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Marc Bernardin was so traumatized by last week’s spooky-scary sorority hazing that he had to take the week off. (That’s completely untrue.) While he’s off, I’ll do my best to guide you through last night’s Heroes, which managed to be the least bad episode of the season so far, but only by turning the clock back to the salad days of late 2006.
Back then, it seemed like Heroes got better, darker, and twistier with every episode. Characters died constantly, and besides Claire, they stayed dead. A cast fatality can make for game-changing plot twist: 24’s season 5 killed off a couple of main characters in the first three minutes, and the result was the show’s best season. Of course, it can also be ruinous: 24’s season 6 off Curtis and half of Los Angeles, and the result was the show’s worst season.
To a certain extent, then, last night’s Heroes was a cowardly embarrassment, an admission that the show needs to revive minor characters from three seasons ago in order to be exciting. But it also felt attuned to the fans in a way that the rest of the season hasn’t. After all, we all want the show to go back to season 1.
Full props to Jayma Mays, taking a break from Glee to resurrect Charlie. She managed to make Masi Oka seem not-bored for the first time in years. It’s not Oka’s fault; for years now, Hiro’s been an unplayable mess of emotions (He’s heroic! He’s goofy! He’s dying!) Seeing the two of them playing off each other was great. You can believe that Charlie, the nerd-goddess-next-door, could actually fall in love with Hiro.
Also great in the episode was Sylar. Specifically, season 1 Sylar, before mindwipes and bouts of powerlessness reduced him to two separate bad characters. (There’s a long, sad road between the grinningly malevolent villain we saw last night and last week’s embarrassing “Alcohol, my only weakness!” fakeout.) Hiro had to make a deal with Sylar in order to save Charlie, and although the stakes never really got too high with their Faustian bargain, seeing these two old enemies play off each other was fun.
Perhaps worried that the Sylar-Hiro-Charlie story line was too entertaining, the creators also included an unnecessary subplot about season 1 Noah Bennet, back when we only knew him as Horn Rimmed Glasses. (Discussion question: Was the revelation of HRG’s real name the last great moment in Heroes history? If memory serves, it happened right before the deeply unsatisfying Kirby Plaza showdown, which really would have been better if at least two characters had died.)
Turns out that Noah had an affair of the heart with a coworker, played by Law & Order casualty Elisabeth Rohm. Rohm’s character made no sense (a typical scene, paraphrased: “We’ll save your daughter! But first, kiss me!”) Still, I thought she made a good match for Noah, if only because it’s exciting to see him do anything besides the Tragic Father bit. And the unexpected end to this subplot introduced the phrase “Going Haitian” into the national lexicon.
Robert Knepper’s Samuel spent the episode doing what he’s done all season: lurking in the shadows, twiddling his mustache, and reading a recap of the first three seasons of Heroes via the tattoo lady’s omnisciently-inked back. He hung out with Hiro in Charlie’s coffee shop, and offered helpful advice, like “This place is a minefield. One mistake here and it’s kablooey history!” (He was right: by my count, three separate timelines were crossing over each other. Thank god for string theory!)
The very end of last night’s episode cast some light on just why Samuel is such a shady fellow. He trapped the rescued Charlie somewhere in time, and will only tell Hiro where and when if Hiro can fix Samuel’s past. But what does Samuel have to fix? Flashback to eight weeks ago. Samuel is telling someone he’s sorry. The camera pans over to… DEAD MOHINDER SURESH! OMFG! OMFG! I’ve been loudly screaming at the television set to kill Mohinder Suresh for years now, and at last, TV listened. Hooray for cast fatalities! Of course, now it seems like the plot going forward will be about saving Mohinder’s life, which is officially the worst idea Heroes has ever had.
Did you enjoy the trip to better days, viewers? Didn’t Claire look great back in her cheerleading outfit? Wasn’t Ando’s hair better back then? Or was this just more flogging of a dead horse? Certainly, we can all agree: if the show killed off half its current cast, it could only be better. In fact, if it killed off everyone except the Haitian and gave him his own spin-off, “Going Haitian,” it could only be better.