Heroes Reborn has struggled with its structure all season, the isolated narratives of its many protagonists giving the series a fractured, disjointed feeling. The best installment so far, “June 13th – Part One,” benefited tremendously from narrowing in on primarily Noah and Hiro as they traveled back in time to the Odessa conference and the same is true for “Sundae, Bloody Sundae.” This time it’s Tommy and Carlos who take center stage, and both are given some of their best material yet. Tommy’s relationship with Emily has been a highlight of the season, Gatlin Green and Robbie Kay’s chemistry bringing a touch of sweetness to the otherwise rather dour series, so it’s not surprising that this corner of the episode works well, but Carlos’ arc has been one of the show’s least successful. His moping—he’s meant to be struggling with significant issues, but the series has done a poor job exploring this—has been less than engaging and his stint as MechaBatman left much to be desired. This episode, in contrast, opens with a little much-appreciated humor, Dearing enjoying messing with Carlos, and then keeps Carlos an active force in his story, his motivation clear and powerful: He has to save his nephew.
By focusing on only a few characters—Tommy and Carlos, plus a handful of scenes for Taylor, Erica, and Luke and Malina—the episode is able to linger in important scenes, giving them time to breathe. Carlos’ exploration of the Renautas compound is interesting, an eerie look at Renautas’ work and one answer to how they’re able to contain so many evos. His confrontation with the Director, Matt Parkman, is also appropriately slow paced. Many, including Greg Grunberg, have joked about Matt’s ability boiling down to Grunberg squinting at people, but because of the steady build of the scene, the script, and the performances, Matt’s manipulation of Carlos’ mind feels like much more than this. It’s a violation, one made even worse for the audience by Grunberg’s likability and Matt’s former good guy status. The scene escalates as Matt triggers Carlos to relive his most traumatic moment, Carlos shaking as Matt nonchalantly munches on a sandwich. The editing and direction here is some of the best of the season, conveying the power of the experience to Carlos while reassuring the audience that no physical harm is coming to him (or to Dearing, one plastic-draped room over). This is cold comfort, however; Ryan Guzman makes the audience feel Carlos’ terror and though Taylor is on her way, there’s no one nearby to free Carlos from his nightmare.
The central set piece of the episode, Joanne and Luke’s standoff at the ice cream parlor, is equally effective. Judith Shekoni has done well with a difficult character all season and she continues to find the fun in Joanne’s increasing instability. Joanne may be a problem character—making two of the leads unrepentant spree killers remains the series’ most baffling decision—but having a few episodes off from her has helped the heart grow fonder and like Emily’s sunniness, Joanne’s murderous glee separates her from the rest of an often bland cast of characters. The scene progresses nicely, Caspar then Tommy and finally Luke trying to talk Joanne down, but it’s Tommy’s first (as compared to Nathan’s first) use of Hiro’s ability to stop time that puts the scene over the edge. Tommy’s sense of discovery as he realizes what’s happened is palpable, as are his excitement and curiosity, and the visual of the frozen moment is as neat as ever. Tommy may be new to stopping time, but he’s clearly a quick study.
Sharing the rest of the screen time are Taylor, who reaches out to HeroTruther, Luke and Malina, who are thankfully more interesting together than they were by themselves, and Erica, who kills a deer for fun. This turns out to be a character moment rather than a purely moustache-twirling one, as we find out Erica grew up on a farm and knows how to break down the deer, but it feels didactic, hammering home her message of culling the herd to survive. Quentin also gets a couple scenes, but they are unfortunately the episode’s weakest. His exchange with Tommy at the vending machine is just plain odd, if Quentin’s supposed to have any skill as an agent of Renautas, which his proximity to Erica should indicate, and the mugging of both Henry Zebrowski and Jack Coleman as Quentin and Noah want to shoot people but, with a pained and frustrated expression, decide not to, is just bad. Quentin has been an iffy character all season, but Noah has gone steeply downhill since his strong start to the series. If this installment makes anything clear, however, it’s that the show is capable of turning around even the least successful character; hopefully better writing is headed Noah’s way, and soon. The most recent episodes of Heroes Reborn have been whiplash inducing, incredibly weak entries followed by much stronger ones. With the final stretch nearing, and building from this step in the right direction, maybe the series will at last start building the momentum it needs to stick a satisfying landing.
- It sure didn’t take Erica 2.0 long to lose her cane. Maybe it’s a decorative cane, for around the office.
- How many episodes until Tommy’s super rare, super convenient French 9th Wonders comic comes into play? I’m going with three, as a penultimate episode reveal, but the sooner it happens and the show can stop dropping boulder-sized breadcrumbs about it, the better.
- Speaking of Tommy, just what is he supposed to be feeling when he talks about his backstory with Noah? Noah seems to think he’s being cheeky, but the delivery from Kay falls flat. Also, Tommy: I know you’re new to this whole stopping time thing, but when your girlfriend’s about to get shot and you don’t know how long your time stop will last, save your girlfriend first, not last!
- Luke and Malina’s conversation in the car is perfectly fine, rather than irritating because it’s coming from a horrible murderer the show wants me to forget is a horrible murderer. Progress!
- The unveiling of Taylor’s questioner looks cool and it’s nice to have René back, though having him return the same episode Caspar dies underlines how little the show cares about its characters—if Caspar’s getting killed, better make sure there’s another memory-related evo out there for Noah to use.
- I enjoy that blond and man bun-sporting is apparently a shortcut for disappointing chefs at the moment.
- The score and sound design for Matt’s scene with Carlos is effective, particularly the ticking clock and heartbeat. Also, I can’t help but think of the Homeland debacle every time I see graffiti in Middle East-set scenes. It adds a fun level of meta humor.
- Last, but certainly not least, Miko’s back! No clue why she’s in the future, but I’m on board.