The cliché, “Those that forget their past are doomed to repeat it,” got a solid work-out in a surprisingly solid episode of “Heroes” tonight. Then again, once one saw the phrase “Written by Bryan Fuller” come on-screen during the opening credits, many a fan’s eye lit up from their dull, habitual gaze and perked up for the first time since…well, since Fuller last wrote an episode.

Is Bryan Fuller the answer to not only quality television, but global warming, the Middle East conflict, and Nickelback’s reign of terror atop the Billboard charts? Unlikely, despite what many a critic might have you think. But he knows how to breathe life into the characters of “Heroes” that eludes the majority of the show’s writing staff. His scripts take stale characters and invigorate them to the point where you remember when you couldn’t wait to see the outcome of the previous cliffhanger. And tonight’s episode, “Acceptance,” featured one hell of a cliffhanger.

I’m taking what they’re giving/Cuz I’m working for a living


Tracy and Noah find themselves in the unfortunate place of being unemployed during these tough economic times. And yes, they do seem to exist in our world, courtesy of a quick mention of the economy on Claire’s behalf. A simple move to place the show’s world into ours, it was a nice touch to remind the audience of the show’s original conceit: a look at super powered people in our own world.

Both are simultaneously overqualified and underqualified. Noah mockingly calls himself a “company man” (a nice shout-out to the show’s best episode, the Fuller-penned “Company Man” in Season 1), but reminds a supportive Claire that his vast experience in Primatech Paper couldn’t land him a job at Dunder Mifflin. As for Tracy: she’s got brains, but all Governor Malden cares about is going upstairs and “mak[ing] each other happy.” Apparently, Governor Malden learned his pickup lines from Borat.

Both characters are driven by their professional ambition, but both realize that the professions they have inhabited no longer fulfill them. In fact, their previous jobs disgust them. I could have gone without Tracy’s life almost literally going down the drain during an emotional meltdown, but overall I bought the connection between these two much more than in the volume’s opening hours. Tracy and Noah hopefully will have new purpose going forth, a prospect that seemingly frightens Big Bad Samuel. Good. I remember when Noah wasn’t Noah, but HRG. HRG used to scared me. Happy to see if he can do it again.  

(Also, kudos to “Heroes” for containing scenes involving Claire that didn’t make me want to bang my head against the wall repeatedly. That’s a super power in and of itself.)

If you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting/Time after time

Oh, Hiro. Season 1’s audience on-screen conduit to the fantastical has devolved into fanboy punching bag over the years. Too many antics, too much grating behavior, and too many times where he violates common sense in order to give the show some sort of conflict. So what happens this week? He gets humanized, and I feel for the character for the first time in ages.

Now, I’m not a fan of Hiro’s sudden desire to micro-manage the past in order to achieve results on an individual level. (See: “violates common sense.”) But since the show’s already sent Hiro down Route Sixty-Suck, presenting the potential futility of this tactic was a fantastic way to insert humor into Hiro’s storyline without making him a pathetic clown. His constant attempts to prevent a fellow coworker (Tadashi) from self-destructing fail, leading to 47 timelines in which Tadashi manages to photocopy his posterior using company property.

For Hiro, the answers lie in the past. After all, if one redirected Slurpee yields love for Ando and Kimiko, why couldn’t other redirections yield beneficial results? However, Hiro’s “Groundhog Day”-esque quest only ends when he accepts Tadashi’s intrinsic nature, not habitually fighting it at different points in the past. He correctly diagnoses Tadashi’s fetish as a cry for new employment, a revelation that sends Hiro to the one place he’s avoided: Kimiko’s office to tell her of his terminal illness.

Props to “Heroes” for showing us the introduction to that reveal, but not the actual revelation itself. The scene played more powerfully through Ando’s eyes that it would have up close, a moment of rare restraint for a show that not only tells instead of shows, but usually uses giant blinking neon signs when telling. After Hiro’s confession, his eyes go blank and he disappears, leaving Ando to clue his wife-to-be onto the source of Hiro’s malady.

Nightswimming…deserves a quiet night

Let’s liken Hiro’s decision to subtly change the past despite having first-hand evidence at just how catastrophic that could be to, say, a beer. Using that as our base point, Angela’s decision to cage Sylar inside the mental and physical likeness of her deceased son Nathan is a keg. A big, frothy, stupid keg of stupidity. I fashion Fuller for a whiskey guy myself that looked at the crappy keg and decided to kill it before leaving the show for greener pastures in the land of development deals.

In order to reboot Sylar’s brain into more of a Nathan-centric perspective, she brings a box to his office containing mementos from Nathan’s childhood. Since his shapeshifting ability works based on absorbing memories from physical objects, the mementos do a nice job of shoving actual memories into Sylar’s brain. Unfortunately for all involved, one of those memories details a dead woman floating in a pool, surrounded by chlorine and blood.

Turns out that woman is the daughter of Angela’s friend Millie Houston, a character briefly seen last season during “Fugitives.” Awesome to see Swoozie Kurtz used for more than a bizarre five minute scene. While Angela used the Haitian to wipe the actual Nathan’s mind from this memory, the Sylar-as-Nathan felt compelled to rip open the scab of history through what Peter calls “psychometrics” to triangulate his own guilt, reaffirm Millie’s long-held suspicions, and land Sylar-as-Nathan stabbed, shot, and buried alive thanks to a hit ordered by Mama Houston. Well, you know what they say about no good deed…

…but wait! Not unlike the poor in “Monty Python and Holy Grail,” Sylar’s not dead yet! It was cool enough when a hand stuck up through the ground, but to see Sylar’s face appear next? Groovy. Not sure if this means the end of Adrian Pasdar on “Heroes” or not, but it was a fantastic reminder of just how insanely cool the cliffhangers for this show used to be. I’m not sure any of this makes a lick of sense, but for the first time in a while, I’m just anxious for the next episode. It’ll probably bring me back down to earth, but at least for one week, I’m happy I’ve stuck with this show for so long.

What way is the compass pointing for you when it comes to “Heroes”? You sticking to the path, or have the circus already long left town?