SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the new season premiere of "Heroes."
I've been a fan of "Heroes" since I saw the first episode at Comic-Con International in San Diego over two years ago. I remember walking out of the hall knowing the show was going to be huge. The second season started with a bang but soon fizzled out. As the producers looked to correct their missteps, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, thus halting work on "Heroes" and throwing what could have become a good season into a tailspin. I went into viewing the third season premiere with a bit of cynicism; could the show reclaim the spark that made me believe it was going to be the phenomenon that it had indeed become? Could "Heroes" recover from the one-two punch it suffered last year?
"Heroes Volume Three: Villains" will premiere on NBC September 22 with a two-part opener, "The Second Coming," with both installments shown back-to-back, the first of which was screened for CBR News. If the cast and crew can keep the stride that was set in the first episode, then viewers will be very happy with the season.
Hiro's storyline begins with him staring at a clock, reminiscent of his first appearance in Season One. Hiro is bored and, amazingly, the family lawyer stops by with a DVD from his father. On the DVD, his father tells Hiro to guard a safe and never to open it, which Hiro immediately does, only to find another DVD from his father. The message on this one tells Hiro that because he has opened the safe means Hiro must guarantee that no one ever take a special item within it. Immediately, Daphne makes her first appearance to steal said item. Hiro then goes into the future to find out what disaster might strike should the item fall into the wrong hands, and he sees an altercation between himself and a rather unlikely foe. The intention may have been for this sequence of events to be comedic, but instead it came off feeling contrived.
Daphne, played by Brea Grant, was only seen for a second, but despite the weaknesses of the plot I think she may become the breakout character this season. Daphne seems more natural and her character doesn't feel tacked on like Maya and her brother last season. Additionally, the special effects seem to be taken up a notch, as the scene where Hiro stops time looks better then most of the effects in the previous season.
This storyline picks up moments after Nathan was shot and is probably the best part of this episode. The killer is revealed almost immediately and his motivations have definitely peaked my interest. Nathan continues to be one of the best actors on the show and I have always wanted to see more of Parkman. As revealed during CBR's recent set visit, Malcolm McDowell is back and Linderman makes his first appearance since the season finale of Season One. Angela Petrelli also makes an appearance and owns her scene. BEHIND THE ECLIPSE readers have been raving about actress Christine Rose for a while and this is her scene, no two ways about it.
Another storyline where the acting shines is the encounter between the series' two breakout stars. If you had any idea of how this scene would go, you were wrong. Between the special effects, the writing and the acting, fans will definitely be talking about their scenes together. We also get a very logical introduction to some new heroes that will definitely be cropping up later in the series. My only complaint is that while Sylar can use his telekinesis -- yes, I did say use his telekinesis-- to close doors and throw people against walls, apparently a wooden slatted pantry door that even my weakened nerd muscles could probably kick through can apparently hold Sylar off. Maybe he inherited the Golden Age's Green Lantern's weakness against wood? But that is a minor complaint in the midst of what could be Quinto's and Panettiere's best acting to date.
This was the weakest portion of episode. Mohinder has a breakthrough with his research into finding a cure for people with powers but with an unexpected twist that will have a profound effect on the "Heroes" universe as a whole. Great ideas, great writing but the only enjoyment I could illicit out of the scenes was the riffing on the classic "Incredible Hulk" line, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I am angry" when Maya and Mohinder have a confrontation.
No sign of Micah or any of the New Orleans-based cast members. While Ali Larter does appear in the episode, we are left wondering if it is Nikki/Jessika or if this may be a completely new character. Larter fans will not want to miss this scene and probably will want the costume designers to get a raise. BEHIND THE ECLIPSE readers will also be happy to hear that Mr. Muggles does get more screen time then he has in a while, and the Bennet clan, save Noah, get a scene together. We do get one scene with the ubiquitous H.R.G. which just shows off Jack Coleman's acting chops, as he doesn't even get a line but the presence and emotions he conveys are pitch perfect. The amazing flying boyfriend is nowhere to be found, which is a very good thing.
There are so many "what the hell?" moments in this episode that may leave some fans cold. For example, if you're looking to find out how Linderman is back (or if it is even Linderman at all), don't hold your breath. No answer is given, McDowell just shows up. Indeed, the writers are inviting fans to ask new questions, having answered many of the other "big questions" fans have had for quite some time. I don't want to ruin the surprise of which ones get answered, one even gets an amazingly funny shout out to the fans, so I don't mind the questions as long as they answer them in timely fashion.
Thehe Mohinder/Maya moments notwithstanding, the acting in "The Second Coming" is great, with top nods going to Malcolm McDowell, Christine Rose, Zachery Quinto, Hayden Panittierre and Jack Coleman. The new heroes introduced seem natural additions to the cast and I'm curious to see more of them. The storylines are great outside of a few quibbles with the setup of Hiro's next quest. The answers have been worth the wait and while it may seem like there are too many new questions now, as long as I start seeing some answers in the next episode I will be along for the ride. It's hard to judge a season by one episode but if they continue at this level of quality I will be kept glued to my TV after "Heroes Volume Three: Villains" begins in earnest September 22.