TV Series Review: HEROES – Season 1 (2006)
There are very few super-hero adaptations that make it onto the small screen as a TV Series. (I don’t count SMALLVILLE as a ‘super hero’ show because it spent the first half of its Series whining about feelings and emotions.) I’m talking an original show, that took a lot of existing concepts that have been the building blocks for decades in comic books, and adapted it into a completely new fictional universe with new characters. This was done in HEROES.
Showcasing a group of average Joes that start gaining inexplicable powers, HEROES didn’t do anything new, but rather presented it in a fresh new way to a whole new audience. The show initially is from the perspective of a few characters, but then adds and blends multiple characters and all their viewpoints as well.
We’re first introduced to Mohinder Suresh, an Indian (with a flawless British English accent) whose father squandered with life and career by theorizing about humans evolving into beings with special abilities and powers (*cough*meta-humans*cough*). After his death, his son Mohinder investigates into the causes of his mysterious death and gets himself wrapped around an intricate universe of lies, deceit, evil corporations, decades-long plans and generations of families involved in a massive super powered conspiracy. All the good stuff comics are made of.
So we see a buncha people develop super powers. There’s the cheerleader who can’t die (Claire). The mom with an alter ego who has both super strength and a fucked up mind (Nikki / Jessica). The ambition-less cop who can read minds (Matt). The geek who can bend time and space (Hiro). The selfish politician who can fly (Nathan). But the most interesting of ’em all is the guy who can absorb and use all their powers one at a time (Peter). Then there’s the guy who’s chasing them all down to ulterior motives (Noah Bennett).
Noah Bennett, who happens to be adoptive dad of Claire, works for a covert agency that’s been tracking, using and policing the people with abilities for God knows how many years. This guy is an awesome character as he jumps back and forth from being good to bad so many times in the 1 season alone. Also he’s the guy everyone hates, ‘cuz he has the balls to do the things no one else wants to.
Seasons 1 of HEROES deals with how all these characters are essentially intertwined and have to band together to save the world, somehow. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy (huh… what?) that comes to fruition by the Season Finale. Heroes. Saving the world. Kind of goes hand in hand. Especially when it’s spoon fed to us by the makers. Despite being such an innovative concept, HEROES had major problems. And I mean major issues in the writing and execution that started from episode 1.
Narration: As was the trend in 2006, almost every episode in Season 1 of HEROES, ended in a massive cliffhanger. However, every episode also had a beginning and ending narration. I know what you’re thinking, ‘how can an episode’s ending be narrated to provide closure, without taking away from the cliffhanger?’ Exactly! It did and it sucked. Every episode had Mohinder narrate something relevant and deep about the episode, while there’s a dramatic ending to the episode at the same time.
Language Barrier: Why does every Indian character in the show, speak perfectly British Accented English? I mean even the Indians portrayed IN India, at home with family, are for some reason, speaking perfect English while arguing about personal matters. Even uneducated Indians in the street are speaking English. WTF? And ok, I realize that for the sake of an audience, the makers of the show, can’t be THAT authentic as to have everyone of a different nation speak their native tongue, without alienating the audience somewhat. But, oh wait, they do just that with another character!
The geek with Time Bending abilities is Hiro, who is Japanese. Throughout Season 1, Hiro barely knows any English, but learns it throughout his adventures. So for majority of the episodes that he’s in, Hiro speaks only broken English, but mostly Japanese, with English subtitles on the screen for the audience. Even Hiro’s dad (George Takei in an awesome role!!) ONLY speaks Japanese, so all those scenes had English Subtitles.
So it’s supremely irritating that they can do that for one character, but apparently, everyone in India speaks British accented English, even the ones that shouldn’t know English in the first place. It completely takes away from the suspension of disbelief when you can’t avoid the fact that the only reason they did that, is because the Indian actors casted, are British Indian. Horrible.
Major continuity issues: HEROES came out in a time when selective recaps were common. Meaning that during mid-season episodes of a series, each episode’s recap in the beginning would focus on only those previous story elements from before that directly was relevant to the episode coming up. I’m fine with that. There’s a certain skill in editing involved, when you have to splice together abbreviated scenes during the show’s run to show the audience what they need to know to enjoy the current episode.
However, HEROES fucks with that as well with disastrous results. HEROES recaps feature changed and alternate scenes of what we’ve actually seen in the show. What I mean is, the scene we see as the ending in one episode, has the dialogues and sequence of events, changed in the next episode when we return to the same scene. They do this to make the scene have more impact leading up to the cliffhanger, however when the next episodes runs, they have to stretch out that scene since it’s the beginning of that episode. Personally, I find it insulting to me as an audience that they can just change what they’ve already established in the same scene spanning multiple episodes. I could’ve forgiven it if the case was that they’re stupid and it’s ALL continuity errors, but it’s all done on purpose, completely for dramatic effect.
The themes: A show with the title of HEROES seems pretty self-explanatory. So you’d think the playing up to people doing good would be subtle and toned down. However the concepts of ‘hero’ and ‘destiny’ are SO beaten to death during every episode that its vomit inducing. Sure, Hiro being the nerdy geek boy who reads comics and always talks about fulfilling his destiny and being a hero is fine. It’s almost like he’s the audience’s window into the adventures of the series. The young kid with simplistic views on reality talking about heroism, I can live with as well. But when every freakin’ character at one point rants on about what it means to be a hero and their destiny… it gets a little to much. It’s like the makers are constantly trying to beat it into the audience’s minds that this show… is about Heroes. ‘Cuz the title wasn’t enough.
Over all, HEROES is a great show, only because, for comic book fans, it was an opportunity to see familiar concepts, and characters with powers come to life in a continuing TV series every week. For the mainstream, non comic book fan, it was getting to see superheroes every week without the baggage that comes with following 40-year-old characters in comics. However, for comic fans and mainstream audiences alike, that novelty wears off soon as the makers constantly insult the intelligence of the audience. The show’s constant changing and modifying scenes, inconsistent character portrayals and over all stupid things that just don’t make sense was it’s greatest downfall. The writing was basically trash. But being the closest thing to a serialized story about superheroes with powers in live action format… HEROES survived for a while.