As Tracy Strauss stumbles towards her holding cell halfway through tonight’s episode, she sees a message pop up from Rebel on the security monitor. “Help is coming. Have hope,” it reads. For many “Heroes” fans, this is the message the show sent by rehiring Season 1 scribe Bryan Fuller after the unfortunate demise of his critically lauded yet little watched series “Pushing Daisies.” Tonight marked the first installment with any input from Fuller. Did he answer the S.O.S.? Well, it’s an unfair question, really. No one person can really turn the S.S. Heroes around at this juncture, but at least tonight’s episode pointed a few plotlines in promising directions.

Rebel suggests you continue reading the spoiler-filled recap after the jump. 

In true Heroes style, we followed several distinct plotlines tonight, so let’s break each one down individually.

No longer black and white for Claire

For a show that’s long insisted people refer to themselves as “hero,” “villain,” and “nemesis,” it’s refreshing to see a middle ground on display. Claire’s portion of the hour was dedicated to placing her at an unsure crossroads: for years she’s criticized her father’s actions, and yet when placed in his footsteps, she finds herself dealing with the same conundrums that Noah has for decades.

Sparking this fork in Cheerleader Road? The appearance of Eric Doyle at the end of last week’s episode. For whatever reason, Rebel has pointed Doyle in Claire’s direction, in hopes of obtaining him safe passage out of the country. Sure, he once creeped Claire, Sandra, and most of America out last year while holding them captive in his former abode, but he’s changed! He wants to go back to less horrific forms of puppeteering. He sullenly leaves, vowing he’s not the same man he used to be.

Well, this makes Claire Bear all confused in the head. She hates the abduction of heroes, but is unclear about her role in facilitating the escape of a nominative “villain.” So, she does what any self-respecting invulnerable teenager would do: get Aquaboy’s old job in hopes other powered people would gravitate towards the Grant Morrison mags. Gotta love the manager’s savvy in hiring her: as he astutely points out, the Force is way strong in his customers’ pants when she’s around.

Horny boys aside, the manager did give voice to Claire’s nagging doubt when he asks her a simple, yet vague question: “Flight or invisibility?” His meaning: would she choose the “danger be damned!” approach to saving the day, or more in the lines of caution or stealth? Turns out, Claire doesn’t know, which prompts a call to her father.

For all my ranting about the repetitious Claire/Noah conversations over the years, I must say I appreciated their quick conversation. No histrionics on either side, but more importantly? No easy answers. Noah didn’t lie to her, and didn’t feed her any easy answers. For the first time in forever, he treated her as an adult, and she acted in kind. That didn’t make what then happened any easier: after choosing to aid and abet Doyle’s escape (thanks to her quick tripping action and Rebel’s fake I.D. skillz), she realized that a puppeteer never changes his strings. Or, you know, something like that.

By the end of the episode, she’s morally confused, no longer protected from capture, and…in the floating arms of her biological father. How did he get there? Glad you asked.

Nathan takes flight and the hunter becomes the hunted

Nathan Petrelli: pretty good politician, pretty awful undercover hero. I’ve seen third graders hide their need to urinate after five juices boxes better than he hides his ability o fly. Dude, if you come back in another life, do not, I repeat do NOT, head to the Roof Access in front of a suspicious sociopath.

But head there you did, in order to avert Matt Parkman from going boom in the nation’s capital. Danko not only wired him up, but controlled the vest remotely from Building 26. The drugs injected into his system prevented Parkman from initially reading the thoughts of those around him, but thanks to Nathan and Rebel’s tag-team efforts, the drugs wore off enough in time to avert disaster.

That incident was the last straw for Petrelli, who decided he was finally done with Danko. He threatened to take him off duty, and the two started to fight over the President’s favor the way siblings fight over their parents’ affection. Danko’s trump card? Tracy Strauss, who became the first person all season to loudly shout, “NATHAN HAS POWERS!” Tracy is now my favorite character on the show.

Course, her whole “say it loud, he’s powered yet not proud” routine ended with a mysterious note scribbled on a piece of paper, unseen by the cameras and only seen by Tracy. Turns out that was enough to have Tracy sing a new tune when directly confronted by Danko. I think the note read, “I’m gonna send Mohinder in here to monologue you to death if you don’t cover for me.” That would have totally clammed me up, personally.

With the heat getting a bit too much in the kitchen, Noah defuses the situation by pointing Danko towards a more formidable Petrelli: Angela. This, friends, was the scene of the week. It was like the Pacino/DeNiro scene from “Heat,” only involving an oyster-sucking Angela gleefully tearing Danko a new one. Whatever happened in Angola in 1997, it was enough to send Danko walking out with his tail between his legs. I know many of you already worship at the Alter of Angela; well, color me finally converted. Can I get an amen?

Mentally destroyed by Angela, and politically defused by Nathan, Danko took the only option left to him. While Nathan escorted Danko’s would-be replacement to talk with the President, Danko shot out the window behind Nathan, pushed him out, and finally saw Nathan’s flight with his own eyes. He thinks all is well in the world, but doesn’t realize Sylar’s in his apartment, waiting to strike. How did Sylar get there? Again, glad ya asked!

Samson whistles while he works

I’ve been looking forward to John Glover’s presence ever since I heard he’d been cast as Sylar’s papa a few months ago. He was basically the only reason to watch “Smallville” most years, and I looked forward to him going loco a loco with his prodigy tonight. The actual result? Enjoyable, though predictable.

Expecting to meet a titan of a man, Sylar’s almost distraught to learn his father is terminally ill, with a portable oxygen device helping him use what little ability he has left to work as a taxidermist. Yup, he stuffs bunnies by TK’ing them so they can’t run away. This dude is not gonna win any PETA awards anytime soon. I thought last week that Samson had finger-slashed his wife’s head open. But in retrospect, I guess he offed her with a spork from the diner.

The two men share one common thought: the world is essentially beneath them both. With great power comes great…boredom, apparently. Life without powerful opponents is apparently not worth living. Sylar somehow neglects to tell Daddy about the part where an emo dude and a fanboy totally whupped him in Kirby Plaza. Anyways, the two end up spending a quiet day stuffing day animals until Samson sees Sylar’s healing ability for the first time. Then, with a few deep inhalations of sweet, processed oxygen, Samson whistles while he TK’s a few arrows into his son’s shoulders, pinning him to the wall.

But dear ol’ Dad didn’t count on his son’s strength, and quickly he’s at the mercy of his son. Sylar decides to let the cancer take all the killing credit this time, finally, finally, FINALLY putting his parental issues behind him and sending him straight towards the foe he’s avoided all season: Danko. With his father no longer a crutch to avoid confrontation, mayhap we’ll see the old Sylar back in the thick of things before long. 

Two dorks and a baby

This week’s cliffhanger? Hiro and Ando finally arrive in Los Angeles to save Matt Parkman. Well, they do find Matt Parkman. As in, Matt Parkman, Jr. Which must mean the return of Janice is looming on the horizon. Which must mean I punched a nun recently and deserve kharmic punishment in the form of her return to the show. Sigh. Let’s just hope Ando doesn’t super charge that kid’s diaper.

Happy with the current direction of the show? Can Nathan’s character be redeemed now, or is it too late? Will Season 1 Sylar return? Is Claire’s confusion the right approach or too little too late for her?

 

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