Episode 6 “Game Over”
Okay, I’ve gone off on NBC’s miniseries Heroes Reborn. I’ve commented on how I haven’t liked the lack of cohesion between the individual stories. I’ve ranted about the poor handling of supporting characters. I’ve talked about the bad CGI used for special effects and the in-world video game of Evernow. But up until now I had always imagined that all these problems were the result of the show runners waiting for the show to find an audience, waiting to bring out the good stuff until viewers had readjusted to the status quo of a relatively short high concept TV show. But after this week’s episode, “Game Over”, I am beginning to wonder if the creators of this show have any idea what they’re doing.
We are officially halfway through the run of this show, halfway to the finale, halfway to the end of Heroes Reborn, and it feels like things are only now starting to move forward. One the one hand, that’s a good thing; forward momentum is necessary for a miniseries like this. But, on the other hand, it may be too late to save this sinking ship. This show is losing viewers fast. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. Heroes Reborn has not earned an audience, and if this episode is any indication of how the rest of the series is headed, that viewership will do nothing but drop in the next few weeks.
We only figured out what this show was building towards in the last episode. Now that all the stories have to start converging the plot holes are showing more than ever, and the hand of the writer is front and center.
Heroes branded itself by showing people who felt helpless in the face of outside forces trying to control them and their destinies. We’d often get pretentious narration by Mohinder’s voice-over waxing philosophical about the nature of destiny and purpose. It all boiled down to people controlling their own destinies and taking responsibility for their own lives. Does the bomb go off? Yes, but they make sure no one dies because of it. Does the cheerleader die? Yes, but not the one you’re thinking of. The paintings of Isaac Mendes told people their future, but those futures always came about because of choices they made based on clear motivations that defied destiny, and predictions that did happen rarely occurred for the reasons we initially suspected. In that initial run, destiny was something to avoid, something to fight, something that had to be changed. In this run it’s a tool. It is a contrived method of moving the necessary characters on the board to finish the game. Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” this is not (pun unintended, but acknowledged and regretted).
Tommy and Malina have been told they have destinies to save the world. And unlike in the previous series they don’t resist it. Well, to be fair, Tommy runs away to Paris for a couple of hours but he eventually gives in and decides to go along with destiny. Malina seems to have been brought up to perform some act that even she is fully aware of. But she goes along with anyway because other people tell her to. (She’s even brought Luke along for the ride. They meet up and she tells him about her whole destiny schpeel, and he goes along with it, offering to take her to meet up with Tommy.) Miko has been given a mission to rescue her father. Nothing of their relationship shown to us, nothing to endear her or her father to us, merely the basest reason for a person to contribute to the story, but with no heart to it.
One of the big reveals this episode was the fact that Miko is not a real person. Somehow her “father” created her in a video game, based her on his real life daughter who had died in a car accident, made her real, and gave her a mission to rescue him. This is why she is able to venture into the poorly rendered video game world of Evernow. But this has all been a ruse to free the imprisoned Hiro Nakamura, who has somehow — again, do not ask me how it makes even less sense than Miko’s identity — been held captive in the Evernow video game. This allows for Renautus to harness his powers over time and space.
This raises so many problems and questions, I don’t know where to start. How did they imprison Hiro in a video game? Did they create the game just to imprison him? Why make the game public for others to play it and risk releasing Hiro? Why not just make it a closed program on their own network that no one else had access to? Why did Otomo want to free Hiro at all? What was their relationship? Why was Hiro’s sword the key to releasing him? How did Otomo manage to bring a video game character to the real world? Why give her a bogus backstory that distorts her goals and colors her motivation? What was the point of giving Miko a character at all if nothing about her was organic or real? If she really is incapable of resisting her destiny then why focus on her as a main character?
And get this: they try to force a romantic moment between her and Ren just before she goes into the game to basically die. He says he loves her, this girl he met only a few days ago. She smiles and, in classic Han Solo fashion, says she knows. Does she reciprocate his sentiments? I don’t know. Since the writers have driven home the idea through backstory and character actions that Miko is not a real person with feelings or wants I suppose she can’t. She gives into the whole destiny line and dies. She goes into the video game, frees Hiro, and dissipates. If they bring her back in future episodes I will be both surprised and confused. Surprised because Miko’s story is over; she’s completed her destiny and fulfilled her only motivation, weak as it was (If they want to bring her back to give her a “happy ending” with Ren it would be pretty lame, as well as be completely unearned). Confused because, now that her story is over, what are they going to do with her?
So one of the main characters — and one that I might add had been a big factor in the marketing for this miniseries — has been killed what is the next step towards driving this story into the ground? How about killing another one.
Remember Quentin, the likeable chubby guy who got Noah back into the fight back in episode one? He was the main character of the Dark Matters miniseries on YouTube that led into the premier of Heroes Reborn. He was looking for his lost stepsister Phoebe. Do you remember him? I doubt you do, because this show has given him nothing to do for the past five episodes. He’s been tagging alongside Noah, occasionally saying one-off lines that have the rest of the characters rolling their eyes at what a dork he is (I’ll get to that later). Here’s what happened to Quentin this episode:
Quentin reunites with his sister Phoebe, who is now an evil agent of Renautus, going under the pseudonym “The Shadow”, because of her ability to create shadows that disable other EVO powers (she’s basically the Haitian but gothy). It turns out she’s also able to hurt people with her powers, since, in a mad stupor, she causes her tentacle-like shadows to choke Quentin. Noah knocks her out, but the damage is done, and Quentin coughs up blood and dies. This is what is called a wasted opportunity.
Here you had a genuine character with clear motivation and a likable personality who the large majority of the viewership probably could have connected with. And what did the writers do with him? They sidelined him until they realized they wanted to focus on more people who had destinies, refused to develop either him or his relationship with his sister, and then killed him off unceremoniously.
And while all that was going on we instead get to continue watching boring characters like Taylor, who at the end of this episode gets another push from a classic TV trope that’s been overused to the breaking point: a pregnancy subplot. Yep. One of the most contrived attempts to add depth to an otherwise worthless character, and it comes on the back of losing one of the show’s biggest letdowns. Why are we still following Taylor, a character who, up until now, has done nothing but scowl, and wear black? Because the plot dictates that she be involved.
If the writers knew Taylor was going to be an integral plot device the whole time why didn’t they develop her more? I mean, yes she has this distrust issue with her mother and a missing boyfriend, but neither of these things have any emotional depth to them. We know nothing of her relationship to Francis, a character we met in episode 2 and never had a single line since then. We know nothing about her relationship with her mother outside of biting remarks like, “This is so typical of you,” “ You always were a problem;” you know, the sort of non-committal dialogue that is supposed to imply some deeper connection between characters but doesn’t actually tell us anything new about them.
Taylor started out working for her mother, rounding up EVOs. We then learned that she had no idea why her mother was doing this. She complies. Later, Noah tells her to turn against Erica specifically because she hasn’t told Taylor why she’s doing this. She complies. Just like Tommy, Malina, and Miko we can also add Taylor to the list of characters who are moved along in the story not through character motivation but by the whims of others to ensure that the story goes according to the will of the writers. It’s an extension of whoever is in charge of these episodes being so far out of touch with basic storytelling, character, and the audience.
I touched on everyone treating Quentin like a dork. It’s something about this show that has always been there, but up until now never really came to the forefront: this show’s mean attitude toward its audience. Think or a moment, and ask yourself: who would tune into a show about superpower individuals, time travelers, people being transported into video games, and men in masks and robotic super-suits? Well, comic book fans, right? Superhero fans? Gamers? Years ago these people would have been referred to in the popular culture as “geeks”, “nerds”, “dorks”, and “losers.” But like I said, that was years ago, not in 2015, when some of the most anticipated blockbusters are about superheroes, comic books receive comparably as much attention from media coverage as sports, and video games are bigger than ever and in more homes and played by more people than ever before. Nowadays those things are the stuff of the mainstream. Geek culture IS mainstream culture. But this show doesn’t seem to get that.
Heroes Reborn still adopts that old stereotype that gamers are anti-social losers who go bananas over stupid things. It clearly doesn’t understand how gaming culture works, or how online games function. It paints cosplayers as pathetic idiots, and anyone who even knows what cosplaying is gets weird looks for mentioning it. When this show tries to build up comic books as something worthwhile it lands about as well as a penguin with a jetpack. It sounds like it was written by someone who has never read a comic book in his life. Instead it uses the bad comic book tropes as yet more evidence as to why the characters should give into the call of destiny. Wake up, NBC, this isn’t 1985 anymore. You can’t put on a show with elements tailored for a specific audience and then expect them to stick around when you insult them.
Between shallow uninteresting characters, bad understanding of basic storytelling, an obvious despite for its core audience, and the deaths of promising characters in the name of an ever-diminishing light at the end of the tunnel, Heroes Reborn is digging its own grave for reburial.