Like a lot of people, I jumped off the Heroes bandwagon some time around the beginning of season 2. By then, it had become abundantly clear that the show was turning into a series of excuses for nothing to ever happen. For season 3 though, series creator Tim Kring seeks to change that by… shock… having something actually go on in his hour long drama.

The first episode of Heroes season 3, “The Butterfly Effect” debuted in its entirety at Comic Con, played in Hall H on their digital HD screens and pumped out of massive subwoofers. The result was surprisingly cinematic for a show which has till now seemed pretty comfortable within the confines of little boxes in our homes. The show’s third season has been given its own separate title, perhaps has a way of delineating the place where Kring gets his ass in gear and actually starts delivering some action. They’re calling it Heroes Volume 3: Villains, though if the first episode is any indicator that doesn’t necessarily mean a rise in the percentage of bad guy action.

“The Butterfly Effect” begins, as you’d expect from the title, with time travel. Future Peter Petrelli faces off with future Claire, who plans to shoot him in the head. Future Peter tells future Claire that she probably shouldn’t, since if she lets him live, he’ll go back in time and fix everything which made their future suck so much. Of course there’s nothing Claire could ever do to stop Peter anyway, since he has all the superpowers of a God, but Claire doesn’t seem to realize this until she fires her bullet, Peter turns it into a bowl of petunias (Ok I made the flowers part up, but wouldn’t that be awesome?) and then hops back through time to do whatever the hell he wants anyway.

And so the first episode of Heroes: Villains kicks off, with Peter going back in time to shoot his brother. That’s right, he’s out to get Nathan, before Nathan can reveal to the world that people with superpowers actually exist. Future Peter’s theory is that Nathan’s announcement is where everything goes horribly wrong, so of course the only way to stop it is to shoot him. I guess he never considered trying to talk him out of it or anything. This is an hour show after all, they have to resolve these sorts of things quickly. Future Peter’s quest to shut his past brother up fills the primary story for this first episode of the new season, and even though my hatred of Peter Petrelli as a character is near legendary, I have to admit they pull it off pretty well. Things happen, shots are fired, Matt Parkman gets in a psychic battle, characters are left to die in the desert, blood is spilled, and Jesus gets credit for everything.

The rest of the episode splits time primarily between the story of Hiro embarking on a new quest in Japan, and Mohinder in America, uncovering the thing that will apparently drive the save the world plot of the entire season.

Mohinder is, as usual, kind of a dud, but Hiro’s story delivers both in humor and in time traveling action. Hiro’s dad reaches out from beyond the grave, via a recorded message and tasks him with protecting a secret document from falling into the wrong hands. Of course within minutes the document has fallen into the wrong hands, snatched from Hiro’s palm by a new character, a Hero who moves so fast that even Hiro’s attempts to stop time can’t slow her down. Hiro pops into the future, to see what havoc is screwup will wreak. The world looks pretty bad, not just on a grand scale, but on a personal level. I’m not going to spoil it here, but suffice to say that as usual, Heroes is obsessed with what it means to be truly “special” and contemplates the horrors of a world in which “special” has become the norm.

As someone who’d given up on the show, I’m actually impressed with what Kring has managed to accomplish in this new season debut. Though he’s still clinging to some of the overwrought, overplayed drama which dragged the show down in the past, he has at least started balancing that out with some real action sequences to give those of us in the audience some sort of payoff for all the angst being splattered across the screen. All the primary Heroes characters get their moment in this first episode. Even Sylar finally does something, and the episode’s big battle between him and Claire the saved Cheerleader will, if not excite you, at least gross you out. In the audience I saw it with, the scene literally caused a fan a few rows over to faint, and while the rest of us contemplated what had just happened, one of the Heroes faithful had to be dragged out on a stretcher. Maybe there’s hope for Heroes yet, assuming it’s audience isn’t left for dead.

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