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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

Heroes Reborn – “Brave New World” and “Odessa”

Reborn again for the very first time.

Reborn again for the very first time.

Noel: I guess before we wade too deeply into this nonsense, we should probably trade Heroes histories with one another. I watched — and even liked? — Season 1, but quickly found myself frustrated with the show by Season 2. The writers’ strike hit, cutting the show off at its knees that year, which sort of solved that issue. Looking at the episode summaries for Season 3, it’s entirely possible I watched at least the first half of the season, but I legitimately can’t remember if I did or not. Which isn’t a great sign.

In any case, I ended up ditching the series because it was a show that borrowed a lot from comic books but never seemed willing to really commit to being a good comic book series (hi, The Flash!). Creating a mythology whole cloth — and the series was perhaps the biggest success (barest meaning of the word) of a post-Lost network TV landscape in achieving that goal — may’ve just been too much for it to sustain…and the characters were all kind of awfully written.

Nick: I have not watched more than ten minutes of the original Heroes run. To me, Heroes was just the show that came on after Chuck that had Jess from Gilmore Girls and some guy named Zachary Quinto fangirls were fangirling over. I had the vaguest of interest in what happened on the show but then I was also good. Like, I knew that Sylar was into playing the head-squeezing game but I was very much okay not knowing anything else.

What interested me most then (and why I’m intrigued now) is that there was talk at the time when Chuck was paired with Heroes that Zach Levi should be on the superhero show and that, one day, if the fans would ever let Chuck die, that transition would happen. Well, it finally did. And he plays a villain. I never bought the times that Chuck was evil so I’m curious how much I’m going to buy in here. I’m going in with an open mind, some clear eyes, and a full heart. Much like with Parker Lewis, that can’t lose.

Luke and Joanne trying to figure out, as are we, what they're doing here.

Luke and Joanne trying to figure out, as are we, what they’re doing here.

Noel: Well, this should be fun! Since you exist out of Heroes‘s mythology entirely, how did this two-episode premiere play for you? Did it make any sense? Did you care about anything that was happening? Did you like the thing that Zach Levi was doing? Did you wish that, upon clicking a button on your remote, you were teleported inside the TV?

Nick: It made me very tired. There were so many things and not enough detail on them to keep track or, worse, want to keep track. I figured that some of the stuff that happened immediately after the Odessa thing, like the people that were hunted but not identified, were just part of the previous show so I just tuned out. “That must be for the fans,” I thought or else why bother with the guy dragging a weight on the snowy plains before launching himself into the air so we can never hear from him again?

To answer simply, no, I didn’t care. I really tried to. But then a girl teleported into a video game and that was the last straw. I didn’t know this show was going to go all Nick Arcade on us. Zach Levi was too far out of his wheelhouse. That only saving grace is that it seemed like he has qualms about what he’s doing so his character might be pretending on some level. I think my biggest problem is how serious everyone is. I didn’t expect this show to be early Misfits (which I very much love) but I also didn’t think it would be so over-the-top soapy serious either.

As someone that’s had more contact with the show before, how did this compare? Has it learned any lessons from its previous cancellation? Is this mythology improved by the new outing or is it just more of the same? How much did you love Leeroy Jenkins (which I had to look up because the reference was so old — and I just made Nick Arcade joke)?

Noel: Nick, I tell you. I didn’t really have expectations for this miniseries (and let’s hope that the miniseries label sticks, because we do not need more of this) beyond it being barely passable, which is how I remember the show mostly being, when it wasn’t convoluted nonsense. Reborn isn’t really passable because it’s acting as if it hasn’t been 5 years since Heroes went off the air, and it’s still operating in the mid- to late-aughts. Stylistically, narratively, and character-wise, it’s as if this aired immediately after Season 4 instead of a five year gap between that season’s finale and this miniseries’s premiere.

So, no, it didn’t learn a damn thing from its cancellation.

No, it totally makes sense that this girl can pop in and out of a video game by sheathing a sword.

No, it totally makes sense that this girl can pop in and out of a video game by sheathing a sword.

What was interesting, especially since I bailed on the show before it finished, and had largely repressed much of it apparently, was that the miniseries appears both desperate for new viewers by giving reams of expositional talk while still serving up aspects that will matter to the fans. “WHY DID RENE TRY TO KILL NOAH? WHAT DID NOAH WANT TO FORGET?!” And I’m mostly, “Mohinder’s a terrorist now? Can we hang out wit him instead of these new people, but, especially, can we not hang out Zach Levi’s wife, who is just a horrible actor?” Basically, the whole Primatech thing is supposed to be big catnip for fans, and Noah’s amnesia was a means to make sure we got lots of explanations about what happened. I think both audiences were likely ill-served by all of this.

Also, Nick, we saw the Chinese guy again. He was in the church that Zach Levi and his wife shot up and then set on fire. Way to pay attention.

Nick: Was he really? I think I liked it better when catapalted to the stars, never to be heard from again.

That’s really troubling that this show hasn’t learned anything and that this is what people were watching five years ago, obsessing over and then later turning their backs on. The premise is so well-tread (really, mutants that are hunted by the normies? Again?) that you have to hope that the characters involved are a little more interesting or at least try to bring something new to the table. And no one does.

I think the worst part about this show is that it’s trying to be so many different things. In these two episodes, it’s like we have a poorly-acted Supernatural (with the bounty hunters or whatever they are), a reluctant Arrow (with the family in East LA), obviously X-Men (with the entire premise), and any number of other shows where a boy falls in love with a girl but he has a seeeeecreeeet.

What story would be complete without The Chosen One getting bullied in the beginning.

What story would be complete without The Chosen One getting bullied in the beginning.

It’s chaos and doesn’t feel like a controlled chaos that will eventually even out. It’s just loose ends everywhere like spaghetti after a food fight and, as someone that has no context for a lot of what’s happening, I just feel really fatigued. Well, I did until I just surrendered and let the show happen whether I made the necessary connections or not.

Did anyone stand out in this show to you? Is there any story that compels to to suffer the mire for one more brief glimpse into this character’s future?

Noel: Haha! Your points about how Reborn is riffing/borrowing/stealing from other comic book narratives were ones made by a lot of folks, especially during Season 1. That you’re making these points about the show after five years, and about the miniseries, just illustrates how much nothing about this show as changed. Likewise, your point about loose ends all over the place is something that came up a good bit, too as the seasons wore on (but it’s also only two episodes in; can you give me some examples of these loose ends?). It’s as if Tim Kring and company had these episodes already filmed, and we’re just now seeing them.

I asked myself how much I was interested in suffering through this again, if anything really grabbed me, but I think these two episodes did a nice job of killing any interest. I was vaguely interesting in the Penny Man and his protection (???) of Tommy, but then I saw the previews for next week, and Tommy is being billed a Chosen One, and I’m all “NOPE.” I could maybe be interested in the lady trying to control the aurora at the Arctic (guessing she’s the bearded truther’s sister, the one with the ability to control darkness?). Anything for you? I suspect this may be our only discussion of this show because I think I’d rather catch up on something else in the 8 p.m. slot on Thursdays than watch this again, and I’m sure you’d rather watch football.

Nick: There is nothing keeping me here except maybe to figure out what they want to do with Zach Levi. I might have become invested if they didn’t do a thousand stories at once but it seems like this show is more dedicated to give you just a taste of each story but a meal of none. And that tunes me out. I have enough trouble with a deficit of attention. I don’t need a show to exacerbate the problem.

Are pennies enough for you to stick around?

Are pennies enough for you to stick around?

But, you’re right, there are plenty of other ways to use my time and, you’re also right that I would rather be watching the fourth quarter of a football game (West Coast nighttime football games starting at 5:30PM is still weird to me) than sit through another few hours of discordant storytelling just to see Levi wasted or to see why these pennies mystify people so much. If there’s any major problem this show has is, it’s a problem of investment. They don’t do enough to draw you in and it’s a clinic in how not to use loose-end storytelling. It’s one thing to have a bunch of open stories to pull people through but it’s another to have so many and have them squiggling everywhere that people never get to catch one.

It’s like when I play with the dog with her raccoon toy. I let her grab hold of the raccoon’s tail so we can play with it. If I tease her with the tail but never let her grab hold, she gets disinterested and lies down in her bed. This show just makes me want to lie down.

Maybe this is just a poor medium translation (a comic book-style narrative that doesn’t work in television) or just someone that has poor execution who never learned a lesson from the last failure. But Heroes Reborn seems like it was made for a niche group of people that really like this storytelling tactic and has past investment in the characters. Anyone else wanting to jump in fresh or people that were disillusioned with the last series need not apply.

So what will you do instead on Thursday nights? Let’s offer up some options. Football? Hop into Shondaland? Bones is still a thing?

Noel: Why do you torture your dog like that, Nick? Why?

My Thursday nights will likely become consumed by catching up on Tuesday and Wednesday shows since I’ll be reviewing Flash and Arrow on those nights, so the other shows that air that night just sit on the DVR. More than likely, all the Thursday shows I watch — apart from Steven Universe, natch — will get pushed to Friday so I can catch up on everything (The Middle, Empire, iZombie, The Muppets, etc.) from the preceding nights.

Nick: Basically anything but Heroes Reborn again.

Noel: Basically! And you can take the time you’d use watching and thinking about Heroes Reborn to work on a video instead!

Nick: Maybe that will be my next video: 13 things I’d rather be doing than watching another episode of Heroes Reborn. Running into traffic, fighting a mountain lion, keeping up with Kardashians.

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