Promising start to this week’s Heroes, with Nathan doing the narration instead of Mohinder and then telling Linderman, "You know what would make me happy? Some straight answers." You and me both, man.
Actually, Heroes has never been stingy with answers to the questions it raises; that sense of narrative momentum was one of the things that made the show such a fun ride in its early episodes. The momentum is still there, but alas it’s in service of something less exciting now. And so the promising start didn’t really lead to a fantastic finish.
These spoilers won’t stab their best friend.
Early on in Monday’s episode, we learned that Linderman isn’t just appearing to Nathan — he’s also giving orders to speedster Daphne from the headquarters of the Pinehearst Company in Fort Lee, N.J., and telling her that he needs to recruit more special folks like herself so they can help shape a better world. So is he really alive, or what?
By episode’s end, we discover that, no, Linderman is not alive, and in fact is just a projection from the mind of one Maury Parkman, who’s working for … Arthur Petrelli, who is, in fact, alive (you’ll recall that way back in the series’ first couple of episodes, Angela mentioned her husband had committed suicide) and looking a lot like Robert Forster. (The revelation was dampened somewhat by hearing his voice in the coming attractions last week.) Seeing the elder Parkman is a fair enough explanation for Linderman’s presence, and why Nathan and Daphne, who’s not so sure how collecting a group of bad guys will help make a better world, are so willing to listen to him: He’s doing the voodoo that Parkman men do, and he wants his son in on the action as well.
That’s all fine, and a perfectly plausible-for-Heroes continuation of the generational theme from last season. What really bugged me about this episode — and what really bugs me in general about the show — was crystallized in something the recently decoffined Adam Monroe said as Hiro explained that the formula is the reason for pulling Adam out of his grave.
"The formula? I knew it would come back to bite them in the ass," Monroe says. "Even I told them to destroy it."
And there, folks, is your problem. "We wouldn’t have a story arc otherwise" is not a good enough reason for your characters to behave so stupidly. Yeah, it was super-dumb of Hiro to pull his father’s half of the formula out of the safe. But is that any dumber than the Company elders not simply destroying the formula? When the Company had its attack of conscience 30 or so years ago and decided to stop artificially inducing special powers in people, what was the point of cutting the piece of paper in half and sending it to opposite ends of the earth? "Plot device" doesn’t count, or shouldn’t.
At least, in all this discussion of the formula, we did get some useful information about how it was used initially. We already knew that Tracy was a product of one of these experiments, along with her sisters Niki and (the still unseen) Barbara. Angela also reveals that Nathan got his powers through chemistry, so stay tuned for the new senator’s coming crisis of faith. Seems Arthur Petrelli was upset that his first-born didn’t carry the special DNA, so they went ahead and added it after the fact. Thanks, Dad!
Claire also got a healthy taste of disillusionment after seeing that her adoptive dad’s job is not quite as black and white as she had believed all this time. I don’t know if it’s just residual affection for Andre Royo from The Wire or the fact that he’s just a really good actor, but he elevated a standard innocent-man-on-the-lam story (OK, he’s not entirely innocent, but probably also not deserving of indefinite imprisonment in Level 5) into something that was pretty affecting, particularly as he opted to black-hole himself out of this world rather than kill another man.
We’re seeing what are probably Claire’s first steps toward becoming the dark-haired assassin we’ve seen in the flash-forwards this season, as she discovers her father associating with the likes of Sylar — who can’t resist driving a wedge between father and daughter — and doing some morally questionable things in his quest for justice. I almost think this might be more interesting if we hadn’t already seen the end result, but I’m still curious to see what the tipping point is for her.
Other notes from "Angels and Monsters":
- I guess I was supposed to be more shocked by Hiro stabbing Ando and then casting his lot with Knox and Daphne, but my reaction was along the lines of, "Huh. He actually stabbed him." That’s partly because Hiro can always blink back in time and change the outcome, and partly because Hiro’s willingness to kill his best friend from so far out in left field — despite an earlier allusion to heroes having to make sacrifices — that it hardly seems like it’s going to take.
- That said, Hiro also got the best line of the episode, as Adam explained the crappy bar they entered was the place to hire out a "special": "Like the cantina. I never knew such a place existed."
- Why, exactly, is Suresh keeping people like his abusive neighbor and a Central Park drug dealer and Maya in webby-cocoony things in his lab? He makes some vague reference to his research, but that seemed more like an attempt at placating Maya than anything. I’m pretty well done with Suresh, though, so I’m not going to waste much mental energy on it.
- Also not caring too much about Meredith’s entanglement with the puppet-master dude, although I’ll give the writers credit for coming up with a pretty creepy sort of ability for the guy.
What did you think of this week’s Heroes? Wouldn’t you just shred the formula, or burn it, or something easier than keeping its two halves separated by thousands of miles?