Heroes (S03E04): “I Am Become Death”

Grade: C-

It turns out last week’s Heroes was a fluke; an accidental slip back into the realm of goodness. This week launches us into one of Heroes overused fetishes–alternate future stories–and what a mess it is.

If Heroes hadn’t used the future gone terribly awry device multiple times now, what happens four years later in a vision Parkman has out in the African desert might be interesting. The problem is that in the past these alternate timelines never merge with the real ones because our heroes always save the day/the future so that they can envision another terrible future and save it as well. So you know every second of what you’re seeing is meaningless fluff meant for purposes of shock and awe and to drive the story forward. Tonight, the badass Claire from the premiere returned to kill both Peters and we got to see a domesticated Sylar, living in the Bennet’s home with his son, Matt married to the speedster Daphne, and Nathan as, bum bum bum, Mr. President! These would all be pretty drastic revelations if, you know, they actually came to pass, but they won’t. Claire won’t become heartless, Sylar won’t become daddy dearest, and while the other stories might happen, it’s doubtful. The only likely scenario would be Nathan as president, but they’ve been driving at that since season one.

I will say, the writer’s are good at posing interesting questions. The gap of unknown time between how these characters went from who they were to what they’ve become is filled with possibilities. The problem really rises when you realize this gap will never be filled because this future will never be realized. It’s the  writer’s  fanfiction of their own universe, living comfortably alongside what’s really happening and vaguely shaping peoples actions and reactions to events yet-to-be, so they can make sure they stay permanently in that realm.

On the subject of fanfiction: You would think the way these stories and characters are being handled right now that this was a wacky fan work, where random whims and fancies rule over logic and coherence. Only three seasons in and Heroes is recycling its own plots. Not only does it borrow heavily from established comic storylines and characters, but it’s stealing from its own overused pool of ideas now. Time travel, alternate timelines, explosions that destroy the world, etc etc etc. Then, to drive forward the story, they’re employing their arsenal of cheap tricks, the trump cards being Peter and Sylar. As an example: How many times tonight did someone conveniently slip into a trance and paint the future? These guys are doing this as casually as taking a piss nowadays, and it makes everything seem ever so easy, where any struggle comes across as just the writer’s stalling until they can have their overpowered saviors step in and save the day. It’s just lazy, plain and simple, and very obvious.

The episode isn’t all a big “maybe” vision, with Hiro and Ando being held on Level 5 for the majority of the hour, Tracy having a melt down over her ability to freeze up whatever she touches, and present day Mohinder growing stronger, angrier, and scalier by the day. Hiro and Ando sit around angry at each other for awhile until finally semi-reconciling and then forming an escape plan. Conveniently, there’s an air vent in their cell, which, through teamwork, they get Hiro hoisted up into…just in time for the Haitan to walk in. (Side note: So Hiro can figure a way out of a Level 5 cell, but some of the world’s most hardened, super powered bad guys couldn’t? Uh-huh.) Mama Petrelli reveals to them that someone big and bad is behind the scenes, pulling the strings, and that Hiro holds the key to saving everyone. Then there’s Mohinder who does some stuff, but it’s all kind of boring and annoying. The only point of interest is that he’s changing day by day and working rapidly to discover what’s going on with his body. I take back what I said previously about him becoming The Beast. He’s actually becoming The Lizard, from Spider-Man.  Finally, in present “this is actually happening” day, Tracy is caving under the guilt of what she accidentally did to that reporter and turning to Saint Nathan for help. And Nathan himself is still dealing with very touch dilemmas, like what desk to pick out for his office and why he can see a man no one else can. At first the in-head Linderman seemed like a novel, if not ripped off idea (See Battlestar Galactica), but it’s turning out not to work so well. Linderman suggests maybe he’s an angel and puts some crazy ideas into Nathan’s head, like him becoming president, but his sudden religious turn is still seeming forced and contrived.

As for the future: It’s grim. You guessed that already? How? Oh, because the first season was about a future where a city had blown up and the second season was about a future where a virus had wiped out most of mankind. Well, Heroes, you’ve found yourself a nice, comfortable pattern I guess. While I said earlier this future is a vision of Matt’s, it’s also apparently something peter really experiences, traveling there with Future Peter, whose voice is for whatever reason severely lower and gruffer sounding. Guess time traveling does a number on your vocal chords? Anyway, FP takes a bullet early on, compliments of Mascara Fun Claire and her leather clad posse, which includes Daphne. Peter escapes to Mohinder’s lab, where we see a pretty nifty transition from present day to the future as Mohinder’s tape recorder gathers dust and cobwebs with the passage of time. It appears that our mad scientist never found out what was going on with him and stopped recording those silly audio journal entries, because when Peter finds him, he’s slinking around in the shadows in a silly cloak, like a leftover villain from Power Rangers.

Sylar playing house with a son named Noah is a neat scene, in that it’s the furthest distance away from the Sylar we know, but again its just a brief, “fanficcy” snapshot. Uncle Peter comes in without a scar, tipping Noah and his dad off that something is up. Peter explains what’s going down and to make Sylar believe him, he gets him to paint the future. With a convenient painting of an exploding world out fo the way (Man, those things must be littering the city right about now), Sylar agrees to give Peter his powers. The secret? Fixing a watch. Peter repairs Syla’rs broken watch and somehow has the ability to slice open heads and feed on the delicious bowl of Power-Os contained within. Yum! But Claire and Co. show up to crash the party, which she’s maybe slightly entitled to since they are in her old house. It’s never clarified why Sylar is living in her house or who Noah’s mother is, so there is hope they will explore this future timeline more, but even if they do it will probably only be to find some answers and push things forward. When they’re done sapping it of its usefulness, this future will be written out and forgotten and replaced by a new one that’s scarier and filled with more twists.

Long story short, a brawl breaks out in the house ending in Noah’s death, which causes Sylar to go bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. He blows up not only the house, but the whole town. Everyone else escapes, though, and Peter wakes up on a cold, steel table with a crazy Claire hovering over him with a scalpel. She really wants Peter dead, but her daddy (or should she call him Mr. President?) intervenes in a scene that feels strangely reminiscent of the first season, with Peter telling Nathan his intentions may be good, but his means are evil. The argument doesn’t end well, with Peter “Sylaring” his brother, slicing open his head and leaving him for dead. Peter makes a dash back to the present, landing in Sylar’s Level 5 cell and pinning him against the wall. Sylar, with very few options as to how he’s going to escape, pulls the “I’m your brother” card and the episode ends. Oh and future Daphne, whose married to Matt, escapes the explosion, but only lives long enough to make it back home and reveal “I wasn’t…fast…enough” before dying.

The highlights of the episode for me both came near the end. First, when Matt was told to follow his Totem for guidance, which he believes to be a turtle. So he’s following a turtle through the desert and a frustratingly slow pace. The second came right after that, when Hiro and Ando find help in an unlikely place–six feet under. They dig up Kenso, who still has a little bone to pick with Hiro, and ends the episode with, “You son of a–” and a fist flying up to greet Hiro’s face.

If only my fist could meet with the faces of the writers of this show right now, and I could finish his sentence, since’ i’m not bound by network standards. I just hope that moving past this alternate future stuff will bring back the good Heroes from a week ago, but once again Heroes has given me no reason to hold high hopes for it.

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