a good one for sure thematically 🙂

    Anyways, it was great to read your thoughts; I actually feel like watching the show again now. And after flops like Gotham, I have a feeling season one would be BRILLIANT in comparison. Hehe, let's see how the reboot goes. Will definitely watch it!

  2. Maybe I enjoyed this show so much because I binge-watched the first 3 seasons then watched the fourth one week-to-week, so I didn't have time to lose interest in the first season. And seeing them all in a row really makes you like the show more I guess. Weak episodes can be easily forgotten.

    I definitely agree that seeing season 1 NOW will make Gotham look like crap. Heroes is one of those shows I will always appreciate because of its serialized storytelling. It's a shame we don't get a lot of those nowadays. And seriously this cast is PERFECT.

    I'm not TOO excited about the reboot because I just don't want to get my hopes up, but I definitely wanna check it out as well! And with Netflix/Marvel shows coming up and Supergirl next year (and all those MOVIES!) it's gonna be a great year for superheroes!

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