Thursday, 1 October 2015

Review: Heroes Reborn 1.1 and 1.2: "Brave New World" and "Odessa"

Mohinder voice: Heroes is back, after all these years. You could that that it's Heroes... Reborn? Actually, no, why would you name it something different? The storyline follows on from Heroes, the first "volume" of this show has the same name as the last, aborted "volume" of Heroes and it revolves around many of the same characters and all of the same themes. The only thing majorly different is the direction and the soundtrack, and that's because hey, it's not 2006 any more. They even have the pretentious opening narrations...

There have been some pretty contrived powers on this show.
But "enters video game when withdrawing the sword of
Takeo Kensei" is the most contrived of all.
You may remember back in 2013/14 when I reviewed each "Volume" of Heroes, the superhero show from NBC with a famously good first season and an infamously mixed-to-bad everything else. Me, I loved the show - despite the myriad plot holes and stupid character decisions, I ended up falling in love with the characters and the Universe the show is set in, especially characters like Clare Bennett and Sylar. They number among a number of characters not returning for this show, ostensibly a revival "event" series which uses a few of the same characters from Heroes but puts most of its focus on new characters in a slightly "evolved" world. Pun not intended. This opening, two-part pilot did a lot of things I enjoyed, but it also fell into a lot of traps that Heroes did back in its day and doesn't really seemed to have learnt anything about the way storytelling is told in modern TV.
     Inching closer to Heroes roots in the X-Men franchise, the word is now out about Evolved Humans, now referred to as Evos. Whereas in Heroes these were a loose diaspora held back by fear and superstition, now they're a fully-persecuted minority held back by fear and superstition, the world still reeling from a terrorist attack at a Human-Evo peace conference in 2014. However, there is a great something coming in the near future, and a conspiracy in which even "unregistered" Evos are being killed en masse. Amongst the cast of characters are: Heroes' Noah Bennett, who along with a "fun" comedy sidekick is attempting to discover what happened to his daughter Clare, and why he appears to have erased his own memory of the day of the Incident; Luke Collins (Zachary Levi, Chuck) who is an Evo hunter with his more determined wife; Carlos Gutierrez, who is forced to take on the mantle of a Mexican-wrestler inspired superhero upon his brother's death; teenage Tommy, who has the power to make people disappear, and Miko Otomo, who has the power to... enter a video game.
     The thing you immediately notice about the main cast is how wonderbread it is - the three main storylines are about Noah, Luke and Tommy, all white guys with complicated motivations. Noah is Noah so I'll leave him alone, but Luke's storyline in particular is a sign of the overall issue here - he is portrayed as being brooding and unsure about his merciless slaughter of an entire race of people, while his black wife is portrayed as a violent sociopath. He is given the development, she is given anger. This is particular egregious given the current events in the States, in which the stereotype of black people as more innately violent than white people is leading to the wholesale murder of African Americans by the police. And the rest of the show isn't better in its complete lack of complexity and understanding of non-white cultures. The only Latino characters live in a crap, run-down neighbourhood and their hero wears a Mexican Luchador mask. The only two Japanese characters exist in a world entirely composed of nerd-culture and video-games. At least Heroes gave a slightly wider insight into the overall Japanese culture outside of Hiro's obsession with comic books - Miko has so much potential to be an interesting and well-developed character, but her entire agency is expressed either through the admiration of her male companion or by her badly-animated exploits as a "badass samurai girl".
We're meant to be rooting for the white guy to have a
redemption arc and get away from his emotional, violent
black wife. In 20-fucking-15.
     But of course, this is still Heroes, and there's a lot to love. The whole plotline of a series of disconnected people banding together with extraordinary abilities they don't entirely understand worked back in Season One of the main show, and it's probably going to work here. The main problem, ignoring the stuff with race, is that I really doubt that a newcomer to this show would have any reason to be invested. I'm sticking with the show because I watched 64 episodes of this universe, I like the background mythology, I'm a big fan of Noah Bennett. But it's not doing anything new or interesting, the show is too built upon its older sister for any of the little hints and callbacks to mean anything to newer viewers. Heroes Reborn can't take in new viewers and make them stay, and the old viewers coming back expecting to find a rejuvinated show will only find more of the same.


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