Heroes Reborn had lots of good ideas and interesting storylines, but it was so rushed and convoluted that it felt like a bloody mess to the viewers.
Small wonder that it remained a miniseries only!
There is a fundamental problem inherent in rebooting existing stories, be it in film, television, or books – namely that audiences who enjoyed the previous stories are already attached to existing characters and worlds. Heroes Reborn was a further edition of Heroes (2006-2010), but it introduced a new cast of characters and a new storyline. Unfortunately, this same new cast was not given a chance to shine, because there were so many new characters as well as characters from the first series crowding the screen. For a fan of the old series, Reborn felt like an unnecessary rip-off. For new audiences, such as myself (having only seen a couple episodes of Heroes quite awhile ago), the new characters were fine but there were too many. Basically, existing fans were angry and new audiences grew increasingly bored or confused. Halfway through, I only watched so that I could find out what happened – I simply wanted to see the story to its natural conclusion. Unlike a book, I couldn’t skip to the end.
The writers of this series are primarily concerned with plots rather than characters. With so many new characters with their own plotlines, audiences did not have enough time to get invested in anyone. We did not connect with the characters enough to care about them. As someone who prefers to get to know characters, it was especially frustrating to watch these choppy storylines. Reel me in with main characters. Let me get inside the head of the protagonist and/or the antagonist. Show me funny character-building scenes. Do this frequently in the first few episodes so that I actually care about what happens to the main characters later on!
Also, mysterious connections between characters? Characters scattered about hither and yon who don’t seem to have any connections whatsoever? The writers made the classic mistake of equating mystery with intrigue. No, audiences will not be interested in watching just because you introduce something or someone that does not make sense! If answers are not provided – or even hinted at – relatively soon, the audience will lose interest. If we wanted to watch a mystery, there are plenty of those elsewhere. Also, revealing clues or part of an answer to the audience does not mean the characters still cannot be in the dark. If we are properly invested in the characters and care about them, we will watch them figure out the connections between themselves. Basically, there was too much ambiguity and confusion that went on for too long.
Nonetheless, the show was fun. I think this will be better to binge-watch several episodes at once, as this show reads more like a novel. With a week or more between episodes, it was hard to follow. It might be easier to watch over a weekend. Likewise, as a miniseries, it had a concrete plot that simply became too convoluted for the short running time. The writers tried to cram 22 hours-worth of story into 13 hours, rather than taking thirteen hours and running with it. The basic plot works beautifully: a natural cataclysm is approaching that can only be stopped by a certain pair of supernatural teenagers, aided by many more superhumans and regular humans, while facing down human antagonists as well.
The first half of the series unfortunately does not really focus on this plot, so much as it centres on a terrorist attack and mysteries surrounding it. Humans with supernatural powers, called “evos”, are persecuted due to being blamed for the attack and feared in general. The series makes many allusions to terrorism and how certain ethnic and religious groups have been profiled and persecuted as a result. In fact, had the writers continued to pursue this angle, the series might have been more exciting. Instead, the first half of the series is a confusing mess of interesting individual storylines, mysterious origins, and characters facing persecution. Only at the mid-way point do we even learn about the world-ending cataclysm!
The second half of the series focuses on saving the world, taking down the antagonists, and wrapping up storylines that really were unnecessary, given the limited run of the miniseries. There was little unity to the two halves, except for the characters themselves.
In hindsight, there were lots of things that Heroes Reborn could have done to be better received. However, it served its purpose and was a fun show to watch for entertainment, provided one could keep track of the characters and storylines. Early episodes are especially good for making one think about how innocent people get caught up in disastrous events and how the fallout can have deadly consequences. We are shown how far people will go for safety and security. We see how people will justify killing innocent people because something about them that they cannot control (power, in this case, rather than ethnicity, gender, or genetics) causes them to be considered no longer innocent. Taken to the logical conclusion, the show warns us that our prejudices and our paranoia could bring about our destruction because we prevent ordinary people from doing their part for society.
Overall, this series had lots of potential, but it fell short in its execution. It was enjoyable and entertaining, but not as much as it could have been. It certainly did not resonate with audiences well. It did not live up to expectations, but few sequels can, so that was not surprising. We were not able to connect with the characters despite excellent performances by the actors, and even if we were, we did not get enough time with them to build a lasting investment in their well-being. By the time we did, if we did at all, it was almost time for the story to end, anyway.