How Heroes' comic-book universe got too big for TV
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or just a TV hit that flew too close to the sun and notoriously flamed out?
There, up in the sky … is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or just a TV hit that flew too close to the sun and notoriously flamed out? When it launched in 2006, Heroes was a fantasy drama with an unusually international outlook for a US network show. Centred around a fateful eclipse that gifted oblivious civilians around the globe with preternatural talents, it disguised its pulpy superhero origin stories with questing new age philosophy (“What is the soul?” pondered the opening narration of the premiere). This was an X-Men knock-off framed as an aspirational TED talk, offering a refreshingly normcore take on long-existing comic-book mythologies.
For mid-2000s audiences already primed by the cryptic world-building of Lost, this was moreish stuff. Even if the populous cast initially seemed a little diffuse – what was the connection between Japanese office drone-turned space-time manipulator Hiro and clairvoyant NYC artist Isaac? – it meant that the plot was always barrelling forward, flipping through its grab-bag of settings and storylines before any of them could outstay their welcome. As well as the overarching mystery of the eclipse itself, Heroes introduced other symbolic chew-toys such as a recurring mysterious helix and a nifty mantra beamed from the future: “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” That gave fans plenty to ponder while they awaited the next episode (or “chapter” as the show’s slightly self-regarding terminology would have it). To the credit of creator Tim Kring and his team of writers, they kept this cosmic plate-spinning going for the 23 chapters that comprised season one. The finale also did an impressive job of bringing its scattered troupe together to avert an apocalypse heralded by brain-consuming supervillain Sylar. The climactic battle featured fights, flights, an unexpected twist and a moving moment of sacrifice. What more could you want?Continue reading...