Since its origin, the Heroes franchise has built itself on an obsession with time travel and free will. As Reborn wraps up, though, it suddenly becomes clear that everything on this evo-filled Earth depends on determinism.
In the original series — spoilers ahead, I guess — the gang successfully keeps Isaac Mendez's visions of a nuked New York City at bay by flying a radioactive Peter Petrelli into the stratosphere to detonate. Every time Angela Petrelli dreams up an atrocity — like her psychotic husband murdering her children, for example — everyone works tirelessly to prevent that reviled prison called predetermination. Yet for some reason, that "future isn't set in stone" mantra is nowhere to be found on Heroes Reborn.
The twins' world-saving prophecy sounds like a pretty good deal, which means everyone has gotten really into the concept of fate. In Luke and Noah's final showdowns with cosmic catastrophes, we're supposed to accept that the two characters are meant to die; each of them insists that his demise is his "destiny." The tables have completely turned. No one wants to defy the road map of premonition now, even if it means they get to live.
After all, if we could change the future, why wouldn't Tommy and Malina go back and ask Luke, whose exact power is absorption, to be the conduit instead of Noah? If they did, at least they'd save one of them from dying — or maybe both of them, since Luke's power seems to indicate that he could have withstood the Wonder Twins' superbeam. "THIS IS NOT YOUR FATE, IT'S MINE," Luke tantrums at Malina before sacrificing himself. Don't be fooled: Luke's death had nothing to do with fate, and everything to do with unbearable guilt and suicidal logic. (Also, a special-effects team giddy to levitate a human and turn him into pure, molten sunshine.) I'm really glad that Zachary Levi gets to go back to comedy now.
Carlos, Micah, and José bring Farah to an empty hospital, where instead of medical attention, Farah gets José's ability to pass through matter, which allows him to dislodge the bullet from her stomach. Her subplot gets tied up quickly so we can concentrate on what really matters: those video-game fantasies.
Tommy/Nathan is trapped in the game, which is essentially an infinite dojo designed by M.C. Escher and the production designer of Inception. (Shout out to Guy Hendrix Dyas.) Erica broadcasts an announcement to the Gateway chosen ones — I counted maybe three people of color in the crowd, but this is a eugenics crusade, after all — to explain Project Reborn, a.k.a. what's about to happen with those fancy watches. Meanwhile, a self-propelling tentacle simultaneously sneaks up behind Tommy/Nathan in this virtual reality and literally "plugs" him into the machine designed by Erica and Richard Schwenkman. Digitized and unconscious, Tommy powers the machine for maybe ten seconds, and it transports everyone to the future before shutting off, hopefully for good. I will say, the propaganda spots Renautas has been cranking out all season added a bright spot of classic dystopian charm to this otherwise insane mishmash of a show.
Ren and Emily, having been transported with the rest of the watch-wearers, immediately find the evo harvest room, where Otomo is alive (despite being stabbed in the carotid artery last episode). He's in a pod across the room from the real Miko; the former regains consciousness by himself, stabs Schwenkman out of nowhere, and together, the three of them — Otomo, Ren, and Emily — wake up the princess. "I have never seen you before in my life," this previously comatose woman tells Ren, whose excitement to meet the IRL version of his virtual true love instantly fades. Otomo, however, assures his daughter that Ren risked everything to save her … which seems to imply she owes him a relationship? Yikes.
In the final montage, Miko and Ren learn how to fight with katana swords together, so at the very least, she's forced into friendship with this total stranger whose one dream is to live in his favorite video game. Because he knows Evernow so well, he's the only one who can help a still-disintegrating Katana Girl free Tommy. It seems like Katana Girl has been dying for weeks, doesn't it? Anyway, she sacrifices herself once and for all — or maybe not, if the writer who gave her the line "I have a feeling we'll meet again" has anything to say about it — so Ren can unlock the fortress.
Being digitally locked up seems a lot like a particularly bad trip. Tommy goes on quite the vision quest, discovering that he can now effortlessly access the repressed memories that were taken from him: He watches himself seeing Claire Bennet on the news for the first time, while his mom tells him that the girl who can throw herself off cliffs is his actual mother. He can suddenly speak Japanese again. And at age 7, he sees Angela introduce him to Malina for the first time in the Primatech basement playroom. Their electro-nuclear powers activate as soon as they join hands, and might have killed them both had a hapless lab technician been nearby to thrust himself between them, acting as a meat conduit. After he has an epiphany about what he and Malina need to properly divert this flare, I loved that his first thought was, I know! I'll grab my grandpa! He seems willing to die for this! Luckily, Noah is down for grandpatricide, a willingness probably based in extreme guilt after decades of sinning and company-man-ing.
Speaking of company men: Erica totally deserves to be blinked out of existence by a space-time continuum alteration, but Phoebe? Oh, Phoebe, Goth Teen Queen supreme, you deserved redemption. Instead, you get three gunshots to the chest from your brother's gun and a backwards plummet from a high tower to the concrete below. However, her terrified rage with a light pinch of Nancy Downs–meets-winsome–Taylor Swift resentment is a danger to the entire planet — and considering that her powers were of low-ranking, Brotherhood of Mutants crony variety, how could she feasibly come back from that ledge in one piece?
When Tommy finally emerges from the game with Ren, Erica is waiting for them with guns pointed at his girlfriend and mom. Luckily, Tommy/Nathan now has the power of self-confidence, which translates to "knowing how to be in two places at once." After he stops time, one Tommy busies himself zapping everyone at Gateway back to the present, except Erica — who has gone full mustache-twisting villain at last, with lines like "Time travel: It's a bitch!" and "No, that's impossible!" — while the other Tommy meets up with Malina and Noah to bend the natural universe to their will. The entire human race is saved! We live to pollute the planet and threaten each other with nuclear war another day!
Then we get a dénouement, but let's just call it what it is: an inexplicably imprisoned Quentin, monologuing three months later at two vaguely governmental-looking suits about how evos "couldn't be more ordinary." (Didn't they literally just prevent a mass extinction?) The twins receive Gemini tarot cards at school and the soda shop (where Tommy has taken up origami, you know, because Japanese), which Angela tells Malina is a sign that their father is back. He's a random dude known only as "Hammer," with whom Claire had a one-night stand in one of the "extra" online stories. In other words, he's a last-ditch cliff-hanger just in case NBC feels like green-lighting another "volume" of this saga. Which, please don't.
- The Gemini card in tarot is also commonly referred to as "the lovers." What would a fantasy adventure be without an allusion to twincest?
- Solid props to Danika Yarosh (Malina) for her surprisingly convincing sobs as Noah dies. For a moment, I got a little farklempt!
- So, Anne Clark told her son that his real parents are superhumans, and that he's supposed to save the world. Wouldn't that have eventually led to a schizophrenia diagnosis and Tommy being plopped into foster care? Other stories have grappled with this maternal-madness conundrum much more effectively.
- The Easter eggs in this finale pushed its rating from two to three stars, if only because, intentional or not, they plainly acknowledged Heroes' cultural reference points: Tommy's power cord and Future Gateway's evo pods bear a strong resemblance to the people farm in The Matrix, as do Katana Girl's Neo backbend tribute and Tommy's two-places-at-once split. These are satisfying moments, as is Tommy chasing himself around an Inception-like digital dream prison until his Other Self tells him that "time is a circle." Drunk, Nietzschean Matthew McConaughey would be proud.