This review contains spoilers.
1.13 Project Reborn
With Project Reborn marking not only the end of Heroes Reborn but, in all likelihood, the conclusion of Heroes as a television franchise, an unenviable responsibility rests upon Tim Kring and co. to sign off in style. Thankfully, it must be said that this is one hell of a way to go out.
Arguably the strongest episode of this entire 13-part run, Project Reborn is a relentless yet cohesive barrage of lump-in-throat emotion, pulsating action and fist-pumping moments. There are problems, some minor and some very much not minor, but for the most part the Heroes Reborn finale is as entertaining and gripping as could have been expected.
Naturally, this week’s body-count takes a sharp incline and first to bite the dust is Luke, fresh from barbequing his other half last week. The scene plays out gloriously as Zachary Levi pitches his character’s demise with an air of inevitability and, after an impassioned speech to Malina, he heroically sacrifices himself in order to deflect the first of two destructive solar flares heading for Earth, thus atoning for the lives he took as an Evo-hunter. Sure, the whole ‘rising into the air’ malarkey may be overdoing the dramatics just a tad but as an emotional set-piece, Luke’s death works wonderfully as a fitting farewell to a character who has improved massively in recent episodes.
However, the star of this week’s offering (and indeed much of Heroes Reborn) is undoubtedly teenage empath Tommy/Nathan. Since Noah disappeared, Robbie Kay has blossomed into his leading role and nowhere is this more evident than in Project Reborn, with Tomthan acting as both the episode’s heart and its hero. The dizzying Evernow prison within which our protagonist finds himself trapped is visually fantastic, and once again director Jon Jones masterfully manipulates the setting to reflect the inner turmoil of the character.
The real treat is finally witnessing a fully powered-up Tommy in all his glory, providing the episode’s best moment of fist-in-the-air badassery. The by-product of this power of course is that Erica and the Renautas group are dispatched with minimal fuss and offer very little in the way of threat. Given that her story arc was mostly rounded off in the previous episode, the villainess possibly didn’t have much more to offer and the fact that more time is spent on other issues (namely impending doom) is probably a good thing.
Unfortunately, the return of Evernow also heralds the return of the much-maligned videogame graphics scenes. Certainly, the sequence doesn’t feel as out of place as has been the case previously, and Ren’s avatar is quite frankly brilliant (no final “Leeroy Jenkins” moment though, for shame), but throughout Heroes Reborn, these segments have looked clunky and jarring, have arguably been the weakest element of the show and would have been much improved as live-action scenes similar to those Tommy finds himself in this week.
It comes as something of a surprise that one of the series’ main characters, Carlos Gutierrez (Ryan Guzman) contributes so little to the show’s climax. Heroes is generally at its most magnificent when bringing together previously separate characters to achieve a common goal and after the incident at Sunstone Manor, it felt as if Carlos would finally play his part in saving the world. However, after Farah nobly took a bullet to the stomach in order to protect Malina, Carlos’ group strangely make no further contribution to the main story. You could argue that the ex-soldier’s arc has kept its distance from everything else for the duration of the series, but the fact his character was absent for the vast majority of the finale is a strange choice indeed.
Deservedly, given their impact on the series, Quentin and Phoebe are afforded a significant part in proceedings that culminates in an emotional final confrontation that could only ever have ended one way. Henry Zebrowski once again proves capable of delivering drama as capably as he does comedy, and Aislinn Paul cements her character’s status as Heroes Reborn’s most under-used villain, acting as the sinister, over-powered threat that was often missing.
Sadly, there’s no happy ending for the show’s premier bromance, Quentin and Noah. The pair were of course friends and allies before Noah’s time-travelling antics turned his sidekick onto the side of Renautas and the lack of reconciliation gives this finale a twinge of remorse that balances out the show’s otherwise happy ending. Time travel has consequences, kids.
The role Noah did play this week however was typically brilliant. Jack Coleman has been another stand-out aspect of this series and his final act as Noah Bennet is a perfect closing to the character’s story: saving the world, hand in hand with family. That Noah fails to survive to the end credits is perhaps not a huge surprise but that doesn’t make the climax of Project Reborn any less impactful or heartfelt as the former company man is turned into a human Kamehameha that protects the Earth from the second solar flare. It’s ironic that in a show called Heroes, one of the un-superpowered characters should appear the most heroic of them all. This sentiment is hammered home further by Quentin’s interview/diatribe during the episode’s conclusion where he lauds both the heroic actions and the intrinsic humanity of Claire Bennet’s children.
And that’s where the show should have ended.
Alas, it didn’t and after forty minutes of thoroughly enjoyable spectacle that ties each of the show’s plot threads and character arcs into a neat, pretty little bow, Heroes Reborn decides to untie the bow, rip it up, stamp repeatedly on the parcel and set fire to what remains as it repeats the mistake of season 4 and ends on a bloody cliffhanger.
In its defence, Heroes did have some chance of being recommissioned when its fourth season was in production and whilst the ending back then was tantalising, Claire Bennet revealing the existence of evolved humans to the entire world also worked as a plausible ending. This time, however, Heroes Reborn goes all out, spending its closing minutes setting up a massive new story arc for a second season that, from an outside perspective at least, was never likely to be given. Of course, viewers are in the dark as to whether certain things were promised behind studio doors, but at face value the decision to sow the seeds of a brand new plot is simply baffling.
Most infuriatingly, the prospect that Tommy and Malina’s Dad, of whom we have been told next-to-nothing about, is a supervillain with a penchant for tarot cards is hugely ominous and will leave viewers wanting more. And perhaps that was the point, but with a second season about as likely as Justin Bieber recording a cover album of death metal classics, it’s hard for long-term fans of the show not to feel just a little bit miffed. Hopefully, the story will be continued in comic-book format, something Heroes has done previously in order to expand its universe.
All things considered, Project Reborn is perhaps an accurate representation of what Heroes is and always has been, both in terms of strengths and weaknesses. The central theme of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities, the superpowered spectacle and the largely impressive cast, peppered with the odd moment of madness on behalf of the show’s production team. All are present and correct in Heroes Reborn’s swansong.
Although the reception of Heroes Reborn has been mixed, any show that can come back from the dead in such a way deserves credit. There may have been plot-holes, there may have been a few underdeveloped characters, and there may even have been a couple of episodes that the show could’ve done without. But overall, Heroes Reborn should consider itself a success. Whether viewed as a stand-alone superhero tale or as the fifth season of the original Heroes, this ‘mini-series’ has been consistently entertaining. It may not have the tight storytelling or measured suspense of the first, marvellous season of Heroes, but it can nevertheless count itself as one of the franchise’s stronger outings.
Read Craig’s review of the previous episode, Company Woman, here.