Around this time thirteen years ago, Heroes was one of the top shows on telly. In the age before unlimited data and streaming services, the programme became a hit among younger audiences. At its core, Heroes dealt with ordinary people with extraordinary abilities, banding together to fight evil. Of course, the show blended in other elements, such as the overriding trope to save the world, to reconcile their mundane lives with their superpowers. I have to admit that the first season was one of the best that I’ve witnessed. However, it would only go downhill from there: the lack of progress, banal storylines, and never-ending Armageddon watch would ultimately lead to the series demise.
When Heroes premiered in ’06, it was lauded for being different. There have been superhero shows before, from Smallville to The X-files, Star Trek to Charmed. However, that almost the entire ensemble of Heroes had some sort of superpower was what made it unique. The integration of one plotline to another, the stunning effects, the humour, and the relationships forged among the players made Heroes the standout show of 2006. Some of you may be familiar with the cast and their abilities. Milo Ventimiglia stars as Peter Petrelli, someone who could mimic other people and their ‘secrets’. His brother is Nathan, a Congressman who could fly. Meanwhile, Hayden Penittiere is a high school pom pom girl who could regenerate and has been referred to as the catalyst. Masi Oka portrays Hiro Nakamura, a bored office worker who could manipulate space-time. In particular, Hiro’s time travelling was a joy to watch. Meanwhile, Greg Grunberg is a police officer who can do some mind-reading. Ali Larter plays Niki, a mother who possesses superhuman strength and has alternate personalities.
The series was a gripping watch, especially during the first run, complete with cloaks and daggers, cliff-hangers, and rabbits out of hats. When you were watching the show, you felt like you were a part of the Heroes universe. It was as though you were being transported to a different locus. Aside from the main cast, there were an assortment of others. For instance, Ando was Hiro’s sidekick. I had a lot of fun watching those two try to play the knight’s role. In season 1, they search for a samurai sword and try to avert disaster. Then there was the Haitian, who had the unnerving gift of negating others’ powers. I wish I had that gift. Moreover, Sendhil Ramamurthy was a good fit for the role of Dr Mohinder Suresh, an Indian expat who becomes a key figure in the realisation and acceptance of the players’ superpowers. He becomes the de-facto mentor and brain of the group. Finally, there’s Sylar, the former watchmaker who steals others’ powers. He is the main adversary in season one. In addition, he feasts on their brains, although this unsightly method is only ever implied. He is also notable for being the villain who never goes down.
Comic book style
Years have passed since I saw the first season yet the opening salvo, especially the pilot made such a potent impression. I am not surprised that the first episode broke records. The series unfolds similar to a comic book down to the fonts and ellipses. Each season of Heroes contained one or two volumes. Several storylines comprise each volume. Various personas are crafted differently, until their fates become intertwined. Explanations are provided for every path crossed. In the first season, the solar eclipse becomes the focal point, where abilities are revealed, and lives are changed. While Dr Suresh aims to locate these super-humans and nurture their abilities, others desire to control and, if necessary, terminate the gifted. Noah Bennett, Claire’s father, is the lead agent in the operation. His transition from company man to ally was a welcome change.
The first season of Heroes was nominated for eight Primetime Emmy’s. This included a Supporting Actor submission for Masi Oka. In a foretaste of things to come, the show ended up with an empty bag. The succeeding seasons would become progressively worse, both critically panned while likewise seeing plummeting ratings. This is a perfect example of a stagnant programme. Yes, they could captivate audiences for one full season, but in order to maintain their viewership, they have to grow. Even with the addition of new characters and plotlines, their writers were stale. Having seen the following seasons myself, I could deduce that there is a steep drop-off in quality. The cloak and daggers become tired, the ‘cliff-hangers’ rather predictable. Allow me to end with an old quote from years past: ‘Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?’
Rating (Season 1):