A sensitive hospice nurse living in the shadow of his politician brother. An office drone dreaming of becoming a hero. A teenaged cheerleader just trying to fit in. An Internet stripper struggling to raise her gifted son. An L.A. cop whose marriage is collapsing. And an artist strung out on heroin. All characters whose lives have just become extraordinary.
NBC's HEROES engages in vicarious wish fulfillment and explores the fascinating nature of super powers and what it would be like to be gifted with amazing abilities. No surprise then that HEROES, premiering on September 25, 2006, quickly became one of the hottest new shows of 2006. While this show's big hook hinges on the superhero theme, HEROES doesn't come all heavy with the gaudy special effects. There are no costumes, no superhero code names (unless you count "Flying Man!" as a code name). Instead, HEROES focuses on down-to-earth storylines which ground the cast and the fantasy elements. The everyday settings and situations keep it all relatable. To pique interest, the episodes do end on a cliffhanger, and, on occasion, the show actually doles out answers to several of the ongoing mysteries.
This is a humongous cast, and each actor steps up. Plenty of compelling characters here, but the breakouts seem to be: Hiro Nakamura, the sweetly nerdy and infectiously enthusiastic Japanese office drone, played by the cherubic Masi Oka; Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere), the invincible high school cheerleader; and the sexy, tortured Niki Sanders (Ali Larter, oh so sensuous). But also effective are Adrian Pasdar as the unflappable and coldly ambitious Nathan Petrelli and James Kyson Lee as Ando, Hiro's sidekick. One of the best things about the show is Lee and Oka's fun chemistry. As well, in Lee, the show provides us with a rootable point-of-view character. With the core roster being so large and varied, there are multiple story threads. But, man, do you get hooked with each one! The overriding story arc, involving an impending apocalypse in New York, manages to tie in all these subplots.
Every show like this needs a good villain, and we are introduced to several candidates. Zachary Quinto (who does look like Spock) is the very scary boogeyman Sylar, a superpowered serial killer who hunts other gifted individuals and murders them to steal their talents. There's the mysterious Mr. Linderman, who seems to have his finger in every pie. My favorite bad guy, though, may be H.R.G. (Horn-Rimmed Glasses, aka Claire's dad), who, as the season progresses, develops into a fascinating, multi-layered character.
So many things to like about HEROES. There's the obvious stuff, with the fan boy's dream of a premise. Then the well-rounded characters with whom you empathize, and their incredible powers. The writing, dabbling in the fantastic but rooted in reality, consistently sucks you in. Each episode forms a chapter in one encompassing narrative (so you can't really afford to miss one). The show drips with human drama, edge-of-your-couch suspense, stupendous action (when it crops up), and an overhanging sense of dread, of Armageddon being only one misstep away. It certainly engages in moral dilemmas, or, put another way: "Is Peter Parker cheating when he sells photos of Spider-Man?" Needless to say, the twists and turns, the shocks and revelations, when they surface, will stun you.
HEROES creates an intricate internal mythology, all credit to series creator Tim Kring and his co-horts for some well-conceived world-building. And, as mentioned, HEROES doesn't go overboard with the f/x, but when the show does indulge in f/x, it does so with ridiculous flair. In particular, the stupendous injuries which Claire sustains are of the queasy variety. In particular, one character's power of prophesy adds a darker, even more dramatic dimension to the show, giving rise to the question: Is the future mutable? Props also to comic book artist Tim Sale, whose contributions cannot be overlooked.
Finally, the high muck-a-mucks actually come thru with the special features, of which there's a walloping plentitude. To start with, HEROES - SEASON 1 offers cast and crew audio commentary on 13 episodes. This includes Tim Kring's thoughts on the unedited, semi-alternative version of the pilot "Genesis," which offers up a deleted terrorism story arc. My favorite commentary, though, is on the awesome dystopian episode "Five Years Later." Amazingly, there are 50 deleted scenes. There's the 10-minute-long "Making Of" featurette, as well as segments on the show's stunts, special effects, and musical score. An interesting profile of color blind comic book artist Tim Sale (who rendered Isaac Mendez's paintings). And you can even play the freaky-cool "Mind Reader" game.
Got nothing more to add, really. If you haven't yet, watch the dang show and get set to have your bump of curiousity nudged mightily. Oh, and pay the writers already, so Season 2 gets back from limbo.