Television has entered a golden age of superheroes. From Arrow to Flash, Agents of SHIELD to Gotham, the small screen increasingly resembles a spinner rack of comic books. And with even more superpowered shows set to arrive this autumn as Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow make their bow, there’s no better time for NBC to revive their dormant Heroes franchise with the 13-episode event series Heroes Reborn.
"Clearly, the genre audience has become the mainstream audience," executive producer Tim Kring tells us. "When Heroes first came out, we were still testing those waters as to whether genre could cross over and become mainstream. We were one of the first ones to prove there was a mainstream version of a genre show. Heroes had always been very much about the characters and less about the idea of special effects and powers. It was about what these people were dealing with as opposed to what to do with these powers. I do agree the world has changed and people are very familiar with the superhero genre now. In some ways, I feel Heroes was partially responsible for bringing that about."
Back in 2006, Heroes certainly established a benchmark. The show’s complex characters, epic vibe, as well as catchy tagline – "Save the cheerleader, save the world" – made it a breakout hit. However, the writers could not sustain the momentum after season one. Heroes’ dense mythology and unresolved plotlines caused viewers to lose interest. Ratings fizzled by season two and plummeted in season three. Eventually, the series was cancelled after its fourth season. Nobody ever expected Heroes to be resurrected until NBC came knocking on Kring’s door again.
"There was a new regime at NBC," explains Kring about the genesis of Heroes Reborn. "Things have changed so quickly in the way people are watching television and consuming shows. Heroes was at the forefront of when people started to consume content in very different ways. When the show was cancelled, we were ironically the number one most-downloaded show in the world. People were clearly watching the show in very different ways. Now, with the ability to count those as viewers, NBC realised there was a very big audience out there for this brand.
"Even though we finished in a place that allowed the audience to have an ending to the series with Claire’s character coming out to the world with these powers, the truth is we had more stories that we were planning," continues Kring. "I had been talking to people about that at NBC and we finally decided this was the time to relaunch it."
Heroes Reborn maintains the core concept of "ordinary individuals with extraordinary powers". The pilot picks up five years after Claire’s demonstration that superpowered humans truly exist. A recent terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas, is blamed on 'Evos', or evolved humans, which only escalates the fear and hate towards them. As a result, those people have gone into hiding. Meanwhile, two vigilantes, Luke Collins (Zachary Levi) and his wife Joanne (Judith Shekoni), have embarked on a crusade to eradicate the Evos after someone close to them perished in the Odessa tragedy.
"When we introduce Luke, he’s a pretty scary guy," says Kring. "He has a personal vendetta that he’s trying to square. He’s a very confused and dark figure when we first meet him. We watch his journey of growth and change and possible redemption. Luke will continue to challenge the audience to which side he’s on in much the same way HRG did in the first season of Heroes. As for Zach, when we spoke about him being on the show, we crafted a character that would challenge his fanbase that know him in a certain way."
The couple’s potential targets include awkward teen Tommy (Robbie Kay), former solider Carlos (Ryan Guzman) and Tokyo resident Miko (Kiki Sukezane), who also has a mysterious connection to Hiro Nakamura’s sword. Despite focusing on an original group of characters, some past fan favourites will pop in. There’s Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), Hiro (Masi Oka), Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), the Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis) and Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose), to name a few. Another familiar face that plays a pivotal role in Heroes Reborn is Claire’s father Noah Bennet, aka HRG (Jack Coleman). The former Company man’s attempt to lead a normal life hits a major snag when he gets swallowed up by a growing conspiracy.
"We’ve come out with HRG in a world where he was proven right about his fear of what would happen to these people," says Kring. "There was an event that happened a year prior to our story happening, a kind of 9/11-type of event that changed everything in the world and made it possible for people with powers to be persecuted. This 9/11 event was blamed on them. How HRG remembers it is not exactly how it went down. His story is really a journey to find out what happened on that day. By doing that, he uncovers a very big scheme. We talk about his story in the way of the classic paranoid thrillers of the ’70s like Three Days Of The Condor. He’s a man on a mission in a world that wants to stop him."
Viewers won’t have to wait the full season before HRG, Tommy, Carlos, Mike and other characters assemble. With only 13 episodes, Kring promises a brisk pace. "There’s still this idea that the characters aren’t connected at the beginning, but I think the audience can expect to see them start to collide in a faster way this time around. We lay out very quickly that there’s something that needs to be stopped," Kring continues. "There’s a mystery to what it is and how it needs to be stopped and who needs to be involved. We are going to put this puzzle together every episode and figure out a way to bring these characters together so they will have a chance to save the world."
No doubt that endeavour will require a lot of teamwork and powers, but Kring is reluctant to reveal which special ability each newcomer possesses. Instead, he acknowledges how challenging it was to create innovative powers that were fresh and dynamic for viewers. "We struggled with that for four seasons of the show. We decided a lot of the powers you are going to see are somewhat familiar, but with a new and interesting twist. Five years later we can now produce things that we couldn’t do back then. We have cheaper, faster, more efficient and sophisticated special effects. I think the audience will see there’s a bigger box of crayons to play with than there was back in the original series.
"But, once again, I think the power of the show has always been about the dilemma and the trauma of the characters," he adds. "The powers were always in service of that story. However, you’re going to see some new things we weren’t able to do five years ago, even stuff I don’t think we’ve seen on television before." Kring is hoping to lure old and new viewers back with an ambitious season-spanning arc. Ratings will determine whether NBC orders more Heroes Reborn. However, from the sound of it, Kring believes they have only scratched the surface of this universe.
"We have been asked to do this 13-episode event, which we are approaching as ‘this is the story we want to tell,’" concludes Kring. "At the end of it, we will have told that story and you’ll have a completion to it. With that said, the world of Heroes is big enough to have an undetermined number of people around the globe who are waking up to these powers. You can keep retelling these stories and the world continually needs to be saved from something. There’s always a way to find a new story to tell."