Recurring Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Jack Coleman, Ali Larter, Hayden Panettiere, Masi Oka, Greg Grunberg, Adrian Pasdar, Santiago Cabrera, Leonard Roberts, Tawny Cypress and Zachary Quinto
Heroes is the kind of show that works so well, it seems ludicrous that no one has thought of making it before. Show-runner Tim Kring takes the superhero genre and makes each hero real, giving us an accurate idea of what would happen if a group of people woke up one morning and suddenly developed supernatural powers. The pilot shows us an eclipse in the night sky and then flashes from character to character, as it becomes apparent that this lunar phenomenon is having an effect on them. We get Peter Petrelli, whose belief that he can fly is embarrassing for his older brother, who is running for Senator. Then we have the most popular girl at school realising that she is indestructible and trying to hide it, scared of being different. On the flip side of that, a bored office worker in Tokyo suddenly thinks he has realised his true potential, when he is gifted with the power to turn back time.
The best thing about Heroes is the ensemble of characters. You are not going to like every storyline that Tim Kring brings to the show. Personally, I could have done without Hiro’s excitable slapstick adventure, which brings the comic relief to the episodes. However, it never becomes a problem, because within two minutes the action has jumped to the meatier psychological drama of Ali Larter’s troubled, Nikki Sanders. Heroes is the kind of show that ends up pleasing almost everyone, because it has such a range of unique characters and plotlines. It also suggests that the writers are an intelligent bunch of people, because they somehow make what is essentially nine or ten superhero origin stories being played on top of each other fresh and exciting. It also helps that none of these characters are superheroes. They are fairly helpless, their powers throwing them in way over their head. The villains of the show are mainly without powers, yet they still pose a serious threat to the lead characters. When the show finally brings two characters together for a fight, we lose our breath, totally unable to predict who is going to turn out on top, or if our favourite character is going to get out of this situation alive.
I was also incredibly impressed with the complex story. Tim Kring ends up juggling several narratives, plotlines and character arcs. We are drip-fed information that will come in handy, much later in the show: the name Linderman is bandied about ages before the terrific reveal, the main villain Sylar is kept clouded in shadows for the first eight episodes of the season. The characters are kept separate so we never know what relationship any of them have. We assume they are all strangers, but then Kring will reveal that two of the lead heroes are related, incredibly late in the season, throwing a few new ideas into the plot and making several strands of storyline far more interesting. The best characters are the ones jumping sides, lost at whom to side with, as their lives are turned upside down. Greg Grunberg’s ex-cop ends up accidentally siding with the bad guys and Ali Larter’s darker side makes her a great temporary villain. Tim Kring just has so much control of his characters and ideas. This is one of the longer seasons out there, having 23 episodes to keep us invested in this complex and twisting plot. However, this season, it never becomes too much. We are always left wanting more and craving answers, making this series one of the most exciting concepts in quite a long time.
The acting is on form from every angle. Because Heroes needs to move at a break-neck speed, the actors don’t have a lot of time to make an impression on us. They all use different tricks. Milo Ventimiglia plays the stereotypical good guy, maybe coming across as lacking a little depth, but, on the flip side, we totally get his character in a heartbeat. Masi Oka throws an incredible amount of energy into Hiro and, even if I wasn’t totally sold on his character, it is impossible to hate the guy. Other actors, especially the supporting cast, shroud their roles in mystery, so we want to see more of them to get an accurate idea of who they are. Surprisingly, one of the best characters doesn’t even have any superpowers. Jack Coleman’s Noah Bennett keeps his motives locked behind a straight face and we are never sure how much we should trust the character. Most of the time, we would struggle to call him a good guy, only that his motives have momentarily aligned with the rest of the protagonists. However, it makes him the one to watch in the whole show. However, easily the best actor in the show is the terrific Zachary Quinto. The less said about Sylar the better; newcomers to the show deserve to discover the character for themselves. However, this is the role that put Quinto on the map (and got him noticed enough to get cast as Spock in the Star Trek reboot), and he is truly remarkable to witness in action.
Final Verdict: Tim Kring takes an incredibly difficult challenge and makes it look like the easiest thing in the world. The first season of Heroes is one of the benchmarks that the rest of television should hope to achieve.