Well, that's a letdown.
"Heroes Reborn" set out to answer some big questions tonight. These climactic reveals were something that the original "Heroes" hung its hat on, for better or worse: for every "HRG is Claire's adoptive father" or "Nathan can fly," there was a "Charlie is old" or "Angela has a sister that's never mentioned again." That insistence on chasing those highs made for some of the best moments in the history of the series, as well as the most disappointing. "June 13th - Part One," "Heroes Reborn" mostly achieves the latter. After last week's episode which, while not without its flaws, actually saw people do things, this week we go back to the day that set the events of "Reborn" in motion, and basically nothing changes. It shouldn't be all that surprising, considering this episode was centered, in both plot and emotion, around a character that never showed up.
The show picks up basically right where it left off: with Hiro and Noah landing in June 13th and Noah saying he's got a plan. What plan is that? No idea. It's never mentioned. It's never described. It can't fall apart because it doesn't seem to exist. In "Game Over," the goal is stated as stopping Erica from destroying the world. What happens -- until the end of the episode, at least -- doesn't seem to have much to do with that. Noah and Hiro are pulled in one direction after another, first going to find Claire, then looking for her in a Primatech office because she used to do her homework there, then overhearing the HRG of the past get basically taken prisoner by Erica. It's like a really slow-moving pinball machine. Just when they get some information, Angela Petrelli shows up, says Claire is in the hospital, and takes Noah to "save the cheerleader" while Hiro stops the bomb.
It doesn't take long for the show to tell us that no, neither of these things is possible. Psych. We see Hiro pop into the future to check out possible outcomes, though he does so without taking any action and we don't go with him, so how he gets this info isn't clear. Who knows what the food is like in the Evernow prison system, but it can't be good, because this listless, passive Hiro isn't the guy who believed he had a mission. Yes, don't step on butterflies, but it's difficult to see how stopping the bomb from exploding would lead to the end of the world, since the world seems set to end either way, and the only people who can stop humanity from being wiped out aren't involved in the bombing. It's incredibly unsatisfying. Maybe the show has something up its sleeve for next week, but the outlook is not so good.
The thing that made it all so unsatisfying is something that obviously couldn't be avoided, which makes the way it was handled all the more puzzling: the absence of Hayden Panettiere. It's not unsurprising that she was unavailable -- she's doing a lot of heavy lifting on her own show, and is a new mom as well -- but the show's insistence on making Claire the heart of this episode makes that absence a much larger problem. Panettiere's absence is strongly felt, all right, but not in the way it was intended.
There are ways to make the death of a fan-favorite character impactful without the actor's involvement. As an example, "The West Wing" paid lovely tribute to both John Spencer and his character Leo McGarry when Spencer unexpectedly passed away. But that's not what happens here. Instead, we get a blond head beneath a sheet, a body that looks way too tall to belong to the character in question, a character insisting that he see that body without ever actually doing so, and a huge, huge plothole -- Claire's dead, and the one rule that the original "Heroes" never broke is that as long as no one gets her weird spot, Claire can't die. Except, apparently, in childbirth. Perhaps this will be cleared up next week, but there just doesn't seem to be a way to make such a thing plausible. Even if it is explained away, it will remain a huge disappointment.
So Hiro fails to stop the bomb, and Noah fails to save the cheerleader, and the show fails to make us care about either. What does seem important to the writers is the episode's biggest reveal: Malina and Tommy (actually called Nathan) are twins, separated at birth, and Claire is their mother. (The dad remains a mystery -- perhaps next week?) Jack Coleman and Cristine Rose -- easily one of the standouts of the previous series, badly underused here -- do as well as could be expected with their scenes, but they don't make much sense. Angela and Hiro took the babies back to "party like its 1999," so that the kids can be old enough to save the world when the time comes, and HRG realizes that their existence (and location) is what he had The Haitian erase from his memory. But if its the current Noah who did the hiding, why is it the past one whose memory was wiped? Again, maybe next week. The cliffhanger also belongs to Noah, and it's one of the only highlights in a mess of an episode -- past Noah chasing future Noah down a hallway, as the latter raises his gun to take Erica out. We've seen grown-up heroes interact with their baby-selves, but to the best of my recollection, we've never seen one deal with one of similar age. That, at least, should be pretty good.
Elsewhere, we learn for sure that Mohinder isn't the bomber -- as if that was really an option -- and that he gave Molly his only copy of his research. That's not really how files work, but whatever. It looks to be the copy that Taylor swiped from her mom's office last week, so that's likely to play a big role soon. It's unclear whether or not Mohinder survives the blast, but it is clear that despite being warned by Angela, he's foolish enough to go into a meeting he was told would result in his death by himself and unarmed.
Last, we learned more about Joanne, Luke and Dennis. It turns out they were at the Humans and Evos United event in hopes that they could meet an Evo who could somehow help treat Dennis's terrible, sun-related disease. It was Luke's idea, Joanne was hesitant, and it's pretty clear how things might fall apart from here. Their story remains one that should seem interesting but just misses the mark -- Zachary Levi in particular is really good this week, but it isn't enough to overcome the patchy and inconsistent writing.
If anything, this should have been the easiest episode of the season in which to invest. Instead of living with characters who've been around for only a handful of episodes, the show gave us lots of time with people that audiences had years to love. Yet somehow "Heroes Reborn" went back to the past, both dramatically and practically, and came away with almost nothing. It makes it difficult to look forward to the future.