Heroes: Season One

Heroes: Season One

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

With the cinematic outpouring of comic adaptations over the last decade or so, it was only a matter of time before we got a show like Heroes. Exploding onto the small-screen amid a whirlwind of critical adoration and relentless media hype, creator Tim Kring had a lot to live up to.

And - to modify a phrase from Spidey's late Uncle Ben - with great expectancy comes pretty good results. Okay, so some obvious flaws mean it's not quite the fanboy’s wet dream early salivating reports had us anticipating, but Kring and co have created a multiple plot-juggling show that is frequently involving and consistently well-written.

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When ‘seemingly’ random people all over the world discover they have special abilities – like a Texan cheerleader (Panettiere) who can heal, an LA cop (Grunberg) who can read minds and a Tokyo office worker (Oka) who can bend space and time – they are tracked down by a geneticist (Ramamurthy), a serial killer (Quinto) and an agent from a mysterious company (Coleman). Meanwhile, in New York, the Petrellii brothers (Ventimiglia and Pasdar) learn of their powers as future-predictor (Cabrera) forsees nuclear catastrophe.

Though some will get restless as it finds its feet, the early hours recall M Night Shyamalan’s excellent Unbreakable and set the tone as the huge number of plotlines begin to weave together. Sure, not all the characters are as gripping as expected (Ali Larter’s split-personality rarely interests, Greg Grunberg’s mind-reader fluctuates in terms of effectiveness), but most – Mr Muggles aside - are worth their screentime.

Whilst there are a few stand outs - Masi Oka is undoubtedly entertaining (“flying man!”) as time-bender Hiro, Zachary Quinto makes a decent villain as Sylar and Milo Ventimiglia overcomes some overacting with pure geeky wish-fulfilment - it’s Jack Coleman’s ambiguous agent who emerges as the most intriguing and well-played ‘hero’ on show. Peaking in the excellent episode Company Man, Coleman actually makes horn-rimmed glasses quite cool.

Pleasingly, all the smaller turns are excellently played too. Jimmy Jean-Louis has a stary intensity as the memory-stealing Haitian, the incredibly talented Christopher Eccleston is a perfect fit with his role and Malcolm McDowell makes even the daftest dialogue sound ominous (“now you can’t have any of my pot pie”).

Doubtless, comic fans will get more out of it given the huge array of fanboy in-jokes (we get everything from open nods to mentions of The Merry Marvel Marching Society to Stan Lee cameos), yet there’s plenty to be admired here. The production values are largely movie standard, we get many nice relationship dynamics (see Claire with her father) and the philosophical voiceover from Dr Suresh – though widely maligned – lends a ponderous weight. While the threat facing our gang is far too big and epic (how can Season Two top nuclear disaster?) it also casts a dark apocalyptic shadow over proceedings.

So what about the flaws? Well, early descriptions as ‘this year’s Lost’ are way off the mark as the characterisation pales by comparison (despite Kring admirably seeking advice from island showrunner Damon Lindelof on how to create a serialised ensemble show), a few of the powers on display – such as time travel and predicting the future – leave the plot riddled with holes and the ‘evolved humans’ approach inescapably reminds us of the more famous X-Men. Sure, the person who heals here is a dainty blond cheerleader and not a hairy ex-assassin with severe anger issues (as well as a tendency to call people "bub"), but anyone not thinking Wolverine obviously hasn't picked up a graphic novel before.

Not quite the godsend that comic fans were awaiting, but Heroes is super in its own right.

Reviewed on: 29 Mar 2009
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Heroes: Season One packshot
A group of people discover they have special abilities – and fate soon draws them together to save the world.
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