First to Last: Watching Heroes' First and Last Episodes

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First to Last is a biweekly column where the pilot episode and series finale of a TV show are examined. But there’s a catch—the author has never seen a single episode of the show before viewing these two episodes! This week’s show: Heroes.

Heroes spanned four seasons, with 77 episodes from 2006 to 2009, a time period during which I thought smoking cigarettes made you cool in high school, which it does. I never watched it when it aired (re: teenage delinquency), but this week I watched the first episode, “Genesis” (2006), and the last episode, “Brave New World” (2009). The Heroes Reborn miniseries starts tonight, so I figured this was my last chance to start giving a shit about the show.

The first episode shows several people from across the world discovering that they have super powers, which was to be expected. Less expected, however, was how frequently the theme of parents or parenting would show up. Three characters had dead dads, one had a dad on hospice care, six main characters were parent/child pairings, and parenting was even used in metaphors within the dialogue. The last episode begins with Claire and Noah Bennet (one of the aforementioned parent/child pairings) in underground captivity, but there’s nothing else about parents, or any unifying theme, really, throughout that episode. But enough about subtext, let’s talk about superheroes.

Ostensibly, Peter Petrelli is the main character. The first episode begins and ends with scenes of his, and he has that whole team leader vibe once shit goes down in the last episode. Here’s the thing though: he’s super uninteresting in both episodes, to the point that I legitimately think boringness is his super power. In the first episode he thinks that he can fly and gets obsessive about it, culminating in him jumping off of a tall building in order to prove it to his killjoy twin brother, a politician who you just know is a Republican. You know what happens? He doesn’t fly, but his lame-o brother does, just to save Peter’s dumb ass. In the climax of the final episode, he defeats the bad guy in a fistfight. A regular fistfight, like, his fists weren’t on fire or anything. Not to imply that he has super bad ass fists—it was just a lame villain, especially for a series finale. The bad guy, Samuel, looks like Kid Rock and Green Day had a televangelist baby in Jonestown. Samuel’s power is to cause earthquakes, but he can apparently only do it if he’s near superheroes, which is like having a bong that only works near cops—you’re pretty much always going to get caught. Also, being able to cause a natural disaster that’s fairly common in some parts of the country isn’t all that impressive.

Despite what Peter thinks, the main character seems to be Claire Bennet. First of all, she’s the only one to do anything heroic in the first episode (rescuing somebody from a fire). When we meet her, she jumps to the ground from a great height but is unscathed, demonstrating her abilities: her body instantly heals any damages or wounds. She is also the most integral part of the series finale, but more on that later…

Claire is cool and everything, but she’s pretty much just Wolverine without claws. The most interesting character by far was Niki, a cam-girl with a child whose race does not match her own. She seemed like a good mom. Her abilities aren’t fully explained in the pilot, but she seems to have an alter ego who lives in mirrors and kills the fuck out of bad guys. Kills them so hard that their blood bleeds. She doesn’t appear in the finale, so for all I know she’s dead, which totally sucks. If I watch any more episodes of Heroes, it will be only to see her story play out. I assume her alter ego will create an internal struggle for her. I bet she either becomes a villain or, perhaps, her and her mirror image split into two separate beings who must fight. I hope that’s what happens, because it sounds cool as shit. I would watch a whole entire movie of just Niki. It could be like a supernatural Kill Bill. Why does Hollywood refuse to make movies out of female superheroes? The closest we’ve gotten is a close-up of Anne Hathaway’s ass in The Dark Knight Rises. (Paste knows about the Catwoman and Elektra movies, so you don’t need to remind us about them, readers.—Ed.)

Heroes is a character-driven show, which is a polite way to say that the actual plot was boring. By series end, Samuel is threatening to reveal to the general public that people with super powers exist, and kill people in the process. Objectively, the stakes have been raised, but it just doesn’t seem important. They barely even use any super powers. Samuel is defeated in a fist fight, and his followers are dispersed via the power of persuasion. Claire saving a man from a fire in the premier was more impressive than anything in the finale. It seems like the crew didn’t know that this was going to be the last season, but also didn’t try very hard to ensure further ones.

However, the final scene of the episode is great, and the only thing that makes this feel like a series finale. In a scene mimicking one from the pilot episode, Claire jumps to the ground from the top of a Ferris wheel—this time in front of live news cameras, before announcing “My name is Claire Bennet and this is attempt number [scoffs] I guess I’ve lost count.” But wait. When she says attempt she… she means suicide attempt? That’s kind of a pretty dark trait for a teenaged main character. Confusingly, the episode ends with “to be continued…” displayed on the screen. I mean, yeah, technically they were right, but I doubt they had planned to wait six years before continuing.

The implications of Claire demonstrating her ability on live TV set an obvious template for Heroes Reborn: heroes adapting to a world where the general public is aware of their existence, which actually sounds like an interesting and logical follow up to the series rather than just a cash grab. Although I’m sure the creators will be more than happy to grab some cash along the way.

Will I be watching more Heroes? Probably not, but I might search YouTube for “Niki’s best moments.”

Matt Pass is a writer in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter to suggest shows to review!

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