Friday , February 23 2024
We get the Blu-ray treatment with great extras and audio to balance out an average season.

Blu-ray Review: Heroes Season 2

Heroes Season 2, known as Volume 2 – Generations, has arrived on Blu-ray and brings us back into the scattered cast of heroes and villains in high definition glory. The season was shortened due to the WGA strike, and as a result the season is not as strong as the outstanding first year.

The Season

Season 2 of Heroes begins four months after the events in Kirby Plaza as outlined in the Season 1 finale. All of the various characters have separated, for the most part, and are going about their lives. Since the cast is so large it is a full three episodes before we catch up to everyone.

Claire Bennett (Hayden Panettiere) has taken up a new identity in California while her father Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) and Dr. Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) team up to infiltrate the Company that Bennet used to work for. Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) has transported himself back in time to feudal Japan. Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) is now with the NYPD while he and Dr. Suresh take care of Molly (Adair Tishler). Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) and Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose) are at war as Nathan battles a drinking problem that lost him his chance at the Presidency and his family. Niki and Micah Sanders (Ali Larter and Noah Gray-Cabey) are facing challenges as more personalities appear within Niki and she allies with the Company to try and find a cure.  Finally, unless you were hiding under a rock last year, you will also know that Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) and Sylar (Zachary Quinto) survived and they are both facing challenges based around their powers (or lack thereof).

click to view larger imageThat is a huge cast to keep track of, yet despite this the writers and creators have added some new characters to the mix. The first and not so great addition is the South American twins Maya and Alejandro (Dania Ramirez, Shalim Ortiz). They become intertwined with Sylar as they try to run from their past and their powers.

The second addition that I loved is Elle Bishop (Kristen Bell). I confess that it is equal parts liking the character and my deep-seated crush for Ms. Veronica Mars.

The last addition, Micah's cousin Monica Dawson (Dana Davis), is introduced in the Niki/Micah arc of the show. Monica can perform actions once she has seen them (muscle mimic). She is a generally underdeveloped and underused character, and with a shortened season you have to wonder if she had a wide purpose that we never saw.

The twins, in my mind, are completely unnecessary additions with little of value to add to the season. Their plot and the parts they played could have been done by regular people and I never connected with their characters as I did with all the others, aside from Niki – I don't like that character.

Elle, on the other hand, is a hired gun for the Company, with a twist. She is the head of the organization's daughter, and she has issues. Elle is an electrical based enhanced human and she has been using her powers — and been aggressively tested — since she was a child. She has mental issues to contend with.

The Generations plotline focuses around the Company and their research into the Shanti virus. Over the course of the season, we are introduced to the Companies founders and how they relate to the main characters. Not to reveal too much, but a glimpse of the future shows the characters that the Virus will be unleashed unless they can stop it, and it will cause an outbreak that could disastrously affect the entire world. The heroes eventually come together from their interwoven lives in an effort to stop the virus from causing a global pandemic.

Blame it on too many characters, or the WGA strike or maybe just an over ambitious story arc, but Heroes Season 2 does not live up to the high standards set by it's first season. Despite a figurative mountain of interesting characters, the first half of the season just stumbles along with occasional brilliant moments, then grinds to a crawl again. Once the real meat of the virus situation starts to creep up, the later half of the season becomes much, much better, but the weak links (Maya, Alejandro, Monica, and Niki) have to much screen time they kept pulling my interest away.

Part of the issue is that the shortened season took too long to re-introduce the old characters and introduce new ones to the mix. By the time we are all clear on where and what everyone is, we are deep into the season and it was hard to connect with the dire situation the Shanti Virus could cause. Because the explosion in New York was pervasive throughout the first season, we were always aware that the clock was ticking. In Generations I was never as emotionally involved as I had been in the previous story arc.

That is not to say that Season 2 was horrible – not at all. Heroes is still exceptional TV, and even average to bad episodes are better then the majority of the other series on air. It is the curse of having a great cast, writers and producers. The public expects so much and when the promise is not met, we are upset. Heroes Season 2 is a solid season that did not live up to expectations. It is fun to watch and your favorite characters do some really cool things, that alone makes it worth the price of admission, as they say.

The Video

Heroes Season 2 is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, utilizing the VC1 compression codec, it is spread over 4 BD50 discs. One of the things I learned about Heroes is that it is filmed (on 35mm film) and then transferred to HDCAM masters for the broadcasts (and HD releases). What this has done (or is it on purpose) is to cause a lot of grain and noise in the transfer and doesn't present the best imagery on the Blu-ray release.

The video is sporadic in its color depth and levels. At times characters look just right, later in the scenes their skin tone is altered and not realistic. Black levels are also handled oddly. The blacks are too murky, and shadow detail in dark scenes is almost non-existent. I was shocked the first time I saw a grey/black night scenes – I almost checked my brightness levels, but realized it was the transfer quality.

click to view larger imageI am being harsh on the quality, but this is NBC's crown jewel as far as dramas go, and you would think they would design the show to look as good as possible. Many other television series have achieved near greatness in their HD broadcasts, it is a shame Heroes Season 2 doesn't live up to it's visual potential.

At times the moons align and the video quality is stunning, but that is sporadic and exceptional. The scenes themselves are shot wonderfully, so from a layout and composition perspective it looks great. I just wish we had better color levels, truly deep blacks, and proper grain levels to make this show pop off the screen.

The Audio

Despite network television being broadcast in only Dolby Digital 5.1 formats, it was great to see that Heroes Season 2 has every episode presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The lossless audio format is a bonus for us as we listen to this show. As this is a dialogue-driven show with the occasional action scene, the surround mix is unfortunately greatly underused. Regardless, the audio quality is crisp and efficient, and when you do get a moment of action or dynamic environments the surround mix sounds is impressive to hear.

click to view larger imageThe soundtrack is also very enjoyable and occasionally uses an effective surround mix that envelopes you in it's atmospheric tones. The title song and score is written and performed by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman with the voice of Shenkar. Wendy and Lisa are THE Wendy and Lisa from Purple Rain fame and are long time collaborators of Prince. I enjoy hearing their work again. Their use of audio and music cues add a lot to the show and pull you into the Heroes world.

Overall, the addition of the audio on the Blu-ray release in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio gives us a much better sounding Heroes experience then we had in the broadcast version. Hopefully we will see more dynamic uses of the format in future seasons. Universal should be commended for looking ahead of the curve and offering us this format for our listening pleasure.

The Extras

Universal has pulled out all the stops and has given fans of the show a mountain of extras to enjoy either while watching the episodes or as separate featurettes on the discs. The biggest and best feature spread across all the discs is the picture in picture video commentary included for every episode. This requires a BD-Live 1.1 capable player, but with the magic of bonus view we see different actors and staff discussing the episodes as we watch them. This is really fun to watch.

The other featurettes are interesting, if somewhat redundant after watching the commentaries, but ultimately they are enjoyable. The Hero connections feature returns again, and is a great way to get additional information about the characters as they appear on screen.

Picture in Picture Cast and Crew Commentaries (across all Discs)

  • click to view larger image"Four Months Later" with Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, Co-Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and Series Star Jack Coleman.
  • "Lizards" with Executive Producer Allan Arkush, Series Star Greg Grunberg and Co-Executive Producer Michael Green.
  • "Kindred" with Episode Director Paul Edwards, Co-Executive Producer J.J. Philbin and Series Star Zachary Quinto.
  • “The Kindness of Strangers” with Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring and Series Stars Dana Davis & Adrian Pasdar.
  • "Fight or Flight" with Series Star Greg Grunberg and Executive Producer Greg Beeman.
  • "The Line" with Co-Executive Producers Adam Armus & Kay Foster and Series Star Jack Coleman.
  • "Out of Time" with Episode Director Daniel Attias and Series Star Masi Oka.
  • "Four Months Ago" with Series Star Milo Ventimielia and Executive Producer Greg Beeman.
  • "Cautionary Tales" with Episode Director Greg Yaitanes and Series Stars Kristen Bell & Ashley Crow.
  • "Truth & Consequences" with Episode Director Adam Kane and Series Star Stephen Tobolowsky.
  • "Powerless" with Executive Producer Allan Arkush and Composers Lisa Coleman & Wendy Melvoin.

Disc 1

  • BD-Live – Later this year when Universal launches their BD-Live offerings we can get additional Heroes content and interactive features via this menu. This is a great way to get more enjoyment from something you have already watched, looking forward to its launch.
  • "Heroes: Season 2 – A New Beginning" (15 minutes – HD)
  • "Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint" (24 minutes – HD)
  • Deleted Scenes – some episodes feature deleted scenes

Disc 2

  • "Genetics of A Scene" (23 minutes – HD)
  • "The Drucker Files" (24 minutes – HD)
  • Deleted Scenes – some episodes feature deleted scenes

Disc 3

  • "Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art" (4 minutes – HD)
  • Deleted Scenes – some episodes feature deleted scenes

Disc 4

  • "Generations" Alternate Ending (18 minutes – HD)
  • Inside the Alternate Ending of "Generations" (18 minutes – HD)
  • Untold Stories (12 minutes – HD)
  • Deleted Scenes – some episodes feature deleted scenes

The Final Word

Heroes Season 2 is difficult to review. The story starts slow but gains steam towards the climax but ultimately falls short of the first season. The cinematography is great, and the scenes come alive with effects and set pieces, but they are wrapped in a video presentation that is less than ideal, which is surprising considering the prestige of the show. The audio is presented in one of the best formats available, but it is underused and could have been more effective in drawing in the viewers.

The extras are a saving grace and elevate the viewing with innovative features and perspectives. Heroes Season 2 is recommended for fans of the series who want more from the show. This Blu-ray package delivers in spades.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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