When it was originally on: 2006-2010
Original network: NBC
Where you can stream it now: IMDb TV or NBC.com w/cable authentication
Had I seen it before: Nope.
What IMDb says: Common people discover that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as a devastating event must be prevented.
Why I picked it: Heroes is interesting in that I remember it being a huge phenomenon when it first burst onto the scene, but it’s relatively forgotten now. Sure, it still has its fans and I have several friends who have raved about it to me, and it was even popular enough to get a reboot in 2015. But when people start talking about the best television of the ’00s, Heroes doesn’t seem to come up much. The 2015 reboot didn’t actually gain any traction. Is this a case of “great first season, but no where to go from there?” Did the outpouring of superhero content in the ’10s erase Heroes from people’s memories? Did later seasons have lower quality and ruin the Heroes legacy?
It’s not uncommon for shows with a great first season to fizzle out a year or two later, but such shows always beg the question. . . is that because of issues in the pilot? Is there anything that first season could have or should have done differently to promote longer arcs? Hence why wanted to examine the Heroes pilot as part of this project.
What I liked: I’m pleasantly surprised by how well this one maintained my attention in spite of juggling so many storylines. A lot of times when a movie or tv show takes this approach, I develop what I call Love, Actually Syndrome, which I’ve already dedicated a full blog post to. Essentially, it’s when you get more invested in some storylines than others, and so you spend too much time just saying “can we please get back to what I actually care about?”
But with the Heroes pilot, we don’t have that problem because 1) they don’t ever dwell too long on the same plotline and 2) they do a pretty good job of making every character and plot line adequately interesting. I think the key to why this one works is because yes, we have all these heroes discovering they have weird powers, but pretty much none of them are defined exclusively by their powers. Claire is a popular cheerleader who’s suicidal. Niki is a single mom who works as a cam girl to support her son, including getting him into private school. Peter works as a home care nurse and seems to have feelings for his client’s daughter, but she has a boyfriend. Mohinder’s father just died and so he travels across the world in order to pursue his father’s research.
All of these could’ve made for interesting stories in their own rite, even if there were no super powers at all. I would’ve still been curious to see how all these storylines would comingle with each other, even with no super powers at all. Not only am I more invested in all these characters because of the other conflicts in my life, but it also makes me okay with the fact that Hiro’s arc primarily is about his powers. Hiro’s story is still interesting to me because there’s still no other story like his in the pilot.
I also love the ending of this episode. Even though there’s a fair amount of conflict already happening, the pilot is sure to tease a much bigger conflict yet to come. This could be at the end of the first season, the very next episode, or even the series finale. A great pilot knows how to say “but wait, there’s more!” and the Heroes finale certainly accomplishes that.
What I didn’t like: I’m honestly not even sure if this is truly a BAD thing, but I’m a little bummed out that these different characters are so compartmentalized. I’m curious to see them interact with one another, and I thought maybe we would get some of that by the end of the episode. The structure of the pilot makes me worry that everyone is going to be separated up until the season finale, which I don’t think I would like. I just think watching the different heroes learn from each other and take on different challenges would be a lot more interesting than what I actually watched.
However, I do want to point out that me feeling so eager to watch these different storylines co-mingle is still a testament to how strong those different storylines are. Part of the fun of television pilots is envisioning what’s coming down the pipeline, and this one certainly got those wheels of my brain turning.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, but I could also see myself giving up after a few more episodes if they take too long to bring all the heroes together.