Initially, I wasn't watching Heroes when it aired on TV, though I did manage to catch the first season when it came out on video, and I was amazed. I think it did a couple of things exceptionally well. Combining the nature of a hero and villain into the framing of a comic book, it managed to capture the feeling of serialized television at a level that not many shows reach. Almost every week, you were left with a scene that made you immediately want the next seven days to go by as fast as humanly possible. Additionally, creator Tim Kring made the heroes global. While many were in America, one was located in Japan and spoke Japanese with his friend. I don't recall a prime-time show devoting an entire storyline to one foreign-speaking character in awhile, but I don't watch as much as others to know for sure.
Nevertheless, Heroes has captured the hearts and minds of many, and Season Two was full of expectations following the Season One cliffhanger, where Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar, Judging Amy saved his brother Peter (Milo Ventimiglia, Rocky Balboa) from blowing up the world by grabbing him and flying the brothers into the atmosphere while Peter's niece/Nathan's biological daughter Claire (Hayden Panettiere, Remember The Titans) watched from below. The first episode of Season Two found the characters in many different positions. Peter was alive but severely burned. Claire was starting school in California, away from the comforts of Odessa, Texas, but under the watchful eye of her father Noah (Jack Coleman) and away from the mysterious yet diabolical "Company." Nathan's friend Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg, Alias) was becoming a New York Police Detective and staying with Mohinder (Sendil Ramamurthy) while the two raised Molly (Adair Tishler, Pop Star). Niki (Ali Larter, Legally Blonde) seemed to have her power under control and has D.L. (Leonard Roberts, Drumline) and Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey, Lady in the Water) with her as well. Finally, remember that Japanese character I spoke of earlier? Well Hiro (Masi Oka, Get Smart) is in 17th century feudal Japan, wondering what it is exactly that he's doing there. And Sylar (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek) was last seen crawling into a sewer, never to be seen again?
It's from here that things get a little complicated. Kring, Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and the rest of the show's cast and crew listen to fan feedback and truly take it to heart, and I'd be remiss to not mention Kring's interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he seemed to creatively say "My bad!" when discussing the viewers' reaction to the second season. Among the things discussed were the character development of new heroes and villains, which might work in other places, but not when you have an already established cast of characters. To borrow from another show for a second (specifically Lost), if the fanbase is there, you can get away with dropping in a new character or two, and bring character development along at your own pace. Do we know all there is to know about Ben's backstory? And he's been on the island for a couple of seasons now. The balance between keeping a new character fresh while advancing the older characters' arcs is a challenge, but maybe virtual abandonment wasn't the best way to go for Kring. It also didn't help Kring that Maya and Alejandro were his version of Nikki and Paolo either. With the exception of Elle (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars), Kring would have been better suited to keep the familiar faces more at the forefront. But hey, what's done is done.
There were other elements of the show that Kring rued over as well, but one other thing that occurred that impacted the show and was out of his control was the Writers' Guild Strike which forced Kring to curtail the season, along with a story arc that would have had apparently significant ramifications, if the supplements on this set are any indication. The main stories for Season Two surrounded the characters' physical and emotional states after their initial mammoth confrontation, but also for several older cast members who were being stalked and eventually eliminated by a hero with a grudge. And hovering over everyone's heads was a virus that, if released, would have wiped out the world, as Peter finds out in a flash forward of sorts.
Upon further review, perhaps Season Two of Heroes doesn't deserve as much scorn and ridicule as it's received. If we were to examine the season as a living breathing figure, it would be comparing it to someone who committed murder, but in the time after the act, showed remorse for the act and the loss. When it starts to take tangible steps on the road to recovery, the townspeople put down their pitchforks and torches, but the murderer gets hit by lightning before the townspeople can accept or forgive him. As a post-script to all of this, the moral of the story appears to be that you can learn from your mistakes, and Kring debuted the Season Three episode at the 2008 Comic Con in San Diego. The show hit the ground running after nine months in creative cold storage, but there are still components of it that make revisiting Season Two a slight prerequisite, so spend the time in doing so.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented with a VC-1 encode at 1.78:1 widescreen, Heroes looks like it did when I was watching the high-definition presentations at the end of 2007. Many episodes include close-ups of characters thinking about something that happened or is going to happen, and the facial detail, like individual beard hair (Mohinder), pores (Pasdar) or the female form in general (Panettiere) all look reminiscent of broadcast. Visual effects tend to stand out a little more than they did initially, but blacks are pretty consistent, film grain not so much, but still pretty visible, and the transfer rate stays high throughout. Overall, as far as television series on the next-gen format, this is right at the top of a short list.
I sampled the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless tracks at random points through the season set, and again I'm impressed by how able the format picks up the work. Speaker panning is subtle but effective, especially during the "Four Months Ago" episode, low-end fidelity isn't in every scene, but when it's present provides a nice punch, and dialogue sounds strong in the center channel without any compensation to speak of. The soundtracks might not be as powerful as one would anticipate, but they are very capable and enjoyable, and both audio and video presentations are upgrades over the standard def versions, which also appeared day and date with the Blu-ray releases.
Season Two's 11 episodes are spread out over four discs, with four episodes on each of the first two discs, two on the third, and the season finale on the fourth. Each disc has the U-Control function that most, if not all Universal Blu-rays seem to possess. Within the U-Control is a "Hero Connections" feature, which when selected, will sum up a specific character's arc to that point and updates through the season, which is a nice touch. The other part of the U-Control is the picture-in-picture video commentaries, which are available on each episode. For the sake of order, I'll tackle the extras by disc.
The commentary on "Four Years Later" by Kring, Loeb and Coleman was decent, if not a little bit dry, with Coleman providing the comic relief and Loeb providing the production-specific stuff while Kring discussed show style choice. "Lizards" by Grunberg, Executive Producer Allan Arkush and Writer Michael Green was a bit better, as Grunberg and Green joked frequently, while Arkush goes into some shot breakdowns. You can tell these were done just before or after the episode aired, as the cast likes stuff that was universally panned, like Claire's boyfriend for instance. "Kindred" hosts Quinto and his dog, Director Paul Edwards and Executive Producer J.J. Philbin. This is pretty drab, as you do a lot of watching them watch the episode, with very little insight. This goes for "The Kindness of Strangers," which includes Pasdar and Dana Davis, who was Monica during Season Two. There are two deleted scenes on "Four Months Later" (4:34), one of which showed Hiro's Dad using powers that I don't recall seeing before. "Heroes Season 2: A New Beginning" (14:38) is the on-set look at the show that was shot during production and includes Alejandro's thoughts, which shows you how dated this really is. But at least the stars show up and pitch in for interviews here, so that's nice. "Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint" (23:14) examines the fictional character from a real perspective in Japanese lore, with historians to boot, but at more than 20 minutes is way too long. The disc is also BD-Live enabled for your dining and dancing pleasure.
Starting off, the commentary on "Fight or Flight" is with Grunberg and Executive Producer Greg Beeman, and Grunberg doesn't seem as jokey this time around, though him and Beeman do gave a good back and forth, even if the track is boring. "The Line" hosts Coleman, Producers Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster. Meh, occasional shot breakdown and love to the supporting cast not around on the day of commentary. "Out of Time" brings Oka and Director Daniel Attias together, and shot motivations are discussed along with Oka's origins to the screen, while they hype episodes that follow. "Four Months Ago" features Beeman and Ventimiglia who discuss what was done where, and aside from Milo seemingly being too serious for the room, the track was unspectacular. Five deleted scenes (6:46) on "Fight or Flight" are interesting in the way that the relationship between Hiro and Kensei is examined. Three more scenes in "The Line" are next (5:05), which really help explain the lure that the Company can have on a sheltered hero. Two more scenes on "Out of Time" (2:41) and three on "Four Months Ago" (3:42) are next, but I'd categorize them as "bland" and "not so bland." Two featurettes follow, starting with "Genetics of a Scene" (23:14), which examines the concept, intent and execution of several scenes through the season, with interviews from the cast and crew. It makes for some interesting viewing. "The Drucker Files" (8:32) is a little more cryptic, examining a character that is a cross between Howard Hughes and Bill Gates apparently. Smells like the introduction of a Season Three character to me, since offhand I don't remember him in the first two seasons.
The "Cautionary Tales" commentary includes Bell, Ashley Crow (who plays Claire's mother) and Director Greg Yaitanes. Wait, wait a minute, Kristen Bell just said the word "autoerotic." Mmm. Seriously, she drives much of the talking on this one, even if the trio watches the episode from time to time. "Truth & Consequences" brings in Director Adam Kane, Stephen Tobolowsky (who plays Bob) and, about halfway through, David Anders (who plays Kensei). Tobolowsky is very subtle in his humor and it's hilarious. That and watching Anders not do a British or Japanese accent is equally off-putting. There are two forgettable deleted scenes (1:28) on "Cautionary Tales," and a stills gallery of the work of Tim Sale.
Arkush and composers Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin discuss "Powerless." The musicians seem to know a little too much about creative style and content for television, but they do discuss the musical cues with great intelligence. A decent but underwhelming track. From there, the alternate ending for the episode is included (17:58), which includes storyboard and temporary visual effects work. Suffice to say had there not been a strike, this would have proved to be a very interesting story that Kring and company explored. In addition to this ending, Kring, Loeb and Executive Producer Jesse Alexander are included on a separate discussion (10:58) about the ending, and they also discuss where they wanted the stories to go if there wasn't a strike. It proves to be a very interesting piece. The "Untold Stories" (12:13) are essentially shot footage of the next two episodes. Most of the footage includes Bell's character, specifically an interesting look at her chasing Sylar some more, along with a dream sequence that would have introduced the villains I presume we'll see more of this season. Several featurettes produced for the NBC website are last (3:46), including a cool distant look at Nathan saving Peter, who saves Nathan again.
One of the reasons why I devoted so many words to Heroes is that, well, there's a lot to talk about. With Season Three about to air in the coming weeks, it's worth revisiting Season Two not only for what happened, but for what might have been as well. The storylines are decent, and the band came back for another tour so to speak, and with this presentation you get solid technical specs and a multitude of extra material. Fans of the show should snap this up promptly.