As another villain supplants the one we've come to love to hate, we find our heroes doing things that seem eerily familiar

Heroes (TV series)

‘Heroes’ recap: As the world burns

It’s hard work, creating a villain. Really. Finding the right balance of malice and charisma, of danger and desire, is no easy feat. He’s a character the audience has to be able to love to hate — otherwise he’s a turnoff. And when you’ve got your Big Bad firing on all cylinders, he’s a tougher character to keep viable, more so than your hero. If he’s too vile, he’s not fun, but he’s got to keep applying real pressure on the protagonist in new and different ways. TV villains are so hard to create that I’ll wager you can’t name five terrific bad guys, ones that have been a consistent pain in the tuchis to the show’s hero (and ones that didn’t get ported over from another medium — so no Lex Luthor). Spike on Buffy. Ben on Lost. The Cigarette-Smoking Man on The X-Files. From there, I start to draw blanks. But you may be smarter than I am. (And, yes, I just opened the door wide. Go to town.)

Which is why Sylar was such an amazing writing and performance achievement. In the hands of Zachary Quinto, he was consistently viable for a good long time. Never mind the cheerleader: He was the engine that drove Heroes in the first season, and he was so strong he weathered the ridiculousness of the second season with admirable fortitude. And then we came to the third season, in which Sylar looked like he was being recast as a hero, an interesting gamble for a character who’d been so evil for so long.

And they might have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling Petrellis.

Once Angela and Arthur came into Sylar’s life, revealing that he was indeed Gabriel Petrelli, brother to Peter and Nathan, the scourge of the civilized world became an obedient mama’s boy. First, he’s ordered around like a lapdog by Angela (”Go save Peter from his own stupidity,” ”Go be Noah’s arresting-escapees partner,” ”Go get me a cookie”), and now he’s easily swayed by Arthur, whose entire argument is ”I’m not an evil bastard, she’s an evil bitch.” Gabriel has, essentially, become the pawn/subject of a custody battle. Heroes has taken its most potent character and turned him into Drew Barrymore in Irreconcilable Differences.

Comic-book storytelling has long carried some of the same touchstones as soap operas (never more apparent than during Chris Claremont’s groundbreaking 16-year run on the Uncanny X-Men, which wrapped up in 1991): long, internecine, interlocking tales with a large roster of characters, many of whom would fall in love with each other in between adventures of seeming galactic importance. That’s the nature of the serial story beast. But it wasn’t until tonight that Heroes began to feel less like a comic book and more like Falcon Crest. Tracy said it best, when trying to understand Claire’s complicated parentage: ”He?s the biological father of your illegitimate daughter and you?re the adopted father.” Suddenly, everyone on this show is related — and that’s just silly. All we need is Lorenzo Lamas or Charlene Tilton, and we’ve got ourselves a nighttime soap. Heck, we even had a girl fight — between Claire and Elle — in which one of them was doused in water.

NEXT: More of the same

As for the events of this episode, we saw a lot of stuff we’d already seen before. In order to get Knox off his back, Parkman tricks the fearmonger into believing that he and Daphne are dead…kind of like when Hiro convinced Knox that he killed Ando. In order to save a girl he loves, Mohinder (always the paragon of judgment) agrees to get all science-y for a company that clearly wants to do bad things…exactly like the time Mohinder got into bed with Primatech to save Molly. And Hiro is pulling a Parkman, going on a ”spirit walk” with Bagger Vance and getting prophetic nuggets like ”the dark son rises and soon it will be too late.”

I think I’m going to reverse my previous position on the effectiveness of Robert Forster as Arthur Petrelli. The thing that I like about him in that role is that he seems like he’s in a rush. As if he were out of it for so long that he’s in a hurry to make up for lost time. He casually kills Maury Parkman with a look that says ”This is keeping me from the stuff I really want to do.” I can appreciate that the producers wanted a different shade of soullessness from this villain. I only wish that, at the end of the day, he didn’t resort to ”Join me, and together we will rule the universe as father and son.”

Gotta say, I’m pretty glad that Matt wasn’t all broken up over his father’s death. I know it’s a cruel thing to say, but I’m impressed that he didn’t teddy-bear up when Daphne broke the news. Maury Parkman was, by every yardstick you can use to measure a man, a bastard. Matt’s still too huggy a guy in general, but he showed some steel there.

Finally, we’ve got Claire and Elle, the sisterhood of the traveling blondes, off to see the wizard. One needs to feel, the other needs control, and they’ve both got really good teeth. Seriously, when they were frying the friendly skies, there was this moment when Kristen Bell looked at us, and it was as if she had stolen Joe Biden’s teeth. I’m having trouble remembering what it is that Claire wants this year, as it seems to change every episode. First she wants to bury her head in the sand after her assault. Then she wants to hunt down the Level 5 escapees. Now she wants to talk to whoever at Pinehearst can give her back the pain. I get that she’s a teenage girl, but it’d be great if she kept a task in her mind for at least a couple of days.

This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been waiting, patiently, for a show that I watch on a weekly basis to take a break. I’m kinda glad that Heroes isn’t on next week — because I’m tired. I’m tired of so much happening on this show, and none of it amounting to anything. Yes, I’m sure that the producers would tell us that everything is building to something, that what we’ve been getting is the foundation for as-yet-unrevealed awesomeness to come. But, you know, I need the journey to be just as interesting, if not more so, than the destination. But, hey, I’m funny that way.

What did you think? Did Gabriel really cushion Peter’s seven-story fall? Is Gabriel, like Daphne, playing the double agent? Is Nathan gonna get his power snatched from him by dear old Dad as well? Is Maya really and truly gone? Can we all dance the dance of joyous victory? Yes, I think we can.

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Heroes (TV series)
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