‘Heroes Reborn’ Premiere: Monetize the Evos, Save the World

'Heroes Reborn' two-hour debut recap

HEROES REBORN -- Pictured: Francesca Eastwood as Molly -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)
This character was a cute little girl on Heroes. (Photo: NBCUniversal)

The guy who saved the cheerleader has to save the world. Again. But first, the main character of Heroes Reborn, Noah Bennet (also known as “The Man in the Horn Rimmed Glasses” or “HRG”) has to remember what he has to save it from.

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We last saw the world of Tim Kring’s Heroes when Season 4 of the original show ended in 2010, with Claire Bennet jumping off a Ferris wheel in Central Park in front of a bunch of TV cameras as a way of showing the world that she has an extraordinary power. It is clear from the way that the season ended that the team did not mean for that season to be the end of the show. Unfortunately, the events that were set in motion by the painfully slow second season, which lost so many viewers, proved to be the show’s eventual undoing. It’s amazing it lasted as long as it did. NBC didn’t renew the show after Season 4 and Hayden Panettierre went off to get her Milli Vanilli on with Nashville while her ex-boyfriend made a comic book, a web series no one watched and showed up as a serial killer at the end of the last season of Gotham. 

Wait? Why is he too busy to show up on Heroes Reborn?

Also, by the way, Ms. Panettierre might actually do her own singing on Nashville. I have no idea. I only watch shows where people cut their hands off and fly.

If you remember 2006 at all, you know this phrase, even if you never watched a single episode of Heroes: “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” It’s the phrase that a future Hiro Nakamura says to Peter Petrelli early on in the first season of the first series. It’s repeated again and again. It’s weird, because the cheerleader, Claire Bennet, is swiftly revealed to be extraordinarily hard to kill. In fact, in a particularly weird scene late in the series, Sylar, the on-again-off-again big bad of the show, tells her that she can’t die. Peter Petrelli is the guy who takes all responsibilities on his shoulders, so he sets out to save her and the world. Peter Petrelli is played by Milo Ventimiglia. Milo Ventimiglia is Hayden Panettiere’s ex-boyfriend.

She has a show. He doesn’t. Yet both of them have said they aren’t reprising their roles, according to EW.

On Facebook, my entry for “religious views” may or may not have once been “Peter Petrelli.”

Five years later, as the world of Heroes finally comes back with the mini-series, Heroes Reborn, no surprise, the sweeping institutional bad guy is now less a corporation and some kind of venture backed start-up called Renautas. Renautas may or may not be the same company that Noah once worked for, bagging and tagging people with powers. That said, once again, there is still some mysterious disaster that has been foretold. Random pieces of art work have been left around, made by people who know more than they should. And a smattering of critical characters who appear to have nothing to do with each other are taking shape on screen in disparate parts of the world (once again, with the lion’s share in the U.S. but a key one in Japan).

Only one element is missing from the Heroes formula: a malevolent individual with extraordinary powers who only wants to protect himself. On the old show, that was Zachary Quinto’s “Sylar.” On this one, we haven’t seen it yet, for sure, but my money is on this kid:

Robbie Kay of "Heroes Reborn" at Comic-Con. Aw, but he's so cute! Is he? IS HE? (Photo: David Yeh/NBC)
Robbie Kay of Heroes Reborn at Comic-Con. Aw, how can he be the big bad? He’s so cute! Is he? Is he? (Photo: David Yeh/NBC)

RECAP! Volume One: Awakening

Despite her assurances that Ms. Panettiere won’t be back on the show, the very first voice we hear on Heroes Reborn is (purportedly) that of Claire Bennet on her voice mail. Her dad (though not her father) Noah Bennet is calling her from outside the Odessa Summit, in hopes of seeing her there. It’s a gathering outside the old HQ of Primatech. Finally, people with powers are coming together to stand up and show the world that they are real.

Noah walks through the gathering of happy looking people showing off their power. He again exhibits his creepy propensity to check out every young blonde girl he sees—especially if she’s in a cheerleading costume. We’re meant to see this as him thinking of his adopted daughter, but it’s always weird whenever the writers have him do it.

Pay attention to this scene. There’s probably more than one person who shows up here who will matter again. One of them is a guy who’s holding his flying kid on a leash.

There’s a big explosion in Odessa. Tim Kring loves big explosions. And wham! Everyone hates people with powers. By the way, they are called “evos” now. As in, “evolved humans.” That’s new. On the old show, they were just people with powers or people with abilities. Now, they have a name, as a group. Like “mutants” in Marvel comics or “metahumans” in D.C. comics, with Heroes Reborn, now that the world knows these people exist, they have to have a term for them.

In fact, there’s a lot of overlap between comic book storylines and the world of Heroes Reborn. As this first episode kicks off, it almost gets to be too much. The first show completely dropped the notion of superheroes.

In Marvel and D.C. comics, if you turn out to have a superpower, you are going to take one of two paths: stop crime or commit crime.

In the world of Heroes, no one with powers is really what you’d call a superhero (though some of them are supervillains). The two courses characters take in this universe are to either try to hide their powers and live a normal life or quietly use their powers in order to have an advantage over other people. No one ever puts on a mask and a costume to go out and get their Spider-Man on, though as Season 4 ended, Claire did start to kind of kick the idea around.

In a scene shortly following the disaster in Odessa, a bunch of evos are gathered in the basement of a church, like an A.A. meeting. An old man with super speed says that the government has started trying to register evos. That’s a key plot point in Marvel Comics again and again, starting with the Mutant Control Act that we also saw in the third X-Men movie and, more recently, with “The Initiative,” which showed up in 2006’s crossover, Civil War (and will also serve as the basis for the next Captain America movie, next year).

Zachary Levi plays Luke Collins. His kid and his wife died in Odessa. He didn’t. Now, he wants to kill all the evos. Because he thinks an evo killed his kid. So all of them need to die. He’s doing it for his son as he makes clear after his first mass murder.

I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, but he has a crazy girlfriend who is helping him kill evos and people do weird things for love, you know?

As strange as this is to say, though, and despite the fact that we see him kill six people in cold blood, my guess is that Luke Collins is this season’s Peter Petrelli. That is, he will turn out to be the moral compass by which all the other characters’ actions are judged by viewers. Remember, the iron law of Tim Kring’s show is that no one is always good or always bad.

By the way, there are two handsome leading man types with a penchant for leather jackets. It confused me. Shortly after Collins kills the evos in the church, we cut to another leading man with short hair having sex with some lady in a supply closet. That’s not him. I thought it was for many, many scenes. Instead, that’s Ryan Guzman, who plays Carlos Gutierrez. Carlos is, apparently, some kind of war hero (or something) and a drunk. It’s not really clear what he did that was so great. He’s living in Los Angeles and despite his very comparable handsomeness to Mr. Levi, they are not the same person. Don’t be fooled for half the show like I was.

Also, don’t be fooled that Carlos is the Peter Petrelli. That’s what Tim Kring wants you to think, but I do not buy it. It is Collins.

Carlos is recently back in Los Angeles and perplexed to learn that some superhero has started patrolling the streets. Everything about this storyline is so obvious that you will see every single piece of it coming as soon he starts walking the little kid home from school. So no need to go into it other than to say: yes, an actual superhero costume shows up. A woman is rescued in an alley. Asses are kicked. Kind of a bummer, really. I liked a world with powers but without masks. Masks are a little silly on camera.

The other big storyline of this episode is that of Ren Shimosawa (played by Toru Uchikadu) and Miko Otomo (played by Kiki Sukezane). Ren is famous for playing a game called Evernow, and he shows up at Miko’s place to tell her a clue in the game says he should find her. It turns out that Miko has the power to go into the game when she unsheathes a sword that her father hid for her in her apartment (in that scene, it becomes a little weird that she’d never found it before. The sword is under a board that might as well have “there is something under this board” written on it.)

Fair bet that the video game is going to have all sorts of clues in it about what’s about to happen in the real world. In the first season of the original show, there were loads of clues hidden in the paintings and comic books of Isaac Mendez, a drug-addicted artist with the ability to go into a trance and paint the future.

What really matters about this show, though, is that it shocks Noah Bennet out of his boring suburban life where he’s about to marry a third woman, a carbon copy of Ashely Crow’s Sandra Bennet, Claire’s adoptive mother. A crazy looking and doughy Henry Zebrowski, playing Quentin Frady, shows up in Noah’s adopted car dealer life and pushes him to look into what happened in Odessa. Noah is sure he already understands all he ever will.

COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: SAN DIEGO 2015 -- "Heroes Reborn" Panel & Red Carpet -- Pictured: Masi Oka, Sunday, July 12, 2015, from the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, Calif. -- (Photo by: Mark Davis/NBC)
Here’s one actor from the old show that everyone loved who’s coming back: Masi Oka. (Photo: Mark Davis/NBC)

You’ll follow this part a lot better if you’ve seen the prequel on YouTube, like I told you.

“My daughter died on that day. You don’t just forget a day like that,” Noah tells Quentin.

“You do if someone doesn’t want you to remember it. Something big’s coming,” Mr. Frady retorts, as he’s carted off to jail.

It turns out that it may have been Noah Bennet who didn’t want to remember what happened there. As he sets about trying to figure out if the crazy man on his lawn might have been right, he turns to his old friend the Haitian. On the old show, the Haitian (played by Jimmy Jean-Louis), was Noah’s partner. He had the power to suppress people’s powers and make them forget some part of their past.

Shortly after Noah finds him, the Haitian gives him back his old horn-rimmed glasses and then tries to kill him with garrote. Of course, this is what’s so great about Noah Bennet. He’s just an old guy but he can kick anyone’s ass. The Haitian completely has him at a disadvantage, but he still wins (though the placing of the bullet hole shown makes zero sense but who am I to say?).

In fact, right after he gets up from killing his old friend, Noah stands there in the sun, looking confused, staring at nowhere through the familiar specs, a gun lazily swinging at his side. You can hear his thoughts: “What the hell is going on? What am I going to do about it?” It’s a thought we could often hear in Bennet’s mind in the old show, as a gun lazily swung by his side. You always knew: he’d make it O.K. With a gun and something like a plan he would make it okay.

Which takes us into the final act of the two hour opener: Molly Walker.

Francesca Eastwood, the new face of Molly Parker. (Photo: Mike Windle/NBC)
Francesca Eastwood, the new face of Molly Parker. (Photo: Mike Windle/NBC)

Once Mr. Bennet is on board to help Quentin figure out what’s up, his first order of business is to find Molly Walker. On the old show, she was a very young girl with the ability to find anyone in the world by thinking about them. Obviously, quite a useful power for an evil spy organization like Primatech or Renautas. Noah thinks that with Molly they can figure out what’s going on, but he’s not the only person looking to find her.

Also, by the way, Molly’s all grown up. Before you’re like, “Oh, ick, is that the cute girl from the old show? How’d she get all hot now?” Don’t freak out. NBC didn’t pull an S. Darko on you (the sequel to Donnie Darko, in which the same actress who played the cute little sister in the first movie plays her super sexed up teenage self in a sequel no one watched). Molly Walker is now played by Francesca Eastwood. Adair Tishler, who played the character on Heroes, is now playing pinochle with Milo Ventimiglia (or something). She’s not running around in a green negligee in casinos.

That job now belongs to Ms. Eastwood, shown to the left. When we last see her, she’s tied up in a Las Vegas hotel room with some guy she first met cheating at craps using Jean Grey‘s power set.

So where is this going? 

The safe bet is that there is going to be some kind of giant explosion, but it’s one that won’t ever be meant to kill everyone. Maybe it’s an explosion that just kills evos? Maybe its an explosion that kills non-evos? Maybe it makes everyone an evo? There’s a lot of possibilities.

Maybe Tim Kring will make it boring and pointless with time travel? He loves doing that.

Have faith that it will all come down to Noah Bennet. He’ll go the wrong way for most of the series, he’ll be too careful, he’ll play it too safe but then someone will show him what he’s been missing. He’ll see. With that, he’ll rage his way though a big pile of supremely badass super beings with nothing but a gun and some determination and save everyone.

The show also looks like it wants to play on some of our fears about privacy (Molly Walker’s powers) and some of our exhaustion with the tech industry (Renautas’ “monetization” scheme). It’s crazy to think that as the first show ended we weren’t yet in the age of the Uber-but-for-mothers-in-law, but we weren’t. It still made sense then to fear corporations with boring sounding names that evoked laundry detergent, like Primatech. Companies with their own private agendas. This is a new world, where we’re learning to fear a new kind of titan of finance, with hopeful names that make no sense but sound hopeful, and evil agendas they pitch right out in the open as great for everyone.

The big question, really, is how the company intends to monetize evos. It seems fairly easy, one might think, to turn a profit if you could read minds, for example. That’s too simple, though. This show takes place in a silicon valley future. One guy doesn’t profit off of mind reading; you find a way to scale it.

Still, this is a Tim Kring show. It will be morally convoluted. They set that up in the episode’s big climax, when Noah Bennet learns of Renautas’s big plan from a dying former coworker, named “Stephens.”

“We figured out a way to monetize the evos,” he tells Noah, as he chokes on his own blood after getting shot by Luke Collins who’d been teleported into the old Primatech HQ by Robbie Kay’s Tommy Clarke.

“Monetize them to do what?” Noah asks.

Stephens answers, with his final breath, “Save the world.”

‘Heroes Reborn’ Premiere: Monetize the Evos, Save the World