NOTE: Spoilers from throughout the “Heroes Reborn” miniseries are present in this review
As much as it billed itself as a miniseries, Heroes Reborn seemed to want to re-launch Heroes in spectacular fashion for NBC. It’s small wonder that NBC would authorize a revival effort of its once-beloved, now-maligned superhuman drama this season, considering how much superheroes have started to dominate primetime television in recent years, and Heroes Reborn seemed to be a way to assess demand for more Heroes ‘Volumes’, as they’re known. Unfortunately though, that backfired, with Heroes Reborn suffering rapidly-declining ratings with each episode, and no shortage of scathing reviews. As I said in my wrap-up review of the series finale, if Heroes Reborn proved anything, it’s that Heroes was better off dead and buried.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Heroes Reborn was a total disaster, since it did do some things well. A few of the characters were quite inspired, with miniseries villain, Erica Kravid having a few moments of appealing complexity, and Tommy Clark at least having a good personality and a solid set of twists, not to mention that the fundamental ideas behind the miniseries’ over-arching plot weren’t bad. The angle of Evos, or humans that develop superpowers, being distrusted and driven into hiding, right when they’re needed most, due to an apocalyptic event approaching the world, was a sound one.
Unfortunately, it’s the execution that’s the real problem with Heroes Reborn, and this leads to no shortage of other issues that sink the final product of the miniseries from almost every conceivable angle. As much as the miniseries set out with good intentions and an interesting idea, it’s routinely hurt by its set of mostly dull and/or unlikable lead characters, laughably bad episode storylines, and constant unmerited sense of pretentiousness and self-importance. In summary, Heroes hasn’t learned a damn thing since it was initially cancelled in 2010, and this miniseries will sadly remind viewers of all of the reasons why the show was cancelled in the first place, making it no surprise that NBC denied a second season for Heroes Reborn.
By the end, the miniseries was especially falling apart, and pretty much resorted entirely to Deus Ex Machina moments to resolve everything, in lieu of writing that actually felt smart or organic. It contributed to a growing sense of apathy and disinterest for most viewers, since the miniseries didn’t really give audiences much of a reason to care about even the world’s annihilation. This also made the shameless sequel bait in the final minutes of the series finale feel all the more insulting to boot, since that cliffhanger will likely never be resolved at this rate. The big dramatic reveal behind villain, Erica Kravid’s backstory ended up being a faceplant as well, making her grand plan far too convoluted and non-sensical, especially when so much of the story seemed to be predicated on characters being rash and unwilling to communicate for no discernable reason, rather than relatable, complex conflict.
Another major issue with Heroes Reborn is the fact that some of its new lead characters were just awful, in terms of writing, and sometimes even performances. You can tell that Zachary Levi didn’t care about Luke Collins any more than viewers did for example, since he, among several other actors, spent most of the miniseries as if he’d just been roused from a diabetic coma. Luke was a horrendously inconsistent personality, who began as a shallow villain, and ended the miniseries with a half-assed redemption arc, though his wife, Joanne was far, far worse, and easily the worst character in a miniseries that was full of bad characters. Joanne Collins is inexplicably bloodthirsty, and unforgivably stupid, and the show never offers any reasonable explanation for why she and Luke got away with murdering people across the country for the better part of a year! Frankly, the whole Evo-hunting idea for Luke and Joanne was mis-conceived from the ground up, and rather than be dramatic, it came off as unintentionally hilarious.
Speaking of mis-conceived, Ren and Miko were similarly bizarre, needlessly unrealistic characters. Miko is somehow a video game avatar brought to life by the Evo power of Otomo, a man in service to Erica’s company, Renautas with a terminally ill daughter that Miko is based off of (the show claims she’s terminal, but nothing comes of this), and Ren is somehow a basement-dwelling super-gamer that’s obsessed with Evernow, a video game that Renautas makes, that also serves as a prison for a time-manipulating Evo so that they can send people to the future, while also functioning as a commercial product that somehow hides this fact. Did someone seriously look at that convoluted, ludicrous story idea, and really think it was alright? Ren and Miko felt like they belonged on an entirely different show, and the idea of incorporating a video game prison and gamer hero into what’s supposed to be a more grounded and serious superhuman drama feels more like juvenile fanfiction than a professional television idea!
Carlos was another lead that really didn’t work either. The idea behind making one of the leads be a non-powered person with powered relatives was interesting, but the show didn’t treat Carlos as anything more than a plot device when it came down to it. Carlos’ war-torn background and connection to a certain other recurring lead were interesting ideas on paper, but they just never gelled. Carlos never became more than a grumpy brute, even when we were supposed to really sympathize with him. He’s the very definition of a cardboard character, even as Heroes Reborn desperately struggles to make him deep and interesting.
As bad as some of the new personalities were though, the miniseries’ treatment of its handful of returning Heroes personalities was far, far worse. Noah Bennet got the largest role, and it was a decent one (barring his pointless, annoying death right at the end), but the miniseries killing off Claire, and doing it off-screen, felt kind of insulting, since she was usually the emotional center of the series back when Heroes first aired. The other characters had it even worse though. Mohinder Suresh was made into a convenient patsy that the world turned on for literally no reason, even when this clearly didn’t make sense in the Heroes canon, and was seemingly killed. Rene the Haitian was killed off very early on, only to be revived later with a convenient timeline fix, only to never use his powers for anything. Yes, really. Molly Walker, who was recast to boot, acted very unlikable for most of her screentime, before killing herself right when she started to serve a purpose in the story.
The cake however is taken by Matt Parkman, whom Heroes Reborn tried to re-tool into a surprise villain later in the miniseries, only to horrendously fail at every turn. Parkman’s altered role is the biggest insult of the miniseries to longtime Heroes fans. He could be a dick before, and definitely had his issues, but Heroes Reborn throws all of the intrigue and charm of Parkman’s character out the window, in favour of just turning him into a selfish corporate thug for Renautas. The explanation for this is terrible as well, and doesn’t excuse why Parkman basically gave up on his anguish about turning into his father, and simply turned into his father on a dime. Oh, and his wife left him, again, off-screen, because of course she did. When Parkman is dropped after the penultimate episode, the miniseries leaves him cackling in a ditch, and that’s the last we see of him. What a joke. Frankly, the miniseries should never have brought Parkman anywhere near this arc, and should have just had this role be filled by an original character. There’s no way that Matt Parkman would ever act this way, but then again, continuity doesn’t seem to be the strong suit of Heroes Reborn.
Moving beyond the characters for a bit, the vague, needlessly slow-paced and opaque storytelling doesn’t help matters either. The idea of Tommy and Malina being the long-lost children of Claire Bennet is a decent twist, especially when Angela Petrelli has a vision of them saving the world from extinction together, but their eventual unity in the series finale is abrupt and unsatisfying, especially when they defy Evo science with a blatant Deus Ex Machina to save the world. Even with the reduced thirteen-episode count, Heroes Reborn is far too slow-paced, is ridiculously vague and obtuse, even when it doesn’t make sense to be vague or obtuse, and takes far too long to get going, and become interesting. Even then, it’s not that interesting. It’s almost operating as if it were a Netflix series that people are supposed to binge-watch, except this approach just makes the miniseries slow and boring on a syndicated television network like NBC. No wonder the miniseries kept bleeding viewers with every episode.
Heroes Reborn is more frustrating than truly bad, but it’s definitely not good, and there are a handful of elements to it that are, sadly, truly bad. The miniseries stinks of being an enormous missed opportunity for NBC, who could have re-tooled and freshened up Heroes for a whole new audience here, just in time for the current small screen superhero boom. Instead, they persisted with the same old misconceived character arcs, the same old tired pretentiousness, and the same old ludicrous story turns that first sent Heroes to the grave back in 2010. Frankly, unless you’re desperate for more Heroes, this miniseries isn’t worth your time, and even if you are desperate for more Heroes, this miniseries probably won’t satisfy you. NBC is still leaving just a bit of wiggle room in case they ever have another bright idea for an attempt to re-launch Heroes, but I think Heroes Reborn will sadly serve as the ultimate case for why the network should probably just let sleeping dogs lie.
- Tommy and Erica are decent characters
- Good fundamental story concept
- A few decent uses of veteran Heroes characters
- Story is obtuse, contrived, and takes far too long to get going
- Most of the characters are awful, both new and old
- Rife with sleepy, unengaging performances