Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Heroes Volume Three, Chapter Ten: The Eclipse, Part One

As an eclipse looms, Arthur Petrelli sketches prophetic doodles of doom. He orders nauseating lovebirds Sylar and Elle to find Claire so Mohinder can use her as the catalyst in his formula. Meanwhile, Mohinder conducts an autopsy on the test subject he snuffed last episode. Mohinder’s own transformation is accelerating--he’s developed a hacking cough, and the scaly crud has spread over his hands and face--which spooks him deeply.

At Primatech, Angela Petrelli gathers her forces together. She sends Nathan and Peter to retrieve the Haitian, then assigns Bennet the task of protecting Claire from Arthur. Bennet takes Claire to Bubbles’s old house to give her a crash course in self-defense, which entails calling her a spoiled brat and goading her to hit him with a floorboard. Which Claire does, repeatedly and with much gusto.

Sylar and Elle, in pursuit of Claire, try to rent a car in Los Angeles. Elle, who is back to her usual gleefully bonkers self after two episodes of baffling and distressing good behavior, provokes a confrontation by telling the rental car agent that Sylar is a serial killer. When the guy tries to apprehend Sylar, Sylar decides being good is for suckers and embraces his old evil ways. And about time, too! After apparently murdering the poor guy, Elle and Sylar zip away in a sporty convertible.

Hiro, meanwhile, still thinks he’s ten years old, thanks to the whammy Arthur placed on him. Guided by the prognosticative 9th Wonders comic book, Ando takes Hiro to New York to seek help from Matt. In the middle of all this, Daphne pitches a fit that Matt doesn’t trust her (which, considering she was still trying to betray him as recently as last episode, seems only sane and reasonable of him) and speeds off to her Kansas home, which is apparently smack in the middle of Smallville. At Matt’s request, Hiro teleports Matt, Ando, and himself after her. While they stand around in a corn field and ponder their next move, the eclipse comes.

The eclipse makes Mohinder dissolve into a puddle of goo. He walls himself up inside a cocoon, from which he later emerges, sticky and naked, but no longer covered in unflattering scales. I feel it is very important and necessary to point out that we catch a precious glimpse of Mohinder’s bare ass. Post-eclipse, his corrupted abilities have gone into complete remission. Hooray! He’s dewy and beautiful again! Giddy with delight about no longer being a crazy bug-man, he decides to leave Pinehearst and go search for Maya. Arthur and Flint, both powerless and not at all happy about it, manhandle Mohinder and bully him into searching for a way to reverse the effects of the eclipse. This is oddly satisfying: as much as I adore Mohinder, he could stand to be manhandled at least once every episode.

At Daphne’s home in Kansas, Matt (hilariously) tries to use his mental abilities to persuade Daphne’s father to let him inside, but discovers the eclipse has made him powerless. Dejected, he rejoins Hiro and Ando in the cornfield. After Hiro gives him a rousing pep talk, which somehow involves pelting him with ears of corn, Matt marches back to the house and convinces Daphne to let him inside. He finds her powerless and crippled.

Hiro takes Ando to a comic book store to pick up the new issue of 9th Wonders. Hiro is instantly recognized as 9th Wonders’s time-traveling hero by the store clerks, who are played, in a bit of sheer casting brilliance, by geeks extraordinaire Seth Green and Breckin Meyer.

The effects of the eclipse hit Nathan as he’s flying with Peter over Haiti. They plunge into a lake, then bicker their way through the jungle. They locate the Haitian and tell him Arthur Petrelli is still alive. Gun-toting lackeys of the Haitian’s evil brother, Baron Samedi, open fire on them. The Haitian and Peter escape, but Nathan gets nabbed.

In Los Angeles, Claire and Bennet reenact pivotal scenes from The Karate Kid, only with an added dose of tedious inter-familial squabbling. Sylar and Elle burst in and attack them (Elle greets Bennet and Claire with a saucy “Hey, girls!”, which reminds me how much I like Elle when she’s not baking pies and fretting over Sylar). Mid-attack, it belatedly dawns on Sylar and Elle their powers are gone. A fistfight ensues, which culminates when Elle swipes Bennet’s gun and shoots Claire. Bennet manages to incapacitate Sylar and Elle, then carries a wounded Claire back to his home. He slaps a bandage on Claire’s bullet wound (Claire, by the way, is overjoyed about feeling pain again. This is kinda weird and loopy, but bless her for not complaining about no longer being able to heal herself), then storms off to wreak terrible vengeance on Sylar and Elle. When Sandra checks up on Claire, she finds her unconscious and hemorrhaging.

Bennet spies on Sylar and Elle making out. He trains a sniper rifle on them, then pulls the trigger.

Hey, that was pretty awesome, from start to finish. It was fast-paced and funny, Sylar and Elle were back in fine evil form, and Mohinder showed his ass. As far as I’m concerned, these are the ingredients for an instant classic. Heroes, you’re on a roll; let’s hope Part Two next week keeps up the lunatic energy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heroes Volume Three, Chapter Nine: It's Coming

The buzzword for this episode: eclipse! It opens with a big, portentous Mohinderlogue about how eclipses are way cool. Mohinder is a little too impressed with eclipses.

In Africa, Arthur puts the whammy on Hiro (while Usutu’s decapitated head lies nearby--nice touch!), but gets distracted by one of Usutu’s prophetic paintings of an eclipse (buzzword!) before he can finish him off. Ando tries to get Hiro to teleport them to safety, but Hiro’s brain has been turned to pudding and he now thinks he’s ten years old. Ando guides him through the teleportation process, and they end up in a bowling alley/waffle-and-chicken restaurant in Tokyo. Let the wacky hijinks ensue!

Arthur teleports back to Pinehearst (hey, Arthur can teleport?), where Sylar glowers and broods. Arthur knows Sylar saved Peter from the fall out the window. This evidence of Sylar’s soft, mushy side is disappointing, though I take heart from the knowledge he was the one who defenestrated Peter in the first place. Arthur believes this is proof Sylar has The Power of Empathy and thus doesn’t need to chop open heads and muck around in brains to gain more abilities. To test this, he locks Sylar in a room with a chained-up Elle, whose powers are still malfunctioning and who is seriously peeved at Sylar for murdering her father.

Elle blasts Sylar until he disintegrates and regenerates, again and again. Sylar claims he didn’t want to kill her father, but was powerless to stop himself because his abilities force him to commit murder. Sylar sets Elle free from her chains and fixes her malfunctioning ability through, yes, The Power of Empathy. Elle sobs tears of joy, Sylar waxes philosophical about forgiveness and being human, and they nuzzle and giggle while Elle teaches Sylar optimal uses for her electrical powers. While this is a substantial improvement over last week’s wholly nonsensical pie romance, it’s still a little--what’s the word I’m looking for?--barfy.

And then Arthur watches his son get steamy with Elle on hidden camera. This is barfy in a totally different way.

New York: Knox and Flint knock down the door to Peter’s apartment. Claire urges powerless Peter to flee out the fire escape while she distracts them. Which she does by jumping out the window and landing right next to Peter. So, not much of a distraction, actually. Peter and Claire escape into the sewers, with Knox and Flint hot on their heels. Because it worked so well the last time, Claire again tells Peter to escape while she holds them off. Claire trips over her feet and gets captured; Peter causes a gas explosion and saves her.

At the laboratory at Pinehearst, Mohinder links the development of abilities to the occurrences of eclipses. Oh, why not? He’s also decided the power-giving formula needs a catalyst existing in a human host to work properly, though he has no idea who that very, very special human could possibly be. Oh, Mohinder, sweetie, it’s Claire. Of course it’s Claire. Who else could be special enough? Remember “Save the cheerleader, save the world”? Remember super-powered magical heal-anything blood? It’s fortunate the show keeps finding new ways to make Claire special, because otherwise we might start mistaking her for just any other self-absorbed and unpleasant teenager.

Mohinder’s current test subject evolves into a hideous creature, who begs Mohinder to kill him. Which Mohinder does. Mohinder is more random than ever these days. By the way, the scaly crud has begun to creep up his neck, growing ever closer to his beautiful, beautiful face; if that’s not an impetus to start scrambling to fix the formula, I don’t know what is.

In the bowling alley, Ando and a regressed Hiro sit at a table laden with scrumptious waffles. Thumbs up to the prop department: those waffles look like the most awesome waffles in the long and storied history of waffles. Ando fills Hiro in about his superpowers. Hiro, following Ando’s instructions, manages to stop time, then takes the opportunity to play wacky pranks on everyone. It’s worth pointing out that Hiro as a ten-year-old is not noticeably more immature than Hiro as a twenty-eight-year-old.

Hiro teleports Ando and himself to a comic book store, where he discovers the new issue of the 9th Wonders comic book, which details his current madcap escapades. This does sort of beg the question: who’s been drawing 9th Wonders these days? Because there can’t be all that many precognitive artists still running around, seeing as Isaac Mendez and Usutu have both met messy ends. To find out their fate, Hiro and Ando flip to the last page of the comic. It features, yes, an eclipse.

Daphne and Matt wander around the deserted Primatech facility, where a vision of Usutu leads Matt to Angela’s comatose body. While Matt tries to read Angela’s mind, Daphne zips off to rat him out to Arthur. Matt gets inside Angela’s subconscious brain and tries to free her, but a hostile version of Daphne appears in his psychic projection and stabs him.

In the real world, Daphne returns and tries to rouse an unconscious and hemorrhaging Matt. She gets sucked inside his projection. Arthur Petrelli arrives and joins the mayhem, and now Arthur, Matt, Angela, and two Daphnes are all rattling around in Angela’s mind. The real Daphne proclaims her love for Matt, while Angela (somehow) convinces Arthur to release her from her coma. Arthur disappears, Matt and Angela wake up, Matt’s wound magically heals, and Matt and Daphne realize their love for each other. Giddy hugging ensues. Claire and Peter arrive at Primatech and join them.

At Pinehearst, Nathan confronts his presumed-dead father. Arthur goes in for a power-sucking hug, but because Nathan is a whole lot smarter than Peter, he doesn’t fall for it. Arthur feeds him the standard bucket of lies about wanting to use his formula to save the world and how Nathan is his favorite son and his destiny is to lead the nation. Nathan, however, has become a lot less trusting of his parents since the days when Angela could convince him destroying New York was a good idea, so he’s not altogether sold on this.

Nathan tells Tracy about Arthur’s plan: he wants to use the formula to give half the world super-powers. I’m not exactly sure whether this can be categorized as either good or evil so much as just nonsensical. Nathan decides to go to Primatech and get Angela’s opinion on this. After Nathan flies off, Tracy tells Arthur she thinks she can convince Nathan to go along with the plan. Aha! Tracy is evil. Good to know. The show has also just remembered that she’s supposed to be a senatorial aide, so she’s all newly bossy and purposeful. Sylar, Elle, Tracy, Flint, Knox and Arthur assemble in Arthur’s office to wait for the coming eclipse. Interesting to see that Mohinder, who is also at Pinehearst, was apparently not invited to join their little coterie of evil. Granted, I’m Mohindercentric, but if I were Arthur Petrelli, I’d invite Mohinder to sit at my right hand, or possibly on my lap.

Nathan joins Angela and the gang at Primatech. Angela tells Matt, Daphne, Claire, Peter and Nathan about the need to find a Very Special Human to complete the formula, but she has no idea who it could be. It’s Claire, you nitwits! Claire! Claire realizes she’s the only person in the world special enough to be the catalyst and volunteers her services.

So there’s an eclipse looming, and everyone’s more or less roughly divided into two opposing teams, with Hiro and Ando as slightly imbecilic rogue agents. I suppose the Primatech group, despite being led by evil Angela, represents the forces of Good, while the Pinehearst gang is Evil. Next week everyone loses their powers, thanks to the eclipse. Five bucks says Claire, who has spent three seasons feeling very sorry for herself for having super-powers, finds some way to complain about being powerless.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Heroes Volume Three, Chapter Eight: Villains

It’s that time again. You know how every season Heroes whips together a flashback episode that takes another look at past events and tries to explain them in new and nonsensical ways? That’s what we get this week. Alas, unlike past seasons, this particular flashback episode is sort of crappy. I suppose this was inevitable: the season’s been firing on all cylinders thus far, so it was past due for a clunker. On the plus side, this episode marks the debut of a snazzy new “Villains” logo to replace the usual “Heroes” title card. It’s not much, but I’m trying to look on the bright side.

The episode kicks off with a rambling Mohinderlogue about the nature of good and evil. Hiro, in Africa with Ando and Usutu, takes a drug-induced spirit walk back in time to New York eighteen months ago, back when Peter was a sweet-natured nurse and still had those attractive floppy bangs. Angela and Arthur Petrelli throw a swanky bash to celebrate Nathan’s promotion to assistant district attorney. Arthur reads Nathan’s mind--hey, Arthur can read minds?--and discovers Nathan is planning on prosecuting family friend Linderman on corruption charges. Arthur tries to steer Nathan off of this course; when Nathan refuses to back down, Arthur decides to have him whacked. We see footage from the first season’s flashback episode, in which a mysterious van runs Nathan and his then-wife Heidi (remember Heidi?) off the road, thus triggering Nathan’s power of flight for the first time, but leaving Heidi paralyzed.

When Angela asks Arthur if he ordered the hit on Nathan, Arthur denies everything. After Angela witnesses Linderman and Arthur discussing the murder attempt, Arthur uses his mental abilities to manipulate her into agreeing Nathan has to die. Later, a contrite Linderman uses his healing power to mend the damage Arthur’s psychic manipulations have done to Angela’s brain, which restores her memories. With the aid of the Haitian, Angela poisons Arthur in revenge, but Nathan, believing his father has had a heart attack, rushes him to the hospital. Arthur, alive but paralyzed, manipulates the doctor into telling Angela and Nathan he was unable to revive him.

Memphis, one year ago: Hey, you know that one bank-robbing, flame-throwing Level Five escapee who joined up with Arthur Petrelli’s merry band of ne’er-do-wells and whose name I couldn’t be bothered to look up? It’s Flint. His name’s Flint, and as it turns out, he’s Meredith’s brother. Flint and Meredith knock over a convenience store with their fiery powers, but are thwarted by extinguisher-toting Company boss Thompson. Welcome back, Special Guest Star Eric Roberts! I wish you could stick around. The Company just hasn’t been the same since Noah Bennet shot you in the head. Thompson apprehends Meredith and tells her the Company wants to train her as an agent. Meredith agrees, but revolts when she discovers Thompson has also secretly captured and imprisoned her brother. Meredith and Flint break out and jump on a train heading through Texas, with Thompson hot on their trail. It all somehow culminates in a big train derailment and explosion. Flint gets away, but Thompson nabs Meredith. When Meredith tells Thompson the Company was responsible for her daughter Claire’s purported fiery death, Thompson takes pity on her and sets her free.

Meanwhile, in the background, Texas cheerleader Claire runs into the burning train, thus recreating the events of the pilot episode.

Brooklyn, one year ago: Sylar, filled with guilt over murdering Brian Davis to steal his power of telekinesis, tries to hang himself in his watch-repair shop. Elle bursts in and saves his life. Elle, of course, is secretly working with Noah Bennet to observe Sylar for the Company. Elle wonders why they don’t simply apprehend Sylar, since they already know he’s a murderer; Bennet yammers on about whale migration patterns and pie. This makes about as much sense as anything else this episode.

So Elle brings Sylar a pie. Apparently this is shorthand for expressing romantic interest, because shortly thereafter, Sylar is calling her his angel and confiding in her about his powers. Huh. You know, I like Elle. I like Sylar. I think Kristin Bell and Zachary Quinto are tremendously charismatic actors, and in theory I support the idea of a scorching, tumultuous, super-charged Sylar-Elle relationship, fueled by their mutual craziness and penchant for violence. And yet all the tepid blushing and stammering and eye-batting in this episode falls flat and seems… wrong. Very, very wrong.

Sylar tells Elle he has an overwhelming urge to kill people for their powers, but he’s been able to keep it under control since he met her (because she gives him a purpose in life and makes him feel special, yadda yadda). Elle thinks Sylar is redeemable, provided he can keep a leash on his murderous impulses. Bennet tells Elle their orders from the Company are to observe Sylar killing someone. Why? Why on earth would this be the Company’s plan? Why would they decide to kick back and watch while Sylar becomes too powerful for them to control? You know how on the new Battlestar Galactica they’re always going on about how the Cylons have this brilliant secret plan, and then as the series unfolds it becomes more and more apparent that the Cylons are, in fact, just winging it? That’s the Company in a nutshell. No wonder they've burned through three leaders in as many seasons.

Elle invites some guy named Trevor to join her and Sylar for dinner. Elle talks Trevor into demonstrating his ability--shattering glass from a distance--which kicks Sylar’s urge to kill into overdrive. Sylar lops off the top of Trevor’s head while Elle flees.

Later, Elle rants to Bennet about driving Sylar to kill again, arguing that they could have saved him instead. Bennet blows off her concerns and, in another recreation of a scene from the pilot episode, hops into a cab driven by Mohinder, the most glamorous cabbie in New York. So if Mohinder is in New York at this point, this means Sylar has already brutally murdered Chandra Suresh, who didn’t even have any powers for Sylar to steal. Thus the attempt in this episode to paint Sylar as a sweet guy who’s just overwhelmed by his abilities seems a bit, shall we say, disingenuous. Almost as disingenuous as the attempt to paint Linderman, Volume One’s genocidal baddie, as a kind-hearted but powerless patsy to Arthur Petrelli, or the attempt to paint Angela Petrelli as fragile yet fiercely devoted to her sons. Heroes, you know I love you, but please try not to have your dramatic revelations damage the fundamentals of your characters.

In present-day Africa, Hiro wakes from his trance and tells Ando that Arthur Petrelli is alive. Nearby, Usutu yells in terror. Hiro and Ando rush over to him and find his beheaded and bloody corpse. Arthur Petrelli steps out of nowhere and grabs Hiro.

Wow. I didn’t see that coming at all. That was a pretty great ending: brutal and genuinely surprising, and a vast improvement over the wan, slipshod forty-three minutes preceding it. Let’s hope the next episode picks up that momentum and runs with it.