Episode 9 “Sundae, Bloody Sundae”
Okay, so we are officially over the hump and it’s a full-tilt race to the bottom. How will the folks at NBC wrap up this miniseries?
We’ve already answered a lot of the questions and solidified the possible connections that have provided the bulk of the series’ intrigue in the previous two-parter through the time-traveling flashback, so there’s nothing left but to see how this story holds up on its own, and so far, it’s actually looking up. I know I’ve raged against this show’s problems in the past, and believe me those problems still remain, but for the first time since episode one I’m actually hopeful for a satisfying turn for the show; maybe the creators genuinely did have an interesting story planned out; maybe all the awful writing, stupid powers, and poor characterization was just the penance we had to endure before getting to enter paradise.
I say maybe, since, like I already said, the problems of this show still persist. It still has yet to give us a single legitimate motivation for anyone’s action that could resonate with the audience outside of an in-universe constructed narrative that robs the characters of any meaningful agency in their own story. It’s still writing in and writing out characters that fill up a lot of space and don’t leave any real impact on the viewer. And the best actors involved, actors who are able to elevate what would otherwise be insipid head-shaking dialogue, have not been given nearly enough time in the limelight; and that means that the worst-written stuff in this show is not being handled by people capable of pulling it off.
None of this has changed, but it looks like it might start to be diminishing. Let’s take a look at Heroes Reborn episode nine: “Sundae, Bloody Sundae.” (spoiler alert, no one actually eats an actual ice cream sundae in this episode)
The episode deals with the repercussions of Noah Bennett’s time traveling escapades to a year ago, at the heart of the June 13th disaster; it has three main focus points that have resulted from it: Noah, having now learned about the narrative he helped put into place, tries to bring his twin grandchildren Nathan and Malina together to save the world, Carlos is heading to the infamous Sunstone Manor to rescue his nephew and friend, and Taylor is joining up with the underground Hero Truther movement to foil the actions of the Renautus Corporation.
Noah manages to meet up with Nathan relatively easily. He tells his grandson all about what he’s learned in the past, Hiro Nakamura’s sacrifice, the true extent of his powers, his need to meet up with his sister; but there’s a complication when Nathan, still calling himself Tommy, is called away by his new girlfriend Emma to rescue her from the psychotic Joanne, who had once hunted Tommy down but was foiled in her attempt to kill him.
Now she’s holding Emma and Casper (who I think was in the ice cream shop Emma works at to wiper her memory but had second thoughts) hostage at Moes’. Tommy teleports there right as Luke and Malina arrive outside, they’ve been driving around looking for Tommy because it’s destiny. However Casper, who had been trying to wipe Joanne’s memory, gets shot in the head and dies.
Luke rushes in and confronts his wife, threatening to kill her with his heat powers if she attempts to kill any more people. She persists anyway, and fires her gun at Emma. And it’s in this moment that Tommy realizes his full power, freezing time and rearranging things so no one will die. Just before he can teleport away with Emma he notices Malina huddled in the corner, and for the first time the twins are closer than they’ve ever been before. But in a flash he’s gone. Joanne runs off, pursued by Luke, but she’s intercepted by Harris, who recruits her to work for Renautus.
Tommy teleports back to the hospital, and tells Noah and his mother about what’s happened. He tries to take them there, but suddenly his powers don’t work. Quentin and Phoebe arrive, and Quentin’s true allegiance is revealed, and Noah understands that this is the result of his actions on the past, a “butterfly” he’s stepped on. Quentin and Pheobe take Tommy to meet Erica, where she tries to seduce Tommy to her side. Noah calls the police to report the incident and goes to the shop himself. There he is united with Malina, and hugs his granddaughter for the first time.
All the while, Carlos is being brought by Detective Derring to Sunstone Manor, where a bounty is offered for EVOs who are turned in. Carlos manages to get administered in, but knocks out his escort and searches the compound for his nephew Jose and friend, a priest who helped him in an EVO underground railroad. He notices that none of the other EVOs held there seem to be under any sort of restraint; they simply don’t leave. When he locates his friends they insist on staying, that they don’t want to go with him. He realizes someone has messed with their minds. He is eventually captured by the guards and taken to meet “the director”, who is revealed to be Matt Parkman.
Matt was first reintroduced to the series in the last episode as working for Erica, an odd heel turn for what was previously a morally upright character. Now he’s using his mind reading and mind manipulating powers for evil purposes, causing Derring (who got outed as an EVO) to commit suicide, and discovering Carlos’ dark secret about cowardice during deployment as a soldier, and his connection to Farah, the woman who had been looking after Malina up until recently.
The last plot thread revolves around Taylor, Erica’s daughter, joining forces with the (up until now) briefly mentioned underground movement called Hero Truther, which was founded by former Heroes regular Micah, who was captured by Renautus back in the YouTube series Dark Matters. Now the movement wants to get him back, and a familiar face is now heading it up: René the Hatian. Another butterfly stepped on in the past, Noah convinced his former self (read my recap of the episode, it’ll make sense) not to have René wipe his memory of the twins, but instead to have Casper do it, since the first step in Noah’s journey was having to kill René in self defense. Now that that’s been changed René has been spared death and is back in action. And with Taylor’s advice the group sets their sites on Sunstone Manor as the best answer to where they could be hiding Micah.
So that was “Sundae, Bloody Sundae.” What worked about this episode?
Actually, a lot. I normally only have one or two things to say in this section of the recap, but this time I have to congratulate the creators of this show on a solid episode.
I mentioned last week that seeing Tommy/Nathan taking an active part in his story rather than just reacting to other people’s demands was great and it showed a lot more of his personality. We get to see that in this episode, too, and it was welcomed. It really feels like the plot is actually progressing. Moments like where Tommy sees Malina huddled in the corner drew genuine tension.
Greg Grunberg’s presence as Matt Parkman is having a really good resonance through the proceedings. The prospect of either having to deal with Matt in the future, understanding his motivations and how he got to be this way, or having him turn face and come over to the good side again are all looking positive so far. I mentioned that only a few actors in this show are able to elevate the writing to something really good, and Grunberg is one of them; the other being the very much missed Francesca Eastwood (lovely lovely Francesca). He is at once villainous and charming, menacing and humorous, disturbing and intriguing. He’s everything this show has lacked thus far in terms of a serious villain.
That brings me to the bad parts of this episode. Outside of the usual issues this show has yet to overcome, this show has a real lack of any real dread, and that comes down to badly written villains. Erica has no presence as a reliable villain. Most of her plans are either foiled or fall apart. We aren’t given anything relatable to connect us to her, so she never comes off as an interesting person. And on top of it all she doesn’t seem to be an EVO, so she herself is not scary to confront. Villains are designed to bring out the good qualities of the heroes, and the best villains become synonymous with the heroes they oppose. Erica represents nothing, forebodes nothing, and leaves no impact apart from annoyance every time we have to listen to her wax philosophical about survival or some twisted Darwinian law of nature.
Harris has presented himself as a difficult physical obstacle for our heroes, but he never thinks for himself, and his reasons and motivations for working with Erica are not known as of yet. He’s just a pawn, easily replaceable, hence his ability to create clones of himself: expendable amoral soldiers to do the bidding of the villain. And they don’t even succeed all that often, as they’ve been thwarted and evaded, not to mention killed, on multiple occasions.
Joanne is clearly supposed to be a sympathetic villain, due to the death of her son, but she’s so one note and lacks anything we can connect to apart from anger. And eventually we have to see the anger die down, otherwise all there is left is hate, and that creates distance between her and the audience. A good idea for a villain, but poorly executed.
Derring acted as an enemy for Carlos, but again, he never posed much of a threat, and was taken down pretty quickly on several occasions. He acted as a plot device more than a character foil.
Compare this to the villains of previous Heroes seasons.
Sylar was terrifying in his psychotic drive for power, and the pleasure he obviously got out of killing and taking people’s powers. But he also had the benefit of being a reversed angle on Peter Petrelli’s story, both of them being people who want power for different reasons: Peter so he could help people and feel like he genuinely was making a positive impact on the world, and Sylar because he wanted to be the best at everything and wanted the recognition he’d never had before in his life. There we have nemesis qualities, a compelling character trait that we can relate to, and an actor in Zachary Quinto who delivered a great performance.
Or take for example Arthur Petrelli, a cold stoic businessman type who didn’t bat an eye as he carved a bloody path through anyone who crossed him. He killed without emotion the same way a big corporate tycoon would destroy a competing company and never think twice about all the people he’s leaving jobless. His placid nature belied an underlying malice and evil, which served not only to tear apart his family, but challenged every hero he came across, since he was at once unimposing and at the same time incredibly dangerous.
Or, from the fourth season, we had Samuel: a villain who passed himself off as a beacon of hope for the outcasts, offering a place of safety and community for those who had been rejected because of their differentness. Here was a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing, a serpent in the garden who offered sweet tasting fruit: a place to belong, a family who supported and looked after you, and a chance to finally stop running from the world and yourself. This was what so many of the characters wanted, and yet it was a twisted vision, as that very community which they wanted granted Samuel the power to enact his own selfish will on those he deemed his enemies. His sins were a result of those he had gathered around him, and thus they could not escape sharing the blame for those who Samuel had hurt.
These were the villains that made Heroes work in its early days, and what kept it on the air despite declining overall quality. There were still good stories to tell and good characters to carry them through; the writers knew what they were doing and had compelling ideas that drew the audience in. Can the same be said for this season?
Well, maybe now it can. I mentioned Greg Grunberg’s great performance in this episode. If he continues on in his villainous state we could have a cool confrontation and ending in store. It still remains to be seen what Matt’s villainy implies from a thematic character standpoint, whether he’ll turn out to carry a tempting alternative to the heroes’ plans or if he’s just doing it for the cash like he says he is, but for the first time I’m excited to see what this show does with a new character.
Hey, I just had a thought: what if it turns out that Matt is actually the mastermind of this entire thing? What if Matt has mind controlled Erica to pour the resources of her company into this elaborate and insane plan, while all the time trying to create a safe zone for EVOs in the future? Could Sunstone Manor be the last place on earth that is spared the disaster of the HELE, and the powers of the EVOs, united in a common course dictated by Matt’s mind control, are the means of rebuilding the planet? Has Erica actually been a mere pawn this whole time?
What do you think is in store for Heroes Reborn? Do you think things are looking up, or are you still disappointed with the show as it stands? Tell us, in your opinion, what makes a good recurring villain for a show like this. We’d love to hear from you.