This review contains spoilers.
1.5 The Lion’s Den
After last week’s patchy venture, Heroes Reborn is very much back on the up with The Lion’s Den. Secrets are revealed, characters are developed and the story advances considerably, all at a pleasantly galloping pace. The episode never lingers on one plotline too long and characters don’t outstay their welcome but unlike the series’ opening episode, there is no sense of ‘information overload’ anymore.
Five episodes deep, viewers are now familiar with the cast and acclimatised to the state of events in the Heroes universe and so moving along at near-breakneck speed (compared to previous seasons anyway) is no bad thing.
One thing Heroes Reborn has had massive success with is forcing its audience to sympathise with characters initially introduced as antagonists. You’d have to have the emotional capacity of a Dalek to not be moved by Zachary Levi’s performance this week as he revisits his previous life as a father and family man, thus beginning his quest for redemption. It’s surprisingly emotional territory for Heroes and even more surprising when you remember the show introduced the character of Luke by having him gun down a room of innocent people.
Similarly, bent cop James Dearing has been a thoroughly unlikeable bastard in his few on-screen appearances so far. But when his friends and colleagues put on their ‘Epic’ eye-gear, it’s difficult not to feel a twinge of sympathy as the panic becomes visible on actor Dylan Bruce’s face. These good guy/bad guy U-turns have been a common feature throughout the series and it’s testament to Heroes Reborn’s strong characterisation that the audience’s perception of a character can change so dramatically with only five episodes worth of emotional investment.
For viewers disappointed in last week’s action sequence drought, The Lion’s Den will undoubtedly be more your cup of tea. There’s a little bit of everything on offer this week: an impressive, if brief, standoff between Malina and The Shadow, a Tag-Team showdown in Erica’s living room and Carlos Gutierrez aiding Officer Dearing’s escape in a scene highly reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy in its attempt to portray superheroes grounded in reality. Each battle had a unique flavour and The Shadow’s CGI tendrils were fantastically creepily, despite being almost definitely the reason the fight was so short (CG don’t just grow on trees). The highly-polished and clinical fight choreography in Erica’s house was most welcome and provided a fantastic opportunity for one of Heroes‘ most anticipated aspects: the protagonist team-up. This week was the turn of Noah’s group to fight alongside Miko and although the union was short-lived, expect much more of this in future episodes.
Also returning after a hiatus last week was the social commentary that has been so prevalent in Heroes Reborn. Teleport Tom (or Nathan, as it may turn out) has been caught by the authorities and ‘registered’; a process echoing the treatment of real life minority groups across the world. Heroes, like most superhero fiction I’d argue, is a far more engaging spectacle when not just an exciting action/adventure romp but when beneath all the punching and shouting, the show actually relates to the real world. As such, Tom having a tracking device forcibly inserted into his arm and told where he can and cannot go is a hard-hitting scene for all the right reasons.
As might be expected when trying to fit a reasonably complex story arc into thirteen episodes, there is exposition around every corner. Most of this flies past unnoticed, however Erica’s “we built an entire company based on mining the power of Evos” was perhaps a step too far. Basil Exposition, of Austin Powers fame, would have been proud of that one. Because of this, Heroes Reborn’s secrets are rapidly unfolding, with this episode giving a fairly clear picture of Renautas’ intentions: “the next big bang without the noise or mess” (Erica at it again there).
On one hand, getting answers sooner rather than later is great–there’s nothing worse than a mystery that outstays its welcome–however, the revelations do strip away a lot of Heroes Reborn’s enigma in one swift motion. An extinction-level event is coming and while Renautas wants to use it in order to restart humankind, a group of Evos are working behind the scenes to ensure the safety of individuals such as Malina and Tom whose destiny is to save the world. Thankfully, the plot-point with Noah’s memory and the fate of Claire is still a source of intrigue in the Heroes world.
As Heroes Reborn approaches its halfway point, one concern is the host of old characters yet to appear. Micah, Parkman, Hiro, Suresh and Angela Petrelli all have a role to play in the coming events but have been absent thus far. In fairness, the show’s new cast are such an entertaining bunch that the return of familiar faces doesn’t seem as necessary to the show’s success as it would have done before the series premiere, however you have to wonder how all of these characters will fit in. Will the final act feature a sudden glut of glorified cameos? Will older characters dive in to save the day at the last second and steal the newbies’ thunder? One would hope not and since Heroes Reborn has been, for the most part, a pleasant surprise, there’s a strong chance that the return of the old guard will be well-handled. Would it be too cynical to suggest that the promise of returning characters was more of a marketing decision than a creative one?
Heroes Reborn has received a mixed reception from fans and critics but The Lion’s Den is another strong showing and the series in general continues to be a vastly more entertaining property than later seasons of the original Heroes. One final thought however, Harris really struggled to find Miko in that small crowd of cosplayers didn’t he…
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