Universal // 2007 // 482 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // August 26th, 2008
Hiro Nakamura: That's fighting dirty.
Takezo Kensei: That's fighting smart, sir. Don't get me wrong. I give him a fair wage...if he lives.
Heroes was the show most severely affected by the Writers' Guild Strike which began in 2007. Because of the long stall in negotiations for new contracts, only 11 episodes made it to the air for this second season. Many fans were disheartened by the abbreviated amount of new material, and the creators scrambled to provide a satisfactory conclusion to an arc they had planned to go on much longer. Adding fuel to the fire was a general dissatisfaction with the direction of the series in the first batch of episodes. Creator Tim Kring even went so far as to write an apology in Entertainment Weekly, talking about where his story went wrong and how he planned to fix it. They had "saved the cheerleader," but now could they save their show?
Heroes: Season Two found the show branching out to include variances in time and a wider swath of the globe. All the major characters from the first year were back, but things were scattered wildly in an ambitious move to expand the scope of the series. Hiro (Masi Oka, Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control) finds himself in feudal Japan working with his personal childhood hero Takezo Kensei (David Anders, Alias). Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere, Bring It On: All or Nothing) and her family are hiding from her father (Jack Coleman,Dynasty) and his company in sunny California, just trying to be normal. Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia, Rocky Balboa) is an amnesiac dispatched mysteriously to Ireland where he has to rediscover who he is. Meanwhile his brother Nathan (Adrian Pasdar, Top Gun) is trying to grapple with what has happened to Peter and finding out their mother (Cristine Rose, Ishtar) is hiding a lot more than he first suspected. Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg, Mission: Impossible: III) and Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy, Blind Dating) are in New York taking care of Molly and still trying to figure out where the next threat is coming from. Niki Sanders (Ali Larter, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) is still trying to find a way to cure herself and ships her son off to New Orleans to stay with family.
A trio of threats rises during the season for our titular heroes to battle. First up is a brother and sister team, Maya (Dania Ramirez, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz in his acting debut). They are twins in South America with the power to cause and cure a mysterious sickness that can kill anyone around them. They team up with a neutered Sylar (Zachary Quinto, So noTORIous), who they think will help them find Dr. Suresh in America, but Sylar is hellbent on getting his powers back. There is also someone hunting down the "older" generation of heroes and knocking them off one by one. Providing the final threat is a "nightmare man" who can get inside the heads of others and make them see things. All of the prominent characters get involved in the struggles against these terrible beings, and surprisingly they would all be divided by those with "the company" and those against it. Bubbling behind this is the mythical specter of a "Shanti virus" which if unleashed will destroy the world.
Heroes was originally conceived to be a show that would radically change from year to year. Tim Kring and his team originally planned, after the first year, to abandon the main core group of heroes and introduce the exploits of a brand-new cast every fall. Yet once Heroes took off as a hit in 2006, the studio and fans pressured Kring to retain the people they knew and loved in to the second year. Some quick rewrites changed the season finale and the second year was completely reconceptualized. Heroes was already scrambling to get stories together and retool itself. They had to meet expectations of a huge hit show and deviate from their original plan. It was a daunting task from the start, and then came the criticism and a strike to further rock the boat.
There is plenty to not like about this second year. They introduced characters in a clumsy way, and it seemed we got tons of people with new powers. I started to wonder if anybody didn't have some secret ability as we saw Micah's cousin become a mimic, and Claire's new sociopathic boyfriend fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Things seemed unfocused, and there was just too much going on. For all the frenetic storytelling, the show seemed to have become a little bit boring. Creator Tim Kring summed up what was wrong with the start of his second year eloquently in that Entertainment Weekly apology article. To paraphrase, he listed the following problems: the pace was too slow, the risk to the world should have been introduced sooner, the new cast members were not introduced well, and Hiro was in Japan way too long. But he was determined to fix things and try to win back the fifteen percent of its audience the series had lost from Year One to Year Two. Unfortunately, time was not on his side, as he had to curtail the second part of the season and wrap things up for the year. The show did pick up its pace, and lots of fun new twists appeared. But it all seemed too little and too late, and everything came to a grinding halt.
Despite any flaws, Heroes remained compelling television. If you need proof of that, one only has to look at the final four episodes of this season when they finally seem to figure out where to go and how to get there. The pace suddenly is reinvigorated, and the characters once again begin to pop. I could recommend this entire DVD set on the basis of just a quartet of satisfying episodes, but there's a hell of a lot more to take a look at.
No matter what you think of the second season of Heroes, there is no denying that the DVD set for this year is awesome. Sure there are only 11 episodes, but they have loaded up tons of special features and exclusive looks at where the narrative would have gone had the strike not happened. I was very curious to see if this set would be worth owning given the lack of new material when compared to the last season, but somehow they make it even more compelling than a full season. These guys seem to care about their rabid fan base, and this set is a loving valentine to all the faithful who love Heroes.
Up first are seventeen deleted scenes which add up to 25 minutes of excised material spread throughout the episode discs. Most impressive is an "alternate ending" found on the last DVD which gives us 18 minutes of the climax, never shown on broadcast television, which sets up a whole other reality the show was going to follow had the writer's strike not forced them to wrap things up abruptly. Following this is an 11-minute discussion of how the story might have played out. The sequences are shown without fully realized visual effects, and it is an amazing look at what might have been if the series had continued as planned.
Featurettes branch across the four discs, and include:
* "Heroes: Season Two -- A New Beginning," which is simply an introduction to the second season with creator, staff, and actors talking about where the show is heading for this sophomore season.
* "Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint" provides a fictional history of Hiro's hero. It was first available on a Web site NBC set up.
* "Global News Interactive" shows us more online features that chronicled the misadventures of Richard Drucker, a character who was to be included in the aborted Heroes: Origins project.
* "Genetics of a Scene" spends 20 minutes looking at how the creators assemble four scenes for the series.
* "Season Three Sneak Peak," which includes a glimpse of what is to come.
* "Untold Stories" further explores what could have happened without that pesky writer's strike mucking everything up for this season. Chief among these sequences is Sylar back up to his old tricks.
* There are three NBC.com clips that round out the final disc's offerings.
Commentaries are provided for every episode and include:
* "Four Months Later" -- Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, Co-Executive Producer Jeph Loeb, and actor Jack Coleman
* "Lizards" -- Executive Producer Allan Arkush, actor Greg Grunberg, and Co-Executive Producer Michael Green
* "Kindred" -- Episode Director Paul Edwards, Co-Executive Producer JJ Philbin, and actor Zachary Quinto
* "The Kindness of Strangers" -- Kring and actors Dana Davis and Adrian Pasdar
* "Fight or Flight" -- Grunberg and Executive Producer Greg Beeman
* "The Line" -- Co-Executive Producers Adam Armus and Kay Foster and Coleman
* "Out of Time" -- Director Daniel Attias and actor Masi Oka
* "Four Months Ago..." -- actor Milo Ventimiglia and Beeman
* "Cautionary Tales" -- Director Greg Yaitanes and actors Kristen Bell and Ashley Crow
* "Truth & Consequences" -- Director Adam Kane and actor Stephen Tobolowsky
* "Powerless" -- Arkush and composers Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin
What is interesting about these commentaries is they were not recorded after filming was wrapped, but rather as they worked on the show. Participants are unaware of what is going to happen next in some cases, and it makes for a unique experience with discussions happening immediately after the episode is completed and the next is in process.
The transfers are breathtaking. I imagine since they were prepping Heroes: Season 2 for a simultaneous BluRay release, we reap the benefit on DVD. Colors pop even on the special features, and everything has a high-definition sheen even though we are looking at the standard format. Detail levels are sumptuous, and black levels are spot on. Sound is offered in a full surround experience, and it is as charming as the visuals. The whole thing looks like the quality one would expect from a big-budget blockbuster. There's certainly no room to complain about the audio or visual quality; both are state of the art.
Sure, the sophomore slump infected the first handful of episodes of Heroes: Season 2. The mighty juggernaut of a series had stumbled, and, more disturbingly, the better second half was cut short by an unfortunate labor disagreement. It all wrapped with a forced early end of what seemed to be a show headed in a better direction. Heroes couldn't win, but now here is an excellent DVD set to reinvigorate interest in the show. Rarely do we get to see the nuts and bolts of a show presented so lovingly with so much honesty about what was right and what was wrong about a television season. Tim Kring and the cast of Heroes seem just as committed as ever to save their show from imploding like so many brilliant series have done throughout the years. They've raised the bar with this set on how to present a television show. Now all they need to do is make good on their promise of a return to form for Season Three, and all will be forgiven. The good news is this DVD set needs no apologies.
Guilty of making a weaker season seem even stronger, the secret power of this one is the extras. This one makes compelling viewing for DVD enthusiasts and a love letter for fans.
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 482 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Ending
* Commentaries on Every Episode
* Web Featurettes
* Season Three Preview
* 10th Wonder Heroes Podcast
* Official NBC Site
* Heroes Wiki
* Tim Kring Apologizes to Fans