Putting on a red wig doesn't suddenly transform your appearance. Serving someone venison doesn't make you trustworthy in an instant. And deciding an audience should feel a certain way doesn't make it so. In "Sundae, Bloody Sunday," "Heroes Reborn" asks those watching to believe a bunch of things that simply don't make sense.
Last week, an episode that was the best of the season thus far -- which, for the record, doesn't make it great television -- went back to some of the basics that made the first series exciting. This week, they went back to some of the worst habits of that run, and of the later episodes in particular: thoughtless writing, about-face plottting, choices from the characters that make no sense, and an insistence on selling metaphors that no one wants to buy. It wasn't a satisfying hour, to say the least, and to be frank, it's hard to argue that even the most ardent fans should keep watching. These aren't the heroes you're looking for.
As the show begins, we're back in the present day, and a Mohinder narration tells us that time moves forward. The narration on "Heroes" has never been a strong suit, but in an episode where so much seems undercooked, it's particularly jarring. Remember when it seemed like Dearing poisoned Carlos, because he was stupid enough to drink a mysterious vial provided to him by a guy who obviously has no conscience? Well, forget it, it doesn't matter. It was just a big "gotcha," and not a particularly good one. The pair are heading toward the detention facility they believe is holding Carlos's nephew, and Carlos -- non-powered -- is all dolled up like an Evo, while Dearden -- who has a power -- continues to pretend otherwise. They revisit the whole schtick that led to this scheme, namely that to get in you have to read as an Evo, hence the scary cocktail. None of it makes a lick of sense.
They show up at the surprisingly tranquil venue, and before you can say "Nurse Ratched," Carlos has stolen the uniform of an orderly and is in the hunt for the boy. He finds him, but a mysterious, mind-controlling force--the identity of whom the show is really convinced will be a shock, despite the many voiceovers--has him convinced that his uncle is the enemy and that he doesn't want to leave. Orderlies chase Carlos, since he's not even attempting to be discreet, and he just runs away from the kid before getting zapped and coming face-to-face with Parkman, the not at all mysterious director, who then promptly discovers Carlos's relationship to Farrah. That sequence is actually an episode highlight -- watching Carlos flash back and forth between the reality of an empty room and an imagined gun and the Parkman-created hallucination of a chaotic warzone was one of the few moments that felt even remotely honest -- but otherwise, what's changed? Not much. Carlos isn't any closer to being helpful, and Dearden is either dead, which would actually be a big change, or also hallucinating. The pieces have moved, but play doesn't advance. Not by a long shot.
Elsewhere, Tommy/Nathan gets briefed again about his secret past, and he's up to speed on all the details. All except, perhaps, what his sister looks like. The implication that Noah would have a photo of Malina, which since he recognizes her late in the episode must be true, and not share it with Tommy/Nathan seems unthinkable. We'll get to Joanne's inexplicable ice cream parlor assault in a bit, but the idea that Tommy/Nathan (Tomthan? Nathmy?) would abandon the sister with whom he's supposed to save the world, or even an innocent teenager for that matter, seems totally ludicrous. Still, he and Emily wind up back in the hospital and Tommy gets promptly captured by Quentin and Phoebe -- something Noah just lets happen.
Quentin, of course, is Hiro's dreaded butterfly, a person wholly changed by the adjustment to the timeline. Is it a change that makes sense? No. He was basically emotionally blackmailed into helping Erica to save his sister, so why is he now doing so enthusiastically? Is it a change that's resonant from a thematic or storytelling perspective? No. Quentin was basically just functioning as comic relief. Does the plot now largely hang on a character with almost no real development? Yes.
That leads to the episode's other big development: Joanne. As noted in previous recaps, giving a character a child over whom to grieve isn't a substitute for making them seem remotely real or empathetic. Joanne has always been a hard sell, but in "Sundae, Bloody Sunday" -- seriously, even the title is terrible -- she takes one more step in the direction of the finish line for the worst character on "Heroes Reborn," and maybe even on television. That's not the fault of Judith Shekoni, who's working overtime to make this believable. It isn't working, though, and it's because it doesn't make sense. We know that a) Joanne is hunting Evos as a reaction to the death of her son on June 13, and b) that she got her information from some folders stolen from HRG. So why does she end up in an ice cream parlor, and why does she end up threatening the only non-Evo in the room? Yes, I know that the idea is that she's using Emily as leverage, but it doesn't actually make any sense. This is a grieving mother. Why is she threatening children? She's hunting Evos. Why is she threatening a girl who isn't one? How does she know that Emily is a useful bargaining chip against Tommy? What? Huh? Why?
So, R.I.P Casper; way to go, Taylor's wig (which is capable of withstanding a fight and several masks being ripped on and off of it); congrats to Zachary Levi, who made some truly awful dialogue work this week; and welcome back to the Haitian, as well as to Miko, who (thank goodness) isn't dead, but (oh no) is 7,957 years in the future, and (good grief) has a butterfly land on her hand. Enough. That's enough. Just tell some stories about people, please.
Take a deep breath, "Heroes Reborn," and go back to the real basics: characters who matter doing things that matter. No more heavy-handed deer hunting. No more meaningful conversations about candy. No more deaths of people we don't actually get to know. At one point in the episode, a character says, "This whole emotional manipulation thing isn't gonna work on me anymore."
Yeah, "Heroes." Me neither.