Comic book writer Warren Ellis once had a character offer the following truism: “Do you know what twenty superhumans working in concert are capable of? Given a day, twenty superhumans could destroy all life on Earth.” Which makes the superhumans of Heroes feel like the biggest underachievers ever.
Because when they could be, oh I dunno, dominating mankind — or, conversely, helping them — they’re scaring sorority girls, drinking to excess, or running a carnival recruitment drive. I’m just saying, these superbeings have set the bar awfully low.
Here are the three items of note in “Strange Attractors,” a placeholder of an episode if ever there was one:
1. If you’re going to do the four-pretty-girls-in-a-haunted-house bit, and not play it for laughs, then you’d better kill someone. I actually didn’t mind the whole Screamin’ Scavenger Hunt thing — it was a little Hostel-cliched, but it allowed Claire and Gretchen to have a couple of nice moments. I like that they’re not closing the door on their relationship, but not dodging it, either. And Claire’s newly admitted virginity plays into her wanting to keep that door open: she’s never even sampled what love has to offer, let alone know which flavor she’s built to love.
But to have a charnel house run by a homicidal carny exchange student, and not kill either of the nameless girls, feels like a fundamental betrayal of the horror ethos. Especially for a show that kills its extras with glee.
2. Noah never learns. This is a man that’s been screwing with people’s lives for decades — locking them up for simply having abilities — and he’s surprised when his efforts to help Jeremy the Good/Bad Touch Boy fall short. Jeremy’s story is a sad one — and one that is clearly meant to evoke the lives of small-town kids who grow up under the heel of small-town ignorance. Noah tries to get Jeremy out of jail (he did kill his parents) and set him up, alone, in DC — going so far as to bring Tracy down to Georgia to assist. But as soon as Jeremy steps out of the police station, he accidentally kills a man. One of the deputies, explaining to Jeremy that he’s “not normal,” takes him to the edge of town and proceeds to drag him behind his car — bringing to mind some of America’s more brutal hate crimes.
It’s a well-modulated metaphor — even if X-Men comics have been equating having powers with being a repressed minority for decades. But then there was the following exchange between Tracy (who’s clearly gonna join Samuel’s carnival crusade) and Noah:
“Do we have to be invisible? You ever think we could just live, Noah? Out in the open.”
“After today? No.”
“After today?” What about about after all of last season, when people with abilities were hunted by their government, assisted by Noah? Or after most of Noah’s adult life, which he devoted to imprisoning would-be heroes or villains or erasing their memories? Or hasn’t Noah been present for that?
3. Head Sylar is screwing with Matt. And screwing Matt’s wife. And I can’t bring myself to care. Firstly, it’s never been adequately explained to me just how Sylar’s personality ended up in Matt’s head when it was, according to the show, simply overwritten by Nathan Petrelli’s. Secondly, watching a fat dude drink by himself does not a good television episode make. “Let’s quiet those voices, shall we?” If I wanted to watch that, I’d turn on my own damned webcam. Thirdly…ah, who cares. Just kill Parkman already, so we can move on. So something can happen. Because I’m tired of waiting.
Heroes had made some interesting progress up until this week — never entirely on-point, but each of the last three episodes had something to recommend, some novel treatment of what could’ve been pablum. Tonight? Not so much. Heroes had better deliver…big and soon. What do you think?
Image Credit: Adam Taylor/NBC