Heroes: Season 3 (UK - BD)
Chris takes a belated look at the Blu-ray release of the last season of the show...
Firstly, I must apologise for the lateness of this review. Unfortunately we didn’t receive the Blu-ray set until very close to the release date, and we’ve all been very busy working on other titles. Anyway, now that the excuses are out of the way, let’s get on with it. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this review has at least a basic knowledge of Heroes, so I’m going to dispense with a lengthy exploration of the series and instead recap the episodes included in this set and provide some brief thoughts. If you’re more interested in the technical aspects of the release feel free to skip ahead.
Episode 1: The Second Coming
Matt Parkman learns the identity of Nathan Petrelli’s would-be assassin, a newly re-powered Sylar seeks Claire Bennet in order to obtain her regenerative abilities, and Hiro Nakamura learns of a family secret that could spell doom for the whole world.
Episode 2: The Butterfly Effect
Sylar confronts Elle Bishop at the Company, and twelve super-powered villains escape during the battle. Claire learns more about the extent of her powers, while Hiro and Ando Masahashi travel to Paris in search of a Mysterious speedster who has stolen from them.
Episode 3: One of Us, One of Them
Noah Bennet and his new partner Sylar go after four villains at a bank heist, while Peter Petrelli searches for information about the future. Meanwhile, Hiro and Ando meet the Haitian in Germany and Tracy Strauss looks for information about Niki Sanders.
Episode 4: I Am Become Death
Future Claire hunts down Peter, who has obtained a dangerous new ability in an attempt to save the world. Tracy learns more about her origins, while Mohinder Suresh continues to experiment with his newfound power. Hiro and Ando try break out of the Company's prison and release Adam Monroe.
Episode 5: Angels and Monsters
Claire tracks Stephen Canfield, an escaped villain that can create vortices, and Peter returns from the future. When Adam is unhelpful in finding the missing formula, Hiro tries to befriend villains Daphne Millbrook and Knox. Daniel Linderman tells Nathan to stay with Tracy, so that they can accomplish great things.
Episode 6: Dying of the Light
Hiro accepts an offer to join Pinehearst Industries. Before long Peter also arrives looking for answers, but loses something in the process. Claire and Sandra Bennet try to save Meredith Gordon from Eric Doyle, one of the escaped villains, while Nathan and Tracy come to Mohinder to learn where their abilities came from.
Episode 7: Eris Quod Sum
Having become monstrous, Mohinder attacks Nathan and Tracy when they attempt to save Maya. Elle surprises the Bennet family by asking for help, while Angela Petrelli tries to convince Sylar to save Peter from Pinehearst. Daphne is ordered to kill Matt for not joining the villains.
Episode 8: Villains
To prepare for the eventual showdown with his enemies, Hiro investigates past moments in the lives of Arthur Petrelli, Sylar, and Flint Gordon. He learns of a familial connection between Meredith and Flint's, and that Arthur ordered Linderman to arrange the ‘accident’ that resulted in the paralysis of Nathan's wife.
Episode 9: It's Coming
Hiro escapes Arthur but now believes he is ten years old. Arthur sends Knox and Flint to capture Peter and Claire, while Ando helps Hiro rediscover his powers. Nathan is conflicted about Arthur’s plan, but Tracy promises the elder Petrelli that she will persuade his son to join him. Elle teaches Sylar to access his empathy as Mohinder begins testing a new combination of the formula and discovers the need for a catalyst.
Episode 10: The Eclipse, Part 1
A second eclipse causes all of the heroes to lose their powers. Arthur sends Elle and Sylar to capture Claire, who is under the protective care of her father, Noah. When Claire is shot by Elle she is unable to heal without her powers. Elsewhere, Peter and Nathan go in search of the Haitian, while Matt, Hiro and Ando track down Daphne.
Episode 11: The Eclipse, Part 2
As the eclipse continues to affect the heroes' abilities, Noah seeks revenge against Sylar and Elle for shooting Claire. Peter and Nathan work together to help the Haitian stop his brother, Baron Samedi , but Peter is shocked by Nathan’s sudden change of heart regarding their father’s plans. In the meantime, Ando uses the 9th Wonders! comics in an attempt to restore Hiro's memory.
Episode 12: Our Father
In order to stop Arthur once and for all, Hiro and Claire travel sixteen years back in time, while Peter teams up with the Haitian to finally stop Arthur, only to run into Sylar. Elsewhere, Mohinder has a major breakthrough with the formula after Arthur obtains the catalyst.
Episode 13: Dual
After Arthur’s death, the Petrelli brothers find themselves at opposition with one another and Nathan makes a decision that will have serious repercussions for the heroes. Sylar holds Claire, Noah, Meredith and Angela hostage at Primatech, while Ando, Matt and Daphne continue their attempts to rescue Hiro from the past.
Episode 14: A Clear and Present Danger
After the destruction of both of Primatech and Pinehearst, our heroes attempt to start new lives. However, Claire uncovers Nathan's plot to hunt down and capture people with abilities, while Sylar begins the search for his biological parents.
Episode 15: Trust and Blood
The heroes find themselves on the run from Nathan and the ruthless hunter Emile Danko. Elsewhere, Sylar continues the search for his father and encounters a boy with abilities, while a series of prophetic paintings reveal the fate of someone close to Matt.
Episode 16: Building 26
Nathan's plans for the heroes risk being exposed when the President orders an investigation. Sylar embarks on a road trip to find his father with assistance from Luke Campbell, all the while pursued by Nathan's agents. Hiro and Ando travel to India and the heroes receive help from a mysterious new ally.
Episode 17: Cold Wars
Matt uses his power to interrogate Noah and discovers how he began working with Nathan to abduct people with abilities. The information Matt uncovers leads Peter to a confrontation with Danko, during which Nathan intervenes putting them both at risk.
Episode 18: Exposed
Acting on information from the mysterious 'Rebel', Peter and Matt head to Building 26 to find Daphne. Claire helps Alex Woolsy escape with assistance from her mother, Sandra. Sylar and Luke continue their search for Sylar's father.
Episode 19: Shades of Gray
Sylar finds his father, who is dying of cancer. Claire is faced with a tough decision when Eric Doyle asks her for help, while Nathan and Danko engage in a power struggle over operations at Building 26.
Episode 20: Cold Snap
Danko considers releasing Tracy so she'll lead him to Rebel. Elsewhere, Angela seeks help from an old friend and Hiro and Ando continue their mission to save baby Matt Parkman, while Rebel is revealed to be none other than Micah Sanders.
Episode 21: Into Asylump
Nathan and Claire go into hiding in Mexico, while Danko continues his mission to destroy those with abilities with the assistance of an unlikely ally. Elsewhere, Angela and Peter seek refuge in a church and begin to mend their relationship.
Episode 22: Turn and Face the Strange
Matt is looking for revenge against Danko, while Hiro and Ando continue their road trip to deliver baby Matt Parkman to his father. Angela, Nathan, Peter and Claire come together to unearth secrets from the past.
Episode 23: 1961
Angela reveals dark secrets that have haunted her for years, and Mohinder learns that his father was involved in long-forgotten government experiments. Sylar acquires a new ability that allows him to alter his appearance.
Episode 24: I Am Sylar
Sylar's new ability causes an unexpected identity crisis, while Hiro and Ando plan to take down Building 26. Matt's new-found responsibilities as a father cause him to re-evaluate his life, and Nathan comes up with a plan to right his wrongs.
Episode 25: An Invisible Thread
Nathan and Peter try to prevent Sylar from meeting the President, while Angela seeks out Matt after one of her prophetic dreams. Elsewhere, Hiro finds that the return of his powers come with dire consequences.
Let me just start by saying that I was a big fan of the first season of Heroes. I was an avid comic book reader as a kid, and even as an adult I retain some interest in many of the characters I used to read about on a weekly basis. As a major X-Men fan I thought the premise of the show was intriguing, and I was willing to overlook the obvious overlap of powers because, let’s face it, there are only so many cool things that people can do. The first season also had the advantage of not bearing the weight of fan expectation, and the whole story was pretty much one continuous arc with very few filler episodes. Unfortunately the second season was cut short by the writers’ strike and fan indifference to the plot, and so many of the plotlines were left unresolved (like the love interest Peter stranded in an alternate future). For the record I actually liked season two and was frustrated that they decided to simply start again instead of finishing things properly, but I had high hopes that season three would be a return to the form that made me a fan in the first place.
Unfortunately it wasn’t, and if anything it actually made me more aware of the show’s shortcomings. Week after week I’d sit there watching the characters make the same stupid mistakes, and wade through obvious filler episodes that did little to further the plot. I watched characters built up as deadly villains disposed of like afterthoughts, and spent much of the time screaming at the screen ‘just use power X to solve problem Z you morons!’. And then there are the storylines themselves. Now I haven’t read comic books for years, but even I was able to spot the stories rip..., err, inspired by classic X-Men tales. By the end of the season I was so tired of the inconsistent depiction of powers, recycled stories and boundless stupidity of the characters that I had all-but stopped caring. On the plus side, the show’s production values are always very good, Jack Coleman and Zachary Quinto are both very watchable in their roles, and Masi Oka and James Kyson Lee are a consistent source of entertainment (I’d watch a Hiro and Ando spin-off show any day). Speaking from a male perspective the show also has its fair share of seriously attractive females to suit all tastes, whether you’re into the cutesy Hayden Panettiere, the pouty good looks of Dania Ramirez, or the bombshells that are Kristen Bell and Ali Larter.
Heroes is quite an attractive series and this Blu-ray release does a very good job of showcasing that beauty. Episodes are presented in their original 1.78:1 broadcast ratios (1080/24p VC-1) and are a significant step up from the heavily compressed digital broadcasts I’ve been accustomed to. The show has an intentionally gritty look, and the move to high-definition really improves things in this area. Grain is still visible, but it’s far less ‘messy’, although it is still a bit inconsistent across the series. The colour palette is generally quite warm, except for the intentionally steely blues of the dystopian future, and colours are extremely well-rendered. Blacks are slightly inconsistent throughout, and shadow detail is a bit of a hit and miss affair. Speaking of detail, it’s probably the most improved facet of the Blu-ray presentation, revealing hitherto unforeseen delights—if you delight in seeing the craggy face of Robert Forster! Aside from the grain and inconsistent blacks, negative points include the occasional white speck and some minor edge enhancement, but they’re not enough to seriously detract from the experience as a whole. We’re certainly not talking reference level stuff here, but the Blu-ray makes for a decent upgrade over the standard-definition versions I’ve seen.
Heroes’ DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is as much of a step up from the cable TV broadcasts as the video was before it. Dialogue is always clear and centred (except when otherwise intended), while the various effects take full advantage of all five channels to create some pretty atmospheric moments. The heroes’ powers lend themselves very well to being spread around the soundstage, particularly any instances of mind reading or control, where voices are heard all around the listening position. There’s also some pretty aggressive bass at times, particularly when some of the characters are hurling flames around and blowing things up. The quieter moments are also full of subtle ambient effects that really draw you into the proceedings. The haunting, ever-present music seems to be a bit of a love or hate thing for most people, but luckily I happen to like it. The music has a strong presence in the mix and is integral to the show as the more obvious effects. It might not be up there with your average blockbuster movie, but all things considered Heroes sounds pretty good on Blu-ray.
The first disc begins with a ‘My Scenes’ feature, which allows you to index scenes and create clips. A number of deleted scenes (13:43 SD) taken from all of the episodes on disc one are also included, and they’re followed by a featurette entitled ‘The Superpowers of Heroes’ (08:01 HD), which examines the special effects used to bring the characters powers to life. ‘Heroes Connections - Network’ is basically a character bio feature that highlights connections between characters. The disc’s ‘U-Control’ feature offers BonusView picture-in-picture commentary from cast and crew, along with the ‘Connections’ bios in pop-up form.
The second disc also includes the ‘My Scenes’ option and deleted scenes (13:43 SD), along with a ‘Completing the Scene’ (07:52 HD) featurette that showcases some of the digital compositing work. More ‘Heroes Connections - Network’ bios are also included, followed by a series of ‘Alternate Stories’ entitled ‘The Recruit’ (18:02 HD, ‘Going Postal’ (10:11 HD and ‘Nowhere Man’ (18:08 HD). These are some of the most interesting extras in the set, as they’re basically mini-episodes of the show starring characters like puppet-master Eric Doyle. A commercial for the fictitious Pinehurst company (00:39 HD) is also featured, and things are wrapped up with more picture-in-picture commentary and bios.
Disc three opens with, you guessed it, ‘My Scenes’ and deleted scenes (03:54 SD). A featurette entitled ‘The Prop Box’ (05:36 HD) comes next and focuses on the props throughout the series. This is followed by a ‘Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art’ (01:14 HD), which showcases some of the wonderful images that appear throughout the series. More ‘Heroes Connections - Network’ bios are included, along with the customary picture-in-picture features.
Predictably, disc four includes the ‘My Scenes’ feature and a solitary deleted scene (00:22 SD). A ‘Genetics of a Scene’ (20:30 HD) feature is divided into four mini-featurettes that examine how certain scenes were created, which is pretty interesting stuff. ‘Heroes Connections - Network’ bios completes the standard extras, with the BonusView commentary and pop-up bios rounding things off for the disc as a whole.
The fifth and final disc opens with ‘My Scenes’ and more deleted scenes (05:53 SD). A featurette entitled ‘The Writer’s Forum’ (13:24 HD) find Tim Kring and two of the writers discussing their season three story choices. ‘Building Coyote Sands’ (10:46 HD) goes behind the scenes of the construction of one of the season’s more memorable sets. As you’ve no doubt guessed, the disc also includes ‘Heroes Connections - Network’ bios and more picture-in-picture features.
I’m honestly quite conflicted about this one. On one hand I acknowledge the show’s many faults and long for a time when the writers stop wasting half of the season with needless sidesteps and imbue the characters with some common sense. On the other, well, I’m still a big X-Men fan and this is about the closest we’re going to get to a live-action TV series of that particular bunch of mutants. I’m also fond of several of the actors and the high production values ensure that, if nothing else, Heroes always looks and sounds good. I’m just hoping season four of the show can rise above the mediocrity of the past two seasons and deliver a more original and compelling story. Of course a series like Heroes is largely critic-proof anyway, because rabid fans of the show are most probably going to buy the boxed sets regardless of what some amateur critic says on a DVD review site. If you do buy this Blu-ray release you should be more than happy with the solid, if unspectacular, audio-visual elements and the entertaining bonus material.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 12th October 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: My Scenes, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Picture-in-Picture
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Jack Coleman, Zachary Quinto, Hayden Panettiere, Milo Ventimiglia, Masi Oka, James Kyson Lee, Adrian Pasdar, Ali Larter, Greg Grunberg, Brea Grant, Kristen Bell, George Takei, Robert Forster, Cristine Rose
Genre: Action, Drama and Sci-Fi
Length: 1066 minutes
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