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It was recycling day at the Sullivan Bros. circus, and it was recycling day in the writers’ room. Another volume of Heroes, another flashback episode that finally explains the main villain’s mysterious motivation after half a season of plot-tease hints. (See also: Arthur Petrelli in “Villains” and Adam Monroe in “Four Months Ago”, both pale imitations of Season One’s Sylar Origin Story, “Six Month Ago.”) Also, someone’s powers were freaking out for no apparent reason, and the worst character in TV history was resurrected. But before we get all dreary, here’s three reasons why last night’s episode, Brother’s Keeper, was not the worst episode of Heroes ever:
1) The whole gang was here. Every regular cast member appeared last night (okay, minus Ando.) No bi-curious roomies, no synesthetic crushes, no extremely inappropriate old bosses played by Babylon 5 alumni who need to get a better agent. I truly think that every main character who’s not a triplet has some essentially fascinating emotional core, but for most of this season the main characters have been walled into their own lame subplots. The dialogue between Tracy and Claire near the end of the episode was ridiculous (“I’m running off to join the circus!”), but it was nice to see the two characters actually talking about what it’s like having powers, and not complaining about how much they miss having a normal life.
2) Adrian Pasdar was back, finally. He’s one of those mesmerizing TV actors who adds to every line of dialogue fed to him. Nathan Petrelli is a complete mess of a character now, but Pasdar managed to find deep reserves of sadness, confusion, anger, and weariness after learning his true nature last night. “I’m just some random thoughts in a mass murderer’s head,” he said, making every ridiculous word sting. If there’s any character left on the show who deserves his own “Company Man”-style single-character episode, it’s Petrelli. Come on, writers!
3) For every embarrassingly stupid thing the show does with superpowers, every now and then there’s an indelible image straight out of a Grant Morrison comic. We didn’t actually witness the birth of a massively-powerful terrakinetic baby boy, but we did hear his mother’s screams, and we did see the whole building seem to come down around them while the earth moved. Mothers everywhere winced; that’s a tough labor.
Unfortunately, this is Heroes we’re talking about, and every good thing has a counterbalancing dozen bad things. Here’s three reasons “Brother’s Keeper” was the worst episode of Heroes, and maybe of narrative television, ever:
1) Mohinder Suresh. There may be some big Mohinder fans out there, and I urge you to raise your hand so I can fire a rubber band in your direction. Mohinder’s whole character arc is based on doing stupid illogical things and then suffering from the totally natural consequences. See season 3: “Hmm, I wonder what will happen when I inject myself with this highly unstable superpower potion? Oh no, I’m becoming a monster! Who could’ve guessed?” Last night, Mohinder’s plot was even simpler: “I shouldn’t watch this film. I’m watching this film! Boy, I wish I hadn’t watched that film.” Yes, it turns out that Mohinder turned Samuel Sullivan totally crazy with power lust (or something), thereby creating the season’s Big Bad. If Samuel Sullivan has the amazing power to always lurk around the exact right corner, Mohinder Suresh has the equally amazing power to do something totally stupid and then be surprised when it turns out badly. And now he’s alive again.
2) No one’s superpowers made any sense at all. Tracy’s freezing power was out of control, because she was really nervous. Hiro wasn’t sure that he could travel back in time and across space (fortunately for the plot, his brain tumor is in remission), but he managed to travel back eight weeks to one particular hotel room just by looking at a map and thinking really hard. You may remember that Brain Sylar first took over Matt’s body when he was asleep, but this time he just stuck his magic fingers into Matt’s Brain, and Boom! Sylar-Parkman lives! Oh, and then Sylar’s mental imprint got passed back to his old, Petrelli-enhanced body by touching fingers. Except that Nathan was still apparently in control, for some/no reason.
I’m not trying to be an ass, here, but all great science-fiction follows a certain set of rules intrinsic to the particular story. Heroes seems to just make up the rules as it goes along. When Peter touched Nathan’s hand, why did he absorb his flying power? How come he didn’t get the shapeshifting, or the sense-memory? Heck, I was kind of disappointed that he didn’t also absorb Brain Sylar, because then Peter and Nathan could both talk to their own Brain Sylar and the show would turn into a weird avant-garde one-act.
3) The big reveal of the night came when Peter and Nathan discovered real-Nathan’s body. The body was being kept in yet another one of those Heroes storage-factory sets that looks exactly like the Facility level on Goldeneye 64. Why in the name of heaven would they have kept real-Nathan’s body? Who would have wanted there to be even the slightest tiny chance that fake-Nathan would discover his true nature? In a night full of plot holes (Mohinder apparently followed his compass from India all the way to Texas; Hiro put Mohinder in an insane asylum to keep him out of sight for two months, instead of just transporting him forward in time), this one particular plot point was enough to make you throw your TV to the sidewalk.
What’d you think, viewers? Am I being too grumpy demanding that the plot and the characters make sense? Did you enjoy how Robert Knepper played Samuel Sullivan as a completely different person (kind of an angry-young-man, as opposed to the patriarchal mastermind we’ve gotten used to) in the flashback sequences? Did anyone else think that Claire and Tracy were going to kiss? Do you agree with me that Adrian Pasdar could make the phone book sound existential? Is anyone else sick of Hiro saying the words “Evil Butterfly Man?”