(Note: This review covers the first half of the two-hour season premiere event. The second half will be covered in a subsequent review.)
It's safe to say that the writers for "Heroes" had a tall order to fill coming into the third season. The second season was universally seen as a disappointment compared to the first season heights, relying more on repetition than innovation. To be honest, I only have the most vague recollection of the second season, and I have to wonder how many other fans feel the same way.
The writers don't bother with much of a recap; they jump right into the story by explaining the assassination attempt on Nathan Petrelli. I like the idea of Future Peter taking out his own brother to prevent the "hero holocaust", but itâs another instance of repetition that could have gone badly. The difference is that Future Peter is still around as an active character, and an unusual one at that. Future Peter is actually a bit of a screw-up, which is a nice touch. He's apparently not smart enough to realize that he has a lot more power than Nathan, and killing him privately would have been a lot easier than killing him publicly!
Conceptually, the story is very familiar, especially to comic book fans. Future Peter's side of the storyline is very similar to the "Days of Future Past" arc of "X-Men" fame, in terms of his plan to jump into the past to prevent an apocalyptic future. It's also very reminiscent of elements of the series "The 4400". So it may seem fresh to some, but overly familiar to longtime genre fans.
Future Peter's arrival is just one element that sets a chaotic state of affairs in motion. Other elements were already in the process of unfolding. Hiro's bizarre decision to ignore his father's instructions, thereby making it possible for the wrong people to get their hands on that hidden half of "the formula", is just plain silly. It was a blatant plot convenience, and even acknowledging that Hiro is often cast as the comic relief, I can't believe he'd be that stupid.
The revelation regarding Ando is a lot more interesting, because it's not necessarily what it seems. Everything in that glimpse of the future is designed to make Ando look evil for wanting the formula. But who's to say that Hiro isn't the one who goes rogue in the future? An awful lot of context is missing. One thing, however, seems clear: those without powers in the first two seasons don't look to stay that way for long.
That said, Mohinder's decision to inject himself with the adrenaline-laced version of the metahuman serum (promicin, anyone?) was reckless, to say the least. It does propel Mohinder on a very different path, but why would he toss caution to the wind in such cavalier fashion? It felt like another instance of plot convenience. (Never mind that Mohinder is now drooling all over Maya, who is less annoying than in the second season, but still seems like cannon fodder. Besides, what would Matt Parkman think of this development?)
That said, it is interesting to know that the coming apocalypse is not just due to Nathan's decision to "out" the metahumans. It's the combination of several pieces of the same puzzle. One might argue that even had Nathan died, Hiro would have still released the formula and Mohinder would still have created the metahuman serum. Had Future Peter successfully killed Nathan, would it have been even more of a disaster? Given the endless warnings of Earth-shattering peril, maybe not so much!
Sylar was billed as the ultimate villain in the first season, and his return was portentous in the second. How ironic that "saving the cheerleader", the stated goal of the first season, is rendered completely moot in the third season premiere? Way to undercut your best season, folks! We finally get confirmation that Sylar is not, in fact, eating brains, but rather studying how the metahuman brains work (something I've been saying for quite some time). I'm actually more in