This review contains spoilers.
1.9 Sundae, Bloody Sundae
Luke and Joanne work out their issues over some ice cream and Matt Parkman attempts to recreate The Prisoner this week as Heroes Reborn returns to the present day with Sundae, Bloody Sundae. With all the head-scratching time travel and info-dumping from the past two episodes out of the way, Heroes Reborn gets to return to a streamlined, less hasty format as we are reacquainted with the main timeline, albeit with the addition of a few squashed butterflies. The more sedate pace is a pleasant change of gear after the intensity of the June 13th two-parter and it’s a relief to be back in more familiar territory and to catch up with the characters who took a back seat for the flashback episodes.
As such, Carlos Gutierrez (Ryan Guzman) takes centre stage this week and does so with aplomb, delivering solid hand-to-hand combat and espionage scenes, as well as an affecting and convincing performance of an ex-soldier re-living his battlefield trauma. Carlos’ foolhardy crusade to infiltrate Sunstone Manor and his uneasy alliance with Dearing creates an interesting dynamic but what really makes these sequences work is the dystopian paradise backdrop led by none other than Matt Parkman and his trademark squint of confusion. If last week’s Parkman cameo was a summary of everything Heroes fans have come to expect from the character, his appearance in this episode was the introduction of a whole new man and more significantly, a villain. Showing absolutely none of the mercy or meekness typical of the mind-reader, Matt comes off as genuinely sinister and the concept of him as the leader of a prison, manipulating the minds of inmates to believe they’re happy is a brilliant twist on the Heroes universe and something we will hopefully see more of in what’s left of the series.
Another character who does a good job of reinventing themselves this week is, predictably, Quentin Frady. After filling the Seth Rogen-patented bumbling comedian role earlier in the series, establishing Quentin as a credible threat wouldn’t have been the easiest of tasks, yet actor Henry Zebrowski succeeds in transforming his character into a smarmy and unlikeable backstabber, perhaps partly due to a creepy smile/bushy beard combo. Noah’s discovery of Quentin’s switch of allegiance came much sooner than expected, many shows would’ve milked that relationship out over a good few episodes, and the moment of realisation itself arrived with little fanfare. It could have been intriguing to see more of Quentin misleading and manipulating Noah in secret but these types of storyline have the tendency to wear thin rapidly so wrapping things up now was perhaps a wise decision.
The amount of story covered in the last two episodes unfortunately left little room for traditional, super-powered violence and thankfully, this week’s episode addressed that void. In addition to Carlos’ fistwork at Sunstone, the scenes in Moe’s ice cream parlour acted as a strong action set-piece, providing an opportunity to bring characters together and tantalisingly dangling the inevitable Tommy/Malina team-up. Wisely opting for a tense showdown as opposed to a full-on bullet party, the sequence culminates in a visually impressive time-stop and a satisfying explosion of ice cream. The scene also manages to split up Luke and Malina which can only be a good thing. As much as episode writers Marisha Mukerjee and Sharon Hoffman tried to establish a bond between the pair, no amount of burnt sandwiches was going to make the partnership work. Unlike Heroes Reborn’s other team-ups: Miko and Ren, Noah and Quentin, even Carlos and Dearing, the relationship between Malina and Luke felt contrived and awkward and had the air of a Dad meeting his illegitimate daughter for the first time.
One of the criticisms frequently levelled at Heroes Reborn is that it isn’t especially subtle, particularly in its set up of character and story and Sundae, Bloody Sundae is perhaps the most obvious example of this. Caspar for example was a glorified plot device, solely created to account for characters not being able to remember stuff. Now that Noah and Tommy’s memories have been refreshed, Caspar is swiftly and ruthlessly executed. The writers may as well have smeared “we don’t need him anymore” on the walls in chocolate ice cream for all the subtlety involved in the timing of Caspar’s demise. The crass signposting doesn’t stop there either. It’s a fact that one of the quickest, perhaps laziest, ways to encourage an audience to dislike a character is to have them kill an animal and Erica’s deer hunting this week is a fine example of just that. With very little allusion to her love of hunting over the past eight episodes, the scene serves no other purpose than to give her a boost in the ‘evil’ stakes. Erica killed Bambi, she’s bad, we get it. The bloody hand cupping a wine glass later in the episode was incidentally, much more effective at reaffirming Erica’s character.
Even the very welcome return of Miko, thrust 8000 odd years into the future was somewhat tarnished by the overt butterfly motif indicating that she, like Quentin, had her timeline altered by Noah’s meddling. The lack of subtlety is a minor annoyance that some may interpret as underestimating the audience’s intelligence but there’s enough positives to be found in Heroes Reborn to overlook its occasional blockheadedness.
Sundae, Bloody Sundae leaves Heroes Reborn with the potential for a really strong final act. With most of the mysteries cleared up and characters’ memories returned, the focus can turn to the core plot of the show, an allegiance of good guys versus Renautas with the impending apocalypse as a backdrop. Miko’s adventures in the future also have the capacity to bring Heroes into new territory and will likely either bring a fantastic new element to the show or, like the videogame scenes before it, feel out of place and not in keeping with Heroes‘ core style.
Read Craig’s review of the previous episode, June 13th Part 2, here.