What if you discovered that you had a superpower -- great strength, flight, teleportation, or amazing healing? And what if you could use it to save the world?
Superheroes are everywhere in entertainment, from comic books to movies. But few manage to be as intelligent, geeky and well-written as "Heroes," a solid comic-book style TV series that explores the repercussions of several "ordinary" people who discover that they have strange -- and sometimes dangerous -- powers.
It opens with Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) reflecting on the human quest for knowledge -- even knowledge that we shouldn't have -- right before learning that his father has been killed, possibly murdered. Suresh's dad believed that "special" people were cropping up, much like in X-Men.
And we are introduced to the "heroes": stripper Niki (Ali Larter) harbors a secret dark side, cheerleader Claire (Hayden Panettiere) heals from any injury, Japanese Dilbert Hiro (Masi Oka) can bend time and space, Senatorial candidate Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) is able to fly, his brother Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) can copy others' powers, a cop Matt (Greg Grunberg) can read minds, and junkie artist Isaac (Santiago Cabrera) sees the future. There are plenty of others that show up, but these start the ball rolling.
While Claire and Hiro explore the potential of their new powers, Niki and her son try to elude some hired thugs --and end up overwhelmed by her dark side, and framed. And Suresh searches for the answer to his father's death, only to find that his genetics research is involved with the "special people," and that a superpowered serial killer is targeting them.
Even worse, Hiro takes a trip to New York (five weeks in the future), and sees the city destroyed by a massive blast -- as does Isaac, through his paintings. How to stop it? As a future Hiro tells them, "save the cheerleader, save the world." The Heroes begin slowly coming into contact, in a haze of dreams, visions, murder, swords and death -- and to stop the serial killer and save New York, more sacrifices may be made...
Unlike most shows about people with superpowers, "Heroes" isn't really about the action or flashy battles. It's half epic save-the-world-as-a-team story, and half exploration of how real, ordinary people would react if they suddenly found out that they had superpowers, and how this would change -- or NOT change -- their lives.
The storylines are incredibly intricate and complex, since there are a dozen subplots and a lot of time travel, and plenty of hints at future events. The careful painting of all these storylines even further in two episodes, one of which shows the pre-Heroic lies of the characters (and how Syler became a murderous terror), and another that shows what the future will be like if they don't change it. It's not a pretty picture.
These complex storylines are enhanced by lots of suspense and tightly directed action, and the makers always know how to throw in a shocking twist, such as a sword-carrying future Hiro showing up.. But there is also some poignancy, and very dark humor from time to time (Claire waking up in mid-autopsy, or twisting her broken neck around). Not to mention some great, sometimes geeky dialogue ("Where did you learn all this?" "X-men No. 143 when Kitty Pryde time travels!").
The actors are pretty much all good -- Larter gives a great double performance, Zachary Quinto is a wonderfully twisted villain, and Panettiere gives a good performance as a teen whose adolescence has a lot more than hormones in store. Masi Oka is the standout, though -- his Hiro is sweet, endearing, geeky, heroic, sad, kindly, funny and thoroughly lovable. The scene where he arrives in New York is adorable.
The "Heroes" are only starting their journey, and the first season of this geeky hit is a must-see for fans of intelligent sci-fi drama. And I doubt their journey is over...