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.
The next time the word coincidence is updated in dictionaries, Greg Yaitanes should get a mention. Something along the lines of, “Coincidence — noun: 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 …
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.
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.
The sparse lighting, the dank, clammy, cavernous atmosphere, the sense of a place that’s been forgotten …
… the focus on specific details: the Ellectrobolt that forms in Elle’s hands, the chains on her feet …
… the hatred building up behind her eyes …
… 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.
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.
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 …
… 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.
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 …
… is delivered with as little inspiration as her dialogue in the previous scene. Is Claire shocked? Is she skeptical? Is she horrified?
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.
We cut to the Superhero Nursery.
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.
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.
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 …
… which is effective because of its technical brilliance, but also because we care whether or not the villain survives. And this …
… 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.
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 …
… to the focus on Nathan as he tries to put everything into perspective …
… 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 …
… 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.
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 …
… 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:
… 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.
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.
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 …
… 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-
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.”
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’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?!
If she isn’t, she’s still the center of the Heroes group shot.
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