Welcome back, "Heroes Reborn!" The Evos are driving, fighting, smooching, having lots of feelings, and being alternately really great and really terrible at lying once again, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all is how nice it was to see them.
That's not to say that Tim Kring's sequel-series came back from it winter recess with all its problems solved. No, "Send in the Clones" (nice musical theatre joke, guys!) still has its fair share of wooden dialogue, inexplicable character choices, short memories, and silliness. But there's good news, too. "Heroes Reborn" doesn't seem to have its predecessor's specific knack for creating great set-ups with disappointing conclusions. Instead, "Reborn" stumbles along the path, dragging its feet here and there, but once it gets where its going, it makes for wildly entertaining TV.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. There's a lot to unpack before we get to Miko, Micah, and their respective ass-kicking skills. Things start off with what's got to be a serious contender for the most lengthy "previously on" segment of all time, and then we're back on the road with Luke, Malina, HRG's broken specs. Zachary Levi's in full-on pseudo-Dad mode, grabbing a gun so that he can still protect his new friend and night and buying her a camo shirt because it reminds her of her previous protector, Farrah. Levi seems a great deal more comfortable now that he's got something to play besides 'slowly going crazy' and 'burning down my house,' and that shift allows him to incorporate some of the unforced charm that made his turn on "Chuck" so winning. It also seems to be helping Danika Yarosh -- Malina comes across as a lot less saintly and a lot more human in that one scene than in any other in the series thus far.
Theirs isn't the only road trip. Quentin, Phoebe. and a few Harris-copies are headed straight toward them. Quentin, it would seem, has suddenly remembered that he has a conscience, while Phoebe has apparently forgotten that Erica basically tortured her and then used her powers to kill thousands of people and is now totally on board with killing teenage girls. OK. They set off to try to catch up with Team Luke-and-Malina (Malukena? Lukelina? Malinuke?) before the pair can reach Odessa and start rescuing Tommy, finding HRG, and, you know, saving the world. The confrontation lands them smack-dab in the middle of a cornfield (other than "Field of Dreams," has anything good ever happened in a cornfield? It's the American answer to having a hedge maze in your garden -- you're just asking for trouble).
But before Phoebe and Malina get to show off their competing powers (literally darkness and light, in case the story wasn't clear), we check in with one of the 97 other plots "Heroes Reborn" is following. The next pair on the road has a slightly more unconventional means of travel. We find Tommy and Miko right where we left them, having just zapped away from Erica (but not out of the future). Tommy realizes that Miko's Katana Girl, and shows her a copy of "9th Wonders" in which they both appear. Miko's starting to dissolve -- perhaps it's more accurate to say pixelate? Whatever, her data's been corrupted, you get the idea -- and tells Tommy he needs to send her on her final mission: to deal with Harris Prime outside Parkman's asylum, once and for all. She leaves him her hair ribbon, in hopes that it'll make Erica believe he didn't help to her to escape (huh?), and then she's off.
Speaking of Parkman, Greg Grunberg's on the scene and ready to remind everyone of exactly how good he is in this role. Farrah and Carlos meet up with The Haitian and Taylor Kravid, and they split up in hopes of accomplishing their mutual goals at once: the first pair set off to shut off Parkman's mind-controlling recording, find Micah, Jose, and Father Mauricio, while the others set off to confront our old friend Matt. For awhile it seems like Rene and Taylor might stand a chance of getting the panicked, bitter, Parkman to start working for the good guys, but Matt's determined to keep working for Erica so that he and his family can keep their golden ticket to the future. But part of Taylor's plea -- that Erica deceived him, and that there's no way he'll be going unless it's in a pod -- has a less-than desirable effect. Faster than you can say "mind control," Matt's blasted Rene in the ear, taken control of Taylor, uncovered her pregnancy, and is on the road to Odessa with his new, very valuable hostage in tow.
It's really impossible to overstate how good Grunberg is in that scene. No one on the show is terrible, per se, and while not all the scenes feature great writing, it certainly has its moments. But the marriage here of Grunberg's frustrated, self-pitying performance with the simple and clear words with which he describes what it's like to hear all the nastiness that exists in people's heads day in and day out is a high watermark for the show. It's something of a reminder of the good old days, a hearkening back to when the characters struggled with the cost of their abilities, and not just with their respective quests. Bravo to Grunberg, writer Peter Elkoff, and director Larysa Kondracki. It's a hell of a scene, and all-too-brief.
The rest of the rescue mission goes more or less according to plan, with only one major casualty (RIP, Father Mauricio, how little we knew ye). Carlos and Farrah find Jose, free the prisoners, unplug Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey, all grown up!), and help him to a computer, where he promptly takes over every live media outlet in the world and shows them the truth. They do absolutely nothing with the dozens of Harris clones. There's no need. As Farrah puts it, "There's some sword-wielding Japanese girl outside handling the clones by herself."
Katana Girl has absolutely leveled up. Compare the way she looks in that scene -- all the last vestiges of the video game gone, no girlish ribbon atop her head -- to her earliest appearances. She's not a sketch anymore, she's a person who's ready to die but doesn't plan on going out alone. In true, villainous but completely idiotic behavior, Harris tells his many clones to stand down and takes her on himself. For awhile, she's absolutely dominating him, but she is, after all, dying, and he eventually gets the upper hand. But before he can finish her (get it?), she does something so gruesome and utterly bad-ass that it's difficult to believe it actually happens: she stabs him through her own body, casually says "don't get ahead of yourself," and beheads him. And that's a wrap on Katana Girl. I hope we spend some time with the real Miko next week, but the odds on that young woman having any memory of the actions of her avatar seem pretty slim. It's a good death, but not a welcome one.
When Miko stabs Harris by stabbing herself because she's just a body in the way of the body she needs to kill, and seriously, how awesome was that, all his other clones disappear. It's good timing: Luke and Malina have mostly succeeded in shutting down the Harris-Quentin-MiserablePhoebe ambush, but just before one last Harris clone takes out Malina, poof. Our heroes are victorious and alove, leaving plenty of time for them to question (and in the case of the latter, threaten) some information out of Quentin and miserable, miserable Phoebe. Malina dissuades Luke from going back to his murderous ways and soon they, too, are on the way to Odessa.
That leaves Tommy and Erica, who zap back from the future so that Tommy can see how, exactly, he's going to transport the chosen few to the Gateway. First he gets a brief reunion with Emily and his Mom, and then it's off to chat with the mad scientist about their creepy watches. Erica's onto him though, courtesy of a phone call from a pre-death Harris, who tells her that obviously Tommy helped Miko get away. Uh oh.
As the episode closes, we see one arrival in Odessa -- Joanne, who Erica hires to take out Luke and Malina -- and three cars en route. But the biggest thing headed for Texas isn't a car, it's that first solar flare. And it looks big. There's a palpable sense of things coming to a close, and perhaps that's ultimately which made this episode one of the stronger of the series thus far -- yes, it's uneven. Yes, it's sometimes implausible. Yes, it's a little silly and a little heavy-handed. But things are happening, stories are heading toward their inevitable conclusions, and three cars full of people we've gotten to know are careening toward each other. Whether from the sun or from themselves, there's going to be a very, very big bang.