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Penultimate Heroes Reborn is a pale imitation of its predecessor

Illustration for article titled Penultimate Heroes Reborn is a pale imitation of its predecessor
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Episode titles in television are rarely significant, touching on a theme of the installment but often offering little more than a creative replacement for the numerical code given an entry while in production. On occasion, however, a particularly clever or interesting title can add an extra layer of meaning or depth to an episode, elevating it. That’s likely what the writers of “Company Woman” were hoping for when they chose that title for the penultimate installment of Heroes Reborn, referencing the well-received—often considered series best—“Company Man,” the season one Heroes episode written by Bryan Fuller that broke format to dive deep with and explore the then-mysterious Noah Bennet. Unfortunately, connecting these two hours in viewers’ minds only highlights the missteps of Heroes Reborn and reminds those watching how far these sister series have fallen since the promising first season of Heroes.

“Company Woman” takes little more than its title from its predecessor, continuing the fractured and flailing storytelling of Heroes Reborn. While “Company Man” focused closely on Noah, this episode is only moderately interested in Erica Kravid, the woman in question. We’re shown flashbacks of her young adulthood, but given where this installment falls in the larger arc of the season, the writers are unable to commit fully to an Erica-centric episode. There are too many pieces to move across the board; character development is relegated to the corners. The few glimpses that are given of Erica’s backstory feel entirely unearned and they attempt to wring sympathy for this unlikable and undeveloped character out of the audience by using sexual assault or manipulation as shorthand. Coerced into sex with an evo to save her father’s life, Erica finds herself pregnant and opts to keep the baby, Taylor, and raise her without telling the creeper. Had this information come earlier in the season, the writers could have used it as a jumping off point to explore Erica’s complicated relationship with her daughter, as well as evos. Instead, it’s presented as the culmination of their story, the final piece of a season-long puzzle. The audience should at least feel conflicted about Erica, the episode argues, because she’s a victim of abuse; her willingness, even eagerness to let billions of people die stems from this and all she wants is to protect the daughter she loves, regardless of what the rest of the season has shown. It’s lazy writing that plays on tired tropes and assumes the audience, and not just young Taylor, has been visited by Caspar and his pennies.

The rest of the episode doesn’t fare much better. What should be two of the season’s most climactic, tragically inescapable moments are utterly wasted: Quentin’s abandonment of his sister and Joanne and Luke’s standoff. Quentin’s betrayal of Phoebe in the original timeline was meaningful. It was informed by character and given the weight it deserved. Not so here. Quentin returns to Team Bennet because apparently killing lots of people for Erica was one thing, but Phoebe being snippy towards their kidnappers is not like her at all; it’s a justification so thin the characters might as well have broken the fourth wall and asked the audience to just go with it. Even less convincing is Joanne and Luke’s laughably brief confrontation, an afterthought included seemingly to explain why Farah and Carlos are still on the show, before they’re sent conveniently away from the main action once again. Luke has become a crucial character and had he not been so completely bungled at the beginning of the season, perhaps his actions here would resonate more fully. With the back half of the season doing its very best to distance Luke from his serial killing past, however, any connection between Luke and Joanne has been lost and this retread of the much more successful shootout in “Sundae, Bloody Sundae” merely fills time.

Far more interesting, though that’s not saying much, is Tommy’s corner of the episode. Two moments stand out, first his argument that despite Erica’s duplicity and manipulation of events to ensure billions of deaths worldwide, saving as many people as possible is still a worthwhile endeavor. Like Erica’s backstory, this is a potentially interesting idea that the writers could have gotten significant mileage out of, had it come earlier in the season or been developed more fully. Instead it’s tossed aside when Tommy’s minder—you had one job!—lets a facet of their evil plan be overheard, prompting Tommy’s Quentin-like arbitrary break with Erica. At least what Tommy moves on to, his conversation with his mother in the future, is legitimately compelling. The relationship between Tommy and his mother is one of the few that feels genuine in the entire series, and drawing upon it now works well, particularly in comparison to the rest of the episode’s less convincing heart-to-hearts. There’s little of substance in their exchange, but Krista Bridges sells Anne’s faith in Tommy and in Angela’s vision, and that’s enough to sustain at least this portion of the episode.

It’s a testament to how low Heroes Reborn has set the bar that the mere presence of ideas, however half-baked, is enough to make “Company Woman” one of the show’s less disappointing recent entries. It’s unlikely the finale will bring catharsis or character—those looking for either are better off revisiting “Company Man”—but hopefully it will at least deliver on spectacle and send Heroes Reborn out in a blaze of ridiculous, contrived glory.

Stray observations

  • Remember when Noah was the main character, anchoring the season? The characters don’t seem to either. One would think Quentin at least would be looking for his former bro—they couldn’t shoot each other after all, the feels were so strong.
  • When do we find out Emily and Ren are actually Wonder Twin-style evos, capable of projecting an SEP field around themselves when together? It’s the only possible reason this painfully not-stealthy duo aren’t immediately caught.
  • Oh Parkman, keep maniacally laughing at your cruel fate. No one cares.
  • Also, Taylor, you’re useless. Seriously, what is the longest she has gone without getting caught, kidnapped, held hostage, or otherwise having her various schemes foiled?
  • It’s hard to decide which character feels more extraneous, Taylor or Carlos. The finale, confirmed recently to be a series and not season finale, has a lot of heavy lifting to do to make the time spent on either of them feel worthwhile.