I’d say better late than never, but late almost feels worse: Finally, after 11 episodes of Machiavellian cruelty, megalomania, and a steely dedication to anti-mutant eugenics, Heroes Reborn has finally told us why Erica is such a terrible person. It’s a pretty understandable reason, honestly, though I wish we were at the point where powerful female characters could be horrible people without having to be sexually assaulted as teenagers by doctors with healing abilities who offers to save their father’s life in exchange for a little pedophilia action. "Rape victim finds agency through capitalism and genocide" doesn’t exactly leave a great taste in one’s mouth.
So we learn Erica had a horrifying adolescence (though sepia-toned and inexplicably quaint, like Laura Ingalls Wilder of the 1970s) despite her father’s unwavering love and support; having a baby as a teenager by your rapist and then having to turn to said rapist/father again when the baby gets deathly ill is certainly traumatizing in itself. It’s even worse when your rapist announces his plans to take full custody of your child simply because he can, and worse still when you plunge a large pair of scissors into the back of his skull as he attempts to leave with her. (This was pretty badass. I so wish we could love the woman this girl turned out to be.) Luckily, our late best friend, Mr. Pennyman, still in his early years at Primatech at the time, shows up right on time to erase the toddler’s memory of the events so that she’ll grow up nice and resentful, just like a normal neglected child of a CEO.
This narrative doesn’t exactly explain how a single, parentless mother managed to afford the education and child care necessary to build and oversee a huge corporation, though — and frankly, Erica Kravid could have actually been a compelling character for the duration of the show had we known even a few episodes before now. Now, when we see her choke on her tears as a pregnant-with-evo-baby Taylor walks away from her manipulative, bloodthirsty mother in disgust, declaring, “I’d rather die than go on living in an empty world with you,” it’s kind of like, Well, yeah. It’s even less endearing when Erica tells Otomo, “Never be ashamed of the scars we bear for our children,” not because the line is meaningless but because she all but stabs him to death herself a few minutes later! Was that really necessary? It was not! If you want your villain’s secret sacrifice to mean something, it has to actually make sense of what has previously looked like cruelty. Otherwise Erica is kind of just a wannabe Tywin Lannister, no? (It wrenches my heart to be reminded, given the timing, but the best example of this rule is Severus Snape.) Kudos to the casting directors, at least, for finding an actress who actually looks a lot like a young Rya Kihlstedt.
Anyway, before his untimely death (at least that’s what we’re led to believe, though we don’t actually see his body) at the hands of engineer Schwenkman, Otomo carries out his mission in order to keep his daughter safe: He successfully locks Tommy — who has already sent an “advance team” to the future Gateway before finally discovering Erica is awful and they’re only intending to take enough people for a genetically diverse population, not “as many as possible,” as he was told — in Hiro’s old Evernow fortress prison. I highly doubt he made it without a few under-the-radar loopholes or Easter eggs for Tommy to find, but since we’ve been TO BE CONTINUED’ed for the hundredth time, we won’t know until next week’s finale. Tommy’s mom pops in for a few minutes to visit the future with Tommy and make sure he’s properly believing in himself, because his dad Hiro did. Gotta make sure we’re getting our proper dosage of filial piety in, you know, since we’re sure as hell not getting it from Taylor and Erica.
Ren (who is on the list and gets an Appl— I mean, Gateway watch) and Emily (who isn’t and doesn’t) meet in the Renautas lobby, where they realize they’re looking for the same person (“Know him? I’m dating him!”); conveniently, Ren also realizes that the floor layout is identical to a level in Evernow, since Otomo designed both? Also, the necklace Otomo gave him of the now-infamous Heroes symbol is a key for the elevator. Really hoping they’ll have to go through Team Rocket to get to the basement.
Erica isn’t the only titular “company woman” this week: Phoebe proves she’s still a Renautas girl through and through by breaking free of her restraints when Luke walks her and Quentin into the woods at gunpoint to dispose of them. As she gets away, presumably back to Erica (who has been doing fine without her, minus losing Tommy for a minute), Q manages to grab the gun, but instead of killing Luke and joining his sister, he returns it, the truth finally sinking in: “That’s not my sister.” Maybe I have a soft spot for uncool, angry teens, but Phoebe still continues to be the best thing this show has going for it.
Luke and Malina go to the Union Wells High School gym in Odessa, where it seems the whole town has sought refuge. Malina sets a bunch of trash on fire for attention (been there, girl), then sends a message to Tommy with the help of a local news crew and Micah, who is able to amplify the signal to all devices from a gas-station TV nearby. Still unclear whether Malina’s powers, which are currently being used to make mini-tornadoes out of old Dorito bags and Gatorade bottles, are really going to be able to offset this Human Extinction Level Event™, but I suppose we’ll see next week.
Other things that happen for the sake of wrapping up loose ends: Farah arrives at the gym just in time to put invisible herself between Malina and Joanne’s gunshots. As she fires, Luke flame-blasts his wife into a pile of ashes without batting an eye. (I’m glad we at least got to understand and empathize with her pain before she’s incinerated by the father of her dead child.) And Matt — oh, Matt. He tells Erica that Taylor is preggo with evo, then trades her life for three watches, for him and his wife and son ... only to then promptly flip his car over a bridge — as he’s leaving an apology message on his wife’s voice mail — and into a streambank, where he sits crushed inside the vehicle watching the other two watches float downstream. By the sound of his hysterical laugh-cry, which resounds through the heavens because that’s what dramatic irony sounds like, it seems that Matt Parkman isn’t going to make it to the future. Guess he shouldn’t have turned against his own — but wait, isn’t he supposed to be proud of “the scars he bears for his child”?
All the while, we learn through the clever employment of a radio talk-show interview that the rest of us norms are preparing (“preparing”) for the solar flares that will likely wipe out all of human existence. This is actually kind of puzzling, because what use are these “safe areas” the government is setting up for people who will most definitely be incinerated in a few days’ time? And what about bomb shelters? Surely there are still a few of those lying around from World War II and a secret cult kidnapper or two?