Whenever someone asks me whether they should be watching Heroes Reborn, my answer is always some sort of nonverbal groan-shrug, followed by a crucial caveat: It’s got a predetermined lifespan, at least. Knowing that we’ve got an end date, a set universe in which only so many things can happen, has managed to soften each blow whenever the show flaunts its dumber elements (video-game powers, L.L. Bean models controlling the Aurora Borealis) with the assurance that, “Shh, hush, now, it won’t last forever.” It’s actually kind of a consolation blessing, one that says that NBC and Reborn’s showrunners have a mature awareness of and respect for both the franchise’s completely batshit nonsense and the somehow-still-dedicated Heroes fanbase keeping the series on the air; in other words, if its writers want so badly to break all of their own narrative rules, they might as well establish one ultimate rule that can’t be broken: time. (That is, I hope it can’t.) Keeping this in mind this week actually made the whole shebang a lot more enjoyable, so join me in controlled cynicism, won’t you?
Tommy and His Mommy both survived that horrific car crash, though who hit them, we still don’t know. Tommy teleports them both to the nearest hospital after she tells him they’re coming for him and passes out. Long story short, because he is a teenager and teenagers are dumb, he basically handed himself over to the bad G-men on a silver platter by knowingly offering to have his blood tested in the hope of healing his mom when it turns out the hospital’s O-negative supply is depleted.
He’s not a match, though, which will be a weirdly specific narrative decision unless it turns out his mom adopted him, à la Claire and the Bennets, a logical conclusion if she doesn’t have any hidden powers after all (that would suck, because hell yeah, moms with hidden powers). He and Emily, who came (with Brad briefly in tow, for some reason) when she heard about the crash, teleport to a hospital in Indiana that has O negative in stock; when they return literally three seconds later (he’s not a time-traveler, though?), a kind nurse who tried to get Tommy to tell her about his powers informs him she already had to send his blood to a federal database, which is definitely not how that works, and now, five minutes later, there are government people here (isn’t this rural Illinois?) to round him up. Uh-oh! Also, Tommy and Emily almost-but-don’t kiss after she tells him being different is cool because teenagers are just that cliché (they’re not). They do get to hold hands a little bit, though. By the way, who is watching Brad?
Our High Fashion Lyra Belacqua and her Pakistani mentor, who has materialized as a woman named Farrah, are heading south, but not before Malina laughs at male fragility (Farrah: “Grown men would shake in their boots if they had to save the world.” Malina: “Good thing I’m not a grown man!!!”) and then shows us her actual power: creating life — specifically, one of approximately a billion monarch butterflies that somehow ended up in the Arctic Circle — just like Linderman from the original series. This week, it occurred to me that only three powers we’ve seen so far seem to be wholly unique from those we saw in the original series: One is Miko’s weird video-game thing, one is Evil Paul’s superstrength, and the other ... well, we’ll get there in a minute. As Farrah and Malina travel south, they stop in the woods so that Malina can practice growing a tree from scratch? Unbeknownst to them, a hiker has stumbled upon this, and when he goes to call for help, despite Farrah’s assurance that they are peaceful (I mean, the girl literally just made a tree), Farrah goes invisible, knocks him out, smashes his phone, and says, “Training is over,” like this is Karate Kid: Except With Girls.
Ren and Miko drew the short straw this week, with the least interesting plot developments: On their way to the airport for the next flight to the U.S., Ren exploits his gamer “internet fame” (is this supposed to be an e-sports thing?) to somehow buy the (very expensive) plane tickets, and then invites his entire online following to come cosplay out front of Renautas on the day they’re to arrive so they can sneak in in full costume without being detected. This works, if we’re to assume that Renautas security does not find the huge flock of nerds (hey, #NYCC!) screaming, “OMG, IT’S KATANA GIRL!” at all suspicious. Miko is also feeling weird about what Harris said about her having already died, and the pair conclude that Miko’s father Hachiro Otomo had the same power as her, except he created the games he could inhabit.
Luke and Joanne arrive at the next house on their evo list, where Joanne shoots a perfectly nice man point blank in the head within seconds of meeting him. In perhaps the most upsetting scene yet broadcast in the Heroes franchise, Luke expresses doubt about their killing evos — especially evos who remind him of how happy he and Joanne and their son used to be — and then the most adorable golden retriever comes downstairs and lies down whimpering on his owner’s now-dead body. And Jesus wept. Guess what? Heroes Reborn and I are fighting now. Later Luke tries to convince Joanne to quit their murder spree, telling her he still loves her, but she thinks he’s just ill ... until he shows her his power, which we find out is technically sunlight/heat absorption, not nuclear radiation, and explains that his heart has never been in this whole assassin game. She flips, pulls over, and when she can’t bring herself to shoot him in the head, peaces out, leaving Luke to cry all alone in the passenger seat on the side of the road. I actually sort of love Zachary Levi as the teary, lost tough guy suffering in the wake of a broken marriage/family/life — it feels real and fair, even if his wife’s unwavering rage and cold bloodthirst, on the other hand, make utterly zero sense at this point (she seemed normal enough in those flashbacks, or has she actually been a sociopath this whole time?). The whole karmic, give-a-man-the-quality-he-ignorantly-despises-in-others thing worked well with Nathan Petrelli’s character, but it works even better with a guy with a lot of actual feelings.
Speaking of boys with feelings, Jose is determined to fix his grandpa’s car by himself after working on it with his now-dead dad. Carlos gets inspired by his nephew’s work to create a new Vengador costume out of metal pieces that makes him look more like an ancient samurai than a luche vigilante. CloudPriest, who, it would seem, is a bit of an Alfred to Carlos’s Batman, is not super into the new clanking junkpile costume. (With this and Erica’s crazy lecture about aluminum at Renautas, it seems to be Metal Week here on Heroes Reborn.) The theme for Carlos’s week is It’s All About Me, because not only is he becoming Vengador because he wants to “believe in something bigger,” but then he finished fixing up the car without Jose — and refused to let him come test-drive it with him. Chances are he’ll learn a thing or two about priorities very soon, though, since seconds after he tears off in the car, (a) Jose accidentally finds the VengaCave/discovers his dad was Vengador, and (b) when Cloud Priest shows up, Jose demonstrates his power (passing through matter, remember) ... juuuuuuuust as Evil Paul strolls into the auto shop with a Taser and some buddies looking for Carlos. Cloud Priest and Jose try to run, but the dirty cops say it’s kidnappin’ time!
And now, to the Renautas Rumble™. My previous confusion was cleared up this week with a single dateline: Midian is the town in Colorado where Renautas is headquartered. The campus looks suspiciously like Google, complete with happy, healthy employees and free, all-you-can-eat sushi, which, I mean, count me in. Quentin agrees and takes advantage of this abundance while he and Noah, who are there to rescue Molly and Quentin’s sister Phoebe, find Taylor. The Crown Eugenics Princess is feeling all kinds of awful already about Francis’s disappearance and her mom’s slut-shaming last week, so convincing her to play spy for them with her mom isn’t hard. (Noah actually tells her that “all parents will lie to their kids to protect them from the truth,” which, yeah, Terrifying Former Kidnapper and Perhaps the Lyingest Liar Dad Who Ever Lived, whatever helps you sleep at night.)
Erica, I have begun to suspect, is supposed to be a Sheryl Sandberg-meets-Ozymandias type; she tap-dances her way around her daughter’s questions with a soapbox-y speech about the supply and demand of aluminum (see here), which would be a really fun story if it wasn’t a disturbing metaphor for eugenic mass murder. Finally convinced her mom is psychotic, Taylor sneaks Noah and Quentin into Renautas by syringe-tranquilizing the building guards; they’re briefly waylaid by three of Harris’s clones with guns, but then Noah’s slippery maneuvering kicks in and forcing the others to get down on the ground, he shoots a fire extinguisher that explodes and ... turns all of the clones into piles of human-shaped dust, like in a cartoon. (As he drops to the floor, Quentin points out how annoying Noah’s bossiness is with a simple observation: “I hate your face, Bennet.”)
Inside they find one of the more disappointingly derivative set designs the franchise has offered so far: a room full of evos hooked up to some unseen larger E.P.I.C. machine (see also: The Matrix, The Maze Runner, Star Trek’s Borg). Among the hooked up are Francis and Molly, but not Phoebe (more on that in a second). While everyone else seems to be comatose, Molly is ... conscious, for some magical reason? Not only conscious, but strong and able-bodied enough to steal Noah’s gun from him and go on a babbling rant about being there when Claire died on June 13 and refusing to give Erica the location of some specific person. “I won’t help her kill 7 billion people,” she says, and turns the gun on herself. Noah tries pleading with her, since she’s one of the only people who can help him get his memory back, but she just says, “FORGET THE PAST, SAVE THE FUTURE,” and pulls the trigger.
Noah is messed up about this — Molly, after all, could’ve very well have been given to him the same as Claire — but they still manage to escape before Harris and the guards discover Molly. Harris Prime tells Erica about Molly, and reports that while the local functions of E.P.I.C. are still functioning, now it’ll only detect them within a 100-foot radius of the machine. Erica is pissed, even when he mentions the machine might have located this child she’s looking for, before Molly died, in Canada. She insists he go kill this child, and “this time, you’re taking the Shadow.” Which is the doooopest way to introduce our first glimpse of Quentin’s freaky little goth sister Phoebe! Not gonna lie, even with just this few-second shot of her sitting in a weird Shining-esque bedroom manipulating what looks like a black hole in her hands, I would totally sign up to watch a Shadow spinoff.
Anyway, with the dog thing earlier and now Molly, this might be the darkest Heroes episode ever (figuratively and literally, what with the ombrekinesis and everything). That actually could end up being a good thing, if — unlike nearly every other tragedy that befell the original series after its first season — it’s not wasted.