Learning the wrong lessons from the near-season best “Sundae, Bloody Sundae,” “11:53 To Odessa” doubles down on the least interesting elements of its immediate predecessor. Instead of continuing the tight narrative focus and character-driven storytelling of “Sundae, Bloody Sundae,” this episode gives viewers more time with series lowlights Luke and Carlos, among others, and once again fails to deliver on Erica’s plan to save the world. Phoebe, Quentin, Matt, and now Tommy have bought in, but the writers still refuse to actually show Erica’s pitch, keeping that conversation conveniently offscreen. Hopefully, that is, because if the brief chat Erica has with Tommy on-screen is intended to be her entire spiel, the people actively helping her are even denser than they appear.

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More than Emily and Tommy’s thinly sketched motivations, however, it’s the episode’s focus on Carlos, Farah, and the rest of the action at Matt’s evo holding facility that disappoints. Dylan Bruce’s smirking Captain Dearing works well to counter the ever-dour Carlos, but he’s nowhere to be seen, replaced by the humorless Farah. As noted earlier this season, the pair lacks even a spark of chemistry, making the episode’s reliance on their connection to drive its most fraught scene regrettable. Without the careful editing of the previous installment, the flashbacks to Carlos and Farah’s ambush fall flat, lacking energy and creativity, and their reunion is equally forgettable. The writers spend a full scene building to Matt’s threatening of Carlos, then cut away before Farah breaks and spills the beans. This isn’t the only significant conversation left offscreen either: At some point, Malina found out Tommy’s her brother, but this theoretically huge moment is brushed past nonchalantly. Has Malina known who Tommy was since she first took his picture out of Farah’s envelope or did Noah fill her in between episodes? More importantly, why leave this revelation to the imagination when Malina’s only just starting to feel like a person, rather than an ominous portent delivery device? Decisions like these underline the show’s fundamental misunderstanding of its characters and the work needed to flesh them out.

This is also evident in the episode’s two meta moments, one intentional and the other likely not. The one that works is Noah speaking for the entire audience when he tells Luke, “Leave us alone.” Luke was overdue a reaction to his year of killing, but having him whine about Noah not letting him tag along is a strange and not very successful way to lead into it. The other is the eye-roll inducing on-screen text from @BENNY_HILLTOP about Katana Girl’s disappearance. The shot holds on Ren’s computer screen for what seems like an eternity before finally continuing the scene. Like so many touches in Heroes Reborn, this feels like a holdover from when Heroes first premiered, when significantly less of the TV-viewing population watched via DVR, easily able to pause and digest on-screen text at their leisure. While he’s been a reliable source of joy and enthusiasm all season, here Ren’s concern for Miko dampens his usually infectious energy, making this his most underwhelming episode to date. The sooner the writers bring Miko and Ren back together, the better, for them individually and the show as a whole.

Thankfully, at least one moment lands, Miko’s tearful reunion with her father, Hachiro Otomo. Kiki Sukezane sells Miko’s confusion and pain at her father’s seeming betrayal and Hiro Kanagawa is appropriately distant as Hachiro. Miko’s reappearance in the future may not make sense yet—though after coming up with a solid reason for Claire’s death in childbirth, the writers have earned some benefit of the doubt; an explanation may be coming—but it’s nice to have Sukezane back regardless. This exchange, along with Malina’s surprisingly sweet conversation with Noah about Claire, keeps “11:53 To Odessa” from being a complete snooze. It’s hard to see how the series will stretch three more episodes out of the story, but if the rest of the season has taught the audience anything, it’s that these writers are not afraid of filler. While a more thrilling fall finale would have been nice to help keep viewers invested over the hiatus, going into the break without a special cliffhanger or new mystery at least encourages the audience to keep their expectations low for when the show returns in January, and given the season so far, that may be for the best.

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Stray observations

  • Credit where it’s due, the vista shot of Erica, Tommy, Quentin, and Phoebe staring out over the desert looks great.
  • Harris skipping the, “Ask me something only I could know” routine and just shooting one of the Matts is a fun touch. Harris remains one of the few consistently dependable elements of the series, thanks in no small part to the decision to keep Harris a straight-up villain who’s decently good at his job.
  • Guess it’s time for Quentin to turn good again, expressing doubts for the first time in Erica’s labyrinthine plan. Sure, Quentin, it’s odd that you had to kidnap Tommy, but kicking things off with a terrorist bombing, totally logical.
  • I’m a sucker for a good network C-word tease, in this case, Erica’s, “She’s a tenacious little construct.”
  • Of course the people Malina saves from the terrible storm (admittedly, one of her cooler moments) immediately turn on her. Good thing Luke’s there to save her from the yokels and get overly familiar. Sorry, ex-spree killer Luke, it’ll take a few more packs of sweets and adorable bonding scenes before you calling Malina, or anyone you met only a couple days prior, “sweetie” feels appropriate.

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