With the climactic end of this episode, Tim Kring and the writers give Heroes Reborn its tagline, and it’s a catchy one. However it’s the writers, rather than Noah, who would most benefit from heeding Molly’s plea. With our heroes still splintered, and Taylor’s move to Team Noah the episode’s only progress on this front, the season continues to feel disjointed, with significant fluctuations in quality and tone as the episode moves from one set of characters to another. Given the light characterization so far, it’s not surprising that the storylines rooted in the present and immediate future are the ones that work best, while those moored in the past weigh the action down.
There’s a lot to enjoy in “The Needs Of The Many” and once again, at the top of this list are Miko and Ren, who give the episode a much-needed jolt of energy and charisma. The relaxed charm of Toru Uchikado is a welcome antidote to the angst seeping through the rest of the series and with Miko, the writers have struck a careful balance of characterization and secrecy. There are clearly more reveals coming with her—the previous episode’s pointed use of scare quotes in the subtitles when referencing her father all but promises it—yet Kiki Sukezane’s engaging performance keeps the audience focused on Miko’s present, rather than her past, and her and Uchikado’s chemistry elevates what could be a rote, blank-slate character into something far more interesting.
Tommy is another highlight this episode, providing the episode’s most endearing and surprisingly subtle moment. Robbie Kay’s somewhat stunned, appreciative smile when Emily and Brad tell Tommy they were worried is tremendously telling; this is Tommy’s first taste of true friendship, and he didn’t know how much he needed it. His life is about to get much more complicated, so it’s nice to see Tommy share a quiet moment in the closet with Emily and take a quick, apparently exhilarating side trip with her to get blood for his mother. While Malina and Farah stand around spouting vague portents of doom, Tommy is doing whatever he can to save his mother’s life. Functional strangers discussing an ambiguous threat to the planet has nothing on the stakes of Tommy’s choice of his mother’s life over his freedom.
Less consistent are Quentin and Noah. Jack Coleman may have started the series as its MVP, but in the past two episodes, Noah has gone from the show’s emotional core to its least explored character, and that’s saying something. It doesn’t help that these episodes keep trying to wring pathos out of Claire’s supposed death, a line no genre fan should be buying, but the real issue is that Noah’s been reduced to an exposition delivery device, there merely to demand explanations without reacting to them. Henry Zebrowski gives Quentin a few entertaining audience surrogate moments, the highlight being his reaction to the evo farm, but the series hasn’t decided just how much of a joker Quentin is, or how serious, and the same is true for the frequently humorless Noah. The writers are going for an odd couple dynamic between Noah and Quentin, but sadly, four episodes in, they still haven’t gelled, as they lack the consistency necessary to build a comfortable rapport.
Taylor and Molly’s scenes with the pair are more successful, helped by the well-drawn motivations of both characters. The audience may not know what is driving Molly, but she feels focused and her surety is compelling. Her suicide is shocking, yes, but it’s driven by character: Her certainty that she cannot live without being hunted for her ability, and specifically, for the location she’s locked away from Erica’s probes, is informed by the glimpses the past few episodes have given of her life. Taylor’s betrayal of her mother is similarly effective. The turn may come quickly, but the previous episodes did enough legwork to set up her choice here.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are Carlos, whose storyline takes a turn for the uninspired when he decides to become NotBatman (NotBatmobile and all), and Luke and Joanne, who are the series’ clear weak link. Four episodes in, we still know precious little about Carlos and his bland pronouncements about wanting to believe in something are trite and unearned. Carlos took up his brother’s work to find Oscar’s killers, yet that motivation appears to have been dropped, the personal abandoned for a generic desire to do good.
That’s nothing compared to the about-face of Luke, though. Despite being introduced in the premiere with a dramatic monologue about his need to kill evos, despite acknowledging their innocence, now only a few episodes later, Luke is questioning the humanity of the people he’s spent the past year slaughtering? It’s far too quick a turnaround and smacks of lazy writing. Casting him as the reluctant hero with the dark past and asking the audience forgive a cold-blooded killing spree because Luke’s an evo now is disrespectful, it’s manipulative, and it shows a disregard for the audience’s memory. Joanne is more intriguing, a character believably shaped by loss and grief, but Luke is increasingly irritating, particularly as it appears he will only grow in prominence as the season continues.
For now, the parts of Heroes Reborn that work make up for those corners that don’t, but the gap between these is growing each week. If the writers can take their own advice and focus on the characters’ futures, rather than continuing to have so many dwell in, allude mysteriously to, and retcon their pasts, the season could quickly find a new gear. But as so many have experienced, advice is much easier to give than take.
- A big thank you to Myles McNutt for filling in for me last week!
- We open with another grating Suresh narration. I guess it was too much to hope that they’d be the exception, rather than the rule this season.
- The butterflies at the North Pole look much better than the premiere’s butterfly, but I haven’t seen CG as terrible as that tree trunk in a very, very long time. To paraphrase the immortal words of Zoidberg, it’s bad, and the show should feel bad.
- The standoff with the three Harrises is fun and works well, even if I don’t buy for a moment that Noah could shoot all three of them before one of them hit one of Noah’s trio.
- Bad Paul! I mean, Captain Dearing. Dylan Bruce has a knack for smug, jerky baddies. Hopefully Dearing will be around a while longer before the satisfyingly final character ending undoubtedly coming his way.
- Why does everyone keep saying, “your daughter” to Noah instead of Claire? Are they worried it’s a Bloody Mary situation, that if they say Claire enough times, Hayden Panettiere will show up on set and they’ll have to pay her?
- Very much looking forward to The Shadow, as I’m sure are the other viewers of the prequel webisodes.