No one really asked for a Heroes reboot. (Okay, sorry, a Heroes “event mini-series.”) After its stellar first season and pretty okay second season, the original 2006 series helmed by Tim Kring took an ungainly swan-dive into madness, with its third season seizing upon the idea that instant gratification and logic exercises were what the viewers really wanted out of this show, creating problems and then instantly (and inexplicably) solving them, killing characters and bringing them back to life with almost no consequences whatsoever. How can you neutralize someone who can’t die? How many times can a villain change his/her basic nature? How many time-travel adventures can a person undertake before even time travel becomes boring? What really killed the first Heroes was that it eventually refused to play by even its own rules, producing utter narrative lawlessness that left us no choice but to un-suspend our disbelief. It became a useless thought experiment that at one point lost 100 percent of its once-shiny payoffs (except, as you found out tonight if you didn’t finish the fourth season, finally learning the Haitian’s name).
Nevertheless, the chance that this do-over might somehow fix these issues and regain some of the good faith we lost in its predecessor (which, by the way, only ended five years ago) is compelling-enough reason to test these waters out — because let’s face it, that first season was really, really good. Let’s begin, because this premiere is long as hell and the world needs savin’ again.
We open, of course, with Noah Bennet. He’s eating an apple (very biblical) and leaving a message on his daughter Claire’s (a.k.a. “the Cheerleader,” if you never saw the original series and landed upon this recap by accident) voice mail, apologizing for not speaking to her for a few years. (You see, “Claire’s voice mail” is a stand-in for us, the viewers.) Bennet tells us how much better everything has gotten since “he and his daughter” (really “this show and its scattered fans”) last spoke. As he talks, we cut to a long shot of some kind of unity summit, centered around a flowerbed that says, “EVOS AND HUMANS UNITE,” indicating that the “heroes” are now all out and have (mostly, except for the Westboro Baptist Church, because duh) been accepted by the public. This is a celebration, we’re all happy! Together! Suddenly, though, everything … explodes. Because no one in this universe can have nice things. Bennet wakes up amid an atomic wasteland of “terrorist” destruction. Dazed, he starts yelling for Claire.
Cut to a mini-montage of evo escapes: a dude in his underwear being chased down a dark road by two Hummers full of dudes with attack dogs until he turns invisible. Another dude running across a tundra in China who cuts off his own hand to free himself from a shackle and a huge anchor and flies away before another couple of Hummers get him. A mother and son in gridlock trying to escape to Canada realize they’ll be caught by border guards, too; they veer out of the queue and speed away just in time. We see the boy, Tommy, has brought issues of 9th Wonder!, the comic from the original series drawn by prophetic artist Isaac Mendez. Anyway, surpriiiiise, humans are hunting mutants down again!
Now it’s been a year since the attack, and a group of “evos” (sorry, this nickname just reminds me way too much of Orphan Black) meet in secret in Chicago, a year after the attack, to which Mohinder Suresh (who is apparently an “evo supremacist” now!), their TV says, has “claimed full responsibility” for the bombing. Everyone is talking about vigilantism, ways of “fighting back” against the government. A French evo says there’s “something else going on,” that it’s bigger than the government, which is, of course, definitely true.
Meanwhile, a lumpy bald dude in a fedora who looks like a George R. R. Martin/Bill Nye the Science Guy mash-up sits on a bench across the street, observing. When the kid, Tommy, bolts from the meeting unexpectedly to catch the bus (dropping a frequent buyer’s card from an ice-cream shop as he goes), he runs into a dude on a bike.
A hard-core-looking woman with a gun is chasing a guy down a street (lots o’ chasing!); the pair end up bursting into the evo meeting just as Zachary Levi (!), a.k.a. Luke, is telling the evos (and us) how angsty and sad he is since his family died in the bombing; he says, “These powers aren’t natural, they’re not safe, and they can’t be trusted,” and pulls out his gun at the same time. He and the woman are together, and they murder all of the evos, set the place on fire, and go in search of Tommy. (Side note: Did anyone else find this choice, to have a plant and his partner shoot up a peaceful meeting, in extremely poor taste, given recent events?)
About that biker guy — he’s a plot device, used to show us that fedora man, who carries a briefcase full of pennies like a rejected Batman villain, has a power, which is giving a person a penny and making them forget whatever he wants. Sort of like the Haitian, only weirder. He leaves the police station, tipping his cap like an MRA. His name here will henceforth be MRA Pennyman.
Noah knows how to pick boring jobs — now he sells Cadillacs (and product placement). He’s also … engaged? To a younger-looking redheaded woman who thinks his name is “Ted.” As she blabbers on about wedding plans (she came to see him at work about this?), he sees a man lurking in his car in the parking lot. We see the guy has a stack of files on the evos from the original series — Angela Petrelli, Suresh, etc. — in his car.
We meet Carlos Gutierrez as he’s making out with a teacher whose name he doesn’t remember because he’s a crazy drunk in a janitor’s closet at his nephew’s elementary school in L.A. He’s also a veteran who is there to give a speech to the kids. We learn later that he’s some sort of fraud, but we’re not sure what yet.
Cut to that kid Tommy’s high school. In the most clichéd scene of all time, he watches as his crush walks down the hall and his crush’s girlfriend, a jock bully named, I’m not joking, Brad, punches him for it. He finds out that the school’s football coach, who he saw at the secret evo meeting, has died in “a fire.” Later we find out that his crush, Emily, works at that ice-cream place where he always hangs out because he loooooves her; she tells him she’s noticed him there and tells him they’re hiring. She apologizes for her boyfriend and claims he’s not bad, which, seriously, what is with this script? Do these writers know any teenagers? Anyway, then Tommy gets a text from an unknown number telling him not to trust anyone.
Back to Tokyo, because in Heroes world, that’s the only place that exists in Japan. A cute boy named Ren Shimosawa is looking for an address. He lets himself into an apartment, the door of which is unlocked, where he discovers a woman listening to music too loudly. He introduces himself as a famous gamer, says that he’s playing a game called Evernow, and that the game gave him her address. He says she looks familiar; she looks nervous and kicks him out. As he goes, he notices a door in her apartment has what looks like the Evernow world painted on it. Later, he comes back with the Evernow graphic novel (because in this world, comic books are a great way to prove crazy stuff!), in which the protagonist is a girl that looks just like her. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I thiiiiiink she recognizes the writer’s photo on the back (after she kicks Ren out) as her father?
Back in L.A., Carlos is walking his nephew, Jose, back to the auto shop where his dad Oscar works. It’s clear that there was a falling-out between the brothers; apparently Carlos broke Oscar’s heart by joining the army? Anyway, Jose mentions a truther site he found that’s tracking disappearing evos, then notices Carlos looks like Vengador, this luchador-masked vigilante with superpowers. We’ll learn why in a second.
Noah, or Ted, is home with his fiancée, Julia, when he sees the same lurker from the dealership parked outside. He is of course the better lurker and outsmarts the guy, whose name is Quentin, and demands to know what the deal is. He admits he knows who Noah is and says a bunch of crazy stuff about June 13, the day of the bombing, being the beginning of “something,” claiming Suresh was a patsy. Meanwhile, Julia has called the cops, and they arrive right as Quentin says something about a manuscript that claimed the evo population is rising, maybe to save people from Renautas, the parent company that owns Primatech, the evo-bag-n-tag company Noah worked for. Noah tells Quentin Claire died on that day, though I call bullshit on Bennet, as wily as he is, believing that without any proof. Later that night, he goes into his safe and goes through his stuff. He finds a business card in a little datebook for an opthalmologist’s office. He has no memory of this place, so he looks it up and discovers they recently relocated to Dallas … from Odessa.
Carlos is drunk again, brooding about something or other. Meanwhile, Vengador goes to save a woman being chased by some crooks, but it’s a trap — she’s with them, and they shoot him. He manages to get away before the cops show up. Carlos, meanwhile, has stumbled to the auto shop (which is flanked by a Watchmen-esque graffiti that says, “WHERE ARE THE HEROES?”) and has discovered the Batcave (Luchacave?) downstairs. Oscar is there, bleeding. He is — soon to be was — Vengador! Before he dies, he manages to tell Carlos it was a trap, that Jose really looks up to him, and implies that Carlos needs to take over for him. Carlos tries to tell him that he’s not a hero at all, that his war medals are … well, we’ll find out later, because now Oscar is dead.
Luke and Joanne, his partner, are at Moe’s to kill Tommy. She’s truly the hard-core one, and is mad about the terrorists getting the glory while they do all the work of tracking down and killing evos. Tommy is “interviewing” in the back, which consists of one question: “Can you scoop ice cream?” Man, minimum-wage jobs are so easy! Coming back out to the front, he recognizes Luke sitting alone, but he’d left before he shot up the place, so he still thinks he’s good. He asks Luke what happened, then Joanne comes back from the bathroom and they usher him out the back door with a gun. Emily, the crush, follows them out, confused; when Joanne goes to shoot her, Tommy freaks out and … does his power, which is making things disappear. The two assassins and the gun all get sucked into some sort of black hole. Emily is shocked, Tommy runs away and is mad because now he has to leave again, but Emily, in her green Volkswagen beetle that conveniently matches her work uniform, follows him and insists she’ll keep his secret.
Jose is understandably bummed that his dad is dead. He and Carlos are up on the roof of the body shop, and he tells his uncle that Vengador should have saved him, and that he’s sad he didn’t get a chance to show him … “What?” asks Carlos. Jose says he wants to be alone; when Carlos leaves, Jose demonstrates for us, secretly, that he has the same power as DL from the original series: He can walk through walls! Or roof shingles, in this case.
Noah goes to the opthalmologist’s office on the card, where he’s met by a homicidal receptionist who wants to kill him, until who should appear but … THE HAITIAN! Who — for those of us who didn’t stick around through the fourth season, and let’s face it, nobody did — is named René. They go meet in an underpass outside, where René gives Noah his (horn-rimmed, dun dun dunnnnn) glasses back … and immediately starts to strangle him. Noah breaks free, they struggle over a gun that one of them conveniently had, and Noah shoots René. Sad face. Before he dies, he tells Noah that Noah had told him to kill him, that he’d devised “the perfect plan,” and that “it’s coming.” And then — and this is notable, given that death was a joke in the first series — he dies. Cooooool. Later, Bennet tries to remember whatever it was René made him forget. He stares at himself in the mirror; it was at this point it became clear that this was supposed to be a weird Walter White moment, and I might have thrown my pen across the room.
Back in Tokyo, Miko is curious. She goes into her dad’s study, which is behind that muraled Evernow door, and discovers a katana sword in a box. There’s also a note that says, “save me, the sword is the key!” As she unsheaths it, she is transported into the video game, where she immediately kills a bunch of dudes! This is her power. Very helpful and super-relevant, you may say — except it kind of is helpful, in a way. More on that in a minute.
Oh, here’s a random cut to the Arctic Circle, where, after a voice-over from Suresh, whom we still haven’t seen, a white girl in a big coat is swirling the aurora borealis and says, “It’s happening much faster than we thought! I can’t control it much longer.”
Back at school, Tommy and Emily are talking in the shed. He says he thinks his power is that he makes things cease to exist. He tells her about being abducted when he was 7 (definitely by Primatech). He makes a flower disappear for her, but Brad sees and later threatens to turn Tommy in, unless Tommy disappears his abusive stepdad for him. He takes Tommy to his house and leaves him to do the job, but Tommy can’t do it, so he runs away; however, MRA Pennyman has been following him, and goes to see the gross stepdad and … disappears him? Makes him forget? IDK.
Noah bails out Quentin because he’s his only hope at figuring out the truth. Quentin worked for Renautas scanning files about Primatech. Noah left the company after the bomb, and Quentin is convinced Renautas is responsible for the attack. One thing’s for sure, Noah says: They gotta find Molly Walker, the “finder” girl from the original series.
The two assassins weren’t disappeared! They were just teleported to a room, which seems like hell, until Luke, whom we’re supposed to believe is way smarter than Joanne, realizes they’re in a holding cell — in the Primatech basement! They easily break out after shooting out all the lightbulbs.
Ren comes back to Miko’s place, where he discovers on her computer that Miko really is the katana girl from Evernow. He watches as she kills a bunch of bad guys, but then, when she needs help, he enters the game himself with a cat-headed avatar, screaming a joke from World of Warcraft (“LEEEEEEROY JENKINS!”), and buys her time to escape and rescue her dad. She does — he’s decked out in armor from head to toe, so how does she know for sure that this is her dad? — but then he gets magically whisked away to a tower, and she gets knocked out by another guard. Ren takes care of her as she falls out of the game, unconscious; when she wakes up, he mansplains how to play Evernow (no, seriously) and tells her she’s a miracle. She says that they need to go to Yamagato Tower — which is a place in both the real world and the Evernow world. Suddenly it becomes clear: She’s able to flip-flop between universes, which means she can sleuth her way into any building!
Back at the auto-body shop, the local priest talks to Carlos about his brother and how their father was a luchador and how Oscar died “because he stood up for the underdog.” It’s all mysterious how he knows that until later — after Carlos discovers the three dudes who killed Vengador (who are also dead now) were all cops and finds a fourth dirty cop to give him the name Captain James Deering, and goes back to confession to tell the priest about it — when he reveals, yeah, of course he knew about and was helping Oscar be Vengador and underground-railroad evos out of the country into Canada, he’s the priest in this story! Also, though, he can turn into clouds.
Now we’re at a little hotel/casino situation, where a woman wearing a leather jacket stands next to another woman in a cocktail dress at the bar; the cocktail-dress woman goes and flirts with a high roller who keeps winning at dice; he attracts suspicion from casino security and invites her back to his room instead. There, she accuses the guy of having powers and cheating. She confirms he’s telekinetic by throwing a knife at him, and thinks he’s gonna just give her the money in exchange for her silence. Of course he isn’t! He tries to strangle her instead. She burns his face with hairspray and his own cigar to get away, but he catches her; a passerby sees them in the hallway and knocks the guy out; the leather-jacket lady from before comes and whisks her away to another bar, where she says her name is Taylor. The cocktail-dress girl confesses to being broke and a hustler, and Taylor offers to just give her money. She gets flirty … only to roofie her and bring her back to the telekinetic dude’s hotel room: They were working together to collect her for someone. Uh-oh! And they know her name: MOLLY WALKER!!! Guys, Molly is an adult now. We’re all old.
Noah and Quentin go to the old Primatech HQ, which is totally bombed out on the ground floor, to search the many, many filing cabinets there for info on Molly. Quentin finds an absurdly obvious document that says Claire was definitely not in Odessa at the time of the bombing. Suddenly, Noah gets hella suspicious about Quentin’s interest in this whole thing, until he admits that he’s looking for his sister, Phoebe, who is an ombrekinetic (She can manipulate darkness! Now, that is actually cool.) and disappeared with the others. They agree to work together to find their girls, very heroic.
Brad finds Tommy. who goes to apologize for not getting rid of his stepdad, but Brad hugs him and thanks him. He is very confused, but Emily sees Brad hugging Tommy; later at Moe’s, the ice-cream shop, Tommy and Emily talk about how weird that was. He’s telling her about the mysterious texts he keeps getting, when she suddenly finds the flower he disappeared for her earlier in a carton of ice cream. Apparently he had been thinking about the first time they met (he’d ordered that flavor) when he did it, which tells them that he is literally the kid from that Twilight Zone episode who can wish people into a cornfield or anywhere else.
Now Luke and Joanne are busting out of Primatech. They run into a guy in a tie — Employees? Here? — who they then use as a shield to shoot their way through the next room, which is full of more workers at computers (this is a secret base, you see). They kill everyone and go up the elevator and disappear out the door, juuuuuust missing Noah as he rounds another corner and gets in the elevator himself, going down and finding the massacre below — not to mention a big, obvious screen titled MIDIAN ASSETS, with a list of evos underneath. The only name that’s highlighted is Molly Walker’s, of course; the screen says her “data” was “lost.” The dude with the tie is still alive, but barely, and of course Noah knows him; before dying, he tells him (jeez, this is a theme, isn’t it) that Renautas figured out how to monetize the evos to save the world, and that “Epic still launches tomorrow,” but that they need Molly Walker. Noah asks if Molly “is at Midian,” and the guy nods. Then he dies. As the two assassins flee Primatech after stealing Noah’s car and the documents with all the evos’ names in them, Noah gives Quentin the extremely vague lowdown on this “Epic” project, which I guess is supposed to use evo powers to “save the world” — I guess from something going on up in those Northen Lights — but as anyone who has watched any of the original Heroes knows, “saving the world” in this universe can mean literally anything.