They quote the poem by Y.B. Yeats, but I’m wondering if the title also suggests they’re pretending this is really the second season, after last year’s debacle.

Titles: “The Second Coming” and “The Butterfly Effect”

Cast

Milo Ventimiglio as Peter Petrelli
Adrian Pasdar as Nathan Petrelli
Sendhil Ramamurthy as Pavitr Prabhakar Mohinder Suresh
Zachary Quinto as Sylar
Hayden Panettiere as Claire Bennett
Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura
Dania Ramirez as Maya Herrera
Stephen Tobolowsky as Bob
Jack Coleman as Noah Bennett
Dana Davis as Monica Dawson
Ali Larter as Tracy Strauss
Kristen Bell as Elle Bishop
James Kyson Lee as Ando Masahashi
Greg Grunburg as Matt Parkman
Christine Rose as Angela Petrelli
Brea Grant as Daphne Millbrook
Ashley Crow as Sandra Bennett
Malcolm McDowell as Daniel Linderman

Premise

Mohinder Suresh discovers the secret of super-powers, but his path to power appears to have side effects. The identity and motive of Nathan’s assassin become clear, but Nathan survives and experiences a religious conversion which, for some reason, makes him wildly popular among voters. Hiro and Ando meet the Flash Daphne Millbrook, Claire tussles with Sylar, the Hero formerly known as Niki Sanders (or her duplicate) works for a politician, there’s trouble at the company, several captured villains escape, Parkman wakes up in Africa, the New Orleans characters are nowhere to be found, and….

Those are details. What really happens is, we learn about a dark, world-threatening future (several, actually), the heroes will have to band together to prevent it, and enigmatic art by someone apparently able to glimpse the future plays a role. Sound familiar?

High Points

1. The idea of a team of heroes facing a team of villains has potential, if handled with the same approach that marked the first season: comic-book reality grafted onto reality in a manner that could be both serious and amusing.

2. While one could tire easily of emo-cheerleader, Hayden Panettiere handles her character’s experiences effectively. We need to see her develop as a character in an interesting fashion, much as Hiro did in the first season.

3. The mysteries surrounding Linderman and Strauss show potential.

4. The premiere, at least, manages to be more exciting that the second season. Perhaps they will strike a balance between non-stop violence and mysteries, and plot and character development.

5. “Why are you talking to a turtle?”

Low Points

1. Claire Bennett’s character demonstrates some development here, and we see an indication of her possible futures. Generally, however, the writers appear ready to have new things happen to the characters to change them, rather than have the characters develop and respond naturally to circumstances they encounter.

2. Okay… Hiro wants to save the world. First, he impulsively does one really stupid thing which he could have handled in a thousand other ways. He can prevent some of the consequences of his action by travelling back in time a few minutes: stopping the theft, say, or warning himself not to be a jackass. But he decides even that much time travel backwards is too dangerous, so he travels forwards in time, which has proven even more problematic in past episodes. How big an idiot is Hiro?

Similar plot-problems await Peter, given his time-travel abilities. Time-travel has become the transporter of this series; it creates problems the writers really don’t want to address seriously, so they have to tap-dance around its implications.

3. Is this now a fannish in-joke, or are the writers just being really obtuse? Please: stop, stop repeating the nonsense about people only using ten per cent of our brains. For anyone who cares, I rant about that here.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6. Mohinder’s story, in particular, feels too familiar.

Effects: 6/6. I especially enjoyed the “flash” trail that Hiro follows.

Story: 4/6 See “High” and “Low” Points. The writers obviously intended the Hiro plot to be comic in both senses, but it still feels forced and contrived.

Acting: 4/6. The performances vary, but generally work. Panettiere, in particular, provides a strong performance. The problem is the writers are not consistently taking the characters seriously as characters, and it’s difficult to act when you’re behaving to serve the plot, rather than from any rational motive.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 4/6 The series has tremendous potential, but recapturing the power of the first season does not mean repeating it. They could also resolve some of the lingering questions before introducing hundreds of new ones. I feel ambivalent about this season, rather than inspired to continue watching.

31/42.

Questions

1. I was looking forward to the fact that the heroes exist being known. It would have created a whole new set of problems for the characters and directions for the series. It also seems improbable that such a thing could be kept secret for long. Instead of taking that path, Heroes gives us a glimpse of where it might lead, and then uses time-travel to hit the reset button. The season may yet become memorable, but the premiere suggests we’re going to get another variation of Season One.

2. If a politician was shot, and become some kind of low-rent, cliché-spouting religious guru after his recovery, would he really become wildly popular? Just wondering.

3. To repeat a question from last season: What, exactly, did the company originally set out to do? Were they keeping their eye on metahumans? Developing viruses? Contracting for a Bond villain? This is not necessarily a problem but, rather, something the show may yet clarify.

4. Will we receive a good explanation for the formula existing at all? Because it’s a major flaw if we don’t.