Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Heroes: "Cautionary Tales"

Illustration for article titled Heroes: "Cautionary Tales"
Illustration for article titled Heroes: "Cautionary Tales"

"Get over your daddy issues and leave us be!"

Oh Angela Petrelli, you ignorant slut: If Heroes were to ever get over its daddy issues, why, we'd have nothing to talk about! What would that even look like–a bunch of well-adjusted heroes using their powers guiltlessly for good without a lot of existential hand-wringing about what it all means? Caped crusaders trading quips while saving the world on a weekly basis? How utterly bourgeois.

No, it's the daddy issues that give Heroes its patina of intellectualism, its hint of depth beneath all the layers of bullshit and beautiful people. And when it works–as with tonight's episode–Heroes really delivers. It's episodes like "Cautionary Tales" that keep people tuning in week after week–not to mention posting snotty remarks about it on the Internet when it disappoints.

But you'll get no snotty remarks from me tonight. (Well, okay, just one: For every commenter who's objected to the moniker "Captain Emo," may I refer you to the scene where West flies Bennet through the clouds crying, "Did she ever really care about me?") The pacing on "Cautionary Tales" was exemplary, juggling three separate storylines that actually mattered, providing big revelations, killing off major players, fulfilling prophecies, and even allowing for some intriguing character development along the way. Let's take each daddy issue one by one.

First, the big one: Claire's daddy Bennet got his bullet through the eye while trying to protect her (and after she told him she hated him), and just as Isaac's painting predicted it came from the barrel of Mohinder's Company-issued gun. We still never got an answer as to why Mohinder and Bennet hooked up in the first place–and tonight Mohinder proved he still, er, had feelings for him by pleading with Bennet to trust him again–but whether it was a result of his "going native" or just his ever-iffy "moral compass," he just couldn't allow Bennet to kill Company Bob. Of course, judging by the look on Mohinder's face as he rode in the back of the Company van, even he probably has no idea what he actually believes anymore or even whether he's making intelligent decisions (he's not). But fortunately–or very, very unfortunately–for him, they managed to revive Bennet with a little bit of Claire's blood, so it probably won't be long before he gets a little closure.

It's a bit of a cop-out, I suppose, to make Claire's blood into this magical life-giving elixir, but admit it: You'd be sad to see Bennet go. His barely suppressed rage and lack of trustworthiness (much like Sylar) often give the show its edge, and that's as much an endorsement of his character as it is Jack Coleman's performance. You spend every scene waiting for the creepy smile to drop and the torturing to start–which usually makes for good television, as it did tonight when he kept Darth Veronica all tied up and soaking wet and…sorry, what was I saying?–and yet he still manages to have profoundly sympathetic moments that somehow cast his actions in a totally understandable light. (And Bennet has taken a bullet twice now for Claire; you can't help but feel for the guy.) Anyway, it would be a shame to lose him, so for once we can be thankful for a little outlandish leap of faith.

As for Hiro's daddy issue, tonight the Squinty Samurai did some growing up, thanks to a few generic words of wisdom from his own father and a surprisingly touching scene where he met his boyhood self. While Hiro tried to take my advice from a couple of weeks ago and prevent his father's murder, tonight he learned (again) that while he cannot change destiny, he can at least cheat it a little bit by getting a peek at the Hooded Killer…who not so surprisingly turned out to be Kensei/Adam, as I (and many of you) had speculated weeks ago. So much for the theories I've seen floating around that he or Pa Parkman somehow manipulated one of the Petrelli boys into doing it. (And come on, did you really think the show would risk one of its two top-tier male characters by turning them into murderers?)

So now that Hiro knows not only that KenAdam is still alive but he's also responsible for his father's death, the glasses have finally come off, and there's definitely a grudge match brewing. And hey, maybe this really-really-for-super-serious-this-time-we-swear showdown between Hiro and KenAdam will finally deliver in every way that all of Heroes' climactic showdowns have disappointed. Or, you know, maybe he'll just get a couple of stabs in before The Toxic Twins accidentally kill KenAdam with one of their regenerative cell-destroying hissy fits. Either way, Hiro's journey towards being a man is closer than ever to being complete, which I couldn't be happier about. I feel like we've just about exhausted the "Hiro finds his inner hero" theme for good. It would be nice to finally see a hint of him becoming the cool, confident Hiro we've seen in the future.

Parkman, meanwhile, seems to be closer than ever to becoming his father, as Angela helpfully illustrated. Speaking of commenter predictions that haven't exactly panned out, I noticed last week that several of you were absolutely convinced that Ma Petrelli possessed powers of persuasion, but tonight Parkman's powers of probing, prodding, and provocation proved…OK, fuck it, it's too late for alliteration games. Parkman's reverb-laden inner voice is the one all the chicks go crazy for, and now he appears to be at a similar ethical crossroads as his former roommate Mohinder (and what of that, anyway? Would it kill Mohinder to pick up a phone?) and worrying if he's doomed to turn out just like dear old homicidal Dad. As we know from "Five Years Gone," it's a slippery slope to evil for Parkman, so it will be interesting to see how he chooses to use this new parlor trick. (Oh, and it would be nice to get some closure on the whole left-his-pregnant-wife/shacked-up-with-a-kid-who's-not-his thing eventually too. Just throwing that out there.) Maybe finding the last woman from the Company photo–now confirmed to be Joanna Cassidy of Blade Runner and Six Feet Under fame, by the way–will be the final piece of Matt's own journey towards self-confidence. God, for a bunch of superheroes these guys are pretty fucking insecure!

It's those daddy issues, of course, and obviously nobody's getting over them any time soon (at least not until half of the screenwriters in Hollywood get over them first). And with only two episodes to go until the Dec. 3 season finale–thanks again, writers' strike!–our own journey appears to be coming to an abrupt end. In retrospect, it was a pretty smart move on Tim Kring's part to break the season up into volumes, otherwise who knows when we would have seen the kind of satisfying resolutions we saw tonight? As we all know, it felt like far too long already. And with that in mind, things can only get more resolve-ier from here, right?

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

- Sorry (or not) for the generic Kristen Bell photo. The NBC publicity department comes up short again.

- So who out there still thinks that KenAdam will turn out to be Mr. Petrelli? It's an intriguing idea, I'll admit, and coupled with certain things–the regeneration handed down through the bloodline to Claire; Angela's talk about the "delusions of grandeur" that the Petrelli men suffered from–it almost makes sense, but after tonight I'm not so sure anymore. In the closer look we got at the Company picture, it seemed as though the elder Petrelli had actual gray hair. So is it just a disguise KenAdam wore to hide his immortality from everyone? And when Parkman forced Angela to tell the truth tonight, how did she manage not to blurt out, "He's my husband!" as well? It's still possible, I suppose, but I'm not sold.

- Speaking of daddies, do you think Darth Veronica is Company Bob's actual biological daughter, or his "daughter" the way Claire is Bennet's "daughter"? And if she's the real deal, who coupled with Company Bob to produce her? That must have been a hell of a lot of dominant genes.

- Looks like I was wrong about Captain Emo turning out to be a bad guy, which just makes me hate him even more. Now the best we can hope for is a brutal, humiliating death. (And no, I don't buy the rampant speculation–particularly in the hollerin' backwoods of the IMDB comment boards–that West will turn out to be Claire's brother. I seriously doubt that NBC is that stupid.) Hey, maybe Company Bob can turn him into a gold statue and give him to Daniel Edwards.

- Did anyone else get teary-eyed during the scenes where Hiro meets little Hiro, or is my wife just a big baby?

- Darth Veronica's surprisingly astute appraisal of Mohinder: "What's your superpower? Punching bag?"

- So if constant cell regeneration eventually makes it to where you never age, does that mean that Claire will forever look like a teenager? Guess Hayden Panettiere should keep plugging away for Neutrogena. Or you know, I hear dolphin blubber keeps skin looking young and fresh. Ba-zing!