3.09 “It’s Coming”

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Heroes-3.09.jpgOverview:

Sylar gets locked in a room and fried by Elle before discovering he can acquire abilities without a traditional scalping. Nathan learns of Arthur’s crackpot scheme to bring superpowers to the masses, which is a work in progress because it turns out The Formula needs a catalyst that seems to be Claire. Meanwhile, Matt climbs into Angela’s head, only to be joined by Daphne and Arthur, the last of whom eventually lets everyone wake up. And Hiro becomes a 10 year old, teleports to a bowling alley and plays spitball with a couple of schoolgirls. No, I’m not making that last part up.


Review:

The next time the word coincidence is updated in dictionaries, Greg Yaitanes should get a mention. Something along the lines of, “Coincidencenoun: an instance in which the same director helms the ninth episode of both the second and third seasons of a show and on both occasions produces something that is the height of awesome.”

There are flaws. I’ll say that now. There’s some weak dialogue. There are a couple of scenes that even Yaitanes couldn’t save. And there’s a 10-year-old Hiro playing pranks in a bowling alley, which sounds abysmal on paper and turns out only slightly better on screen.

But there’s also Elle going Ellectric on Sylar. There’s Tracy defecting to Team Pinehearst. There’s Angela and Arthur getting nostalgic in a nightmare version of the Midas Study. It’s not a perfect episode, but where it counts — in the development it brings to the story, and in the flair the cast bring to their scenes — it’s an episode that rises above its flaws.

We start out with V.O. Mohinder … which I realize immediately undermines this episode’s claim to excellence. It’s a throwback to Season One, using footage from the pilot, particularly of the mains when the eclipse took place. V.O. Mohinder speechifies about how “anything is possible.” You want to believe he’s right. You want to believe the show can go back to the brilliance it borrows from here. And when you get a monologue like this — one which expounds on some deep significance — you want to believe it’s a sign of a remarkable episode.

The only thing that could undermine it — besides V.O. Mohinder — would be something like …

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… that.

Self-parody? I’m not complaining. It’s almost as hilarious as Hiro getting hit over the head. But the V.O. Mohinder monologue seemed to bring meaning to the episode, and when it’s followed by a shot of Hiro bellowing at the top of his lungs, you have to wonder if the show is intentionally undermining itself.

Then there’s the fact that Hiro gets to exercise his lungs at all. We get a gratuitous shot of Usutu’s severed head on the ground … which, ew, but also, Huh? Arthur snaps Maury’s neck and beheads Usutu, but when it comes to the guy who knows everything that happened in the previous episode, he opts for turning his victim into a vegetable? Beyond the plot contrivance, it’s also a little odd that Arthur suddenly wastes so much effort — TK’ing Ando away and taking the time to wipe Hiro’s memories — when he could have killed them both in half the time. It’s an error in judgment that earns Arthur his first *PING!* Dumb As Peter Award, because Hiro will inevitably regain his memories and this will inevitably come back to bite Arthur in the ass. Arthur should have killed Hiro right away. And I’m only half-joking. If this episode proves anything about Hiro, it’s that he’s more tolerable when he doesn’t change or develop in any way.

Arthur gets distracted by Ando leaping at him, then by the painting of an eclipse on a boulder. Ando knocks Hiro into a semi-coherent state while Arthur admires Usutu’s painting of the eclipse. You’d figure Arthur would be smart enough to freeze time while browsing, or at least TK Hiro and Ando to the ground so they couldn’t escape.

Hiro and Ando teleport to a bowling alley, or, as we’ll refer to it, the Superhero Nursery. I was anticipating having to rip into these scenes, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Between the absurdity of the mentally-prepubescent Hiro and the way the tone in these scenes jars with the others, I still wonder why this storyline didn’t derail the episode. Its nostalgic value saves it, because the light-heartedness in these scenes takes us back to what made Hiro’s thread so appealing in the first place: Hiro’s infectious exuberance, the simplicity of his motives, and his everyman relatability. The point which Hiro’s thread emphasizes this week is that the guy was an ordinary kid who discovered an extraordinary ability. In a season largely set in underground cells and top-secret labs where everyone possesses an ability, normality is a novelty.

Helix Compound. The camera pans around Sylar in one long, smooth shot. Arthur teleports back, and in contrast to the abrupt pop when Hiro or Peter teleport, it’s a smooth, progressive effect. It’s in service to character because it demonstrates how gracefully Arthur uses his abilities. Nice detail.

Arthur and Sylar contemplate how Peter survived getting TK’d out of a seventh-story window, and as effective as the “Ooh, I wonder!” moment is, it feels like an overplayed twist when it’s brought up again two episodes later.

Arthur explains to Sylar that The Hunger isn’t about killing so much as power. And although this part flies because Sylar’s scalp-happy M.O. was always a means to an end, it’s bizarre that Sylar now turns out to have what’s essentially Peter’s empath-absorption. On a basic logistical level, it clashes with Sylar’s intuitive aptitude, which up until now (and even in the future) was defined as a distinct ability. It also implies that Sylar became a villain because he didn’t know any better; on the basis of what we learn this week, Sylar could have become the same good-natured and sensitive man Peter was, if only he’d been as kind at heart and hadn’t been made to feel like a failure by Mama Gray.

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Sylar looks incredulous, and so do I, because as with many developments this season, it feels like something hatched for the sake of the current story instead of something that made sense for the character. Part of what made the tension between Peter and Sylar so effective was the perception that they were two sides of the same coin. The conclusion to draw from this revelation is that they’re essentially the same side of the same coin, and that our interpretation of the other side of that coin was a misconception. We’re left wondering whether we ever understood the villain we felt so invested in during the first season, which is less compelling than it is disappointing.

Arthur shuts Sylar in a dark and empty cell, and Greg Yaitanes and Charlie Lieberman’s collective genius begins to emerge.

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The sparse lighting, the dank, clammy, cavernous atmosphere, the sense of a place that’s been forgotten …

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… the focus on specific details: the Ellectrobolt that forms in Elle’s hands, the chains on her feet …

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… the hatred building up behind her eyes …

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… and something resembling your average Jackson Pollock.

We cut from a scene as intense as that, go to the opening sequence, and reach a part of the episode that struggles to match the rest. Paire shippers, do NOT rejoice!

Peter and Claire plan to leave the Apartment of Hospice Luxury. Only not together, because Peter wants to go “someplace where they can’t find [him]” …

… Such as the Company’s New York facility? Yeah, no one’s going to think to look for him there.

Peter wants Claire to go home, because the man who brings new meaning to “morally gray” is sure to prevent Claire from becoming the badass who Peter meets in the future.

The problem with this scene isn’t the premise — it’s the acting. And it pains me to say that, because for the most part I’ve never had any issue with Hayden or Milo’s acting, and there’ve been occasions when I thought they excelled in their roles. This was beyond less-than-stellar. This was wooden.

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“Youdon’thaveyourpowersyourfather’stryingtokillyou.”

All in one monotonal breath. No inflections. No feeling. No concern. Not even a sense of ownership in the words. Just hollow delivery of dialogue on a page.

Peter: “I need you to stay … innocent.”

Clunk … clunk … clunk. I cover my ears because the dialogue’s so bad, but even the visual half of the scene fails because it’s impossible to tell what Peter’s feeling. He’s the one driving this storyline forward, knowing how Claire turns out and wanting to alter the path she’s on. The problem is you don’t get a sense of that here at all.

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Is Peter worried? Is he anxious or upset? Is he determined? I couldn’t get a thing from his expression besides “obstinate.” Like, “I’ve seen the future happen but that doesn’t mean I have to let it happen.” When Flint’s idiot smile is more expressive than Peter’s concern for Claire, something’s wrong.

Knox and Flint break down the door to the apartment and find Claire …

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… wearing another smug smile. This is painful, people. The handheld camera is good and the window sequence is excellent, but when the performance from the actors bounces between “wooden” and “smug,” it’s hard to appreciate anything connected to it.

Claire: “Don’t you know? I’m the defensive player of the year.”

I’m trying to figure out what that line was supposed to convey. No matter how hard I try, all I get from it is “overconfident,” “arrogant,” “cocky” and “self-assured.” The show this week made me despise a character whose scenes I used to look forward to.

Helix Compound. Mohinder tests The Formula on some random guy, turning him into a monster. This elicits sympathy and sadness from the audience, but also gives Mohinder a chance to express that he’s Very Upset.

Arthur notices a monitor Mohinder’s working from.

Mohinder: “It seems most of the powers I’ve documented took place during the last total annular eclipse.”

Which means what, exactly? That the supers he identified had abilities during the last eclipse, or that they were using abilities during it, or only that they developed abilities after it? “Took place” is so vague that it’s meaningless. This line makes a connection between abilities and the eclipse, but it’s such a tenuous connection that we’re not even sure what it is.

Mohinder explains that The Formula requires “some kind of catalyst that allows the blah-bla-blah-bla-blah-bla-blah-bla-blah …” It boils down to Arthur figuring out that the key to The Formula isn’t someone but something, and that Papa Sulu hid The Catalyst. Between this and sleeping with his wife, I’m sensing that Arthur really hated that guy. I’m also curious to see the look on Papa Sulu’s face after learning that the baby he chose as the host and handed over to Noah back in the day was close to invulnerable. It’s great if Papa Sulu wanted the third piece of The Formula to last forever — long after everyone Papa Sulu knew and worked with was dead — but it also defies all logic when you consider that Papa Sulu wanted to prevent anyone resuming work on The Formula. If Papa Sulu wanted to keep The Formula out of enemy hands, it would have made more sense to shred the blueprints and stick The Catalyst in someone who wouldn’t sustain almost any injury.

Matt and Daphne find Company Medical deserted. Matt discovers Angela and resolves to get in her head and help her wake up. He does this either because he’s out of options and doesn’t know who to turn to for help against Team Pinehearst, or — as I’d prefer to believe — because his first instinct when someone’s trapped and suffering is to help them. It’s one of the subtler moments to character, but it’s essentially an “incredibly-brave-or-incredibly-stupid” moment of heroism for Matt, because it doesn’t seem like he thinks twice about helping Angela.

Daphne twigs that Arthur’s responsible for putting Angela into a coma and speedyzips to the Helix Compound to report back.

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Yaitanes seems to be playing around with camera focus in this scene in order to shift our sympathy between characters. The focus is on Arthur, with Daphne a slightly-blurred interruption to his thought process and the little voice that annoys him, but it’s interesting that our sympathy skips over Arthur and onto that background figure when Arthur dismisses Angela’s state of mind and threatens to send Daphne back to her “previous life.” When Arthur says Angela “will be fine,” it’s not delivered with regret or worry so much as grim resignation, whereas Daphne’s concern for Angela and for Matt — as confused and peripheral as it is when it’s shunted into the background of this shot — comes off in waves. The shot’s perfectly set up, but the real beauty’s in the way it supports the emotional undercurrent of the scene.

Daphne speedyzips back to Company Medical and leaves Arthur to study his files on Papa Sulu and Claire, scuppering our hopes that Claire won’t again become the pivotal figure in the story.

Sewer of Revelations. Peter refuses to abandon the We Must Separate Plan. I can’t argue with this because, given the quality of their scenes together this week, I think it’s best for the actors and their characters if their storylines permanently diverge.

Peter reveals that the alley he and Claire just ran through is the alley where Future-Claire shoots Future-Peter. It’s good that the show didn’t opt to drag it out, but when Peter tells Claire she’s becoming “a killer,” Claire’s reaction …

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… is delivered with as little inspiration as her dialogue in the previous scene. Is Claire shocked? Is she skeptical? Is she horrified?

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Is Peter haunted by the memory of what Claire becomes? Is he frightened by it? Milo’s performance is so hollow in this scene that it’s laughable: it looks like he’s forcing each syllable out like he’s choking on it. It doesn’t evoke grief or trauma so much as the image of an actor regurgitating dialogue. It’s unthinkable that Yaitanes would let a scene slide the way this one does, so I’m tempted to think this is some kind of statement about Kring’s script.

Knox and Flint show up in the sewer. Claire tells Peter to run, then puffs herself up and tries to look as menacing as she can.

Claire: “You want him, you’re gonna have to go through me.”

I realize it’s not Hayden’s fault, but when you give a petite actress a line like that and ask her to deliver it next to two guys twice her size, it’s unintentionally hilarious.

Welcome to BEHIND THE PSYCHOSIS, where the villains of the show answer YOUR questions about what it’s like to be a villain on Heroes.

This week’s villain: Claire Bennet

What scares you?

My dad. My grandmother. The thought that someone out there might be more special than me.

Why do you think you’d kill your uncle?

Probably to see if his head would grow a new body when I cut it off. Plus, it makes me look badass.

What’s the key to being a badass?

Attitude. And a good quip. Like, if I strangle a kitten, it isn’t enough to kill it. I have to say something pithy, like, “Claw your way out of this one, kitty. Miaow!” Hahaha.

Do you see yourself as a role model or a cautionary tale?

A role model. I want beautiful blonde cheerleaders everywhere to be inspired by my example, even if they’re nowhere near as special as me.

What would you want to ask your future self if you ever met her?

“When and how do I become a brunette, and how long do I keep wearing this awful wig?”

Do you ever miss your old life?

What’s to miss? School? Dinner with the family? Talks with Mom and Dad? That’s so normal. Who’d want to watch that?

Why do you think the show constantly makes you the center of its story arcs?

Isn’t it obvious? Because I’m beautiful and because I emote. I have versatility. I can cry and be badass on demand. I’m a badass crybaby.

Would you be disappointed if it turns out you’re not The Catalyst?

Of course. I mean, who’s better at being special than me?

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned in this volume?

No one’s more special than me.

Heroes has come under fire for the way it’s handling characters and storylines. How would you fix the show if you could?

It needs more of me. Maybe if I turned out to be an empath like Peter and Sylar … I’d absorb everyone else’s ability, and people would do everything I say. That would be cool.

We cut to the Superhero Nursery.

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Forget the spitballs. “Time-space continuum”? I don’t even need to comment. The show is officially reviewing itself.

Ando gives Hiro a demonstration of the scrunched-up face.

Hiro: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Self-parody? It’s big of the show to admit its idiocy, even when the admission is sandwiched between the image of a guy in his twenties playing spitball with schoolgirls and the sequence of pranks Hiro pulls in the bowling alley.

Hiro freezes time.

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The fact that I can’t remember the last time we heard that is a good sign. The fact that it doesn’t immediately grate is even better. Two and a half seasons in, what becomes clear is that Hiro didn’t need to change or evolve as a character at all, and that his contribution to the show is still limited to adolescent humor and an exuberant outlook on life.

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It’s funny, but the fact that we’re content to watch Hiro being a 10-year-old prankster — when the character deserved more — is a sign that Hiro’s emotional growth since the pilot episode has counted for very little. A subplot as pointless and absurd as this should not be entertaining: it should be an insult to the depth of Hiro’s character arc. The fact that it isn’t demonstrates how little depth that character arc has had, and how little we expect from the character and his storyline.

Now, compare that to this …

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… which is effective because of its technical brilliance, but also because we care whether or not the villain survives. And this …

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… which is astounding because of Kristen Bell’s phenomenal performance, but also because we care whether or not Elle’s rage ends up consuming her.

The difference between Hiro and these characters is that Sylar and Elle have evolved, and that — issues with Sylar’s redemption arc aside — we care for the characters now more than when they were introduced. Bizarrely — and perhaps tragically — Hiro’s storyline this week demonstrates that he’s more entertaining with zero character development than he is with the context of his entire storyline over the course of the show.

Sylar gets burnt to a crisp and regenerates. You know the character isn’t in any real danger, and, in a curious contrast to Claire getting shot in “Dying of the Light,” you want to see how far the concept can go: you watch with grotesque fascination because you want to see how extensive the injuries can be.

What makes this one of the darkest and most gripping moments of the show is Kristen Bell. When you hear Elle let out those bloodcurdling shrieks, you wonder how the actress threw herself into the performance so convincingly. Kristen sells her performance this week in a way that few actors on the show have before.

If there’s a level of ambiguity to these scenes, it’s in Elle’s need to avenge Bob in the first place. Elle’s visceral need for revenge is understandable, but at the same time the context almost calls it into doubt: it’s not like he ever showed he loved her, or that they were ever particularly close. The impression was that Elle was exploited by Bob, and that, where any father would have offered love and support, Bob offered disapproval and disappointment. One question this scene raises is whether Elle’s furious assault on Sylar stems from hatred towards herself as much as towards him; self-hatred because of the way her father made her feel, but also because a part of Elle doesn’t grieve the way it should, either because it’s never been cultivated or because the absence of warmth between Elle and Bob means it was never there to begin with. It’s possible Elle’s rage also ties in with the realization that she’ll never have a chance to earn her father’s love. With her life at The Company over and her father dead, Elle’s robbed of what little in her life made sense. Like Sylar, she’s now faced with the prospect of forging a new path and discovering a new purpose. It’s a solid explanation to why the actress got scenes with an off-camera friend, but it’s also a character arc with remarkable depth given the way Elle started out last season.

Sylar accepts responsibility for Bob’s murder but tells Elle he “didn’t want to kill him.” I’m tempted to question that when he got such a perverse delight out of flaunting Bob’s ability in front of Elle, but the show seems determined to emphasize that Sylar’s Hunger was forced onto him. Maybe I’ve been suckered by the show’s single-minded attempt to convince us it’s true, but this was the first week I actually bought it. Sylar counters Elle’s hysteria with such stoicism, you believe he’s willing to suffer for his crimes, and, moreover, you believe he wants to suffer for his crimes.

Which isn’t to say the character’s atonement has now been realized, or that the show’s necessarily even pushing for him to atone completely. When Elle collapses and begs Sylar to put her out of her misery, Sylar gives a little flick of the hand, and for a moment, you wonder if he’s going to slice her head open and grant her that plea. The fact that we wonder is a testament to the tension and suspense in the scene, and it underscores that Sylar may yet challenge our assumptions and surprise us.

In the meantime, Nathan and Tracy visit the Helix Compound. Nathan gets nostalgic about the way Papa Petrelli used to take him fishing. This, we learn, is where the name “Pinehearst” originated. Funny, if another nod to self-parody.

Nathan and Tracy reach Arthur’s office, and I feel obligated to point out the gargantuan *GULP* Nathan takes when he opens the door and sees his dad.

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If there’s a way to capture “floored” with one expression, Pasdar finds it.

Nathan: “Do you have any idea what you’ve done to this family — what you’ve done to me?”

Good dialogue. Simple but effective. It complements the outrage and hostility the other sons showed Arthur, but it’s also a rare moment when Nathan’s feelings center on himself. Peter’s and Sylar’s first concerns were what Arthur had done to Angela and what Arthur was doing at Pinehearst. Nathan’s first concern is how his father’s actions affected him.

Arthur speechifies about Nathan’s “destiny,” and I love how Nathan gives a reflexive flinch the moment Arthur tries to lay a reassuring hand on his son’s shoulder. Terrific nuance, but also worth noting for the way it bridges the changing dynamic in the scene: we go from the father and son on opposite sides of the room to an uncertain proximity …

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… to the focus on Nathan as he tries to put everything into perspective …

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… to the focus on Arthur as he tries to impress his plan onto the “favorite son.” Again, evidence of Yaitanes using elements of direction to push the audience’s sympathy from one character to another from one moment to the next. The drawn-out close-ups give you a deeper sense of everything the characters are feeling — more so than either of the previous father-son reunions — but the shift in focus also brings out the uncertainty throughout the scene.

Arthur emphasizes that The Formula can “stop” the apocalypse and that he and Nathan can “save the world together.” Forster delivers the lines with a measure of sincerity, but they sound as disingenuous now as they did when he told Peter he wouldn’t let the future turn out the way his son saw it. It could be that, as the show’s villain, Arthur’s supposed to come across as untrustworthy and fake; but for whatever reason, his motive for wanting to save the world — or even for wanting to end it — remains exasperatingly cryptic. His altruism doesn’t come through, but neither does his malevolence. The outcome is that we have no idea what Arthur’s thinking or feeling. We can believe he’s glad to see Nathan, but at the same time we don’t get a sense of what Arthur planned to do if Nathan had been on board with his father’s plan. We know Arthur says he wants to save the world, but his motives are so underdeveloped that we never get a sense of whether — if the world did end — he’d actually care one way or the other.

Nathan dismisses Arthur’s delusion as “the same crap Linderman spouted.” Again, good dialogue, and to character, because, in a contrast to Hiro’s appeal being predicated on a lack of development, this underlines how Nathan has learned from experience and become a more rewarding character to follow because of it.

EllectroCavern. Sylar TK’s Elle’s chains off and tells her he’s not going to kill her. And, again, props to Kristen, because this performance …

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… is beyond phenomenal. The character’s physical and emotional exhaustion radiate off the screen, to the point where you buy her resignation as the loss of will to live instead of just a theatrical gesture.

It’s interesting that Sylar reminds Elle of her wish to be “normal” and tells her they’re the same. The scenes between Sylar and Elle underscore how much they have in common, but this stuck out to me, mostly because of the irony: Sylar wants acceptance from the people around him, but he also desperately wants to be special. You could argue that his desire to be special stems from a need for acceptance, and that Sylar and Elle tried to win parental approval in order to feel validated; but then, Elle showing Sylar how to harness the Ellectrobolt isn’t about embracing normality so much as sharing a sense of superhuman solidarity. When Sylar tells Elle to forgive herself, and when her pain fades away, it’s about Elle’s acceptance of who she is as much as it is her reconciliation to Bob’s death and her longing for his affection.

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Sylar, by contrast, now learns he can be even more “special.” And although I doubt anyone ever predicted we’d see Sylar cry because he’s overwhelmed with emotions, this felt like such an organic development and such a believably overwrought scene that Sylar’s tears, and his nervous laugh of relief when he rediscovers a part of his humanity, come across as believable reactions.

The episode momentarily shifts down a gear as Paire shippers once again grit their teeth. Peter intercepts Knox and Flint and hears Claire’s uninspired “uuurrrgghlemmeGO!“, then submits his own Emmy-worthy moment by telling Knox and Flint, “Let her go or you die!” This is some truly thankless material. How we can go from a scene where Elle begs Sylar to kill him to a scene like this is beyond me.

Peter uses a gas pipe against Flint. Uncharacteristically resourceful, but also worth noting for the way the explosion prompts Flint to instinctively dive for cover. I guess the theory that your own ability can’t harm you doesn’t extend to an external source.

Peter and Claire run, the flame dies down, Knox and Flint climb to their feet, and then … they just stand there. *PING!* Knox and Flint win a combined Dumb As Peter Award, mostly because I was counting on them to capture at least one of those two so we wouldn’t have to endure another scene between them again.

We cut back to the EllectroCavern, where Sylar and Elle …

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… cosy up to one another. Elle thanks Sylar for doing what no one’s ever done for her before. In our defense, Elle: none of us would have lived to brag about it. Also in our defense, Elle: there are plenty of us who’d gladly be fried alive to help you reclaim your peace of mind.

Was the transition from hellbent out-of-control animal to thankful-and-forgiving friend too sudden? It’s Elle, so I guess mood swings and insanity are in character; and it’s Season Three, so I guess breakneck pace and haphazard storylines are to be expected. Still, hearing Sylar tell Elle that being “at war with ourselves [is] what it means to be human” drives home how bizarre this shift in the story was. Sylar helping Elle towards her reconciliation just about flies, but this:

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… seemed like too much of a jump. It’s disturbing, appalling and bizarrely sexy, but it’s also so messed up that it makes you wonder what we’re witnessing. Sylar did kill her father, and no matter what Elle’s issues with Bob might have been, laughing and flirting with her father’s killer so soon after she was ready to flay him alive seems a little too sudden.

Superhero Nursery. Hiro decides he’s ready to move beyond time-freezing and onto teleportation.

Oh, no.

Please, God, no.

He’s going to end up in feudal Japan again, isn’t he? Only this time with amnesia. And he’ll need to join an Irish gang and rob an armored car, and it’ll be a hideous amalgamation of all the worst storylines the show ever came up with, and PLEASE, SHOW, NO!

I’M NOT READY TO REVIEW THAT GARBAGE AGAIN, DO YOU HEAR ME?

OK, breathe, breathe. Deep breaths. Stay calm.

Don’t help him, Ando! Stop him!

Hiro teleports behind Ando, then in front of him, and says it was even more fun than stopping time. One can only imagine.

Helix Compound. Nathan relays Arthur’s superpowers-for-all campaign and tells Tracy he doesn’t know what to believe. In the first indication that Tracy runs out of patience and decides to go her own way, she tells Nathan to “snap the hell out of this.”

^ ^ Actual dialogue!

I LOVE this character. She’s so direct and crafty and manipulative … and it makes so much sense that she’s joining the less virtuous team because, given all of these attributes, she’d be squandered as a hero. Even the sight of Nathan zipping up his Members Only jacket and launching into the sky isn’t enough to sway her from defecting to Team Pinehearst.

It could be Angela who put Tracy off. Or it’s that Arthur was so suave and charming and Tracy couldn’t resist the allure of villainy. Or maybe she just has a thing for influential men, and the prospect of Nathan dithering over what to do is such a turn-off to Tracy that she’d rather hang out with his dad. Whichever it is, Tracy’s apparently now Head of Marketing for Team Pinehearst.

Matt works the Parkman Whammy and goes from the real Company Medical to a nightmare Company Medical. Although judging from the look of it, they’re exactly the same.

Is this Angela’s version of the nightmare that Matt trapped his dad in? It could be that Arthur trapped Angela where her prophetic dream took place; but in a way, Angela’s inability to help herself in this dream mirrors her inability to avert what she dreams when she returns to the real world. If this isn’t Angela’s greatest nightmare — locked in a facility she helped to create and unable to save herself or anyone else — it’s got to be pretty close.

Yaitanes does an amazing job distinguishing the real and nightmare environments. The rapid cuts do a lot of the work as Matt walks through corridors, finds Angela and tries to break her chains, but I also love the way the sound gets mangled: you hear the wind in the hall and the clank of Angela’s handcuffs, but you don’t hear Daphne’s footsteps or the rattle of the doorknobs that Matt tries to open.

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Nightmare-Daphne shows up to stab Matt in the chest. Real-Daphne joins Dream-Matt, and Brea Grant runs with the material and demonstrates that she can go well beyond the Hiro “nemesis” banter and scare the heck out of us, but also …

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… that she can play opposite herself fairly convincingly, to the point where we cut back and forth between the two Daphnes and immediately know — from the expression, tone of voice and posture — which Daphne is which.

Real-Daphne tells Matt she loves him. Which, aww, even though they barely know one another and there’s no way to be sure if they’re only projecting what they think they feel because they’re supposed to fall in love. Who cares. In a surreal, artificially-induced nightmare, it’s heartwarming.

Nightmare-Daphne turns into Arthur, which is all kinds of messed up, not least because Matt can never hug Daphne again without wondering whether she’ll stab him and turn into a dude. But it allows Angela to confront her husband with the memory of how they “were once like that.” I think Angela was a little taller and Arthur was a little cooler, but it’s the thought that counts. And, really, in this family, does attempted murder count for anything? In an episode in which a character forgives and flirts with her father’s killer, is it out of the realm of possibility for Angela to forgive Arthur after he tried to kill their son? It would probably depend on whether he forgives her for poisoning him, and for sleeping with one of their associates, who went behind both of their backs and planted a portion of their research in a human being who then turned out to be their granddau-

OK, headache.

Arthur, Angela, Matt and Daphne relocate to the Midas Study, which looks like it’s been cleaned out except for the ElderSuper files, a globe and a couple of swords. There’s regrettably no sign of Bob’s cello.

Even sadder is the way Angela persists with reminding Arthur that he loved her, and that there’s “a part of [him] that still does.”

Arthur-frees-Angela.jpg

And when Mr. You-Need-To-Freeze-The-Frame-And-Scrutinize-Every-Nuance-To-Figure-Out-What-I’m-Thinking gets the puppy-dog eyes, it’s hard to argue with Angela’s observation. For a moment, you almost forget the context; you forget that Arthur’s the Daddy Villain, about to lead the planet to annihilation. The character-based familial drama supersedes the fantastical plot. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s affecting, and it’s what Heroes does better than almost anyone else.

Angela implores Arthur to let them out of the nightmare … and he does.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Sentimentality clouding Arthur’s better judgment? Crafty scheming because he knows he’ll manipulate them more effectively in the real world than he could here? Nausea after Daphne professed her love for Matt? You decide.

Everyone wakes up. Matt and Daphne meet Peter and Claire in the hall, and Matt’s still mightily peeved about the time Future-Peter banished him to Africa, although he seems to overlook the fact that this experience helped him to find true love. So, really, regardless of which Peter this is, shouldn’t Matt be shaking his hand and slapping him on the back instead of pinning him to a wall?

Helix Compound. I think it’s telling that Mohinder’s not included in the hero/villain montage we’re about to see. I choose to believe it’s not because Mohinder’s too useless to choose a side, but rather because he’s an impartial scientist and too caught up in research. Said research culminates in his test subject begging to be put out of his misery. I don’t see Mohinder bonding with this guy over Ellectrobolts, but some contemplation would be nice, because Mohinder just took a life which won’t be saved with Magik Blood.

Hiro and Ando teleport to Sam’s Comics. The Japanese cover to the 9th Wonders comic was cool, but also the source of a serious WHAAAAAAT?!?, because, come on: unless Isaac painted this stuff six months in advance, passed the sketches on and oversaw their publication from the grave, this is ridiculous. It’s possible, especially after we saw him hand his sketchbook to Nerdeo, but it feels less like a carefully planned twist and more like a contrived set-up for the plot.

Company Medical. Peter kisses his mom (aww) and thanks God she’s alive … and, presumably, Arthur, who helped him get over the urge to rip his mom’s head open. Then Nathan shows up, and I realize this is the first time in a while that we’ve had so many mains in a room together. This is an ideal opportunity to discover who knows what, but the conversation immediately turns to the third and crucial part of The Formula being stored in a human host. I love how everyone’s shuddering at the thought of the future they have to prevent and wondering what their part will be in stopping this calamity; and how, throughout it all …

Claire-is-The-Catalyst.jpg

… Claire’s thought process never waivers from me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-OMFG-DO-YOU-THINK-I-MIGHT-BE-THE-CATALYST?!

The-Heroes.jpg

If she isn’t, she’s still the center of the Heroes group shot.

The-Villains.jpg

And although I realize I might be channeling some antipathy towards a couple of heroes after their scenes this week, Team Pinehearst is most definitely a whole lot more exciting than Team Primatech. And I can’t help wondering what that says about the show. When the villains turn out to be better realized, more consistent and more compelling than the heroes, is it a sign that the show’s in trouble? Or is it a sign that the volume’s preoccupation with moral ambiguity has turned everything on its head? Because that’s what this episode reinforces: that everything has changed.

This episode was atrociously bad in parts and limitless in its genius in others. I’ve gone from devout Paire shipping to hoping Hayden and Milo never have a scene together again. I’ve gone from lamenting Ali Larter’s thankless material to wondering when her story arc suddenly took on a life of its own. And I’ve gone from despising Elle to adoring her, and from wondering what all the fuss over Kristen Bell was about to wishing she was a cast regular.

I’ve even been successfully suckered into thinking the Sylar redemption arc’s not as impossible as it seemed.

Overall, a mixed bag, but one that featured some spectacular performances from Kristen and Zach, some exquisite character work for Elle and Tracy, some brilliant visual touches by Yaitanes, and the sense that the show has regained its focus and direction.

4 out of 5

36 thoughts on “3.09 “It’s Coming””

  1. Hey Otto -

    As usual, nice review and I agree with most of what you said. Some big flaws that you pointed out – especially Hiro’s storyline, among others – but the script seemed a bit more cohesive and well-paced than what we’ve seen recently. Not to mention the brilliant acting by Bell, Quinto, and Pasdar, as well as some drop dead GORGEOUS visuals. Definitely one of the strongest episodes so far this season. If only Greg Yaitanes could direct every episode.

    I think the one major beef I have is the one you’ve been mentioning all season – that continuity will be shelved in favor of plot twists. Sylar’s an empath now? WTF! What happened to intuitive aptitude? It’s beyond explanation. The scenes between Sylar (or is it Gabriel?) and Elle were so well done, the actors almost sold it to me by themselves. But in the end it’s just one huge retcon that almost ruins that brilliance, something that’s happened way too much this season. Judging by your review and posts on fan boards, I’m not alone in my frustration.

    It may be too early to judge the entire volume at this stage, but I have the feeling that this episode was this volume’s “Cautionary Tales”. It was the one that had the most potential to rise above the heap, so to speak. I’m holding out till the end to make a final call, but I really hope the chapters get more consistent from here on out.

    ::Crosses fingers for a 5 out of 5::

  2. Excellent review as always. I like Elle and Sylar’s scenes together.
    I don’t like Claire act so tough when she has nothing to defend herself. Seriously, does she think she can win against Knox n Flint barehands?
    I wonder about what Tracy motives. It’s a little bit off for me. Maybe it’s just me.
    And Hiro is getting ridiculous.Well, the story so far didn’t make me say WHAT like season 1. And i like the story arc between Elle n Sylar. The others not so much.

  3. Mohinder explains that The Formula requires “some kind of catalyst that allows the blah-bla-blah-bla-blah-bla-blah-bla-blah …”

    That sums it up for me. The ep. only works if you “blah blah” the whole and focus on the parts. Actually, that’s the only way this whole volume and portions of S2, as well, work. I have to wonder if Hayden & Milo are just having trouble caring about their material, because while not Oscar caliber, they have shown they can act.

  4. it would have made more sense to shred the blueprints and stick The Catalyst in someone who wouldn’t sustain almost any injury.

    I know. And I loved that Adam I think was like “i told them it would bite them in the ass.”

    I can only guess the idea was “just in case we need it again.” They also didn’t get rid of the virus either, but I suspect they we’re so desperate to find a way to take that virus and make a better one that didn’t kill everyone.

    Between this and sleeping with his wife, I’m sensing that Arthur really hated that guy.

    LoL. As Nathan said “my father never liked the man.”

    What makes this one of the darkest and most gripping moments of the show is Kristen Bell.

    So impressed, so correct. I so agree with all the wonderful things you said about Elle, but I think she did love her father, she always wanted his approval and with out him and THAT life she doesn’t know what else to to do – it was all bad for her, but as she tells HRG “My father would never do that to me.” She still held him in high regard – in all his flaws her was her father and she wanted to please him.

    And yes, Pasdar is wonderful, love this director.

    … seemed like too much of a jump. It’s disturbing, appalling and bizarrely sexy, but it’s also so messed up that it makes you wonder what we’re witnessing. Sylar did kill her father, and no matter what Elle’s issues with Bob might have been, laughing and flirting with her father’s killer so soon after she was ready to flay him alive seems a little too sudden.

    If she hadn’t known him before and what he who he was I would agree. But I’m actually okay with it and liked and assumed they had been in the room for a while and she know associates him with taking her pain away, when all she needed was a release of emotion.

    It could be Angela who put Tracy off. Or it’s that Arthur was so suave and charming and Tracy couldn’t resist the allure of villainy.

    That Petrelli Charm. You just see what Angela saw in him.

    Is this Angela’s version of the nightmare that Matt trapped his dad in? It could be that Arthur trapped Angela where her prophetic dream took place; but in a way, Angela’s inability to help herself in this dream mirrors her inability to avert what she dreams when she returns to the real world. If this isn’t Angela’s greatest nightmare — locked in a facility she helped to create and unable to save herself or anyone else — it’s got to be pretty close.

    Ahh, so true. It really moves me that most people see sleep as a refuge, but to Angela sleep and waking life is a hell.

    I think Angela was a little taller and Arthur was a little cooler, but it’s the thought that counts.

    LOL. Not to mention they must have looked like Italian hotties out of some Fellini movie.

    Angela implores Arthur to let them out of the nightmare … and he does.

    ?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    Sentimentality clouding Arthur’s better judgment? Crafty scheming because he knows he’ll manipulate them more effectively in the real world than he could here? Nausea after Daphne professed her love for Matt? You decide.

    Heroes unmasked says Arthur only has one weakness and that’s Angela. I think he was more upset she picked Nathan over him than that she tried to kill him. Oh, he’s upset about that too, but yeah. The way he talks about Angela’s betrayal and all woman, RF really had a feeling there, it seemed more than just a manipulation. And as you said she’s done if before… I’d love to see how he reacted when he found out about Kaito.

    Hiro and Ando teleport to Sam’s Comics. The Japanese cover to the 9th Wonders comic was cool, but also the source of a serious WHAAAAAAT?!?, because, come on: unless Isaac painted this stuff six months in advance, passed the sketches on and oversaw their publication from the grave, this is ridiculous. It’s possible, especially after we saw him hand his sketchbook to Nerdeo, but it feels less like a carefully planned twist and more like a contrived set-up for the plot.

    Issac doesn’t paint in order. The 9th Wonders had fans (remember the messenger who was dying to know what happen to Hiro)that means it had to have been out for a while. When I saw the comic i went “oh, great the other issues.”

    Great review!! And I use to think Hayden was a good actor. I hope it was just the episode. They say once you have sex in real life – something is missing from your on screen scenes. Who knows.

  5. My first comment is about “9th Wonders” because I was so disappointed in the show for doing that. It’s a copout, it’s cheap, and it’s insulting. Remember how Kring told us about characters needing to die for things to have impact and veracity and for there to be a real sense of risk and suspense? I buy that. But you can’t have it both ways. If you kill off a character, there are consequences to that with which you have to deal.

    You made the decision to kill Isaac. The consequence of that decision is that you no longer GET to use “9th Wonders” as a way to tell the future. It’s no longer an option for you. No amount of cute flashback to 1.03 is worth the immense retcon and downright cheating used to accomplish it. Just like the taxicab last episode. There are things you just don’t GET to do based on previous writing decisions you made. And they are just saying “who the hell cares, we’re God, we can do whatever we want, damn the logic and the continuity.”

    I don’t know why, and it seems minor, but in light of this, and in light of the huge dramatic moments surrounding Isaac’s death, the “9th Wonders” moment in this episode was perhaps the most OFFENDED and INSULTED I’ve been–as a fan of the show–that I have ever been.

    I might be making too much of it, but I found this totally unforgivable. Not that Isaac predicted the future this far in advance per se, but that “9th Wonders” would still be on sale. They don’t get to do that. They just don’t.

  6. Um, guys. It’s been four months since Isaac died. That means four issues of Ninth Wonders. Really, in the comic-book world it isn’t unusual (I believe) to be that far head.

    Characters:

    The thing that annoys me about Claire’s character is everyone protecting her. They need to stop, now. She could potentially live for hundreds of years, so people need to start helping her more in terms of allowing her to grow as a person. Chances are she’s going to see a lot of horrific stuff, more than anyone else, and outlive everyone she cares about… so it’s important people don’t baby her now. Let her be happy, let her be awesome, let her go save the world and let her go fight for what she believes in. At this stage, she’s fighting the right things for the wrong reasons… so people (e.g. HRG, Peter) need to stop treating her like she’s ten years old so that she can then figure out the right reasons to be a Hero.

    Honestly, I like HRG/Peter interacting with Claire… but so far Nathan is the only one who doesn’t patronise her. Neither does Angela, to be fair (she wants Claire to get away with her, but that shopping trip in S1 sounded like it’d make a Helluva standalone episode.)

    If anything, I think Forster put in that little smirk to sell the moment. He does love Angela, but when she betrayed him he wanted her out of action. Hence the coma. Then here… she stood up to him. Defiantly, brilliantly, a beautiful moment where he looked at her and saw an amazing woman. If anything, I think that’s the moment he realised that she was (like Sandra) too good of a woman to be treated with kid gloves, and fell in love all over again. It’s like Noah back in S1, when he realises Sandra can handle the truth… I don’t think Arthur wants to be stopped, but at the same time I think he realises that Angela is never going to give up and perhaps there’s a chance for her to be talked into his scheme.

    That scene, incidentally, sold me on Forster in the show. He has this great ‘what can I do?’ look on his face, and you can see why Nathan, Linderman and Angela thought of him as a Visionary. And it does what ‘Villains’ failed to do, namely add humanity to Arthur.

    I’m a little sheepish, but I’m now sporting a little crush on Grant’s portrayal of Daphne. There’s something refreshing there, about how earnest she is and how the second she heard Matt say ‘Daphne, don’t’ she pushed him to let her inside her mind so she could help. Really nice performance, that.

    You don’t get the sense she’d stop having fun with her ability, but at the same time it’s a world apart from cocky Daphne. Have to say, she’s one of my favourite things about S3 so far.

    The Episode

    I really dug it. The sequence with Matt entering Angela’s mind was flawless, and I really dug Peter saving Claire… and the whole Flint thing can be rationalised by the fact that Flint set gas on fire – it’s not like someone used a flamethrower on him. The basic equivilient is if Flint got attacked by an electrical fire, he’d be horribly burned.

  7. OK, I might have been a bit over-the-top on my reaction to “9th Wonders.” But think about it. Isaac delivered “the last 9th Wonders” to Nerdeo. In those last comics, he depicted Hiro stabbing Sylar, the bomb being averted, etc., etc.

    And then Sylar scalped him. He was dead. As a doornail.

    It doesn’t make any sense at all for Isaac to have produced any “9th Wonders” comics after the one depicting the events of 1×23. I can’t get my head around it. It’s not about the timing, it’s about what Isaac said he had done and the STRONG implication that the “exploding man” story was the last thing he drew. Depicting events after that in the comic just can’t work in the context of Isaac’s death unless DC or Marvel or whoever publishes 9thW passed it on to another artist who just happened to be a precog.

    It was a clumsy retcon to try to harken back to the earliest episodes, and those of us with eyes for those things will call them out on it–just like with the taxicab segue last week. Same thing.

  8. Yeah, I understand that Kelly. It does cheapen Isaac’s death – I just think he probably had a few issues in bulk.

    Now in saying that, I don’t understand why Ando and Hiro didn’t read the issue from 103. That’d do the same trick, but in a less ‘how smart are we’ way.

  9. If you really want to be angry about Isaac, take into account that he was capable of drawing MULTIPLE futures. He didn’t just draw Kirby Plaza, he drew the Virus and the Villains future… so he was somehow able to see that they’d survive Kirby Plaza AND the Virus.

  10. Yeah, Ian, but that’s different. Those were paintings. Isaac didn’t have some sort of “plot” in mind when he painted those.

    Comics are sequential and, generally, written that way. I just don’t buy that he gave his sketchbook to the dude right before his death and explicitly said it was the last “9th Wonders” and that there was suddenly some issue depicting unrelated events several months later that just happened to be in the sketchbook or whatever.

    I got the impression in S2 that the reason Micah’s 9thW comics were so valuable was because the artist was dead and it was out of print.

    Yeah, I’m just not going to buy that one.

    On other topics, I wasn’t hating the Paire scenes as much as Otto was. Hayden has seemed like she’s phoning it in several times this season, and I don’t know why. You’d think her relationship with Milo would enhance their scenes together, but maybe they’re too comfortable around each other to be able to have much dramatic edge. It’s like a conversation at the dinner table. I don’t know. I DID like their scenes together in 1×07 quite a bit, ditto 1×02. So all is not lost.

    Elle’s development is a beautiful thing.

    Arthur is a terrific example of the “magnificent bastard” trope, and I’m loving him, although why he wouldn’t kill Hiro–especially given the loathing he must have had for Kaito–is odd. And why on earth would he let Ando live? Kyson Lee is very lucky that his character is so popular because Ando, patron saint of non-supers, is the Houdini of “Heroes.” (As opposed to Sylar, who is a Karma Houdini.)

  11. Kelly – makes sense, I can’t really defend 9th Wonders. It just doesn’t bug me tremendously, but not much could after how badly 308 handled the timeline.

    And TPTB – Hiro and Ando have to interact with other regulars. Why Hiro hasn’t contacted them by now I have no idea – you’d think if he wanted to save the world, he’d give Matt and Nathan a shout… especially as he worked with them, what, ten days ago to try and bring down Adam.

  12. Pete, thank you. I get what you mean when you say this was Volume Three’s “CT.” I didn’t think it was quite on that level, but there were parts that were in the same ballpark — particularly Elle’s scenes. I’m holding out for 3.13, that one sounds like it’ll be awesome.

    With Sylar’s empathy vis-a-vis his IA, I totally agree. One semi-plausible explanation is that Sylar always had both abilities and just never knew about the empathy-absorption. He’s not an empathic guy by nature; he would have struggled to access the ability even if he knew about it, the same way Peter would have struggled to access his IA if it turned out he’d always had it. Sylar’s thought process revolves around precision and practicality, whereas Peter’s is geared towards abstract ideas and creativity. They use different parts of the brain, so perhaps it’s possible they possess abilities without even knowing about them.

    Jimmy, thanks. My take on Tracy’s motive is it comes down to lust for power. That’s why she hooked up with Malden (political influence), why she hooked up with Nathan (companionship and comfort to assuage her distress and vulnerability), and why she’s now offering to work for Arthur (in a situation where people will fear her ability, and where she can call the shots).

    Raissa, I dunno, this one worked for me because it had several really amazing parts, and even the weaker moments didn’t disrupt the larger impression. To me, several amazing parts in rapid succession makes for a solid episode. I thought the second half of this episode was like one outstanding scene after another, but your YMMV. :)

    PandoraRose,

    “I can only guess the idea was ‘just in case we need [the formula] again.’

    Yeah, that was my take on it too. If the formula needed to be stored in a human host, an immortal human host would be the best way to safeguard it. Would that suggest that Kaito knew about Claire’s regeneration, though? Or is it just a lucky coincidence? It goes back to that debate about how far the ElderSupers could predict the abilities people would manifest.

    With Elle — yeah, I agree, she loved Bob. I don’t think she would have tried so hard to make him proud if she didn’t. I’m not sure how far I agree with your take on Elle’s line to HRG in “CT,” though: to me, that line showed that Elle was trying to convince herself as much as she was trying to convince Noah. The way she pulled away from Bob in the van at the end of that episode also seemed to suggest she wasn’t sure she’d ever trust him again. I’d say that was a father/daughter relationship that had as much mileage as Claire/HRG. It’s a shame it’ll never be explored in as much detail.

    Valid point about Elle’s backstory with Sylar setting up the outcome this week. I’d still say it felt like an accelerated storyline. If the season had ended this way, or if the two of them had come together a couple of seasons down the line, I’d buy it more easily. But based on the show’s internal chronology, it’s been, what, a few weeks since Sylar killed Elle’s father? I can’t see her regaining control of her ability, accepting her loss and then almost instantly forgiving Sylar. Even with this volume’s pace, that’s rushed.

    “Heroes unmasked says Arthur only has one weakness and that’s Angela.”

    Haven’t had a chance to watch this week’s yet — can you remember who said that? I’d be curious to know if it was Forster or one of the writers. My theory was always that Arthur’s overconfidence leads to the planet splitting in two. That struck me as his fatal flaw, although I could see Angela being the one to derail Arthur’s plan and stopping the planet from splitting in two.

    With Hayden, I still think she’s a terrific actress. I don’t think the show could have made “Company Man” and “Cautionary Tales” if she wasn’t. I don’t know if it was the writing or acting or visual effects in these scenes that got in the way, but something definitely dragged them down.

    KellyH, Ian, I’m tempted to go with PandoraRose‘s take and say Isaac painted this comic before he painted the final Kirby Plaza strip. He didn’t necessarily realize what he was painting; the show always struck me as kind of cagey when it came to Isaac’s awareness of events he’d painted. Unless there was something clearly dating it after Peter’s confrontation with Sylar in 1.23, I can imagine Isaac painting this strip and saying, “Those Japanese dudes went to a comic-book store and found a comic book about themselves … *shrugs and continues painting.*” I get why KellyH feels like the show’s screwing over Isaac — and us — by killing him off and trying to keep his contribution to the show alive. But I also really dig TS’s artwork, whether it’s Isaac producing it or Usutu, so I’m happy to see it however we get it.

    Ian, brilliant counter-review! I like your point about Claire being too sheltered, and about Nathan and Angela being the two who treat her like a grown-up. I’d probably put Meredith in that same camp, and, in a way, Sandra, because as scared-out-of-their-mind moms go, Sandra shows an enormous amount of trust in Claire.

    Cool angle on Arthur letting Angela go out of admiration and respect. I really hope the show picks up on the power play between them before Arthur’s storyline is over.

    Brea Grant and Daphne are indeed gorgeous. I have to say that for me, between Daphne and Tracy, there’s absolutely no contest, but I also have to agree that Daphne’s one of the biggest successes of the season so far. The way she’s evolved since the premiere has been very gradual and very elegant.

    KellyH, had to pick up on this:

    “… why [Arthur] wouldn’t kill Hiro–especially given the loathing he must have had for Kaito–is odd.”

    Arthur’s twisted taste for revenge? Killing Kaito’s son would be too easy. Arthur would want to ridicule and humiliate Kaito’s son and inflict the maximum amount of shame on the guy’s father. What better way than to turn his son into a 10-year-old prankster?

  13. Otto – it’s interesting, do you think we’re intentionally meant to draw parallels between Sandra and Angela?

    Also, how great was Arthur’s little ‘oh for the love of God Kaito, why do you cause problems for me even when you’re dead’ eye-roll? I love that, and I hope the final scenes are indicitive of that kind of history forming between our regulars. It was so fantastic to see a group of them in the same room; with particular note to Angela’s ‘Detective Parkman?’ comment, then the look of silent thanks she gave to Matt that seemed to pay-off all of their problems from S2 without any dialogue.

  14. Yeah, that was my take on it too. If the formula needed to be stored in a human host, an immortal human host would be the best way to safeguard it. Would that suggest that Kaito knew about Claire’s regeneration, though? Or is it just a lucky coincidence? It goes back to that debate about how far the ElderSupers could predict the abilities people would manifest.

    I’d think that would be Angela, yet they didn’t know what or maybe just when Nathan would manifest, but then her dreams are never of everything.

    With Elle — yeah, I agree, she loved Bob. I don’t think she would have tried so hard to make him proud if she didn’t. I’m not sure how far I agree with your take on Elle’s line to HRG in “CT,” though: to me, that line showed that Elle was trying to convince herself as much as she was trying to convince Noah. The way she pulled away from Bob in the van at the end of that episode also seemed to suggest she wasn’t sure she’d ever trust him again. I’d say that was a father/daughter relationship that had as much mileage as Claire/HRG. It’s a shame it’ll never be explored in as much detail.

    Valid point about Elle’s backstory with Sylar setting up the outcome this week. I’d still say it felt like an accelerated storyline. If the season had ended this way, or if the two of them had come together a couple of seasons down the line, I’d buy it more easily. But based on the show’s internal chronology, it’s been, what, a few weeks since Sylar killed Elle’s father? I can’t see her regaining control of her ability, accepting her loss and then almost instantly forgiving Sylar. Even with this volume’s pace, that’s rushed.

    I guess I don’t see love yet. I see a woman who had a moment and he helped her and she knows what he really is, he’s not foreign to her. And really in any other show I would prob be on your band wagon. But the “he killed my father, but I’m starting to care” feels genre to me. And I’m fine with that, very tragic. The bonded and she knows he is fighting something. Anyone else, no dice.

    Haven’t had a chance to watch this week’s yet — can you remember who said that? I’d be curious to know if it was Forster or one of the writers.

    Forester said he asked the writers, “does this guy have any weaknesses.” And the answer was “Angela.” Forester seemed to really love that after everything she did to him, she’s still the woman he loves. So, it’s from the writers.

    My theory was always that Arthur’s overconfidence leads to the planet splitting in two. That struck me as his fatal flaw, although I could see Angela being the one to derail Arthur’s plan and stopping the planet from splitting in two.

    It’s a great metaphor, as there are many in the world splitting in two. I think its very much what FPeter alluded to and Angela. You give that kind of power to the human race and they are going to destroy themselves, maybe not on purpose, but you give fire to people who don’t know how to wield it – it’s going to be out of control. I think of the future and Pinehearst like the tobacco industry, they know its distracting, but they keep feeding the beast and then it all comes to a head and someone splits the world in two. Its something very similar to what many feared and still fear may happen with the nuclear bomb – human kind will destroy itself.

    With Hayden, I still think she’s a terrific actress. I don’t think the show could have made “Company Man” and “Cautionary Tales” if she wasn’t. I don’t know if it was the writing or acting or visual effects in these scenes that got in the way, but something definitely dragged them down.

    I’ve always, as an actor myself, been impressed by her so I am as perplexed as you. And I’ve already seen a clip of her and Cristine for next week and she’s doing that same pushing again – maybe she’s trying to act like a teenager. :)

    Ian

    love this:

    Also, how great was Arthur’s little ‘oh for the love of God Kaito, why do you cause problems for me even when you’re dead’ eye-roll? I love that, and I hope the final scenes are indicitive of that kind of history forming between our regulars. It was so fantastic to see a group of them in the same room; with particular note to Angela’s ‘Detective Parkman?’ comment, then the look of silent thanks she gave to Matt that seemed to pay-off all of their problems from S2 without any dialogue.

    I agree her waking up we’re some of my favorite moments. Even during the next scene when she seemed to hug her legs and talk as if she was still getting the feeling back in her body.

    Cool angle on Arthur letting Angela go out of admiration and respect. I really hope the show picks up on the power play between them before Arthur’s storyline is over.

    I agree. He loves her because she’s his most formidable equal. I do hope we see more of this, its far more interesting then some of the younger players and I fear we won’t have him for very long – he has to die to save the world.

    If anything, I think Forster put in that little smirk to sell the moment. He does love Angela, but when she betrayed him he wanted her out of action. Hence the coma. Then here… she stood up to him. Defiantly, brilliantly, a beautiful moment where he looked at her and saw an amazing woman. If anything, I think that’s the moment he realised that she was (like Sandra) too good of a woman to be treated with kid gloves, and fell in love all over again.

    Just read what you did say Ian I adore this. It’s wonderful. I hope we see how they we’re “Like that” one day. It’s quite a sad beautiful story. They are like Henry the 8the and Anne Boyln – even down the wanting children to carry on the family line. Henry wanted sons – Arthur wanted son with the power gene.

  15. “Sylar, by contrast, now learns he can be even more “special.” And although I doubt anyone ever predicted we’d see Sylar cry because he’s overwhelmed with emotions, this felt like such an organic development and such a believably overwrought scene that Sylar’s tears, and his nervous laugh of relief when he rediscovers a part of his humanity, come across as believable reactions.”

    Bravo analysis! I couldn’t have said it better myself. While on the topic of GabriELLE, I too felt that Elle’s shift from raging vengence to cuddly bunny was a bit much at first. But when you think about how unhinged Elle is in the first place, it makes more sense. It also puts into question of any loyalty to Gabriel in the future. If she could turn on a dime just like that, how long will she stay with him?

  16. Oh Otto, just when I went and praised you for recognizing the acting, there you go and bash my favorite. :(

    I can agree with you about Hayden, but I thought Milo was fine. In the scene where he tells her about the future, there was a part where he reminded me of the first season finale and his “I’m scared and I need my brother”. Oh well, acting is very subjective. While Milo is my favorite, I do realize he’s no Jack Coleman or Adrian Pasdar, but he definitely has his moments … especially when he’s in scenes with those two or Cristine Rose.

    He’s not an empathic guy by nature; he would have struggled to access the ability even if he knew about it, the same way Peter would have struggled to access his IA if it turned out he’d always had it. Sylar’s thought process revolves around precision and practicality, whereas Peter’s is geared towards abstract ideas and creativity.

    I really wish this was where the show was going with it. I love that.

    Thanks for highlighting the great effects this show is capable of.

    And thank you for your review.

  17. Yeah, I thought Milo did a good job there too. His acting in S3 has been quite subtle, he seems to be doing more with his eyes than anything else. In that scene (maybe I read into it), he seemed quietly sad that Claire was going to be that person again… especially as he’s now discovered that he can die more easily.

    Re: seeing Arthur and Angela in the past. I do want to, but then I think of how perfectly they cast Rose and Forster – and it makes me sad. Can they find young actors for a one-off episode who can pull off those moments? I think the actors for Victoria and Kaito in 210 were pretty good, but you know Cassidy and Takei would have nailed those scenes to an incredible degree.

    Total agreement on Rose. She is a tremendous actress who, I’ve no doubt, throws nuances in that aren’t there on the page.

  18. Ian:

    Re: seeing Arthur and Angela in the past. I do want to, but then I think of how perfectly they cast Rose and Forster – and it makes me sad. Can they find young actors for a one-off episode who can pull off those moments? I think the actors for Victoria and Kaito in 210 were pretty good, but you know Cassidy and Takei would have nailed those scenes to an incredible degree.

    So true, so true. I’d think they would know what amazing shoes they we’re filling and do a longer casting process. Cast as if they we’re casting regulars. And both actors have very specific hand and voice gestures and quality.

    I’d even take someone giving info in dialogue, but many writers feel show me, don’t tell me. They do however have a great asset if Cristine Rose, who sometimes can look 20 years younger then she is, especially with great lighting and her hair down.

    I do however think the show could do well to show the audience how much of Cautionary tale the elders are to our Heroes now by showing they, young, sexy and troubled. Or maybe I’ve been watching too much Life on Mars. :)

    They still could do what happened to Angela and Linderman and so forth after Arthur’s death and get some great MM and CR scenes.

    Total agreement on Rose. She is a tremendous actress who, I’ve no doubt, throws nuances in that aren’t there on the page.

    She’s the whole reason the writers made Angela the character she is. And any other actress would have made her one noted. It’s the depth she showed that made the writers give her even more depth. She’s a joy to watch.

  19. Ian, perhaps the parallels between Sandra and Angela become more overt as the characters become more focal to the story. Perhaps now, after 3.09, knowing how Angela was deceived and kept out of the loop the way Sandra was, it’s easier to appreciate how much the characters have in common. I think that ties in with the way both characters have gone from adjuncts in other characters’ storylines (Sandra being a supporting character in the Bennet thread, Angela in the Petrelli thread) to characters in their own right. It means their personalities and character arcs have become more defined, which is a testament to the success of the actors and writers, but it also means parallels like this begin to emerge.

    ThePandoraRose, great theory about Angela’s dreams guiding Kaito to a candidate for the catalyst. If she had known that Claire was the catalyst, though, wouldn’t Arthur have pulled it out of her head sooner? I guess, in theory, she could have decided the information was too dangerous and had it Haitian-whammied out of her? That’d be an interesting point to bring up in 3.12.

    Thanks for the heads up on this week’s Unmasked. I got around to seeing it today, and had to laugh when McDowell described his reaction to Linderman’s subservience as “rather a shock, to be honest with you.” He also jokes that playing Linderman with more humility was “a bit of a stretch,” but that he was “trying.” It sounds like he had as much of an issue with it as some of us did … :)

    I find it telling that Forster sees Arthur as still being in love with Angela, even after trapping her in her nightmare. I took Arthur’s decision to release Angela from the nightmare as a gesture of sentimentality or admiration, but I wonder how far his love for Angela will play into his decisions as the volume draws to a close. It seems like Angela’s the one who’ll get through to Arthur before their sons do, which is kind of a pleasant surprise, at least to me.

    Susan, Ian, I agree, the acting thing is very much part of a subjective discussion. I loved the parking garage scene in 1.23, but this, to me, was vastly inferior. I get that HP was trying to bridge her present-day “innocent” self and her future badass self, and I can sorta see how portraying that transition with only a few scenes might be challenging. But Peter? I didn’t think his dilemma was all that complex: he doesn’t want to see Claire become a killer, and, obviously, he doesn’t want to die. I appreciate why you guys would interpret Milo’s performance as underplayed or understated, but it struck me as a by-the-numbers dialogue recital. In the actors’ defense, it might have been the abysmal dialogue, or a tight production schedule with fewer takes on certain scenes. I’d rather believe that than the off-screen-romance-killing-the-on-screen-dynamic theory.

  20. McDowell rocks. Wouldn’t be surprised if he liked the material, but raised a few questions over it. It explains some of his little nuances (that smirk at the end of the Angela scene seems improvised.)

    Something they have to do in Volume IV. Sandra, Angela – the same room. I think they have a LOT to talk about.

  21. Thanks for the heads up on this week’s Unmasked. I got around to seeing it today, and had to laugh when McDowell described his reaction to Linderman’s subservience as “rather a shock, to be honest with you.” He also jokes that playing Linderman with more humility was “a bit of a stretch,” but that he was “trying.” It sounds like he had as much of an issue with it as some of us did … :)

    That was my favorite part. It was brilliant and adorably diplomatic of him.

  22. Excellent review once again…

    Team Pinehearst definitley seems more interesting… I think that the direction and photography was perfect between the juxtoposing shots of the Heroes and the Villains…

    Team Pinehearst is cooler, more collected, dare I say sexier, lol, in its group shot, while Primatech is shlocky, befuddled, and seemingly clueless… The villains look like ‘okay… let’s do this’, while the heroes look like ‘okay… do what?’…

    Even the colors show contrast. The heroes have bland tan and muted colors, while the villains have a clash of dark blacks, bright yellows and blues. Seems like a throwback to that old statement ‘its so much cooler to be bad’ lol

    I think this was more a build up episode… and, if it was their intention for the villains in ‘Villains’ to be the more prominant characters, they’ve succeeded…

    I DO hope that the writers get the audience back on Primatech’s side… they ARE the heroes… I think alittle more group scenes and maybe SOME friggin’ mention or appearance by HRG could help out.

    -John

  23. About Kaito putting the Catalyst in an indestructible host… Perhaps Claire has her powers precisely because Kaito put the Catalyst in her? Maybe her self-healing is a side effect of having the Catalyst in her blood. Since the Catalyst in her blood can apparently keep the Formula from turning people into monsters, perhaps it’s the Catalyst that gives her blood its healing process.

    I like this theory, but it would mean that Kaito put the Catalyst in her blood before Meredith burned down her home, since it was apparently baby Claire’s healing ability that allowed her to survive that fire. On the other hand, Meredith wasn’t aware that her baby could heal, so maybe there was something else going on in baby Claire’s survival.

    The theory also doesn’t explain why Adam’s blood could heal people, unless he had a copy of the Catalyst, too.

    So here’s my second theory: The Catalyst could only be put in a person with self-healing. Otherwise, the Catalyst would overwhelm the host somehow, causing bad things. Kaito didn’t want to put the Catalyst in Adam, so when Claire came along 16 years ago, he hid the Catalyst in her.

  24. Something’s been forming in my mind over the last few episodes – the nature of power inheritance.

    Fundamentally, Peter, Sylar and Arthur all appear to have the same power – Arthur’s is a lot more developed, but (as with Maury and Matt) that may simply be a matter of time, effort and practice, something further backed up by Sylar’s development in this episode.

    It seems, from the information there, that there’s a strong likelihood of inheriting a parent’s power (specifically, a father’s). Hiro and Kaito don’t really fit into this, but Flint and Meredith do (they both have essentially the same power, further suggesting that within a family, powers tend to be the same)…

    …then we get to the known artificial powers. Nathan’s powers don’t fit with those of either his mother or his father, presumably because they’re artificially-induced. Nikki, Tracy and Micah all had completely different powers, presumably demonstrating some inherent instability/variability in the artificial powers.

    After all that, we get to Claire. She’s third-generation at least, descended from Nathan Petrelli (naturally powerless, but born to two powered parents and engineered with artificial powers – all sorts of crazy going on in his genes) and Meredith Gordon (naturally powered, as far as we know).

    Claire is, then, inherently ‘special’ – with so many powers in her family tree, there was almost no way she’d grow up powerless – and it may even be that she’s naturally the catalyst, that being the reason that Kaito chose to hide her (afterall, she can’t be destroyed).

    The only other person with a lineage as powered as that is Micah, and we don’t know enough about DL’s past (or Linderman’s manipulations of both Nikki and DL) to speculate about his nature beyond what we already know. Perhaps the engineered circumstances of his birth (as a child of people with both natural and artificial powers) were an attempt by Linderman (under Arthur Petrelli’s orders?) to recreate the ‘Catalyst’ bound within Claire’s genetics.

    Of course, this is just me rambling on about something that’s been lurking in my brain for weeks…

  25. I was ambivalent about this episode, in large part because I agree that there were seriously good bits, and seriously frustrating bits.

    Hiro: Sigh. I give up. Honestly, I thought you were spot-on about this part. It was sweet, it was entertaining, it was funny. And it absolutely highlighted the fact that the writers have ignored all of Hiro’s emotional development. 10-year-old Hiro is not significantly different than 28-year-old Hiro, and after everything he’s been through (future Hrio, feudal Japan, loving and losing TWICE, death of dad, etc.) that’s just wrong. The writers have let his character stagnate in pool of cuteness. Over it.

    Matt: His impulse to help Angela was totally in character. He’s always wanted to be a hero, and always behaved that way: “adopting” Molly, idiotically shooting at Sylar because “I’m a cop, dammit. Matt truly is one of the good guys, if occasionaly short-sighted because of it.

    Claire: “I have a plan to help you escape, Peter. Go down the fire escape, while I cleverly leap out the window…thus leading the BAD Guys to the fire escape.” Still, in Claire’s defense, it must be incredibly frustrating to have a purely defensive power.

    Tracy: I love Ali Larter! She’s played 4 distinct characters on this show. She’s playing Tracy so well, I don’t even remember Niki most of the time.

    Sylar & Elle: Um, yes great scene visually, and good acting, but I agree that the writers are playing fast and loose with motivations and character development here. From “Kill, kill!” to “wink wink” in 30 seconds. Not buying it.

    Arthur: Forester did a great job this week, although I still don’t like his character. BUT, his slightly tongue in cheek reaction to Nathan, the sinister-yet-concerned dad to Sylar, and especially his release of Angela actually gave him a little much-needed depth, and very effectively. It also outlined just how little regard he has for Peter, as he’s treated EVERYONE else in the family, even the ones that tried to prosecute and kill him, infinitely better than The Nurse.

    Villains v. Heroes: Wow. Are the Heroes outgunned, or what? Better grab the Haitian fast! I know we like to root for the underdog, but seriuosly…I know this volume is “Villains,” but the moral ambiguities and character reversals are at times a little too extreme, or rapid, to believe.

    9th Wonders: Yeah, what the hell was up with THAT? Are precognitive writers and artists just growing on trees these days? I hope for a better explanation, otherwise it’s just a bad plot device to swirl the soup of a stagnant story.

    All in all, better episode than many this season, with great acting and direction, but the writing is still irking me. I’m holding out ’til “Fugitives,” but the frustration and disappointment in the storylines is getting harder to ignore. I do so hope Bryan Fuller comes back; maybe he can touch this show back to life.

  26. Sylar has lightning proof pants!

    I don’t usually get picky over any of those things mentioned. Especially because I was proved right about Sylar being like Peter. Woo-hoo!

    I fun with the inconsistencies.
    … even when being vaporized, Sylar musters the strength to TK the lightning away from his pants region.

    He’s pretty sure it’ll grow back, but no guy’s gonna chance it.
    … now that he can live through hottie-psycho!

    Watch again, see that his pants were totally untouched!

  27. I DO hope that the writers get the audience back on Primatech’s side… they ARE the heroes… I think alittle more group scenes and maybe SOME friggin’ mention or appearance by HRG could help out.

    Word. Fortunately, HRG is back this week. At first, I thought is was just because HRG is a favorite character, and that’s certainly part of it. But, I’ve also felt the absence of JC on an objective level, as well. He just makes the show better, along with AP and CR when they’re on screen. Experience really counts.

  28. Ya know, I want HRG to branch out a little more. If a version of The Company extends into Volume IV, Angela would be well-served to have HRG becoming a mentor to people in how to use their powers. He clearly knows how to get people to control them.

  29. Great review, as always. I’m a sucker for the “gathering the forces, calm before the storm” type episodes, so I ate this one up.

    Hiro remains such a disappointment, however. I was excited to watch him again this season after the seeing the place of maturity and gravitas he reached by the end of season two, after he put hatred in the heart of his boyhood hero over a forbidden love, a hatred that later led to the death of his father, only to bury that hero alive rather than succumb to the darkness of revenge by killing him outright.

    I mean, that’s intense, almost Shakespearean (well, comic book Shakespearean) stuff, and within five minutes of this season, it’s completely brushed aside and now, eight episodes later, the character is literally a child again and remains so far removed from the main narrative it’s laughable.

    Seriously, show, it’s okay to let Hiro’s character develop naturally away from the cherubic innocence of the first season. If you’re unwilling to let it, then what’s the point?

    As for Sylar’s power, even after his intuitive aptitude power got spelled out, there was a gap between how that led to him using all these other powers; after all, I know how a car works but that doesn’t mean I could build one. So I have to give the show props for at least trying to address the gap in his abilities between “knowing” and “doing.”

    But having said that, it raises more questions, because “intuitive aptitude” and “empathic power absorption” seem like two completely separate and unrelated powers where, until this episode, everyone seems to have only one “root” power.

    Oh, and maybe I’m being overly negative, but the observation that Flint dived out of the way of the gas fire is an indication that he can be hurt by other flames seems to me to be exactly the kind of detail the writers would willingly ignore if the plot called for it (assuming they even remembered it).

    Wow, this comment seems really negative. Seriously, I enjoyed the heck out of this episode and am looking forward to how things play out (and crossing my fingers we finally get a big “powers on powers” brawl at some point)!

  30. Hey Otto,

    Great review as usual; you hit pretty much everything on the head.

    I mainly enjoyed this episode. Kristen Bell was amazing, really shining above everyone else, but I feel that Hayden Panettiere is slipping. She was great in the first two seasons, but she’s beginning to appear contrived and over-the-top.

    Anyway, two major flaws stopped me from fully appreciating “It’s Coming” – Hiro’s plot thread, and Sylar magically gaining the power of empathy. The former because it’s juvenile, ridiculous, and bound to lead to more garbage, and the latter because it sends a conflicting message (the show is trying to make Sylar a hero, yet just reveals that his murders over the last two seasons were all utterly pointless?) and just doesn’t fit.

  31. I think what the show was trying to do with Sylar showing Empathy and Peter showing Intuitive Aptitude was to point out that they have the same ability… just different ways of using it.

    Sort of like Maury and Matt. Maury has evolved his ability of Telepathy into a dangerous form of Mind Control. And Matt did too – and can keep evolving his ability further. Essentially, what I think the show was saying was that the backgrounds of Peter and Sylar led to how they used their power absorbing abilities. Sylar grew up as a Watchmakers son so it grew clinically, and Peter grew up the son of a dreamer so it grew emotionally… but they’re both capable of using multiple ways of gaining abilities.

    Basically, Peter and Sylar can absorb abilities a number of ways. It’s a genetic pass-down from Arthur: who could coldly take them. So Peter and Sylar have a range of options.

  32. I guess you’re right, Ian, but it still doesn’t sit right with me, largely because of the time scale it was manifested within. Inside of one episode, we learned about the possibility of this power, Sylar had tapped into it, and controlled it. I know they only have thirteen episodes, but would it have hurt to have slowly developed it across the season?

    It just seems rushed and ill-conceived to me.

  33. I blame the collapse of Hayden and Milo for the woodenness of their scenes together. Never date your coworkers. It ends badly. Always.

    And despite the interesting mixup we had on the “Villain” side of the table, just the fact that Daphne’s on the “Hero” side makes up for Elle, Sylar, AND Tracy. Yes. She’s THAT awesome. (WHY DID THEY KILL HER????)

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