Episode 3 “Under the Mask”
And so we return to the endless march of STUFF HAPPENING on Heroes Reborn. In the last episode we had Noah and Quentin running around Texas looking for Molly, Miko running around looking for her father in a video game, Tommy running around and looking for a way into Emma’s pants, Joanne and Luke running around looking for people to kill, Carlos running around looking for a reason to be in this show, and also there was a butterfly because damnit we need a motif.
This episode: we get people running into each other and EVEN MORE STUFF HAPPENING! How does it all tie into anything resembling a feasible plot or compelling story? Let’s find out.
The film opens with a butterfly in the Arctic circle where Melina is doing exactly what she was doing in episode 1, looking at the northern lights and igniting the opening theme music by raising her hands. She’s talking to an invisible woman, and they’re discussing how whatever is causing the lights is getting stronger, and Melina says she might not be ready. Ready for what? I couldn’t say, and neither will the show. Get used to it.
Noah takes Quentin to the hospital to get his gunshot wound stitched up. Noah is recognized by a doctor who calls security. Noah evades them and takes a security guard hostage. Understanding this is the result of something that he doesn’t remember due to his tampered memory, he asks the security guard what the deal is. The guard reveals that a year ago, in that same hospital, Noah Bennett shot a security guard. Hmm, déjà vu.
The guard takes Noah to a room where they look through the security footage from a year ago. It shows Noah entering the hospital, where Claire had apparently been taken after the explosion at the Summit. Noah is seen talking to someone behind a corner, but we aren’t shown who it is. They then see footage of Noah in a morgue looking at what we can presume is Claire’s body.
Noah is distraught because this isn’t how he remembers the events of a year ago. Also strange is the fact that the time code jumps back and forth, indicating the presence of time manipulation; and the only man Noah knows that can do that is our ol’ optimistic buddy Hiro Nakamura. Finally they see footage of Noah walking the hallways with Molly “vision of heavenly loveliness” Walker. Quentin shows up and he and Noah take off.
If you’ve been keeping track, Noah and Quentin came to the hospital with foreknowledge that Noah doesn’t remember events as they really happened and trying to find Molly Walker, and they left the hospital with the renewed knowledge that Noah doesn’t remember events as they really happened and head off to try to find Molly Walker. But hey, now Quentin has a prescription for painkillers. Yay!
Luke and Joanne are where we left them, driving the car they stole from Noah and looking through Noah’s files on EVOs. Joanne is really excited about having so many new people to kill. Luke is pouting. Luke’s fingers give a sudden spark and the car stops, dead on the road. They get out and start walking, Luke noting that he’s burning up in the hot Texas sun. The get some lunch at a diner. Joanne still really wants to kill people, while Luke would rather pout and have flashbacks about his son. He says he’d like to go to LA because the plot demands it — well actually, it’s because his son liked the water, and there’s water in LA. At least, I think that’s the reasoning. As Luke is cutting through his steak his knife suddenly becomes red hot, burning the steak on his plate. Uh oh, looks like Luke is an EVO. They go to a motel and Luke finds an excuse to get some alone time. He stands in the sunlight, absorbing it and giving off a bright red glow. He cries out, asking God why this is happening to him.
In Tokyo, we get a quick rehash of the events of Miko’s sudden appearance in the Yamagato Building. She’s busy kicking the ever-loving snot out of security guards (instead of just drawing her sword and fighting them in the videogame world for some reason) when a man identified as Harris “Prime” (it’ll make sense later, trust me) approaches and beats up the skinny teenage girl, and takes her sword. Miko is taken to an interrogation room, while Harris takes the sword to his boss, Erica Kravid, CEO of Ranautus. They think it is odd that a girl could suddenly appear out of nowhere wielding a sword that is identified as belonging to Hiro Nakamura.
Ren has made his way to the Yamagato Building, by walking; just walking; no superpowers or weird circumstances, he just walks in and steals a security badge so he can make his way to the upper floors. And he figured out that Erica is headed to America to unveil Renautus’ big project to the world. This means that the gamer geek is more effective than the katana-wielding superbeing.
Meanwhile, Harris is interrogating Miko, but she’s not talking. He takes out his tools of interrogation: a meat cleaver, some kitchen knives, and some tongs. So I guess Harris is going to prepare Miko some lamb chops; and I’ll bet he’ll overcook it too! But Miko isn’t hungry, so she grabs the meat cleaver and chops off Harris’ hand. Ren then breaks in and they run off together, deciding to follow Erica to America. Harris’ hand has grown back, so that’s his superpower. But that’s not all! Harris’ hand has also grown another Harris. I kid you not. This leads to a legitimately funny joke where Harris Prime asks the Harris Clone (see, I told you it’d make sense) if he can have his watch back, since it was on the hand that got chopped off.
“Goddess of beauty” Molly Walker is being dragged along by feisty bounty-hunting couple Taylor and Francis, and they’re taking her to the worst hell-hole imaginable: New Jersey. Have mercy! But fear not, for they’re only taking her there so they can take her out of New Jersey, by putting her on a plane to their Renautus bosses. But Francis isn’t allowed on the plane. Molly spends the whole time strapped into her chair taunting Taylor, saying that Francis is going to be killed for being an EVO now that Renautus doesn’t need him anymore. The plane lands in Colorado and Molly is ushered to the back rooms of a major conference center.
Taylor takes off and is greeted by Erica. It turns out Erica is Taylor’s mom. What a twist! I’m so shocked! This changes everything I knew about these two characters, in that I now actually know something about them other than just their names. Groundbreaking!
Molly is temporarily rescued by Noah and Quentin, only to find she’s repulsed by Noah due to something horrible he did a year ago but can’t remember. So she runs off and gets captured by Harris, who is also here apparently. It seems like his job is being the only competent guy Renautus has on staff. Noah and Quentin try to get Molly back by sneaking into the presentation Erica is giving to a host of people in suits.
She is revealing the newest development that Renautus has been working on, called E.P.I.C. (an anagram so stupid I’m not even going to tell you what it stands for). It is the sum total of all of their evil experimenting on EVOs, the reason they needed Molly Walker. Wow. What could it be? I mean, it’s called E.P.I.C., so it’s got to be, well, epic, right? Is it a new super serum? An infinite energy source? A devastating new WMD? No it’s dorky sunglasses.
Well, to be specific, it’s a pair of dorky sunglasses that allow you to see if a person is an EVO. So it’s basically “what if Cerebro was a pair of dorky sunglasses instead of something cool.” They plug Molly into a chair, jack her into the Matrix, and she acts as the operating system to find all the EVOs. Noah asserts that they need to get Molly. You think so, Noah? That’s so novel. I had no idea you were chasing after Molly. This is news to me. Although, I do understand the appeal of gazing upon the god-like radiance of Francesca Eastwood’s face.
While all this is going on, Carlos sucks at the whole vengeance thing. He’s been chasing down the cop who is taking down his brother’s Underground Railroad operation, and is constantly getting chased off and requiring rescue. It turns out the bad cop is actually an EVO with super strength, so Carlos gets the snot beat out of him.
Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen. Aren’t you glad you get to spend so much time with them every week?
Also, Tommy is in the episode for about ten minutes. He wants to go to a party at his new BFF Brad’s house, but his mom won’t let him go. Tommy whines and I want to smack him in the face. He uses his powers to go to the party anyway, and his mom wants to smack him in the face. He teleports a bunch of booze to Brad’s house, so he’s now everyone’s best friend, but now Emma thinks he’s kind of a jerk, so she probably wants to smack him in the face. She leaves the party early but Tommy catches her and offers to walk her home. Meanwhile, the fat man in the hat is watching the two, no doubt thinking of how many ways he can smack Tommy in the face.
Suddenly Tommy’s mother is there, and she’s packing. She threatens the fat man to leave her and Tommy alone. The fat man says that he made a promise that nothing bad would happen to Tommy (so I guess face-slapping is off the table) and that the world will need him soon. Tommy’s mom calls out to her son, and makes him get in the car. She says they are moving again, that they’re not safe here anymore. Tommy whines some more, and just when I want to throw my drink at the TV, and Tommy’s stupid face, an oncoming car crashes into their faces — I mean car.
And thus the episode ends. What is even going on?
Okay, so what worked this episode?
It was nice that we’ve got some of the plotlines already converging: Noah and Quentin have met up with “image of perfection” Molly, and we can expect that Miko will be joining them in Colorado soon. This episode also drops some very heavy hints at the reappearance of Hiro Nakamura (plus the teaser for the next episode kind of made it obvious), and I am looking forward to seeing Masi Oka back in the role. Luke and Joanne are headed on a collision course with Carlos and his movement. And Tommy seems to be important to the still-elusive plot.
Also, I am so glad we don’t have any more horrible CGI videogame world.
The reveal of Luke’s power is similar in appearance to Ted’s radiation ability from season 1, a power that ended up leading to The Bomb going off. Does this mean that Luke caused the explosion at the Summit? Luke’s crisis is surprisingly unique, in that he’s calling out to God for answers. With the exception of the character Maya in season two, Heroes has shied away from religious themes in its plotlines, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go with this angle, if they are in fact going to keep it.
What didn’t work?
Noah and Quentin didn’t have that much time together this episode; their scenes were really brief. They had good chemistry and I missed their back and forth.
Zachari Levi is boring this episode as Luke. His melancholy moods come off as more bored than weary. We’re supposed to feel bad for him when we see these constant flashbacks of his now-dead son, but he has no remorse for what he’s done, all the lives he’s taken, all the people he’s hurt; it seems that he’s just not getting any joy out of killing anymore, and that is just not enough to create genuine sympathy.
And Judith Shekoni has yet to endear me to her character, Joanne, in any way; the enjoyment with which she looks through victims and drones on about how she loves what they’re doing is really disconcerting; it rings more of a teenager playing an online shoot ’em up than a woman out to avenge the death of her son (although it would be an odd revelation to find out that their whole story has been inside Miko’s horrible-looking video game world, and they just managed to patch up the awful graphics for the server they’re on).
The writers still refuse to let us know what the main plot is, or what the big threat is. Just tell us what the northern lights are. If they’re so lame you can’t even explain them to us, then you shouldn’t have written them in the first place; and if they’re apart of something genuinely cool either hold off on introducing them or let us get to understand why they are important. (Come on, people, the Mystery Box idea worked for Lost for the first two seasons; but after they got off the island the first time it just caused problems. And you don’t have an island; or Hurley.) Occasionally we’d get a little audio blurb on a car radio or in the background on a television that mentions strange northern lights, but we don’t understand why they’re significant.
This soft-sell method of world-building can be effective if done right. For an example, look no further than the third season of the BBC’s relaunch of Doctor Who, where signs reading “Vote Saxon” began appearing all over the sets, and throwaway lines referenced “Mr. Saxon”. It even showed up in its sister show, Torchwood. The result was that by the time it was relevant to the plot we understood that everyone knew who Mr. Saxon was (or at least who he appeared to be) and it felt like something that had been staring us in the face the whole time. It was immersive and subtle. What Heroes Reborn is doing is dangling a treat over a dog’s nose trying to get it to jump. People, we are the jumping dog, and we deserve a bigger treat for putting up with this lazy method of enticement.
I’ve also been pretty disappointed with the types of powers we’ve been seeing thus far. The original run was constantly coming up with new types of powers, but this season seems content to rehash a lot of the same powers we’ve seen before: becoming incorporeal, super-strength, regeneration, teleporting, radiation, pyromancy, mind control, or flight. I would ask for something new, but I’m afraid they’d just give us more video game world scenes, and the fewer of those the better.
So far we’re three episodes into this miniseries and all our heroes are still just running around doing stuff. This show needs a goal, it needs a focus, it needs something we can rally around and keep us on track. Get it together Heroes Reborn.