“Heroes Reborn was never going to be “Heroes.” For better or for worse, you can’t catch the kind of fire that made the first season burn in a bottle. It was never controlled –f or every “Save the cheerleader, save the world,” there was a stretch of stuff that didn’t make any sense at all. For most of this season, “Heroes Reborn” has had far more of the latter, and even the moments that worked felt somehow shallow, a pale shadow of what they could be.
Not with this episode. Is “June 13th – Part Two” perfect? Not by a long shot. Are there giant logical flaws? Well, yeah — it is “Heroes,” after all. What it had was the barrel-roll confidence that made the early days of “Heroes” so enticing, a belief that they could shake up the rules, over and over again, and the audience would follow. Not everything here works, but what does has that same sort of swagger, and it’s as welcome a change as one might expect.
Part two picks up no more than a few minutes before the point where part one left off–the biggest difference being that now Quentin’s running through the hospital, trying to find Phoebe. It just so happens that after Past Noah (PHRG) tackles Future Noah (FHRG) to stop him from assassinating Erica, Quentin — who hadn’t yet met Noah in the timeline — is right there to yank her to safety and use her injury as leverage to find Phoebe. This is a relatively minor subplot in this episode — it basically amounts to “let me see Phoebe!” “Uh, maybe, fine, here she is” — but it pays off in a big way. We’ll get to HRG’s butterfly-stepping tendencies in a minute, but there’s certainly no bigger impact than having his one-time ally now secretly working with Erica. Rule #1 of “Heroes”: always listen to Hiro, unless you’re Ando, in which case you occasionally need to talk some sense into him. (#TeamAndo.)
It’s the most minor of the many, many subplots of “June 13th – Part Two,” and despite the mighty punch that Quentin’s turncoat status packs, it’s also not the only big item of note. Angela and Hiro succeeded, as we saw in part one, in bringing the Wonder Twins back in time. However, once they land in 1999, Hiro realizes his powers are gone, and Angela puts two and two together — Nathan’s a Petrelli, so he must have inherited Peter’s ability to absorb the power of those he touches. For reasons that aren’t explained — and it’s “Heroes,” so why would they explain? — Nathan’s power is different from Peter’s in one major way: he doesn’t merely absorb the power, he removes it.
Thus Hiro and Angela are stuck in the past, and Angela realizes they’ll need to separate Nathan and Malina to make sure the former doesn’t inadvertently swipe the latter’s ability, this destroying any hope for the world. As a plot device designed to explain the reason behind a cool twist, one could do worse. I just wish they’d found a similarly clever way to justify Nathan’s ability being so leech-like — no iteration of Peter’s powers did any such thing. It also explains how Claire died, and doesn’t make that element of the story any less unsatisfying. In spite of it all, Robbie Kay does his best work of the series so far. It’s as if being surrounded by some of the greats from the first season elevated him to near, if not at, their level. At the very least, his chemistry with Masi Oka is serious business, and his Japanese isn’t half bad either. Nathan, now Tommy, ends up about where you’d expect — memories wiped and primed for the events of the series, completely oblivious to the fact that his now-forgotten adoptive father stayed back to fight three Harris-es, armed with two swords and a familiar haircut. Yatta? One can only hope.
Elsewhere, we learn how Joanne became Joanne. The answer is every bit as unsatisfying as the rest of her storyline has been — she and Luke found their son’s dead body, and her grief turned into a thirst for vengeance. Judith Shekoni is obviously a very capable performer, but while one could buy into some of the elements of her story — a person completely devastated by grief might, in the wake of a terrorist attack, lash out at a group she feels is responsible, however wrong that might be. But the horrorshow transition to bloodlust doesn’t seem remotely human or relatable. It shouldn’t be so hard to make us relate to a grieving mother. It doesn’t help that one of the most upsetting murders in the original “Heroes” was Sylar’s murder of his mother (Ellen Greene), who was also killed with a pair of scissors. Grief is obviously understandable. So is rage, and maybe even bloodlust. But if the writers of “Heroes Reborn” want us to compare Joanne to Sylar, they’re going to have to work a lot harder.
Most of the rest of what occurs is resolved quickly. We get an all-too-brief scene of PHRG chatting with FHRG, and a similarly brief appearance by Matt Parkman. I’m sure Greg Grunberg is a busy guy, but I hope he’s back in weeks to come. Parkman was never my favorite, but perhaps of all the heroes in the first series, his is the one that makes the most sense as a person who’d sell out to the dark side. Now that he knows that Claire’s dead, perhaps it’ll be enough to drive him away from Erica and right into the waiting arms of another plot.
So Mohinder’s been framed, Molly’s on the run (and Francesca Eastwood has never been better — let’s hope Molly survives the new timeline), and FHRG is up-to-speed but stepped on some major butterflies. We get a few brief sightings of Carlos (yawn) and Farah (better, but still probably dead). Erica’s the same, but maybe with a limp. Quentin’s on the wrong team, as is Parkman. And Claire’s still dead, and not in a way that’s convincing. That sounds like a negative way to wrap up a recap of what I think is the best episode of “Heroes Reborn” to date, but I don’t intend it that way. It’s comforting, in a sense. Like the first, great season of the original: when it is good, it is very, very good, and when it is bad, it is rotten.
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