I don't care that we had to wait 48 minutes for him to show up. I don't care that he did basically nothing once he did. I don't care that his entrance means that maybe Miko is gone for good (well, maybe I care about that a little) and I don't care that almost none of it made a lick of sense. Hiro is back, and was it ever good to see him.
Even better, his appearance was just one highlight in what was the best episode to date of "Heroes Reborn." People made choices, took action and interacted, and were occasionally really, really stupid. But they did things, and some of those things actually mattered. It was an uneven mess, but it was an exciting uneven mess. Basically, it was "Heroes," for better or worse -- and this week, at least, it was mostly for better.
Last week's episode, "The Lion's Den," felt like it was nothing but set-up and filler. The set-up part, at least, paid off big-time, and it all started with a bang in the shape of a flying fist. In an opening that was downright thrilling compared to last week's adventures in mail-sorting and looking at seeds, the action jumped nimbly back and forth between Noah's brutal beating (and drowning) of Harris and Carlos's similarly bloody interrogation of James. "Where's Hiro Nakamura?" HRG bellowed, getting back in touch with that ol' bag-and-tag side of himself. And where was he? Just an episode's-worth of plot development away.
After pounding the information out of Harris -- seriously, how cool and scary were those underwater shots? -- Quentin and Noah shove a power-neutralizing thing up his nose and head out in search of Hiro, while Taylor rushes off to find Frances. Clé Bennett isn't my favorite member of the cast, but he was great in these scenes, seeming no less dangerous without his power and prowling like a big cat just waiting to strike. Still, once Katana Girl materializes, kicking off my favorite of this week's intersecting stories, Harris turns tail and runs for reinforcements (and by that I mean finding his scissors and removing some toes that will turn into copies of himself). He might be a predator, but he knows a fellow badass when he sees one. This leaves Quentin and Noah's path mostly clear as they head off to find the master of time and space himself.
Speaking of Miko, she also has an easier time of it than one might expect. After Katana Girl makes it to an avatar that looks like -- but is not -- her father, she learns that she must rescue the aforementioned master of time and space from the Eternal Fortress. She looks out the video game window at the video game structure, but just then Renautus security expert Richard (the terrific Michael Therriault) makes it vanish inside the game. Seems dire, right? But Ren and Miko have got this reality-into-Evernow situation down to a science by this point. One quick Google search and they're at the correct Renautus facility, and then it's just a matter of defeating a few in-game baddies -- including Evil Miko, who tells Good Miko that she's just a character, not a person -- and a few in reality, too.
One of the IRL bad guys is last week's Smoke Monster girl, who, as it turns out, is Quentin's sister Phoebe. Her ability dampens powers (something the Haitian never needed smoke fingers to do) and when Quentin fails in his attempts to calm her down, he takes a more direct route and tackles her, and she does not take it well at all. She sends her smoke fingers into his mouth, it's really creepy, and while Quentin may have gotten on my nerves on more than a few occasions, it was still a bummer to see him go.
That is, if he's really gone. Death is one thing that was almost never permanent on "Heroes," and only time will tell if the same is true here. But we know it's at least a possibility, because Miko succeeds in her quest to free a certain time-traveler. Learning she'll have to sacrifice herself to free him doesn't stop Miko from plunging the Kensei blade into the prison -- after she kicks her own evil ass, of course. Simultaneously, Harris lets loose a bullet in HRG's general direction as he huddles above Quentin's body, and just then, we get a little of that old-school "Heroes" magic: the bullet tears forward, slows, and stops, and just like that, Hiro is back.
A jubilant, joyful Hiro would probably have been too much to ask for, and the man who emerges from his Evernow prison is not the Hiro we once knew. But it's still Hiro. That's even better than the "Gilmore Girls" revival. Whether the chance to revive a beloved character merely excited the writer's room or the timing was just a coincidence, his appearance in the series's strongest outing to date feels like a promise of more good things to come. (And there are some, which you can read about in Kevin Mahadeo's interview with Oka and some other former cast members, which you shouldn't read if you want to avoid spoilers.)
Not everything worked. Dylan Bruce is gleefully villainous, but Ryan Guzman's Carlos remains frustratingly vague, and the only thing the show told us about him this week was that he's a guy who's stupid enough to drink a mysterious red liquid when a really bad dude tells him he should. Zachary Levi showed signs of life this week, particularly in a hilariously uncomfortable voicemail to Joanne ("I sold the practice. And I burned down the house"). He also had some lovely subtle moments, particularly in his final scene. But Malina is still little more than a sketch, and Tommy and Emily basically just wandered around France and played doctor. When the other stories are so engaging, it's even more obvious when the others are a snooze, and I'm not looking forward to the inevitable Malina-Tommy meetup.
Still, even with its shortcomings, this was a fun hour of television, bold in its ambitions and inventive in its style in the way that its predecessor was in its heyday. Hiro and Bennet have headed back to June 13, Miko's dissolved into data, Luke's stopped moping and Frances has gone totally rogue (and is knocked up, to boot), and her mother is having a full-scale temper tantrum. This may not be on the level of "save the cheerleader, save the world," but it's not half bad. Welcome back, "Heroes." The word "reborn" finally feels appropriate.