Heroes Reborn, Season 1, Episode 3, “Under the Mask”
Written by Seamus Kevin Fahey
Directed by Greg Beeman
Airs on Thursdays at 8 pm (ET) on NBC
Family is as important to the universe of Heroes as Primatech or people inexplicably coming back to life. The Petrellis and the Nakamuras and the Bennets and the Sureshs had grand lineages that went into controlling the evos, exploiting them, and understanding them. This focus grounds the series: We all have family and understand the various pains and strains that those relationships and exceptions generate in life. This also theoretically gives the show ample opportunity to mine and explore new conflicts. But as was seen ten or so years ago, only so many times can Heroes have Peter and Nathan stand at opposite ends of a crisis only to come together at the end, with one of them scarifying themselves, before the audience gets actively angry at the show.
So it’s no grand surprise that Heroes Reborn is focusing on families so early in its run, particularly how losing a family member causes the survivors to become obsessed with a goal, with varying degrees of rationality. Joanne now exists only to kill as many evos as possible in retribution for her son, Carlos has taken up his brother’s Luchador mantle to obtain similar ends of vengeance, HRG is trying to take down Renautas because it’s the only way to get answers about Claire, and Anne doesn’t want her son to go to the party because she is so terrified of losing him.
Good, Heroes has emotional beats to build a story around, but the globe-hopping structure of the show means that those beats have to really count, because the audience is getting a half-dozen little nuggets of emotional development instead of two or three big boulders of feeling. This isn’t an issue that is isolated to Heroes: Game of Thrones and Sense8 both weave together many stories involving numerous characters. But what those shows have over Heroes is that their characters’ connections are laid bare pretty quickly. We know from the beginning of Sense8 that the main cast shares some kind of mental link; we know from the beginning of Game of Thrones what the political structure of Westeros is like. The nature of Heroes is that the audience knows that all of these stories are connected, but are kept in the dark for so long as to what those connections are.
As a result, watching an episode of Game of Thrones has the effect of having all of these geographically disconnected emotional moments connect to one another through the audience being able to map out how those actions will affect every other storyline. But with Heroes, because viewers don’t really know how Miko and Ben and Miko’s father are connected to this whole thing, it’s hard to build an emotional bridge from the Tokyo story to the other stories in the show. Sure, it’s revealed in “Under the Mask” that the head of Renautas, Erica Kravid, is in the same building Miko’s father was taken to and that Miko’s sword is actually Hiro’s, but those connections don’t really go anywhere at this point in time.
Likewise, who the hell knows what is happening with Malina up in the Arctic Circle. She has a friend that can turn invisible, she apparently is the key to stopping whatever the hell that storm in the sky is, and Renautas is using Epic to track Malina down and capture her. Other than the broad “chosen one” rhetoric that comprises all of the dialogue in Malina’s scenes so far, her only connection to the main storyline seems to be that Luke may be the conduit for whatever sky evil is threatening to destroy the world.
So for a show so concerned with familial relationships, Heroes Reborn seems completely uninterested in fleshing out the relationships of its disparate storylines. This means that one’s enjoyment of this week’s episode entirely depends on how much one enjoys HRG’s big emotional scene in the truck, or the handful of “people stand in the middle of a circle of bad guys” fight scenes, none of which are impressive enough to brag about. The big thing Heroes Reborn has going for it is that it is at least moving the unconnected narratives closer together. HRG and his fanboy sidekick are at the launch of Epic, Miko and Ren are on their way to Colorado, Tommy and Anne have confronted Mr. Briefcase-full-of-pennies, and the Renautas goons seem to be closing in on Malina. Heroes Reborn hasn’t entirely cleansed itself of the sins of its past, but it at least demonstrates that it has learned some lessons and is trying really hard to show that it wants to be better. Few shows can improve drastically overnight, even if that night is five years, but Heroes is sweet for trying.