[This is a review of Heroes Reborn season 1, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week's episode of Heroes Reborn concluded the two-part trip back in time to the scene of the attack in Odessa, Texas, that set much of the season into motion. Although 'June 13th Part One' and 'Part Two' worked to offer insight into the actions of a number of characters - such as the reasoning behind Carlos' behavior, and why Caspar was following Tommy/Nathan - the story hinged on either getting viewers back to the present established by earlier episodes (and suffering for being mostly exposition) or returning to an alternate present (that would render previous episodes void). In the end, only one thing about the present was altered: Quentin's loyalties are now with Erica and Renautas, leading to his eventual betrayal of Noah.
However, despite most episodes this season of Heroes Reborn focusing on Noah, 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae' shifts the focus to Nathan, with Carlos' infiltration of Sunstone Manor playing a major role this week as well. Written by Marisha Mukerjee (The Bridge) and Sharon Hoffman (Dig) and directed by Gideon Raff ('Game Over'), 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae' benefits from a more focused story, following Nathan as he struggles to come to terms with his destiny while learning the extent of his abilities. Additionally, Carlos, who has been seemingly acting outside of the central plot of the series up to this point, finally gets some answers about Sunstone Manor - which is revealed to be connected to Renautas.
In 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae', Nathan finally learns of his past - being raised by Hiro Nakamura, adopting Hiro's powers, having his memories erased - and his destiny to save the world with Malina as Claire's children. However, this is the Nathan of 'Game Over', who ran away from his destiny, and he's reluctant to accept his role in saving the world. But, learning that he has the power to travel through time and stop time entirely seems to soften the blow of his revelation. It also comes in handy later on, when Joanne goes to the ice cream shop where Nathan’s girlfriend, Emily, works and takes her and Caspar as hostages to lure out Nathan. After Joanne shoots Caspar, the scene leads to a standoff between her, Nathan, Luke (who led Malina to the shop looking for Nathan) and Emily in which Nathan must freeze time to save his girlfriend.
The result is a nice moment for Nathan as he walks around the frozen scene in wonder, waving his hands in front of people's faces and moving everyone out of harm's way, before teleporting himself and Emily back to the hospital. 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae' features many great character moments like this one. Earlier on, Malina and Luke have a tense conversation about his purpose, which he diffuses by talking about how tomatoes ruin sandwiches and burning his meal to a crisp with his powers. Later, Luke gets to stretch his parenting muscles with Malina, chastising her for eating too much junk food. But Luke's confrontation with Joanne, where he admits he only helped in her mission to kill Evos because he knew she needed it, is the culmination of his character evolution throughout the earlier episodes - providing some semblance of closure in his development.
After the standoff in the ice cream shop, Nathan and Emily return to the hospital, where they tell Noah that Caspar is dead. But, before they can leave, they're confronted by Quentin and Phoebe, who prevents Nathan from using his powers to escape. Quentin reveals that he's been working with Renautas, to which Noah responds, "You're the butterfly." The scene suffers a bit from overly-expositional dialogue, but the consequences of Quentin and Phoebe delivering Nathan directly to Erica are ominous enough to be compelling, especially since it is a cliffhanger at the end of the episode.
The other hero who receives a good deal of focus in 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae' is Carlos, who wakes up in Dearing's car thinking the cop/Evo betrayed him (a cliffhanger from 'Game Over'), but Dearing has simply switched places with Carlos as per their plan to infiltrate Sunstone Manor. The manor, as explained by Dearing in previous episodes, is a place where bounty hunters take Evos for a reward, but it has a sinister quality since the Evos that are taken there never want to leave. Carlos infiltrates the facility and finds his nephew, Jose, and Father Mauricio - but true to Dearing's word, they don't want to leave. It's revealed that the Evos are made to believe they're surrounded by their loved ones - Jose, for instance, sees his father. Sunstone Manor is later revealed to have connections to Renautas, both through the director and that the property is owned by Erica. This connection to the larger plot helps to integrate Carlos' story to the larger battle between Evos and Renautas, even if it's a bit of a thin connection.
Throughout Carlos' search of the manor, the institution's director is teased, first with his voice over the loudspeaker, and through shots deliberately hiding his face when he confronts Dearing, then Carlos. But, it is eventually revealed to be Matt Parkman (guest star Greg Grunberg) - though fans of Heroes likely recognized his voice earlier in the episode. Matt gets into the heads of both Dearing and Carlos, forcing them see their greatest fear and biggest secret. Carlos relives the mission teased in 'June 13th Part Two' for which he received accommodations for the actions of someone else. The sequence features Carlos struggling back and forth between the present and his flashback, sometimes dressed in military fatigues, sometimes dressed in his Sunstone Manor disguise, and dealing with the emotions of the scene. The direction and acting help the scene to feel more authentic, with Guzman finally allowed to stretch his acting muscles, and it pays off.
For its part, 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae,' has the most connected storyline of perhaps any episode this season, with even those that seem separate eventually tying in to either Nathan or Carlos' plot. Erica has her own throughline of shooting a deer, cleaning it to be cooked, and serving it at dinner when Quentin and Phoebe bring Nathan to her. It feels slightly out of character, but works as a visual story alongside her speeches about saving the planet by being self-sufficient. Additionally, Taylor comes face to face with the organization led by HeroTruther, who is revealed to be Micah Saunders, though they need her help to rescue him from Renautas. While this storyline doesn't get much screen time, it's Taylor that makes the connection between Sunstone Manor and Renautas, helping this plot to connect to the larger story of the episode. The one unexplained, and most disconnected, scene of ‘Sundae, Bloody Sundae’ is the final sequence that shows Miko 7,957 years in the future on a barren world where, in the distance, she sees a city. It seems likely it's connected to the catastrophic event the whole season has been leading to, but it largely works as a cliffhanger for the episode.
Overall, 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae' is Heroes Reborn at its best, with a straightforward storyline dealing with the struggles of being an Evo in a world that isn't too kind to evolved humans, moments to let the actors flourish and create compelling character moments, and an interesting visual direction that adds to the mood of the scenes as well as the overall tone of the episode. The connected storyline takes all the exposition of previous episodes (of which there was a lot) and uses it to establish the stakes of Nathan coming to terms with his destiny, then being captured by Erica. Plus, the lack of exposition gives the characters time to breathe, so viewers are treated to the smaller and more enjoyable moments like Luke and Malina's diner conversation about tomatoes.
Even the characters in the episode that receive less time, like Miko, Taylor and Erica, are given something to do that propels Heroes Reborn in a common direction. These stories feed into the overall narrative and give the show a much less disjointed feel than episodes earlier this season, which seemed to follow unconnected characters that happened to exist in the same world. Now, with the lines between the heroes and Renautas drawn in the sand, and a singular event to work toward - Nathan and Malina saving the world under a clocktower in Odessa - Heroes Reborn has managed to deliver a fast-paced episode with a tight storyline and fantastic character moments. Whether the show will keep this up remains to be seen, but 'Sundae, Bloody Sundae' certainly offers hope of a compelling conclusion to the season.
Heroes Reborn continues next Thursday with ‘11:53 to Odessa’ at 8pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: