"The TV's got them images / T.V.'s got them all / It's not shocking!"
Is it becoming a cliché to whine that a Heroes episode was anticlimactic? Although I have to say, doing this blog has made me realize that when it comes to disappointing Heroes episodes, it's not really the individual episode's fault. More often it's because the show spends so much time building tension and setting up plot twists that seem like they're going to pay off promisingly, the show can't help but fail when it comes to delivering the big bang. Think about last year's "Homecoming" episode and all of its "Save the cheerleader" hoopla: Aside from that one nifty scene of Sylar tearing open Jackie's head, the meat of the episode was over in less than three minutes, with Peter doing little more than fall heroically. Then, of course, there was "How To Stop An Exploding Man," whose ludicrously small-scale showdown generated grumbles that are still echoing across the Web. When it comes to making you think something really cool is about to happen, nobody does it better than Heroes. But actually having something really cool happen? That's where it always comes up short, over and over again. Tonight's episode featured two "final showdowns," a big revelation about one character, a major turning point for another, and no less than three joyous reunions–and yet the way the show rushed through them all left me with the same "That's it?" feeling that I got from both of those aforementioned episodes. And as with everything else this season, it all had to do with pacing: Too much time was spent setting these events up, so that by contrast their resolutions naturally felt like an afterthought.
Hiro's confrontation with Kensei was supposed to be dramatic and layered, undercut with the theme of betrayal to which both characters kept explicitly referring. Unfortunately, when it comes to how the two of them "made a good team," as Kensei said, we'll just have to take their word for it, because nearly every scene of the two of them actually fighting together on the battlefield was cut in favor of Kensei getting drunk and acting like an ass, Hiro getting misty-eyed while his voiceover did all the work, or Hiro and the princess frolicking under those damn cherry blossoms. Had we actually seen them working side by side at some point, that swordfight might have been a lot more poignant. Anyway, I'll admit that I misjudged where this arc was headed initially, but not by much. Hiro did indeed have a tearful goodbye with the princess–under those damn cherry blossoms again–after realizing he couldn't possibly be with her, and it did turn out that Hiro was the storybook Kensei all along, which I'm pretty sure we all saw coming from Day One. Hopefully his heroic deeds and the confidence he gained from true love has made his character stronger, else that was an especially egregious waste of time. While last season I was fine with squinty, excitable Hiro as the show's comic foil, it's beyond time for him to grow up a little and develop a more serious side. Hopefully finding his father's murderer will play a role in that.
Or, you know, he could just zip back in time and save him from the rooftop. Either/or.
So onto tonight's big revelation: Those rumors and speculation that Kensei is Adam Monroe? Turns out they were completely true, which would explain why we've been seeing Kensei's "godsend" mark splattered all over the place since the beginning of the show. As Company Bob tells us, Adam/Kensei is an all-powerful hero (clearly, considering he survived that gunpowder explosion and after 400–plus years he doesn't look a day over, uh, 37?) who began to believe he was a God, leading The Twelve to lock him up for good. Now he's pissed, and while using Pa Parkman as his "weapon" didn't exactly pan out, he's also busy manipulating Peter onto his side--which, as we've seen from Peter's recent Locked Box And Two Smoking Stock Characters diversion, ain't all that hard. So anyway, uh, everybody got all that? Everybody just happy to finally be out of feudal Japan? Me too.
Speaking of Pa Parkman, tonight's "climactic showdown" between Parkman and the father who abandoned him also probably would have been a lot more effective had we spent more than 10 minutes of screen time with the guy–and had the whole thing not been wrapped up with such a hokey, Twilight Zone, "This is an incredibly banal nightmare of your own making!" scenario. So Pa Parkman felt so guilty about leaving Matt that he keeps a little room in his head to commemorate it, right down to the brisket and potatoes. Okay, I buy it, and I can dig the pathos, but that doesn't mean Matt should be able to get out just by realizing that he's a good man after all and his father isn't. (And by the way, Matt: Tell that to the wife and kid you abandoned.) We've been talking in hushed tones about The Nightmare Man since last season–you mean a little old-fashioned Catholic guilt was all it took to bring him down?
At least Pa Parkman got a few decent mindfucks in before being packed off to Comaland, giving Niki visions of D.L. that urged her to act as an audience surrogate and beat up Mohinder and try to kill Company Bob. Of course, her former part-time lover Nathan managed to talk her out of it at the last second with a combination of saying Micah's name and his own steely charisma wafting off him like so much Drakkar Noir. Unfortunately, rather than just taking a breather, Niki jabbed herself with a new antidote-resistant strain of the Shanti virus, so now she's doomed for a couple of episodes. "I'm going to die?" she asks Mohinder. No Niki, I'm sure you'll be around to be easily duped for seasons to come. For one thing, I'm not that lucky.
So speaking of dupes, let's talk about Mohinder for a moment: When I interviewed Sendhil Ramamurthy last month, he laughed about the fact that his character had spent so much of the first season being a gullible pawn, and he told me that this season would find Mohinder "pulling a 180" and becoming a "man of action." While I can't argue with that last part–Mohinder has certainly taken to throwing people and chairs around willy-nilly, for whatever that's worth–so far we haven't seen Mohinder do anything but be a gullible pawn, whether it's working with the Company or against it, and it's cost the character the last shred of likeability he had left. Tonight Mohinder took his last step towards being the man holding the gun in Isaac's painting, nose bandage and all, and while it should have marked a dark turn for him, the guy has been getting yanked around for so long that it just felt like one more "Stupid Mohinder!" moment. The idea that he can't buy Bennet's morally gray world anymore is understandable–but why would he trade it for another that's not only equally morally gray but deliberately malevolent about it?
The constant machinations and disinformation are obviously this show's bread and butter, so Mohinder's abrupt character change isn't wholly unexpected, but it does make for a pretty tiring viewing experience sometimes. Don't get me wrong: I like that there are no clear-cut good or bad guys. (Well, except for Peter and Hiro and Sylar. But even those characters could–and probably will–go either way someday.) It sure beats having a new batch of terrorists show up every week for the heroes to band together and defeat, possibly using Hostess Fruit Pies to distract them. But sometimes it gets damned exhausting watching these people stumble through life never knowing whom to trust. It leads the viewers to assume that absolutely everyone is hiding something, so when you find out that they actually are hiding something it's not all that much of a shock. (Cue Jane's Addiction again.)
With that in mind, next week's episode promises answers galore to some of the biggest questions many people have already kinda stopped caring about. By now, knowing the specifics of what happened in midair with Nathan and Peter feels sort of beside the point, doesn't it? We know Peter was rehabbed at the Company, and that he and Adam/Kensei became cellblock buddies. And what's one more damn dark secret in the Petrelli family--and could we maybe get them all out in one big session of sharing this time? Do we really need to know what really happened to D.L.? Will our jaws drop when we find out Darth Veronica is Adam/Kensei's daughter? (Or, you know, whatever.) Will giving viewers what they want a month or so after they stopped wanting it finally turn this sophomore slump around and garner the show its first A of the season? Or have we been conditioned for too long to "expect the unexpected" only to be disappointed by the results? Will Heroes always, always come up short?
To be continued .
-- This is the first time Mohinder has ever even heard of Claire? Really? Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention last season, but I thought he and Bennet at least discussed her at some point.
-- So why doesn't Hiro have to fulfill the legend of Takezo Kensei by facing the dragon and cutting out his own heart? And why haven't any of his actions in the past had ramifications in the future? According to Ray Bradbury (popularly retold in The Simpsons), even stepping on a butterfly could mean grave consequences, so are we supposed to take it to mean that Hiro was meant to do everything exactly the way he did it? If that's true, then how come he even knows about the Kensei Vs. The Dragon story if it never actually happened? Or are we supposed to believe that the princess is going to make the story up based on the story Hiro told her--which is actually her story he hears as a boy, but he wouldn't have heard it if he had never....Gaaah! This whole plotline has made a mockery out of time travel and I hate it hate it hate it!
-- I can't believe I got through this review without talking about Captain Emo wooing Claire with more of his creepy stalking, the two of them cuddling and listening to music on a very prominently displayed Sprint phone, or the fact that he finally found out that Horn-Rimmed Glasses is her father and had (an admittedly hilarious) little hissy fit about it. Oh wait–yes I can; it was just as icky and contrived as all of their scenes together. Hurry up and turn all-the-way evil, Captain Emo, so we can kill you off anticlimactically!
-- So Peter got a little bit of his memory back, only it was all related to his Mom–and yet nothing in those hazily reconstructed scenes indicated anything about what a bitch she supposedly was. From what I could see, it was all smiles and birthday parties. Did she have the Haitian do a little extra digging on him or what?
-- "Where's Caitlin?" "She's from Ireland. All foreigners are deported." Fucking A right! Get back to your virus-ravaged homeland, Betsy O'Barmaid. I'm sure you can channel everything you've been through into some really terrible paintings.
-- Yet another scene of Milo Ventigmilia shirtless and wet. I'm sure some panting Milo Ventigmilia fan in the comments is going to be upset that I didn't give this episode a higher grade based on that alone.
-- Apologies for the somewhat unrelated image with this post. Apparently NBC was so concerned about spoiling tonight's various twists that the only photo they released was this one commemorating the couple with the least chemistry on TV.