Heroes Reborn: Cautious Optimism

Heroes Reborn: 2015 from 2006

Jamie: So I’m minding my own business on Twitter, and suddenly I see a link that stops me in my scrolling tracks.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXUjpHHfTLY&w=560&h=315]

Heroes. Reborn.

Not to be confused with the Marvel Comics event of the same name in which a lot of the Avengers and flagship heroes were rebooted, but instead a 13-episode reboot of the 2006 TV show from NBC that started off like a rocket and fizzled out four seasons later.

Wendy, wanna mull this over with me?

Wendy: I was just chatting with a friend about True Detective and the fact that it is now one of only two shows that I refuse to be spoiled on. I don’t know what is happening next, and I don’t want to know; I just want to go along for the ride. Heroes season 1 was the first show to give me this feeling, so I’m not at all weirded out by the Heroes Reborn announcement just days after I was nostalgically flailing about the show.

Reactions across the internet range from “yay!” to “hmmm …” to “LOLnope!”

I’m sitting firmly in the cautiously optimistic category. Despite the writer’s strike of 2007, the season long Nissan Rogue commercial, the influx of new and mostly useless characters, the long, drawn-out Hiro in Japan plotline, and everything else that ruined season 2 of Heroes, I still gave creator Tim Kring a chance after he apologized. Unfortunately, things didn’t get any better, and I eventually gave up. But this Heroes Reborn business, with all its tantalizing promises …

Jamie: I was a fan from episode one and straight through until the strike messed things up. I continued to watch, hoping things would improve, only to have them not only fail to improve but actively get worse.

I agree with you on all points. The strike. Despite Claire and her Nissan Rogue, the nonsense with the twins from Latin America, the “we don’t know what to do with Micah and his family” bits, and the racist storytelling, I hung in there because I loved Masi Oka’s earnest and adorable performance as Hiro. I stayed to see Peter Petrelli’s heroic journey. The show had started out so strong. But the strike dealt the show a blow from which it never recovered.

I want to be in the cautiously optimistic category, but NBC’s track record with reboots and reimaginings is not good. They’ve tried to recreate success before without, well, success. The original Knight Rider is a classic. The attempts to reboot and rework it have varied from campy fun to so bad I must have blocked them out. The original Bionic Woman was popular in its time, and in this day and age of women looking forward to seeing shows with women leads the reboot should’ve been a success too. But the writing was flaccid, the special effects lackluster, and the actress came across like she was sleepwalking. The original Ironside, which isn’t even a geek-genre show as such, brought the delicious Blair Underwood to the title role. It had a diverse cast, and women in prominent positions. But NBC put it in a death slot, and it barely lasted three episodes before cancelling. So unless they got a team of Sleepy Hollow calibre to back Tim Kring up, I’m not feeling optimistic so much as cautious. Especially given that my understanding is that the original cast isn’t necessarily involved from the first episode of the 13 they have planned.

Wendy: Very true. It’s going to need a powerful cast that can not only hold their own on screen, but hold each other up behind the scenes. That’s a big factor for shows these days. I watch some things just because of how much you can see the actors and creators love and energy going into it.

I don’t necessarily want to see the original cast show up in a reboot, though. That’s too obviously a marketing pull. If they are going through the efforts of introducing the new characters before the show even airs, then let that new cast stand on its own merits.

Jamie: Fair point about the marketing, but the way I see it, Peter and Hiro were the heart of that series. A little use of them as a bridge to connect the viewers to the source material isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Provided they don’t hit us over the head with “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” again.


Save the Cheerleader, Save The World
Save the Cheerleader, Save The World

Wendy: True. If it’s done right, it can work. But I guess this is the “cautious” part of my optimism speaking. I didn’t realize all these shows were NBC–I really only know of Fox when it comes to killing shows. I want to believe in the creative team here in this case, as I tried to with Kring the first time.

Jamie: As do I. Has he learned from the mistakes he admitted to? I don’t know. He said he was aware of the pacing and the stakes. But there were also issues with his diversity portrayals. Claire’s original best friend was gay–and that character just suddenly vanished from her life even before they had to move. She hits college a few seasons later and look! Lesbians! Gay best friend bad, gay experimentation good? They fridged a good number of women too, despite power players like Mama Petrelli. So it’s going to take a lot of course correction for them to do anything like the job their first season managed.

Wendy: Is it to be a full on reboot? It seems that might not be the case then if they are bringing in the old characters …?

Jamie:  “Reborn” implies that the eclipse thing that gave the first set of Heroes their abilities (and took them away) may have happened again. So if it’s a full on reboot, starting from the ground up, that might be worth watching. It’ll be all new, all different to use comics terminology. In which case, we can leave the previous attempt and all its baggage in the past.

Wendy: I honestly tuned out probably before S2 ended and even stopped reading up on the Wiki. I was just looking at my old LiveJournal posts about it, and most of them were about not bothering to watch at the end … so I didn’t even know the eclipse was properly explained. Or have forgotten the details.

Jamie: They didn’t really explain the eclipse as such. They just had another eclipse. The eclipse giveth, the eclipse taketh away. No more explanation than that. I watched it all the way through, but wincingly. They’re going to have to do better than kowtowing to the fanpersons who were drooling over Zachary Quinto. His Sylar started out as a monster: a reprehensible, irredeemable creep with an equally creepy MO. But because Quinto is gorgeous and the fans wanted more screen time, they tried to woobie-fy him and turn him into a poor baby with a tragic backstory so they could redeem him and make him a true good guy at the end. It was sloppily done and insulting to the intelligence.


From NBC's Original Heroes

Wendy: Ugh. I do like “evil” characters who have more to them and can be sympathized with, but I know what you mean about him in this case. It is not something I would have appreciated. I also hated that he had basically become the deus ex machina of the show. If it doesn’t work, throw a Sylar at it. He specifically is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to see the old characters return. Hiro, Peter, maybe, but I don’t want to see Sylar just because of how his character was ruined because fandom fell in love with him.
Jamie: Agreed. We don’t want meta-issues to affect (or infect) the show as much as they did. I really did love the interactivity they had going on. The in-show chat, the character texts and polls. That was vanguard then, and it is pretty much commonplace now. Hopefully, Kring and team have learned from the show’s star spectacularly crashing and burning.

2015 is still a way off. So Mr. Kring and his team have time to feel out the fans, replay the DVDs, count their missteps, and script carefully to avoid more of the same pitfalls with this new miniseries that tanked their promising original.

You have our take, Mr. Kring–reward our optimism, not our caution.

Jamie Kingston

Jamie Kingston

Jamie Kingston is a Native New Yorker, enduring a transplant to Atlanta. She’s a lifelong comic fan, having started at age 13 and never looked back, developing a decades-spanning collection and the need to call out the creators when she expects better of them. Her devotion extends to television, films, and books as well as the rare cosplay. She sates her need to create in a number of ways including being an active editor on the TV Tropes website, creating art and fan art, and working on her randomly updating autobiographical web comic, Orchid Coloured Glasses. As a woman of color, she considers it important to focus on diversity issues in the media. She received the Harpy Agenda micro-grant in November of 2015 for exceptional comics journalism by a writer of color.