One of the most distinctive elements of Heroes Reborn, as with Heroes, is its wide-reaching story, following isolated characters throughout the United States, or even the world, as they are slowly drawn together. This approach allows the writers to tell thematically resonant stories, emphasizing the universality of experience, even for those who seem most disparate. Rather than character or philosophy however, the series has chosen to prioritize plot, abandoning the unifying threads its structure could easily highlight. While this is disappointing to TV fans looking for depth, there’s no reason a purely story-driven show can’t be energetic and perfectly enjoyable, and this appears to be what Heroes Reborn is going for. Unfortunately, while the series keeps adding twists, trying to build momentum through sheer force of will, the show’s central flaw is becoming increasingly clear: It’s just not that interesting.
With each passing episode, Heroes Reborn feels more and more fractured. While the premiere focused heavily on Noah Bennett, by this fifth installment, almost equal time is given to Noah and Taylor, Tommy, Miko and Ren, Luke, Malina and Farah, Carlos, and baddies Erica and Harris. Rather than hand each storyline one or two meaty sequences, “The Lion’s Den” jumps back and forth, splitting each act into four or five short scenes. The result is an episode so disjointed, it’s easy to forget that a few significant developments do actually occur. Noah and his group get a few hints about Erica’s evil plan and Tommy, along with discovering more about his background and his Special Destiny (TM Kara Thrace), is tagged and added to the national evo registry, a plot point that will likely come into play later. Everyone else tiptoes forward in their storylines, given one badass moment apiece, just enough to frustrate.
With only 13 episodes this season, Heroes Reborn shouldn’t have time for filler, yet “The Lion’s Den” is full of it. The entirety of Luke’s pity party could be cut with no loss whatsoever. Miko and Ren spend the episode wandering around Renautas before following Hiro’s sword back to Erica’s house. The cosplay ploy winds up being an unnecessary digression, a fun concept introduced without any meat to back it up. Malina and Farrah remain utterly undeveloped, their parting lacking any weight, and even Tommy, one of the strong points of the season so far, gets saddled with a tiresome, typical teen meltdown. Despite the maturity and care shown by Tommy for his mother in the previous episode, here he flies off the handle at her, leaving in an angsty flourish so that Emily can presumably talk him down in the forthcoming installment, delaying the next round of answers headed the audience’s way. This show has a lot of characters to juggle; if the writers can’t come up with useful things for all of them to do, they can at least give them personality while they lurk next to poorly lit seed storage bins or chill in barns.
While this episode is short on substance, it does at least have some style. A handful of interesting shot choices spruce up the dialogue scenes, even if they do distract from them a bit, one example being the low angle, long(er) shot cut to as Noah and Erica are speaking. The shot makes the two appear closer together, almost conspiratorial, while dwarfing them next to the openness of the space. It’s hard to say precisely what, if anything, the director is trying to demonstrate about the characters with this choice, but it lets the audience see more of the fabulous set, which is at least something. The Shadow is introduced in a big way, a powerful ally of Team Renautas that can counteract Malina’s abilities with ominous tendrils of darkness. Pruitt Taylor Vince is back as Tommy’s guardian angel and is very good in his late episode scene, as is Krista Bridges as Tommy’s mother Anne, and Gatlin Green continues to impress as Emily; it’s great to see the show waste no time in chastising Tommy for making a mountain out of the molehill (at least compared to his other problems) of his adoption. Miko and Ren, though wasted for much of the runtime, still bring tremendous energy to the show and the effect for Miko’s teleporting into Evernow looks neat. And while Quentin might as well not have been in the episode, Henry Zebrowski at least gives the installment its best line delivery as his character mimics Erica, “I have no idea…”.
The vague threat hinted at for the first part of the season now has a name and a timeline: an enormous, deadly coronal mass ejection is headed to Earth in six months, and it will be up to a handful of Very Special Evos to save the day. Miko has reclaimed Hiro’s sword, Luke is over killing people, and if the promos are to be believed, Hiro will finally be appearing soon. Hopefully “The Lion’s Den” is a speedbump, a table-setting episode that will transition into the next phase of the season, and not an indicator of the writers already running out of ideas. Heroes Reborn doesn’t need to aspire to deeply introspective, highly personal storytelling. But if it’s not going to build character, if it’s not going to spend the time necessary to make Malina and Carlos just as interesting and explored as Noah—or at least, the Noah of the premiere—it needs to wow with its action and plot, and right now, we’re a long way from wow.
- A few design elements that stand out: I love the rug in Erica’s office, the painting of the red broken helix in Erica’s home is a neat touch, and the warm colors of Emily’s room are appropriately inviting. The series has done a good job contrasting the colors, tones, and visual spaces of each of the storylines.
- Sorry, Taylor, but if your mom is planning to wipe out all life on the planet, “Evil bitch” doesn’t quite cut it.
- So is Tommy another Petrelli? Post your guesses for Tommy’s parentage, likely to be familiar faces, below. Also, kudos to the makeup department: Anne’s face looks terrible.
- It’s very convenient that after struggling to even have a beam of light cross his face in the previous episode, Luke can now control his abilities and walk around in broad daylight.
- Noah, if you’re looking for answers, maybe don’t interrupt the villain of the piece while she’s monologuing. That’s Hero 101!
- I should have seen Captain Dearing’s evo status coming, but somehow didn’t. Think there are any other evos hiding out in the recurring cast? And how long until we learn Carlos’ ability?