Say this for Monday’s Heroes: At least it didn’t repeat the "Several Months Ago" structure of the back story-revealing flashback episodes from seasons one and two. And we got to see a few previously unknown connections between some of the characters. But what, exactly, are we supposed to take away from "Villains"?
These spoilers go well with peach pie.
We knew Arthur Petrelli was a bad guy already. We’ve been learning that Sylar’s thirst for new powers is as much addiction as eeevilness. And we knew that Meredith harbors some resentment toward Primatech because of Claire. Why we needed to have that reiterated to us in an hour of flashbacks — courtesy of Hiro’s spirit walk — escapes me a little bit.
Some of the episode’s details were mildly interesting: Arthur Petrelli "died" because Angela poisoned him after discovering that part of his plan involved killing Nathan. Bad-guy firestarter Flint is Meredith’s brother, and the poor sucker thought he was being recruited when Company agent Thompson (a returning Eric Roberts) captured him — apparently with Claude’s help (Flint says something about an invisible man tackling him outside the store he and Meredith were robbing). HRG and Elle used to work together, and apparently Elle used to be kind of nice.
But I really felt like the episode was just showing us things Heroes has already shown us this fall (clever title cards aside), and other than the filling in of those details, nothing much was accomplished. We’re no closer to understanding, for instance, why it is that Arthur wants to give everyone powers and why that will then bring about the end of the world, which is kind of the point of this arc. There has to be a way for this show to do flashbacks that doesn’t kill whatever momentum had been building in prior episodes.
Enough of my bellyaching. Onto the specifics…
Petrelli family: The chyron informs us that the Petrelli-related flashbacks take place "18 months ago," which is good they depict events we saw in season one’s "Six Months Ago" — i.e., six months before the events of the pilot — and the other stories, set "one year ago," show events from the pilot. So at least the chronology makes sense.
At a party for Arthur and Angela’s 41st anniversary, we learn that the Petrelli-Linderman plot to blow up New York involves killing Nathan (so I guess the part where Nathan becomes president in an alternate future was an audible Linderman called after Arthur’s non-death). It was Arthur, we learn, who sicced the goons on Nathan and his wife, causing the accident that paralyzed her.
Angela learns all this and is justifiably horrified, but Arthur wipes her mind. Linderman, allowing that he still has some scrap of decency left in him, heals the scar tissue that Arthur’s handiwork leaves on her brain, and the memory comes flooding back. Uh-oh. One poisoned bowl of lentil soup (and one Haitian) later, Arthur is presumed dead. And, of course, knowing what we know now, we know that the doctor who pronounces him is really just Arthur’s mind-manipulated puppet. The good doctor does inform Arthur, though, that the poison Angela gave him affected his nervous system in such a way that his paralysis is likely permanent.
(Side note: I guess we’re to think that Arthur just happened to have the mind-reading power on his own, rather than taking it from Maury Parkman. Because as we’ve seen, when Arthur takes a power it stays took, and Maury was using his on Daphne and Nathan earlier this season.)
Sylar and Elle: Six months have passed between Gabriel Gray killed telekinetic Brian Davis. He apparently hasn’t killed again, but the thought of what he did to Brian is consuming him. He tries to hang himself, but Elle walks in and zaps the rope in two.
Elle, it turns out, is working with HRG to track and observe Gabriel (he wasn’t quite Sylar yet) to see how he’s able to transfer abilities from someone else to himself. HRG is going all Marlin Perkins on the assignment, talking about the need to observe Gabriel "in the wild" to get a real glimpse of what he does. Elle is less enthused, arguing that Gabriel can be stopped from killing again and really, he’s just a nice guy in a bad situation. Aww, she likes him.
Fine, but how is Elle this sweet and well-adjusted? She’s been humanized a bit in the past few present-day episodes of the show, but the picture we see of her here doesn’t jibe with the unhinged, gleefully malevolent bad girl we first met last season. I don’t think watching Gabriel/Sylar get pushed into killing finger-gunning Trevor (lamest power ever?) was really enough to send her over the edge. Oh, and HRG got in Suresh’s cab right after Peter got out. Mmm, continuity.
Meredith: We find her with brother Flint, robbing a convenience store (does this woman run with a tough crowd or what?) in Memphis, until the Company’s Thompson shows up. Flint, unaware of what’s going on, makes a run for it, but Meredith just gets a resigned look on her face like she was kind of expecting to get caught.
Thompson offers her a choice: sit in a fireproof cell for a really long time, or join up with the Company. Meredith wants to make sure her brother will be safe, but Thompson reminds her that she’s not really bargaining from a position of power. So join she does, and her first assignment goes swimmingly as she helps Thompson bring in a guy who can turn his fist into metal (a way cooler ability than finger-gun boy).
But then she finds Flint cooped up in a cell, and although he’s under the impression that he, too, will be joining the Company ranks, Meredith knows better (sort of; Thompson seemed open to the idea of training him) and busts him out. Thompson tracks the siblings to a train, and a firefight ensues, and boom goes the boxcar. And wouldn’t you know, the train derails in just the spot where Claire-of-the-pilot can run in and save the firefighter, while up on the overpass above Thompson and Meredith are talking about her.
He lets Meredith go — an action that, again, doesn’t quite fit with the cold-blooded guy we saw in his season one arc. More to the point, though, why did we need to spend a third of the episode on this?
After all the flashbacking, Hiro wakes up from his spirit walk and is all fired up to go warn the Petrellis that Arthur is alive. Until he and Ando hear a scream, and find spirit guide Usutu has literally lost his head (eww). It’s the very much alive Arthur Petrelli, who lays his hands on Hiro’s head and says, "I understand you’ve been dreaming about me." Hiro screams, and it’s "To Be Continued" time.
Maybe the "continued" will get us a little closer to explaining Arthur’s plans.
Did tonight’s Heroes flashbacks provide you with big information, or did it just feel like the show was spinning its wheels a little?