The success of any heroic journey in fiction is based on the premise that the hero is an ordinary person who is endowed with special powers and is sent on a special quest to fulfill his or her destiny. NBC’s new drama “Heroes,” which debuts Monday night, takes that classic premise and gives it a slight twist by introducing viewers to the lives of several ordinary people from various parts of the world who are just beginning to come to terms with the reality that they have supernatural capabilities. Unlike “X-Men” or the “Fantastic Four,” these heroes do not work together or even know each other–yet–nor do they wear super cool comic-book-hero-style costumes, but their quest to do something more is no less interesting.
In Monday night’s episode, we meet a man who can fly, a woman who sees strange images in mirrors, and an artist who paints the future. The only real clue we are given to the possible link between these characters and their superhuman abilities is a genetics professor who is trying to solve the mystery of his father’s death. The big question: Did his father make a huge discovery regarding human evolution, and does anyone else know about it?
While it is tough at times to keep track of all of the stories this episode is trying to establish, I think the best storyline by far is the journey of Claire Bennett, a cheerleader who can automatically heal from any wound inflicted upon her. “Heroes” is at its most life-affirming when we watch a teenage girl who has always been judged on the most superficial criteria–even by her own family–discover there is so much more meaning to her life than what she previously thought. (I’ll bet I just grabbed the attention of all of you “Buffy” fans out there!)
With multiple characters, multiple storylines, and almost endless possibilities, “Heroes” is probably one of the few potential hits of the new TV season. It has enough action and mythic pathos to keep the graphic novel enthusiasts entertained while providing enough heart and soul to hold the interest of the rest of us.