There’s a reason why the adventures of Superman rank among the most enduring stories ever told (69 uninterrupted years and counting): Superheroes speak to the part of us — and we all have it — that hopes, deep down, that we’re special. By tapping into our longing, these tales become legend. The one who can fly. The mad scientist. The one who’s invulnerable. The Jekyll-and-Hyde. The one who can teleport. The psychic. The seer. And that’s why people flocked to Heroes: because it was filled with stories that we already knew, presented in a completely different way.
Harnessing the geek critical mass that’s been building since the first Spider-flick back in ‘02, Heroes captured an audience ready to follow a host of newly superpowered characters: Claire (Hayden Panettiere), the very hard-bodied cheerleader; service-oriented brothers Peter and Nathan Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia and Adrian Pasdar); Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), the nerdalicious wage slave; Niki Sanders (Ali Larter), a single mom living twin lives; and Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), the cop who hears too much. And Heroes learned from the mistakes of continuity-laden shows like Lost, which promised fire and delivered smoke: Viewers were constantly rewarded for their vigilance with a series of mini-arcs (”Save the cheerleader…,” ”Are you on the list?” etc.) that provided closure while dangling new threads.
The problem with rewarding vigilance is that the vigilant have already gotten their reward. There’s not as much joy in rewatching a show that thrived on unraveling twisted plots and discovering hidden connections. At best, you’ll check out the first episode again, if only to see how deftly the seeds were planted. But for real kicks, unlock the Fortress of Bonus Features and watch the unaired 73-minute version of the pilot. Creator Tim Kring’s commentary walks you through the many changes that took place before that first chapter aired — most notably an entire terrorism subplot that was dropped, partly because a scene of an Islamic extremist hanging himself didn’t suit what NBC thought might make a good 8 p.m. show. With that plot intact, we meet Parkman in a whole new way, and the flaming train crash in Odessa, Tex., isn’t just an accident. The rest of the extras are what you’d expect from a TV boxed set: occasionally worthwhile deleted scenes (e.g., Parkman explaining the downside of his power to Claire by using a Twilight Zone reference that’s completely lost on the teen), making-of docs, the odd commentary from cast and crew.
For veterans, the pilot alone will make this set worth buying. For those of you who waited until now to hop on Heroes’ cape tails…yes, you will believe a man can fly.