[This is a review of Heroes Reborn season 1, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week on Heroes Reborn, Noah Bennet and Hiro Nakamura traveled back in time from the present to the site of the June 13th attack on an Evo/human summit in Odessa, Texas. The episode managed to establish why Noah had lost his memories following the attack; he chose to forget in order to protect his daughter’s newborn twins from Erica Kravid, who sought out the children because they alone could save the world from her plan: to allow a cataclysmic event to wipe out most of humanity, only saving certain humans using the powers of Evos. Additionally, it was revealed that Claire’s twins, a boy and a girl, are Malina and Tommy (real name Nathan).
While last week’s episode, ‘June 13th – Part One,’ was largely used to establish key information, ‘June 13th – Part Two,’ managed to capitalize on those revelations in order to set up the future we’ve seen earlier in the season and tease a slightly altered future to which Noah returns. Though some of the paths between June 13th and one year later are a bit too convenient (more on that later), they work to offer insight to certain characters like Luke and Joanne, while others like Carlos remain on the fringes of the narrative with little time to be developed.
The majority of the episode is devoted to establishing how it’s possible for Nathan/Tommy and Malina to go from being born on June 13th to 16-year-old Evo saviors a year later. Hiro brings the children and Angela back in time to 1999, where they realize Nathan is capable of absorbing powers (an Evo trait passed down through the Petrellis, and the reason Claire died in childbirth) and has absorbed Hiro’s ability to time travel. Angela and Hiro decide to raise the children separately, leaving Hiro alone with the young Nathan, which provides for a lighter moment for Masi Oka to play. When Noah finds Hiro and Nathan, along with his adoptive mother Anne, on June 13th, Nathan is ready to fulfill his destiny as a hero — a far cry from the Tommy who rejected his fate and ran off to Paris.
However, when Harris discovers Nathan, Hiro sends him and his mother on the run with “Penny for your thoughts” Caspar. In an effort to prevent Nathan from returning to save Hiro, Anne asks Caspar to take away his memories of Hiro, presumably leaving behind a teenaged boy with little desire to save the world. Nathan’s turn from a Japanese-speaking, eager hero to the reluctant Tommy of earlier episodes (if that is, in fact, the result of Hiro being wiped from his memory) is too convenient a turnaround. This particular character development rests too much on ideas outside of the show — specifically, how much a person is influenced by how they’re raised — and is by no means earned by the narrative of the episode.
Malina, meanwhile, has been raised in Geneva by Angela, training to use her powers. When Noah and Nathan visit, Angela says she has had a vision of the twins saving the world, standing under a clocktower stuck at 11:53. Later, Angela summons Farah — Malina’s guide from earlier in the season — and reveals that there is something about Malina’s destiny she hasn’t had the heart to tell the girl. Though the statement is vague, it’s fairly clear that Malina’s destiny to save the world will involve something terrible, perhaps dying. If this is the course of Malina’s storyline through the rest of Heroes Reborn, it will be another case of a hero sacrificing themselves for the greater good — and the second time this season alone, following Katana Girl’s sacrifice in ‘Game Over.’
Luke and Joanne’s storyline continues to be the most emotionally grounded and compelling aspect of Heroes Reborn. In ‘Part One’ the couple brought their son, Dennis, to the summit but he went missing during the explosion. Luke attempted to find Dennis, pulling an Evo from the rubble who had entertained Dennis earlier in the day. In ‘Part Two’ Luke and Joanne learn of Dennis’ death and when the Evo Luke saved tries to thank him, Joanne turns her grief and rage into killing the young man. In terms of an origin story, it’s not too different from the standard: grief becomes a mission of vengeance. However, Zachary Levi and Judith Shekoni manage to play their characters with all the genuine emotion needed to give the storyline weight.
Elsewhere in the world, Hachiro Otomo learns of Erica’s betrayal as she locks him out of Evernow. In an attempt to prevent Erica from retaining sole control of the game, and, subsequently, the past version of Hiro, he creates Katana Girl in the image of his daughter Miko. More than a few scenes are dedicated to Hachiro teaching Miko about her life, her mother, and how to cook, while it’s clear she’s struggling to understand why she doesn’t remember anything about her life. Though the scenes between Miko and Hachiro are another emotional tether in the episode, they simply seem to reiterate a back story established earlier in the season.
That being said, ‘Part Two’ does the biggest disservice to Carlos, who has a meager two scenes in the episode. In the first, he’s in a military hearing, clearly lying about the events of a mission. Later, we learn he lied for a woman in his unit who saved his life during the mission — and with whom he was involved. She reveals that she didn’t want to be named the hero of the mission because she’s an Evo (and presumably used her powers to save Carlos and the others in their unit). The two scenes work to set up Carlos’ present-day arc as the man who wants to be a hero. In fact, one of the woman’s lines perfectly illustrates his entire season-long arc: “If you’re uncomfortable with an honor you don’t deserve, live up to it.”
Although ‘Part Two’ also saw the brief return of Matt Parkman (guest star Greg Grunberg), the episode still has the same feel of much of the season so far: simply moving pieces into place for the final battle. To the show’s credit, both ‘Game Over’ and ‘June 13th’ (if the two parts are combined) have obvious standalone arcs, but they would not be able to stand on their own outside the larger threat from Erica and the oncoming apocalyptic event. However still, the events of ‘June 13th’ have overcomplicated the overarching arc of Heroes Reborn, providing a complex back story that doesn’t actually move the plot forward — with the exception of Quentin’s new loyalties.
Of course, a season-long narrative is integral to good dramatic television. But, when each episode adds to a clear (albeit meandering) and slow-paced narrative with the majority of its story focused on setting up the future — whether that’s the future established earlier this season or the future fight to save the world — it becomes difficult to focus on the current episode rather than skip ahead. Or, in this case, simply wanting to skip ahead. That being said, with Heroes Reborn moving into its final five episodes, perhaps the show will manage to regain the tighter pacing established in ‘Game Over’ and glimpsed in ‘Part Two.’
Heroes Reborn continues next Thursday with ‘Sundae, Bloody Sundae’ at 8pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: