Release Date: August 26, 2008
Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Masi Oka, James Kyson Lee, Milo Ventimiglia, Greg Grunberg, Ali Larter, Adrian Pasdar, Dania Ramirez, Kristen Bell, Stephen Tobolowsky and Zachary Quinto
Created and Executive Produced by: Tim Kring
Heroes: Season 2 is a 4-disc DVD collection of the second season of the hit NBC superhero series. Creatively speaking, it’s a mixed bag. Where the first season of this series created a lot of excitement that built each week, the second season definitely shows that the bloom is off the rose – things are too spread out in some ways, and the surprises that come don’t feel as genuine. This is a common problem with TV series – the amazing first season followed by the second year dropoff, and it has been seen ever since television began. Series from Miami Vice to Wiseguy to Lost have all dealt with this problem, so it’s not a new issue. But with this series and this season, there’s another issue at work – the WGA Strike of last year, which either kills the season or saves it, depending on which way you look at it. The multiple stories of this season involve the potential release of the deadly Shanti virus on the world, the “Nightmare Man” villain, the new character Maya (Dania Ramirez) and her deadly power, and the adventures of Hiro (Masi Oka) in feudal Japan with his legendary hero, who predictably turns out to have feet of clay. Viewers of the show have only seen the eleven episodes presented here on the discs, but there were in fact thirteen episodes put before the cameras. The strike caused the series’ producers and NBC executives to reevaluate the story at hand. When it became clear that the WGA Strike would last long enough to only leave the season with a handful of episodes or less, the decision was made to reshoot the end of the eleventh episode and eliminate the twelfth and thirteenth instalments. Further, a series of planned origin episodes were scrapped, after having been announced as an adjunct to the season. As a result, only eleven episodes have been aired for the second season, and the virus outbreak story effectively ends with the close of the eleventh episode. The final episode includes a brief scene that effectively sets up what will be the third season of the series, due to begin airing this month.
The DVD set comes with a healthy amount of extras, including commentaries on every episode, featurettes, deleted scenes, internet extracts, and even a series of clips from the filmed but unaired episodes. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish both for the episodes and for the extra features. The season is also available on Blu-ray, containing additional features including the video of the commentaries we hear on the standard definition edition. I should note that most of the extras are already available on the NBC website for the series. I will indicate which extras are actually new material, to my knowledge. To save time, I will say now that I believe that all the deleted scenes are new material. (And this is where someone will show me that there's a trove of them on the NBC website...)
As with my earlier series reviews, I will take the discs in order, detailing what episodes and features can be found on each. THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE, in the interest of letting fans of the series know where they can see key developments.
This disc contains the first three episodes of the season:
“Four Months Later...” – The premiere episode of the season begins four months after the climax of the prior season. We see where several characters have landed, including a new adventure for Hiro in feudal Japan, and surprising ones for the characters of Nathan and Peter. The new character of Maya is introduced, already on the run with her brother toward the United States. This episode has a commentary with Tim Kring, co-exec producer Jeph Loeb and actor Jack Coleman.
“Lizards” – The various heroes’ new lives are disrupted, as cheerleader Claire encounters another person who can fly, and Hiro continues in his adventure with the man he thought was his hero. This episode has a commentary with director and exec producer Allan Arkush, co-exec producer Michael Green and actor Greg Grunberg.
“Kindred” – Maya uses her deadly powers to help her brother and Hiro’s adventures with Kensei continue to take an unfortunate turn. This episode has a commentary with co-exec producer J.J. Philbin, director Paul Edwards and actor Zachary Quinto.
The special features on the first disc include:
-First, the aforementioned commentaries, which are the audio portion of the video commentaries available on the NBC website for the series. If you’re curious what the participants look like, just go to NBC.com and select the site for this series, and you’ll find them in short order. These commentaries were shot and recorded at the time the episodes were being completed, so they are a time capsule of the actors and producers’ impression while still in the midst of doing the season.
Deleted Scenes - (4:35, Anamorphic) – This is a pair of deleted scenes from the first episode, “Four Months Later...”, including the revelation of the special ability affiliated with the character played by George Takei.
Heroes: Season 2 – “A New Beginning” - (14:41, Anamorphic) – NEW MATERIAL -This featurette introduces the new season and has Tim Kring and the other filmmakers explaining their goals for the 2nd year. The on-set footage comes from throughout the shortened season, including the final aired episode. If you haven’t seen the first season (and I hadn’t before viewing these discs), it’s helpful to watch this featurette before watching the first episode of the year.
-When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see non-anamorphic trailers for DVDs of House, M.D.: Season Four, The Scorpion King 2: Rise Of A Warrior, Life: Season One, and a promo for the upcoming season of Heroes.
This disc contains the fourth thru the sixth episodes of the season:
“The Kindness of Strangers” – Another new hero emerges in New Orleans, and we learn more about the earlier generation of superheroes. This episode has a commentary by Tim Kring along with actors Dana Davis and Adrian Pasdar.
“Fight or Flight” – Matt (Greg Grunberg) hunts the “Nightmare Man” as amnesiac Peter deals with his situation in Ireland. This episode has a commentary by director and exec producer Greg Beeman with actor Greg Grunberg.
“The Line” – Various heroes struggle with moral issues, including Hiro falling for the legendary princess who is supposed to fall for the man he’s been trying to help to greatness. This episode has a commentary by co-exec producers Adam Armus and Kay Foster with actor Jack Coleman.
This disc contains the following special features:
Deleted Scenes - (6:47 and 5:06, Anamorphic) – Deleted scenes for episode 5 and 6 are presented here, with the total times listed above.
Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint - (23:50, Anamorphic) – This featurette is a mock history of Hiro’s legendary hero from feudal Japan. The piece includes narration over dramatic illustrations and mock interviews. This piece was previously available on a page of the NBC website, and it’s probably appropriate that it be included here.
The Drucker Files - (8:33, Anamorphic) – This is another featurette ported over from the NBC website, including mock news stories about a hero that has not been seen on the TV series.
This disc contains the seventh thru the ninth episodes of the season:
“Out of Time” – The heroes battle the “Nightmare Man”, and Peter’s abilities return even though he still can’t remember what happened to him. This episode has a commentary with director Dan Attias and actor Masi Oka.
“Four Months Ago...” – The show finally goes back to explain what the heck happened after the end of last season, and how it ties into this season. This episode has a commentary with director/exec producer Greg Beeman and actor Milo Ventimiglia.
“Cautionary Tales” – Maya and her brother travel with Sylar, and Matt deals with his expanding mental powers. This episode has a commentary with director Greg Yaitanes, and actors Kristen Bell and Ashley Crow.
This disc contains the following special features:
Deleted Scenes - (2:42, 3:43 and 1:26, Anamorphic) – Deleted scenes for episode 7, 8 and 9 are presented here, with the total times listed above.
Genetics of a Scene - (23:16, Anamorphic) – NEW MATERIAL - This is a four-part featurette, with director/exec producers Greg Beeman and Allan Arkush alternating turns as they describe specific scenes they directed in various episodes. On-set footage is included of the scenes being filmed, intercut with Beeman and Arkush’s comments and clips from the scenes as completed.
The fourth disc includes the final two aired episodes for the season:
“Truth & Consequences” – Hiro goes after Adam, and Peter tries to stop the threat of the Shanti virus. This episode has a commentary with director Adam Kane and actor Stephen Tobolowsky.
“Powerless” – The final episode of the season finds several heroes converging over the Shanti virus, and several others confronting Sylar. At the close of the episode, we see the opening moments of the next story for the series, “Villains.” This episode has a commentary with director/exec producer Allan Arkush and series composers Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin. (And for those of you wondering about those names – yes, they were an integral part of Prince’s band, The Revolution, back in the 80’s.)
This disc contains the following special features:
Season 3 Preview - (8:37, Anamorphic) – SPOILERS HERE! DO NOT WATCH THIS BEFORE WATCHING THE FINAL EPISODE! - NEW MATERIAL - This featurette includes some on-set footage of the cast and crew working on the first episode of the new season, which picks up literally seconds after the conclusion of the last one. Predictably, they’re all very excited about the new year. Time will tell if the fans agree.
”Generations” Alternate Ending - (18:00, Anamorphic) – SPOILERS HERE! DO NOT WATCH THIS PIECE OR READ THIS SECTION BEFORE WATCHING THE FINAL EPISODE! - NEW MATERIAL - This is the original ending for the eleventh episode, before the WGA Strike forced a reshoot of all scenes concerning the virus. In the original version, Peter does NOT catch the vial, and the virus is released in Odessa, immediately spreading and killing. Nathan, Matt, and Peter use their powers to keep the town quarantined and blocked off, including the use of an uncompleted FX rockslide generated by Peter. The other elements of the cliffhanger remain intact – the building still blows up, Maya is still saved, Sylar still escapes, Hiro still entombs Adam. But the press conference with Nathan now has a very different way of arriving at the same kind of cliffhanger ending seen in the aired version.
Inside the Alternate Ending of “Generations” - (10:58, Anamorphic) – SPOILERS HERE! DO NOT WATCH THIS BEFORE WATCHING THE FINAL EPISODE! - NEW MATERIAL - This is a sitdown interview with Tim Kring, along with co-execs Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander, who discuss the last-second change made to the ending of the eleventh episode due to the strike. (Note: They’re sitting in a set with lovingly bloodied walls...) Footage from both versions of the ending is included for reference. The producers openly admit they were already in production on episodes 12 and 13 and had to stop when it became clear that the series would not be returning any time soon.
Untold Stories - (12:14 Total, Anamorphic) – SPOILER ALERT – LOTS OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS HERE! - NEW MATERIAL – This is a series of brief scenes from the twelfth and thirteenth episodes as filmed before the stop order was given. Some of this material is clearly intended to be used in the coming season, as there is at least one moment where “SPOILER ALERT” is flashed over the action. While these scenes reflect the story then at hand (with a virus outbreak in Odessa), they do not completely spill the beans; they are being rewritten and reshot as we speak for the 3rd Season.
NBC.COM Featurettes - (Total 3:47, Non-anamorphic) – This is a really quick collection of snippets from the NBC.com website, including a shot of the Hotel Corinthian explosion, a viral handheld video of Maya and Alejandro on the run, and a CGI “camcorder” shot of Nathan and Peter’s fun from the end of last season as seen by someone on the street in Brooklyn.
Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art - (2:02, Anamorphic) – NEW MATERIAL - This is quick assembly of comic book art as seen in the series, with underscoring by Lisa and Wendy. (It's possible this is somewhere on the website, but I was unable to find it...)
There is also a “Previews” menu, which brings up non-anamorphic trailers for the season sets for Battlestar: Galactica, Coach, Eureka, The Incredible Hulk, Murder She Wrote, Northern Exposure, Quantum Leap, and The Rockford Files, along with a combined trailer for The A Team, Knight Rider and Magnum P.I..
VIDEO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 ½
Heroes: Season 2 gets a fine anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that looks great and blends the extensive CGI effects in to the real scenes very nicely. Given the extensive budget on the series, and the attention to detail, this is a pleasure to watch. I wouldn’t call it quite feature quality (there is a difference between a well-budgeted TV series and a 100 million dollar feature film), but for a standard definition transfer, this will certainly look good on anyone’s HDTV.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
Heroes: Season 2 is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that, as usual, mostly lives in the front channels. There is more use of the rear channels than your average TV series, as they go active for low-level atmospheric sounds and music, and there’s a little more oomph in the action sequences. But this is still a mix that pretty much puts the dialogue in the front channels and is happy with that. Given that, the dialogue is clear and the occasional atmospheric effects are pleasing.
As I have mentioned in other season set reviews, the various episodes here each have a few chapter stops, but there are no chapter menus, meaning that the viewer must step through them on their own. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French. One other note, the extra features on all the discs come with English 2.0 audio – this includes all the deleted scenes, the alternate ending, and all the featurettes and interviews.
IN THE END...
Heroes: Season 2 does not need a recommendation from me to guarantee a lot of interest. (As I understand it, it’s already doing quite well, even from the pre-sales.) The DVD set provides a pretty in-depth look at the strike-shortened season from the point of view of the people that made it, and adds a look at not only what is coming for the show, but what could have happened had the season not been terminated early. I should note again that much of the extra content here has already been available on the NBC website, including the commentaries and some of the featurettes. But this set is the only place you’ll find a good quality standard definition collection of the episodes coupled with their commentaries, along with those extras and the added bonus of the unaired material. Fans of the series will have already picked up this set before reading this review, no doubt. But casual observers might enjoy renting this one first and seeing if it’s to their liking.
August 31, 2008