The Best and Worst of Heroes: Volume I – Genesis

For previous installments:

 

Heroes, during it’s first season, is particularly amazing. Every episode within holds some value to the overall storyline, which is what makes it absolutely brialliant and completely perfect. According to the IGN review of Season 1:

The debut season of NBC’s breakout hit Heroes started with a bang and ended with, well, kind of a whimper. But looking back, it’s easy to see why the hour-long drama became one of the year’s most talked about programs. Its high-concept premise– that ordinary people across the globe suddenly discover they possess extraordinary abilities– was able to attract comic book fanboys and average viewers alike. With its fast-paced action and intense season-long story arc, Heroes gave us a highly entertaining first year and already has fans anticipating its return in the fall.

Starting with the pilot episode, Heroes presented a plethora of characters and storylines, in locations spanning the globe. There were the bickering Petrelli brothers in New York City. The cubicle drones Hiro Nakamura and Ando Masahashi in Japan. The high school cheerleader Claire Bennet in Texas. The troubled scientist Mohinder Suresh in India. The struggling police officer Matt Parkman in Los Angeles. The single-mother stripper Niki Sanders in Las Vegas. To say the cast was large would be an obvious understatement. Early on, having all these characters to get to know was thrilling. Each week, as we discovered more about their backstories, the extents of their superhuman powers were slowly revealed. This was a major strength of the series and one of the biggest reasons the show garnered such incredible buzz.

Adding to that buzz factor were a number of tantalizing cliffhangers that became hot topics around the watercooler. Often jaw-droppingly shocking, these episode-enders were not solely used as attention grabbing gimmicks. Those final scenes always helped to advance the story or add new layers to a character. And though the sight of someone waking up mid-autopsy would have everyone talking, it was ultimately the stories and the characters that kept you watching every Monday night.

Within the vast ensemble, there were some key individuals that took on starring roles. Peter Petrelli could well be seen as the lead since his story arcs had him interacting and crossing over with more heroes than anyone else. His insecurities over his newfound gifts were very relatable and gave the character a necessary sense of realism in this fantastical world. Claire Bennet also stood out as the unbreakable cheerleader. While her physical changes and need to feel normal were perfect metaphors for any teenager, it was her developing family dynamic that kept things interesting throughout the season.

But by far it was Hiro Nakamura that stole the show. He was the program’s heart, the everyman that we could all relate to. While others struggled to come to terms with their new powers, Hiro accepted his with uncontained passion and excitement. Unfortunately, his giddiness (and ours) couldn’t be sustained for the entire season as his character became bogged down with “missions” that drained him of that initial joy. Though we love character development, we wish Hiro hadn’t gone down these darker paths so soon.

Other characters, though engaging, never fully realized their potential. The dysfunctional family of Niki, D.L. and Micah fell into this category, likely held back by the larger New York City dilemma. Mohinder also failed to find his footing, with his motivations changing several times over the course of the season. It’s difficult to see where these characters will be taken next.

Besides those fighting to save the world, Heroes also gave us a fantastic villain. The man who would become known as Sylar was another positive aspect of the show. A shadowy, mysterious character at first, Sylar became the major focus of the second half of the season. This worked well as it gave the likes of Peter and Hiro a nemesis beyond the intangible possibilities of future events.

Wisely, Heroes treated this season as a singular volume with a major storyline that had a beginning, middle and (thankfully) an end. In Volume One, that overlying story arc was attempting to prevent the destruction of New York City by a colossal explosion. Surrounding that larger plot, we were presented with a number of smaller, individual stories. Some of these would directly affect the bigger picture, while others were completely unrelated. This is where the ever-expanding cast of characters and plotlines started to become a bit of an issue, with certain people and ideas becoming uninteresting and others simply being ignored. Heroes worked best this season when it was able to trim away the excess and focus on one idea, like with the stellar episode “Company Man.”

Overall, it’s hard not to have enjoyed the freshman season of this sci-fi super hero epic. Though frustrating at times, it was still a lot of fun to watch these gifted individuals find a way to fight the future. With its eye-popping visuals and fast-paced action, it was one of the few serialized dramas on TV that answered just as many questions as it raised. And though the last few episodes seemed to drag towards the inevitable conclusion, that may have just been a result of how excited we all were to see how it would end.

Furthermore, according to The A.V. Club article, “One-season what-ifs: 14 TV series that should’ve stopped after one season,” in which Heroes ranks #5:

Long before the superhero movie craze started, veteran TV writer Tim Kring had a stroke of genius: a superhero TV show without any cape-and-tights silliness, in which ordinary people came to terms with having fantastic abilities. Plus, Greg Grunberg was in it, so people just assumed it was a J.J. Abrams show and gave it a chance. It worked like gangbusters. The first season balanced the thrill of characters discovering they have super powers with the drama of a superpowered serial killer on the loose. It made breakout stars of Hayden Panettiere, Masi Oka, and Zachary Quinto, and the show’s grand ambition, scope, and ratings seemed to make a case not just for superheroes on TV, but that network television still had a place in the golden age of cable drama.

Then it all fell apart like Green Lantern in the crowd at a Pittsburgh Steelers game, starting with the first-season finale. Heroes had been building up to a super-battle that fizzled when it hit the screen, and the show backed down from killing off Quinto’s popular supervillain, Sylar. When it returned for a second season, the well-hidden cracks in the formula had burst wide open—some characters were far too powerful, the non-powered characters didn’t have much to do, the ensemble was too disconnected. Kring’s efforts to solve these problems just made things worse—characters lost their powers for long stretches, ill-considered storylines stuck some characters in the past with no contact with the rest of the cast, and the show kept adding new characters, making it abundantly clear the writers had no idea where the show was going. Had the show aired for one season—or even killed off Sylar and then stayed focused on a new villain—it’d be remembered as one of the ’00s’ great TV successes, instead of one of its great debacles.

Greg Beeman (Smallville) and Bryan Fuller (Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Discovery) also worked on the show as Co-Executive Producer and Consulting Producer, respectively. Fuller would leave the show by Redemption over creative differences.


Character Analyses

While previous installments spoke of every single individual character, as much has already been addressed, I will mainly be addressing only a few characters.

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Claire Bennet

Claire mirrors Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer initial television series debut as a cheerleader with special abilities.

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D. L. Hawkins

Essentially is depicted as an angry black man, so I was never really captivated by the depiction of his character.

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Nikki & Jessica Sanders

Although Nikki Sanders may come off as a simply Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde story, it also bears similrities to the Ultraverse comic book hero, Mantra, as according to the TV Tropes article:

Mantra is a beautiful sorceress who was really an ancient male warrior trapped in the body of a divorced mother. The protagonist Lukasz (sic) is an eternal warrior involved in an endless war. One of several such warriors, since the sorcerer leading them ensured virtual immortality for them. Whenever Lukasz or his fellow warriors were killed, their souls were preserved and then allowed to possess new human bodies. Their latest battle did not go according to plan. The sorcerer himself fell and the others souls were disembodied. The sole survivor Lukasz awakes in a new body, that of Eden Blake. For the first time in his existence, Lukasz has to cope with being a woman. The original series lasted for 24 issues, from July, 1993 to August, 1995. Vol. 2 featured a Legacy Character. Mantra II was Lauren Sherwood, the teenaged babysitter to the original’s children, who finds herself accidentally inheriting the powers and identity. The series only lasted 7 issues, from October, 1995 to April, 1996. A total of 31 regular issues from both series, plus a mini-series and a couple of one-shots.

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Simone Deveaux

Like Caitlin, Nikki, Candice, and many other recurring female characters, Simone was the first to meet the tragedy, though a love triangle. It’s unfortunate, but has been a definite trend within the show.

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Candice Wilmer

Generally, the qualities seen of Candice are basically her sexuality, as she is very sexualized during her initial appearance. Furthermore, she is used by Linderman as a siren to seduce H.R.G. by posing as his wife, Sandra.


Themes

X-Men: Magneto vs Sylar

As seen in the film, X2: X-Men United, Magneto uses his ability to control magnetic fields to icluding flipping over a trick over himself upside down, and stopping the trailer before it may hit him.

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During the episode, Landslide, Sylar uses his telekinteic abilities to accomplish effetoively the same basic thing in order to kill Ted Sprague, and gain his ability.

X-Men: Rogue & Niki Sanders

Another aspect worthy of mention is how similar Nikki & Jessica are to Rogue and Ms. Marvel, as just in the X-Men comic book series, Ms. Marvel was able to take over Rogue’s body as Rogue, too, doesn’t remember.


Christopher Eccleston of Doctor Who, and Thor: The Dark World, plays Claude Rains, a former employee of The Company.

Zachary Quinto of Star Trek, plays his breakout role here as Gabriel “Sylar” Grey.

Clea DuVall of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The FacultyPopular, and But I’m a Cheerleader, played Agent Audrey Hanson.

Christine Rose of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Charmed, played Angela Petrelli.

Missy Peregrym of Jake 2.0, Tru Calling, Smallville, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, and Catwoman, played Candice Wilmer.

Eric Roberts of Doctor Who – The Movie, and Batman: The Dark Knight, played Agent Thompson.

Malcolm McDowell of Star Trek Generations, and Firestarter 2: Rekindled, played Daniel Linderman.

Leonard Roberts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., played D.L. Hawkins.

Nicole Bilderback of CluelessBuffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Bring It On!, played Ms. Sakamoto.

Jayma Mays of Glee, played Charlie.

George Takai of Star Trek, and Star Trek: Voyager, played Kaito Nakamura.

Erick Avari of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stargate, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Independence Day, Babylon 5, The Mummy, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek: Enterprise, The X-Files, Daredevil, and Tru Calling, played Chandra Suresh.


The Best:

In His Own Image, Don’t Look Back, Collision, Hiros, Better Halves, Homecoming, Six Months Ago, Fallout, Distractions, Run!, Unexpected, Company Man, Parasite, 0.07%, Five Years Gone, The Hard Part, Landslide, and How to Stop and Exploding Man

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It’s exceedingly difficult to pinpoint specific excellent episodes, as the series is extremely arc heavy during it’s first season. I will try though:

  • In His Own Image introduces the characters and themes which will (more or less) carry through the series, and future mini-series;
  • Don’t Look Back introduces Matt Parkman, and the meta comic book element within the series;
  • Collision sees the heroes meet each other, and also Hiro states: “We shouldn’t be using powers for personal gain”;
  • Hiros sees the Future Hiro appear, inciting “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”;
  • Better Halves sees Niki speak with Jessica for the first time;
  • Homecoming sees the first reveal of Sylar;
  • Six Months Ago formerly introduces Sylar, complete with backstory;
  • Fallout reveals Sylar’s name as Gabriel Grey;
  • Distractions sees Claire meet her biological mother;
  • Run!, directed by Roxann Dawson (Star Trek: Voyager), sees more conversation between Niki and Jessica;
  • Unexpected has some great scenes between Nathan and Claude;
  • Company Man features the first appearance of Eric Roberts’ Agent Thompson, and makes a great reveal of H.R.G.;
  • Parasite features some great torture scenes between Sylar and Suresh;
  • 0.07% features the reveal of Daniel Linderman, who had been teased throughout the season, as well as having some great Sylar and Nathan, and Claire and Angela scenes;
  • Five Years Gone, featuring Kellen Lutz (The Twilight Saga films, The Legend of Hercules), makes an awesome reveal of Sylar posing as Nathan Petrelli in a dystopian future;
  • The Hard Part, featuring Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors, The X-Files), introduces Virginia Grey, Sylar’s mother, in a pretty fantastic episode adding to his backstory;
  • Landslide features several great scenes between Hiro and his father, Sylar and Agent Hanson, and election rigging by Micah as taught by Candice; and
  • How to Stop an Exploding Man features Molly’s allusion to Adam, and great scenes between Claire and Peter against Nathan and Angela.

[Note: No episode reviews are available for Seasons 1]

 

The Worst:

One Giant Leap, Godsend, and The Fix

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Although One Giant Leap, Godsend, and The Fix have some future payoff in subsequent episodes, for the most part though, as themselves, are the least eventful episodes I think of the season.

[Note: No episode reviews are available for Seasons 1]

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