‘Heroes’ Returns, Banishing the Villainy That Was Last Season

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"Okay, now for the next writer from season two." Photo: Courtesy NBC

Early on in Heroes' two-part season opener, Sylar, who’s about to open up cheerleader Claire’s skull and play with her brain for a while, explains why he has been gone so long. He says he took a “detour” to Mexico, which the rest of us know as the endless, pointless plotline he was mired in all last season. “That’s all behind me now,” he tells Claire, “like a long night after a bad taco.” We’re not exactly sure what he’s talking about, but that sounds about right: Season two was like a bad taco.

Creator Tim Kring might have been tanking last year to lower expectations for this year, and though that might have set the bar below the floor, it’s clear there’s a lot of cleanup work to do. The first two hours mostly existed to eradicate your memories of last season. No clumsy New Orleans subplot, no boring Claire adjusting to life in high school, and, mercifully, no feudal Japan. Last year brought us Adam Monroe, Maya, Parkman’s father … and everything else has been jettisoned. Thank God.

So, to set up the strains:

Future Peter shot Nathan to stop him from telling the world about superpowers — why Parkman didn’t just take the microphone to say, “Well, here’s where he was going with that: We can fly and stuff” will be left for pop historians — so the world wouldn’t end. But that set off a butterfly effect (a fact we’re informed of at least four times) that makes matters worse.

Claire can no longer feel pain after her run-in with Sylar, who now cannot die.

Hiru has met a speedy Run Lola Run clone who has stolen half of a formula that will — all together now — destroy the world. She has also stolen the "Mona Lisa."

In the most promising development, some evil villains locked away in Superhuman Prison have been released. One of them can shoot flames, one of them, uh, punches people real hard, and another is actually Present Peter, locked in the body of a bad guy. Everyone now has to chase down the villains, which is a decidedly more welcome development than watching superheroes go through boring existential crises.

Meanwhile: The suddenly virile Mohinder is turning into Jeff Goldblum in The Fly; Matt Parkman is talking to turtles in the Sahara; Nathan Petrelli is taking Hillary’s spot as the junior senator from New York; and Niki/Jessica has a third personality, as a governor’s aide. We know she is evil because she has a cool car, wears power suits, and carries a BlackBerry.

All in all, it was quite a bit to take in for a first episode. For two hours, Kring & Co. cleaned out last season’s closet, throwing out anything that didn’t fit. (Except for Mohinder’s ridiculous narration, this time quoting Yeats for no apparent reason.) There’s tons of work left to go, and lots that still doesn’t fit … but only if you foolishly insist on remembering last season’s fiasco. Just ignore it, and move on. Everyone else has.