[This is a review of Heroes Reborn season 1, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
The entire season of Heroes Reborn has been working to set up the final days of humanity - endangered by the Human Extinction Level Event, or H.E.L.E., headed toward Earth - and the Evolved humans who are meant to save the world. Last week's episode, 'Send in the Clones' wrapped up all story lines based elsewhere and had all the characters driving toward Odessa, Texas - the same place where Claire Bennet (played by Hayden Panettiere on Heroes) grew up and the same place where the June 13th attack on Evos took place. It seemed Heroes Reborn was setting up for an exciting penultimate episode that would see many of the key players come together, but, 'Company Woman' suffers from much of the same disconnect as previous episodes this season and further employs too many contrived story beats.
In 'Company Woman', written by Holly Harold and directed by Jon Jones, the world is in a panic as a result of Micah Sanders (Noah Gray-Cabey) announcing the oncoming solar flares. Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) confronts Erica, using Taylor as a bargaining chip for enough watches - which Renautas will be using to send people to the future and avoid the H.E.L.E. - to save his family before leaving to find his wife and son. Taylor confronts Erica about her Evo boyfriend Francis and the audience finally learns why Erica hates Evos through flashbacks. Meanwhile, Malina and Luke bring attention to themselves so that Tommy can find them, Joanne and Luke have their final showdown, and Tommy finds out he's being betrayed by Erica.
With many of its characters, Heroes Reborn has granted them the opportunity to develop over the course of its season, but one glaring omission from this is Erica, who has been resolute and steadfast in her hatred of Evos since the premiere episode. In 'Company Woman', an episode named for her, the show reveals to viewers what happened to inspire such hatred in Erica against Evos, though Heroes Reborn may have been better off if the episode hadn't. In a series of flashbacks - as clearly denoted by their sepia tones - it's revealed that Erica was forced to have sex with an Evo so he would save her dying father. As a result she becomes pregnant and has Taylor, but when Erica's daughter is sick, she must call on the Evo doctor again. When he figures out the girl is his daughter, he tells Erica he's going to take Taylor away, so Erica kills him. In the final flashback sequence, she's visited by Caspar, an employee of Primatech, who wipes Taylor’s memory but Erica insists she wants to remember.
Not only is this back story contrived to inspire sympathy in viewers toward Erica and her decisions, it fails in every possible way due to its hasty construction and delivery, which seems to come as an afterthought in the season. To further include in Erica's back story that she murders her rapist with little provocation - it's difficult to imagine the doctor could have simply taken Taylor away without Erica being able to fight it in any other way than murder - is in poor taste and too quickly justified with Erica's statement to Hachiro Otomo: "Never be ashamed of the scars we bear for our children." Additionally, with the ongoing conversation about how rape is handled in media, specifically television because of Game of Thrones and Jessica Jones, the choice of the writers to give Erica a quick backstory including being forced into sex is questionable at best and horrendously ignorant at worst.
However, as much as Erica's backstory was contrived, many of the other storylines within 'Company Woman' were as well. Before this episode, Tommy was playing both sides for and against Erica in an effort to save as many people as possible, but when he discovers Renauta's plans to only save a certain number of people (because it's being talked about within earshot of him), he goes against Erica's wishes. As a result, she orders him to be trapped in the Evernow prison that held Hiro (Masi Oka). Additionally, Malina needs to get a message to Tommy, so she goes on the news; elsewhere Farah sees it and asks Micah to give it an Evo-powered signal boost, which makes it so Tommy actually does see the message. Lastly, Luke and Malina face off against Joanne, but Farah, Carlos, Micah, and Jose show up at the high school long enough for Farah to use her powers of invisibility in order to jump in front of Malina and take a bullet for her.
Heroes Reborn has rested on contrived and convenient storytelling in the past, but as 'Company Woman' is intending to set up the show's finale, it becomes much more apparent. Much of the season has felt as though the writers are simply moving pieces into place - for what, I'm still not sure - in order to get a character from point A to point B (like getting Tommy into Evernow), though the result is often not be as satisfactory as the writers intended, such as Farah sacrificing herself again for Malina. This poor storytelling and lack of compelling drama makes it difficult to become invested in Heroes Reborn even so far into the season.
As a whole, this season of Heroes Reborn has focused on the relationship between humans and Evos, which largely included the persecution of Evos by humans like Erica. At the end of 'Send in the Clones' Micah called everyone in the world to stand together, Evos and humans alike, in order to save their future. If viewers expected to see anything come of that turning point in the theme of humans versus Evos, they have so far been disappointed. The biggest example throughout the season of a human changing from hating Evos to working with them is, of course, Luke - but he's not a human. So his final standoff with Joanne doesn't come with as much weight as if he were still simply a father who had lost his son.
All this is to say that Heroes Reborn set out to explore poignant themes of what it means to be human and how we handle the superficial differences between ourselves and others. Although Heroes Reborn seemingly had all the pieces to work with in order to thoroughly explore those themes - especially in the early episodes when it was established that humans often hunted Evos - the show has failed to capitalize on them in a way that is satisfactory to viewers. Instead, Heroes Reborn has settled for contrived storytelling devices touching on (and never truly saying anything compelling about) an idea that has not only been covered in all other kinds of media, but exhaustingly so in superhero films and television, especially in recent years.
Since 'Company Woman' is the penultimate episode of Heroes Reborn - and the series won't be returning for a second season - the show had an opportunity to achieve what it set out to do. Instead, the episode rushed through the finer points of certain character's development and failed to really tap into the larger themes that could have made for a compelling drama. Because of this, 'Project Reborn' has a lot to pull off in a single episode in order to give fans a satisfactory conclusion to both the season and the Heroes franchise.
Heroes Reborn concludes next Thursday January 21st with ‘Project Reborn’ at 8pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: