I came to the Heroes ball late. I watched a bit of the first episode on original release, got distracted, and gave up. Not until the first full season was released on DVD did I catch up on what I'd missed: An excellent supernatural drama filled with interesting, unique characters, exciting stories, and fun plot twists.
Basically, Heroes is a comic book come to life, telling us of average people who suddenly find they have special, superhuman powers. A cheerleader, Claire (Hayden Panettiere), discovers she can heal any injury (it's a good thing, too, she'd be dead about 20 times over if she couldn't). A congressional candidate (Adrian Pasdar) can fly. A cop (Greg Grunberg) can read minds. And so on. The story that evolves over the 23 episodes of season one ultimately concern a serial killer, Sylar (Zachary Quinto), who is preying on superheroes and sucking out their powers for himself, and a nuclear bomb that is foretold by one hero to decimate New York City. Somehow the heroes are involved... but they might be able to stop it.
Those plotlines are ultimately less fun than the little things in Heroes: Panettiere is invariably a show-stealer as she innocently breaks her neck, then manages to heal it, trying to conceal the injury from her folks. Cop Grunberg's mind-reading ability becomes plenty of trouble, too, when he discovers his wife has been cheating on him.
Even in its first season, Heroes is already full of contradiction: One hero, Isaac (Santiago Cabrera), can see the future, while another, the prophetically-named Hiro (Masi Oka) can travel through time and change the future. Which he does, repeatedly. Not all of this flies very well. Stripper Niki Sanders (Ali Larter) has a sort of dual personality, one side good and one bad, and her "power" seems to be being able to be a super-strong badass. She gets plenty of screen time, and she burns on screen, but ultimately her presence in the show (along with a nonsensical family/custody drama) is little more than a distraction. There's a huge conspiratorial backstory about how the heroes came to be, but it too is too convoluted and melodramatic for its own good.
But overall Heroes is so much fun that you forget about its weak spots. The show is at its best during the early "Save the cheerleader, save the world" arc, which ends with Claire facing down Sylar at the homecoming game. Fun stuff.
You needn't look far on the web to find complaints about the season finale, which finally pays off a year's worth of omens, prophecies, and interventions... with a real letdown. It'd be criminal to spoil it here, but it reeks of meddling and could have been much better had creator Tim Kring (a writer best known for Crossing Jordan) gone for the jugular. Fortunately, there's no reason to expect anything but greatness for season two, though it already smacks of another "chase the killer" arc, which would frankly be derivative.
The seven-disc DVD set includes the original pilot (very similar to what aired, but offering a few minor tweaks), some 50 deleted scenes, and commentary tracks on many of the episodes. Various other making-of footage is also available, but, alas, no sneak peek at season two.
Save the cheerleader, save the crates.