Heroes Reborn, Season 1, Episode 5, “The Lion’s Den”
Written by Holly Harold
Directed by Jeff Woolnough
Airs on Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on NBC
Evil villain end of the world plans don’t make sense. We don’t need them to make sense to enjoy the stories being told, but there at least needs to be a degree of respectability to them. Goldfinger wants to irradiate a nation’s gold supply in order to make his more valuable? That’s some grade-A hustle right there. Darkseid wants to discover the Anti-Life Equation? Hey man, everyone has to have a hobby. But what in the sweet world are Renautas and Erica planning? Try to follow this: A massive solar flare is going to extinguish nearly all life on Earth, so Erica and here company are going to mine evos for their powers in order to (and this is just speculation) send a deserving portion of humanity to an underground bunker and/or the moon and/or Mars with supplies to repopulate the species while leaving all the evos behind so that they are no longer a threat to the normals. No respectable evil plan should require that many words to explain it and no evil plan based on racism can ever truly be empathised with.
Nitpicking the plans of megalomaniacs is fun, but it’s mainly a distraction from having to engage directly with the material Heroes Reborn puts on-screen. The bulk of what we know of Renautas’ plans is revealed in the final scene of “The Lion’s Den”, so in a sense the episode is building to this moment, but so precious little of what precedes the simulation solar flare appears to be directly involved with the reveal. (Besides, it’s hard to get excited about a new cliffhanger when last week’s—Shadowboy!—is addressed only in a cameo tonight). Luke spends the whole episode wallowing in the sadness of his son’s death then burns his apartment down, possibly killing his neighbors. What does this have to do with the big plot? Who knows! But at least we now know Luke is a dentist. Tommy is just teleporting around and sulking after learning he is adopted before confronting the Penny-for-you-thoughts Man and being told he has a destiny to save the world, a destiny that currently has no connection to any of the various other mythology of the show. HRG and Fanboy Man literally learn nothing, and Carlos goes full Luchador Batman, but Miko does get Hiro’s sword back and Malina is forced to go forth on her own after one of the Harrises shoots her companion.
But at least in an episode where nothing happens and nitpicking is encouraged, picking out the elements that do work, or are at least enjoyable, is so much easier. Even though his character has been stuck spinning his wheels, Jack Coleman is still the easiest thing to recommend about Heroes Reborn. In his “big” scene with Erica tonight, Coleman easily shifts between collected, aggravated, confused, and bemused with the ease natural to a Law & Order-level character actor. HRG is the only character on the show that has a believable internal life. Part of that has to do with his character being carried over from the first incarnation of the show. But even with that handicap, HRG’s motivations make sense in a way other characters don’t: He wants to know what happened to his daughter and the writers haven’t forgotten that, as opposed to, say, Carlos, whose dead brother seems to have been excised from the writers’ minds. HRG is written like a true character, even if he isn’t being put in situations to exploit that, and Coleman is giving a B+ performance on a C+ show.
Five episodes in, and Heroes Reborn seems to be stretched thin. It would be easy to imagine if the show only had a ten episode order to fill as opposed to thirteen, the holding pattern of the last two weeks could have been avoided. With three less episodes, Heroes would have no space to allow for nitpicking of villains’ schemes to creep into the audience’s head, or dilute the lower-tier stories like Carlos and Malina because they have to be checked in with more than their current stories can sustain. That wouldn’t fix issues like poor acting or poor character arcs, but it would at make those issues easier to ignore because the plot wouldn’t be overstuffed. So much could be forgiven if we didn’t have to spend an entire episode watching Luke cry alone about his dead son. Instead, the show hops around until it finds something vaguely interesting to land on.