[Since NBC's perpetually iffy publicity database appears to be on the fritz again, I'm afraid we'll have to make do with the image above–which come to think of it, looks about 10 times more fun than Heroes has been lately.]
Wow, what an awesome season premiere, am I right?
Unfortunately, it came about six weeks too late to stave off the sophomore slump Heroes has been suffering through, and in my opinion all the time-shifting trickery we've been gamely putting up with in the meantime actually lessened its impact, just as I was afraid it would. I've been holding out hope for weeks now that "Four Months Ago" would somehow make it all pay off–to demonstrate why it was necessary to uproot the plotline so egregiously and scatter everything to the wind–and tonight, sad to say, I was proven wrong. Despite the fact that jumping ahead gave certain characters (Sylar, Nathan) time to comfortably convalesce off-screen without killing the pace, after tonight I really don't see what the point was of screwing with us for so long. Apparently, the past four months played out almost exactly like they did in our heads, right down to the ridiculously expository, mid-air conversation between Peter and Nathan that sounded like a direct response to all those uppity web commenters insisting that Peter could have just flown away on his own. Never mind that it was the first great action sequence we've seen this season; that's the stuff I was dying to see all summer–giving it to me now is like giving me the chemistry set I asked for (and never received, Mom!) in second grade. Yeah, um thanks, but now I've got bills to pay and stuff.
And don't tell me that flashing forward heightened the drama: Would it have been any less effective, for example, for us to learn that Adam is actually Kensei concurrently, with both Peter and Hiro meeting him in their respective timelines? Who knows–it might have added a much-needed relevance to all of the feudal Japan scenes that would have saved them from feeling like a deliberate distraction. And while Darth Veronica's introduction would have lacked the ham-fisted "mystery" of her earlier appearance in Ireland, either way we're still pretty much in the dark about her other than knowing she's a lifer over at the Company (I'm still not convinced Company Bob is her actual dad; I kind of got the impression she was being sarcastic in that phone conversation), she's got sadomasochistic tendencies, and she likes having imprisoned pretty-boys to play with. Oh, and Kristen Bell is still super hot. (That's the last time, I swear.)
As for finding out how Peter arrived in Ireland with his memory wiped, did anybody not already piece together that the Haitian was involved? Him doing so out of loyalty to Peter's mother is interesting (we still don't know exactly what she did to "help" him in the past, right?) but all in all, seeing the various tumblers click into place as Peter found his way–shirtless again!–into the shipping crate wasn't nearly as satisfying since we already know how his Oirish Adventure plays out. It didn't have any direct effect on the present day storyline–it just filled in a few gaps that most of us had already figured out for ourselves–so as it is, the whole "Four Months Later" thing ended up looking like an experiment designed to create an artificial build-up of suspense, not anything that was crucial to the storytelling. And why you gotta play me like that, Heroes?
[By the way, if you don't agree with me, you should probably stop right now and read this illuminating mea culpa from Tim Kring about why even he thinks his show is disappointing this season. One big reason? "We took too long to get to the big-picture story." I couldn't have said it better myself (except I already did). Good thing the writers' strike came along, Tim. With plenty of time on your hands–and no more talk of Heroes: Origins–maybe you'll be able to take some of your newfound humility and apply it.]
Of course, "Four Months Ago" did have one revelation that I don't think anyone saw coming, namely that D.L. didn't die as a result of the wounds he sustained in Linderman's office, and in fact he, Niki, and Micah got to have some semblance of happiness (for at least a couple of months). While I really would have liked to have seen he and Niki dealing with learning that their whole lives were engineered solely to create Micah (seriously, are we ever going to get a resolution to that?), I found their attempt to put it all behind them and blend into normal society surprisingly sympathetic, especially the sight of Niki in that hideous blazer running through prefabricated car salesman lines. And since we already knew D.L. was gone in the present day, there was a palpable sense of dread as to how he would die, which gave the episode its only real sense of foreboding. Would the Company spot his fireman heroics on the TV and come after him for killing Linderman? Would Niki lose her grip on Jessica after pouring her stabilizing but emotionally numbing pills down the drain and kill D.L. in a fit of rage?
Well, no. Actually some anonymous L.A. douche (resembling a swarthier version of American Idol's Constantine) would improbably gun D.L. down in a crowded club after Niki–lost in her new bubbly cokewhore personality Gina–ditched him on the dance floor. Gee, that was irrelevant.
Elsewhere we learned how Adam and Peter became fast friends (surprise: they talked!) and how The Toxic Twins discovered their special plague powers (surprise: Maya got upset and then everyone died!), plus we got a look at what Nathan's exposure to all of Peter's nuclear radiation did to his face. Wait, in truth we already knew that too. So what did we learn tonight? Well, we learned that if "Four Months Ago" had instead been titled "The Minute Peter And Nathan Flew Away In The Season Finale" and had premiered on September 25, it probably would have garnered an "A" from me. But for essentially proving that it's been needlessly wasting viewer goodwill by toying with the timeline in an effort to create drama that was barely there in the first place–not to mention resurrecting D.L. after what was one of the show's truly heroic sacrifices, only to have him pointlessly killed off-screen by a complete stranger with no bearing on the story–I'm not really in the mood to slap Heroes on the back and welcome it home just yet.
-- Things we did NOT learn from tonight's "all will be revealed" flashback: How exactly Mohinder and Bennet became allies; what happened between Parkman and his wife; how the Haitian ended up back in Port-au-Prince with the virus; or who orchestrated Sylar's rescue. But thanks for filling us in on how Peter got his haircut!
-- So Adam's blood has the power to cure, same as Claire's and Mohinder's I love how this show just has people shoving their blood into each other all willy-nilly.
-- How did D.L. manage to locate Niki in that club based solely on her scrawled "Goin' To L.A.!" lipstick message? Parkman had to put Molly into a coma in order to track down his own father and he can read minds. [Credit for this observation goes to my wife.]
-- So the "dark Petrelli secret" hinted at in last week's preview turned out to be a lie Angela told to ruin Nathan's marriage. I forget–are we supposed to sympathize with this character or not?
-- Micah: "We can be like the Fantastic Four!" If only, kid.
-- Anybody want to join my new punk-funk band, The Haitian Pills?