I'll say this up front: I'm not a Heroes obsessive. I watch the show every week, but almost as quickly as it enters my brain, it exits. I don't go to the website for webisodes or clues or to learn what color Greg Grunberg's underoos are. I just enjoy Heroes as a trifle, and I pretty much always have. Sure, at the beginning it offered some glimmer of hope that it'd be one of the greats, and it fell from there–but it's still fairly entertaining for me. I can't say the same for your usual blogger, Sean O'Neal, who's deliriously happy that his cable company is feuding with NBC and he can't watch. (Or did he just make that shit up? You decide.) Similarly, Sean' usual pinch hitter, Steve Heisler, thinks that we should give up on covering the show altogether, since most people just seem to gather here to complain about it.
But not me. Either I drew a lucky week or I just have low standards. Tonight's very special episode offered a ton of what Heroes fans are begging for, week after week. (No, not attention from girls.) It offered some answers, even if they weren't answers about the future, but rather about the past. At least it was something in a show that's gotten too comfortable simply sidetracking us, sometimes barely bothering to tease with clues about the main storyline. Nope, this was a breezy hour of revelations. When you think about it, wouldn't the show have been better served spilling all of these "answers" a little bit at a time? Feast or famine, I guess.
So, where to begin You all watched it. You saw that the title of the show was actually listed as Villains tonight. You heard Mohinder's breathy voiceover talking about the mysterious fork in the road that leads to Hero Hood in one direction and Villain Village in the other! You saw the titles that said, "18 Months Ago" and thought to yourselves, "Ahh, I remember when I really liked this show!"
Anyway–Arthur Petrelli, that big heartless bastard, was behind everything. He's the mad genius who loves his wife and kids, but not enough to keep himself from erasing the former's mind frequently and okaying a hit on one of the latter. (Peter he's not worried about. Peter's in nursing school.) I really liked the over-the-top exchange between Nathan and Arthur, I have to say–when Nathan wouldn't agree to back off the evil Linderman, Arthur said, "You look good in a suit." (The subtext being, "You will look good in a box.") And then he cut a rose off the stem. Dang, Arthur. You cold. And what sets his fate in motion? Umm Angela overhearing a conversation about how Arthur put the hit on Nathan. Now c'mon, people. These characters have superpowers, yet they don't know that somebody is in the next room listening? And on top of that, they talk really loudly (and at the earlier party, too) about their various crimes?
But that's not important. What's important is that Angela found out, and confronted Arthur–and even thought about stabbing his narrow ass. But he cooked her brain (did we know he could do that?), and everything would've been fine if only Linderman hadn't found a conscience and healed her. A little bit of poisoned lentil soup later, and Arthur is on the floor. Only nosy Nathan is able to save him, but again, here's a humdinger: Angela doesn't bother to view Arthur's lifeless body. She believes the doc (who's of course under Arthur's spell). And then the whole evil plot is (apparently) set in motion.
Oh hey, I forgot to mention the totally stupid framing device for this show! Instead of just saying we were going to have an all-flashback episode, we're actually in the mind of Hiro, who's hardcore tripping on some of that special African eye-whitener. He's dreaming of all of the action. The only good that came from this, of course, was Arthur's appearance at the end of the show–and the beheaded African. That was pretty badass. That's the way an episode of Heroes should end–with something on the line.
Elsewhere, things got a little moralistic, and we got a show prodding us to ask, "Which ones are the villains, really?" through sobs of regret. We learn that HRG and Elle are basically responsible for creating the evil Sylar, who only needed the love of a beautiful, blue-lightning-equipped girl to keep him in line. Veronica Mars was pretty great at manipulating Sylar, though–which seems strange since she decided to grow and then un-grow a conscience every few minutes. (Okay, I guess that's in keeping with the Sylar storyline.) Not only would Sylar have killed himself without the intervention of the company, he could've easily been saved. And maybe he'll end up being the ultimate hero. Or maybe the show will peter out with no discernable ending after one more season. I guess we'll see.
And then there was Eric fucking Roberts, estranged brother of Julia. His character arrived just in time to tell us some shit we already knew and didn't really care about. Mrs. Flamer is Claire's mom. Yup, knew that. Flint, who shoots blue fire out of his hands, is Mrs. Flamer's brother. Didn't know, didn't care. Mrs. Flamer hates the company because they killed her baby girl. We know they didn't already. So what good was this third of the episode? Not much good at all.
Still and all, though, this episode towered above other recent ones. We actually learned a few things, and it set us up nicely for what's to come. Now if they can get their shit together and actually arc a story properly over a season (or half season), the creators of Heroes can get things back on track. If they can't, this world might be full of Heislers and O'Neals–old fans who had enough. Me, I'm sticking it out in any case, because I'm always at least mildly entertained. If it can give me a little more, I'd appreciate it, too.
-- Elle actually said, out loud, "We've created a monster!"
-- It was nice to see HRG back in ruthless badass mode, setting up the young kid to be murdered by Sylar, just so he could study the tapes later.
-- I'm still not sure how I feel about Robert Forster in this role. He's a little too deadpan to seem all the way evil to me. I keep picturing him in Jackie Brown.
-- Flint's explanation for how he got caught was pretty great: "An invisible man tackled me in the alley!"