The Comic-Con 2008 panel for NBC’s “Heroes” began with the lights being dimmed and an extended preview of the upcoming third season of “Heroes” shown. “I guess some things never change. Welcome home.”Then the lights came up and.... no one was there. Tim Kring’s assistant Tim Martin came out and explained that the cast was apparently delayed by traffic on I-5 coming from L.A. Executive Producer Jeph Loeb then walked out and thanked the faithful who camped out overnight for a seat in Hall H. Then he started to stretch for time, doing random soundtrack giveaways, and even starting a ‘Shout-Off’ between both sides of the Hall, until finally, the entire cast -- Masi Oka (Hiro), Hayden Panettiere (Claire), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Greg Grunberg (Matt), Ali Larter (Niki), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Suresh), Zachary Quinto (Sylar), James Kyson Lee (Ando), Jack Coleman (HRG), Dania Ramirez (Maya), and creator Tim Kring (along with artist Tim Sale) finally made it onstage. Then we were treated to a screening of the season premiere episode of “Heroes”, two months early! And if this episode is a good indication of what we can expect, then it looks like the show has regained its footing and returned to the epic storytelling that made it a phenomena in its first year. **RED ALERT! RED ALERT! STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS!!!** The episode picks up at the end of the abbreviated Season Two, with the attempt on Nathan Petrelli’s life. Nathan flat-lines on the operating table -- but then he comes back to life, pale as a Casper and twice as grateful. Then we learn that it was Nathan’s brother Peter - from the future - who came back in time to kill Nathan, to prevent him from revealing to the world the existence of super-powered people. Matt figures it out, and gets banished to the desert for his troubles. Hiro is in Japan, a titan of industry running his family’s company. He tells Ando he’s bored, that after saving the world -- twice -- he’s a man without a quest. And right on cue, he’s delivered a dvd with a message his father recorded for him before his death. The message? On the dvd, Hiro’s dad Kaito Nakamura (George Takei) explains that he is now the protector of a secret that, if it falls into the wrong hands, could destroy the world. It’s in his safe, and he’s instructed to NEVER open the safe. “It’s half of a formula...It’s the light, to combat darkness,” Nakamura says in the recording. After Hiro and Ando open the safe (and get chided for it posthumously by Hiro’s father). Season 3’s new villain, a blonde named Daphne, AKA Speedster (Brea Grant) shows up and steals the formula. Sylar’s back! He shows up and terrorizes Claire in her home in a scene obviously written by someone with affection for the “Scream” horror franchise. Their scenes together were the highlights of the episode, simultaneously tense and funny. “I know you’re scared Claire,” Sylar says. “I would be too if I were here with someone like me.” Claire stabs him in the heart with a huge kitchen knife. But Sylar overpowers her and then proceeds to pull a Hannibal Lector and cut the top of her head off and then pokes around in her brain and absorbs her power. As he walks out, Claire asks Sylar why he didn’t kill her. “You can never die, Claire, “ he said. “I guess now, neither can I.” Like Matt the intrepid cop, Niki Sanders gets short shrift in the episode. She shows up only briefly in a hotel room, scantily clad, with a political figure (played by Bruce Boxleitner) who’s interested in the newly-evangelical Nathan. Nathan, you see, after his near-death experience has seen the light. “We are all connected. Save ourselves. Save the World.” Meanwhile, Suresh makes a breakthrough. After watching Maya’s powers manifest themselves, he determines that the genetic building blocks for powers lie in the adrenal glands, and triggered by bursts of adrenaline. He sees the opportunity to create superheroes on demand, with specific powers. Maya thinks it’s going against nature, and that he should destroy it. But Suresh juices himself anyway, and wouldn’t you know he gave himself super-strength?? The episode had two HUGE reveals. Hiro, curious to see what the future holds if they don’t get the formula back, jumps forward and sees himself betrayed and struck down by a suddenly super-powered Ando! We get a quick glimpse of the potential Apocalypse as well. Then, after Angela warns Future Peter that he’s messed up the timeline with his actions, we learn that Present-Day Pete has been trapped inside the body of a prisoner in Level 5 of the company, the same place HRG is incarcerated. Fade to black, episode ends. **END OF SPOILERS****
After a huge reaction from the crowd to the premiere episode, the cast returned for a quick Q & A with the audience. Thank goodness they had to clear out for the “Lost” panel immediately after, because it was a bit of a train wreck.Loeb was the ringleader of the rapid-fire round. When asked to describe the upcoming season in one word, cast members said “melt your head (Milo, that’s really three words), fantastical (Ali), sexy (Greg), wonderful (Claire) and twisted (Dania). Quinto said playing Sylar “has always been a great to me.” Early indications from the first Ep. looks like his character may travel down a much different road, so Sylar fans should be happy (especially the young kid who screamed ‘Sylo, you’re the greatest!’). They were asked which character’s power they would like to swap for. Hayden said she would want Ali’s power, “because I’m tired of getting beat up,” she said. With that, the panel wrapped up and Loeb urged the cheering crowd to tell everyone they wanted to about what they saw, and let ‘em know “Heroes” is back to form.