I’m trying to look at “Heroes” objectively. I really am. I’m trying to look at it from the perspective of someone that doesn’t recall just how bad the last two seasons have been, because I have the sneaking suspicion that had I looked at this season’s first few episodes devoid of any previous context, I might have actually somewhat enjoyed them. Even with the bad taste of the previous three volumes in my mouth, I can still say “Redemption” tops them all. But that’s also damning it with faint praise, sort of like selecting my favorite “Yes, Dear” cast member.
So when I realized that a good chunk of tonight’s episode would feature Robert Knepper and Zachary Quinto squaring off, I found myself…excited. About an episode of “Heroes.” I know, right? Cats and dogs, living together, etc., etc. So did the episode live up to the hype? Not really, but in the show’s defense, they chose to spend tonight’s episode planting seeds for the long haul versus setting off fireworks this early in the game. While that’s understandable from a storytelling perspective, it still left this viewer feeling short-changed.
[Full recap of Monday (Oct. 19) night's "Heroes" after the break...]
Let’s look at the three main storylines, all of which heavily featured a teacher/student type relationship in regards to the honing and control of powers.
Go to the mirror, boy
Samuel’s plan is simple: tame the legendary Sylar in order to gain the equivalent of an atom bomb in his war against the Muggles of the world. I kept flashing to Mark Waid’s graphic novel “Kingdom Come,” in which Lex Luthor systematically broke Billy Batson’s will in order to wield Captain Marvel against Superman. Of course, with Peter’s powers now a shell of their former self, Samuel would essentially employ Sylar as the only true super power in the world.
So far, so good: I’m down with Samuel’s subtle manipulation over Sylar’s over-the-top skull slicing. Been there, done that. But it also points to the perpetual problem this show has had over the years with Sylar: the guy’s simply too powerful to stay interesting. So they keep having to contort their narrative in order to cripple his overwhelming abilities. Had they not given him a season with the Blunder Twins in Volume 2 and amnesia in Volume 5, Sylar would rule the entire world at this point.
But while the show finally found a way to release Peter Petrelli from his overabundance of power in Volume 3, it still hasn’t found a satisfactory way to deal with Sylar’s abilities. On top of that, the show still insists that Sylar isn’t so much evil so much as misguided. What’s wrong with just being evil, “Heroes”? In trying to humanize your show’s primary villain, you’ve just turned him into Doctor Doom via Dr. Phil. What happened to the zest he used to exhibit? “The body thrives when the heart has a mission,” sayeth Samuel in the show’s opening narration. Time to give Sylar not only his memory back, but his heart as well.
Instead, he’s a long-term part of Samuel’s plan to…well, it’s sort of unclear at this point. He wants redemption, according to both his own words and the title of this particular volume of the show. But he’s certainly taking his time to do so. I can only suppose that his carnival’s cloaked nature suggests that while they have powers, they are not necessarily powerful. Maybe half of the carnival has really lame powers like “super grammar” or something. Wasn’t there something about a compass once upon a time? A villain with patience is a deadly foe. But a plot without much forward momentum can be deadly to a viewing audience.
Everyone’s a hero in their own way
If you were a young, scared, super-powered child terrified both of school and your burgeoning abilities, you would be totally happy to have Hiro as your teacher. There’s possibly no more positive role model in the history of the world in terms of making a nervous person feel like being different is not only OK, but a gift. As such, it’s no great mystery to understand why Peter paired a scared Emma with Hiro in order to embrace her ability.
Was this part of the episode saccharine sweet to the point of possibly giving me diabetes? Undoubtedly. But in a show that took itself ever more increasingly serious over the years, it’s nice to employ Hiro’s naiveté in a way that’s 1) relatable and 2) not unwittingly putting the future of humanity at risk. There’s a HUGE difference between showing a bored Hiro allow Daphne to steal one half of a lethal formula and an engaged Hiro making a single individual see the beauty in her unique gift.
Most importantly? His connection with Emma sparked a memory of a long-lost, but personally beloved character: Charlie, an early Sylar victim that in an alternate timeline died of a brain clot. While I am generally reaching for the aspirin when “Heroes” tries to explore multiple timelines, it’ll be worth it if the show’s managed to snag Jayma Mays away from “Glee” for a little while and remind us all how great this show was back when it started.
You’re out of touch, I’m out of time
Earlier this volume, Noah took stock of his life in the Company while conversing with Claire. While he initially believes that his job was helping the world as a whole, he later realized that his bag-and-tag approach probably hadn’t helped a soul. Then again, it’s tough to learn any life lessons, no matter how valuable, when you’ve got a Haitian around to ensure there’s never really one to grow on.
So when Hiro’s condition sent Peter teleporting into his bathroom, Noah anxiously jumped on the chance to not only save Hiro’s life but also make amends with his own past. Bypassing Claire’s regenerative blood (which would only augment Hiro’s tumor, not eradicate it), he opts for a former Company specimen: Jeremy Greer, who can heal with a touch.
Unfortunately, upon arriving at Jeremy’s house, Noah surmises that Jeremy’s pulled a Mega-Maid from “Spaceballs” and gone from suck to blow; or, in this case, gone from healing with a touch to killing with it. Now, this walking, talking, mulleting Grim Reaper sits in his house, alone, with his parents’ rotting corpses littering the living room. Noah tries to talk Jeremy down from his defensive position, but Peter teleports in, which startles Jeremy into firing his shotgun. Peter manages to stop time, but about a half-second too late. In one of the cooler “time freeze” shots they’ve ever used, the camera pans from the light emitting from the shotgun around to show Peter’s chest exploding out of his back.
Naturally, this set up a scene in which Noah teaches Jeremy to use his power correctly, save Petrelli’s life, and start down a road of healing. If this leads to Noah as the “Heroes” version of Professor X, I’m all for it. It’s a lot better use of his character than sitting around waiting for Claire on laundry day. This volume has already established that Samuel views Noah as a threat to his plans; why not The Carnival versus Noah’s Army?
“Heroes” needs a war to unify all the storylines it’s established so far. So far, only half of the characters get any semblance of screen time on a given week. It’s easy to forget where certain people stand if you barely see them. Let Samuel and Noah both recruit, let’s use the compass as the central connective tissue between them, and let’s start seeing a few skirmishes before the big throwdown under the Big Top.
Do that, and I’ll be more than cautiously excited about this season. I’ll be downright giddy.
What about you? On board with “Redemption,” or are things as convoluted as a hall of mirrors? Leave your thoughts below!