Without his powers, Sylvar becomes a truly frightening bad guy, while the heroes merely get played or waste our time

By Marc Bernardin
Updated November 28, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Mitchell Haaseth

”Heroes” recap: The good side of evil

I know I’ve said previously that I thought that having Sylar back as a villain this season was a mistake. That he was just too much same-old, same-old. Is it too late for me to take that back? Because something became clear to me when watching this episode: that the villains, as they are right now, are more interesting than the heroes.

Let’s look at Sylar (a.k.a. Gabriel, or He With the Crazy Hawk Eyebrows). In the first season, he was little more than a glorified serial killer (at this point, so many years after Red Dragon, the most boring of antagonist types), hacking his way through people he found ”special” and taking little trophies, their powers, to remember them by. He was a blunt storytelling instrument, but effective. (It fell to H.R.G. to be the complex sharp instrument.) And when Sylar was reintroduced this season, he was just a retread of his old zombie-ish self: ”Want power! Need brains!

But now, Sylar is operating like a man without one of his senses, and the other four are working overtime to compensate. Given the absence of his powers, he’s forced to rely on other methods of control. He’s manipulative, scheming, cruel, and, for the first time, interesting. He’s got to work his nefarious mojo with just his intellect and all-consuming malice. (Granted, he’d be an even better bad guy if he had a reason for acting the way he does, beyond ”my mommy was mean to me.” His lack of motivation — pardon the actor-y phrase — is what keeps him from ascending to the pantheon of villainy.) Such a promising turn of events for a character that had been stuck in the muck — though, if one judges by the coming attractions, Sylar is going to get his powers back. And we’re back to square boring.

While we’re in Sylarville, I suppose we need to talk about the Wonderless Twins. (At least I won’t have to call them that anymore.) It’s probably best not to ask how they got from the Mexican border to Virginia; I guess time does fly when you don’t care what happens. But I’d love for someone to explain to me exactly how Maya figured out how to control her power. Why could she do it this time? Because she didn’t want Sylar to die? I guess she never felt bad, then, about the other hundred or so people she hit with the ol’ black eyes. It just doesn’t track, that’s all. But the way Sylar played the two of them off each other — and then dusted Alejandro before macking on his sister — was inspired.

And Adam Monroe/Takezo Kensei: He’s a man who knows how to do the manipulative and do it well. He has had 400 years’ worth of practice. Even though the writers could’ve done a swell job of manipulating our perception of Adam but didn’t, watching him twist Peter around his immortal little finger has been a perverse thrill. (And Peter’s become such of a himbo this year, hasn’t he? Pretty, buff, and vacant. In the first season, his guiding star was the belief that he knew how to save the world. He knew it, no matter what anyone said. Now, he’s trying to persuade people like rogue biological engineer Victoria Pratt to help him because there’s some Irish broad stuck in the future. Way to lower the stakes, Heroes guys.)

Adam works as a villain in a way that Sylar fundamentally doesn’t. Adam wants to unleash strain 138 and destroy the world because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. He has for decades, centuries, maybe. Now that, people, is motivation. That’s a unifying principle. Plus, he’s wicked smart.

NEXT: Is this cheerleader worth saving?

Too bad the heroes didn’t make as good a showing as the villains. Claire spent a good amount of time grieving for her father. Which would’ve been far more affecting if we still thought he was dead. (And I know I said I dug that popping-up-from-the-grave twist at the end of last week’s episode, but if I knew they were heading into the mopey grief zone, I’d have advised that they keep us as invested in Noah’s death as Claire is.) Claire found the woman indirectly responsible for her father’s demise, and all she did was punch out a window and threaten to call the press? Call me shallow, but I’d want some righteous payback in the form of a busted-up Electra-Lass.

I’m not even gonna mention Suresh anymore. He’s just so monumentally stupid that I can’t waste my time chronicling his inane decisions. (Like, why is he living in the same decor-by-Seven apartment that Sylar almost killed him in? With his new ”daughter”? Because it’s good for kids?)

And New Orleans. Poor, poor New Orleans. This is the story line such a legendary city gets? Before I get into my problem with Monica and her lame-ass power, I want to take a moment to point out a little exchange that underscored one of the reasons this show frustrates me. Micah showed off the ”valuable” comics, explaining to Monica why some crime fighters tool around in masks. And she said, ”That’s why Clark Kent wears those glasses.” Jeez, what a fundamental misunderstanding of the Superman mythos. Not to get all Tarantino on their asses, but the glasses aren’t Clark Kent’s disguise, Clark Kent is Superman’s disguise. Kal-El arrived on Earth as a super human. His costume is made of the swaddling he was ”packed” in. When he lets down his guard, he’s Superman, not the other way around. It’s a small thing, I know, but given that this is a comic-book-oriented television show, Your Honor, this goes directly to credibility.

If I found out that I could do anything by watching it once, I’d spend every waking moment watching everything. I’d pull a Neo: ”Whoa…I know kung fu.” I’d do that just in case I found myself on the losing end of a crappy plot twist that involved me breaking into a gangbanger hideout to steal a backpack full of comics (and, yes, a medal) and getting jumped by said bangers. I’d do that so I didn’t get tossed in the back of a mysterious van like Kim Bauer from 24 with little more than double Dutch up my sleeve.

The verdict? The quality of the villainy outweighed the tepidity of the heroes. Not a bad week, but if next week’s episode is the last of volume 2, I sense another super-rushed finale that leaves me wanting more.

What do you think? What does Bob plan on doing with Bennett? Who’ll die next week? (C’mon, Mohinder!) And will Nichelle Nichols ever actually get anything to do?