Monday, March 30, 2009

Heroes Volume Four, Chapter Eight: Into Asylum

Dear Heroes,

For future reference, please note the following:

If the promo for an upcoming episode includes previously-unseen footage of Mohinder, please make sure the episode in question actually has Mohinder in it.

This holds particularly true if the footage: a) shows Mohinder wearing a ridiculous yet fetching paperboy cap a la Newsies, and b) is paired with a cheeky narration about how Sylar is “back on the prowl,” thus raising hopes the episode will feature a triumphant return to the wildly entertaining and vaguely homoerotic Sylar-Mohinder escapades of seasons past.

That is all.

Hugs and kisses,

Morgan

Patzcuaro, Mexico: Nathan and Claire check into a hotel. Nathan claims he’s trying to protect Claire: “Even Danko’s reach doesn’t extend south of the border.” I don’t know about that, Nathan. Danko’s goons nabbed Hiro in Tokyo, after all. Claire pawns a necklace (she makes a quip about getting quick cash by selling her kidneys twice over. Aw, I like Claire when she’s being funny). Nathan tries to do his part to raise money by getting into a drinking contest with some frat boys. He loses, but Claire and her indestructible liver are game for a rematch. She gets blitzed on tequila, bitches about Nathan, and drinks a frat boy under the table.

Back at the hotel, a drunk and weepy Nathan tells a sober and weepy Claire, “I get a pit in my stomach every time I think of you.” I usually get a wave of nausea every time I think of Claire, but she may be my favorite character this episode. In the morning, Nathan pawns his watch to get Claire’s necklace back, and they head back to the States.

In New York, Angela and Peter get rained on a lot. They take refuge in a cathedral, where Angela frets about how she can’t have any prophetic visions because she’s not getting enough sleep. She also frets about how she didn’t give Peter enough support as a child and how he must hate her as a result. Angela, I am sad to say, is a total drip this episode. Angela prays; Peter wallows in self-pity. It is theoretically possible, I suppose, for this plotline to be even crappier, but as it stands, it’s pretty wretched. Angela rambles on about how she once wanted to be a schoolteacher, but then she developed her ability and realized the world was an awful place, so she had to become evil and manipulative instead. She tells Peter, with maximum sanctimony, “It’s the price I chose to pay to save the world.” This is the precise moment when I start to loathe Angela, just a little. When Danko’s goons invade the cathedral, Bennet spots Peter and Angela, but lets them go. Angela then has a vision which tells her to find Nathan and Claire to reunite the family before going in search of her sister.

Arlington, Virginia: Danko and Bennet find three murdered agents who were on the trail of some guy named Martin, who is in possession of an unknown ability. Danko returns to his car to find a friendly and flirtatious Sylar in the back seat. Sylar offers to help Danko track down Martin. For some reason known only to some lonely soul in the music department, Del Shannon’s “Runaway” plays during this scene.

Back at Building 26, Bennet is still trying to sell Danko on his “One of us, one of them” approach. Give it a rest, Noah! That ship has sailed. Sylar mails Danko the body of another agent killed by Martin and fills Danko in on Martin’s ability: shape-shifting. Danko and Sylar meet up again at Martin’s house. When Danko threatens to shoot Sylar, Sylar scoffs, “The part of my brain that you’d need to hit to kill me is microscopic.” Huh? Since when? They’re just making this stuff up as they go along, aren’t they? Sylar and Danko sort through all of Martin’s crap to find some clue to his location, all while indulging in a buttload of that armchair psychoanalysis Heroes does so well (poorly. I meant to write “poorly”). Sylar finds a matchbook for a nightclub and deduces that this is where Martin hangs out every night. As a detective, Sylar, you’re a outstanding serial killer.

Danko and Sylar head off to the flashy nightclub together, which is the setup for a slash fiction story I never want to read. The shape-shifter: a) has chosen to impersonate Danko, and b) is currently nuzzling with a hot twenty-something brunette. Credulity is officially strained.

Martin spots Sylar and Danko and takes off. He mimics Sylar, but Danko isn’t fooled. He lures him outside and shoots him, but leaves him alive so Sylar can steal his ability. Danko triumphantly presents Bennet with the corpse of “Sylar”, then takes off with the real Sylar, who is having far too much fun with his new shape-shifting ability.

Huh. A mixed bag. Of the three plotlines, the Claire-Nathan one was cute but inessential, the Sylar-Danko one was pretty spiffy, and the Angela-Peter one was right on the cusp of unwatchable. Overall, the episode falls squarely in the middle of the road. Would the sight of Mohinder in a paperboy cap have bumped up the score? Yes. Yes, it most certainly would. Perhaps next episode.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Heroes Volume Four, Chapter Seven: Cold Snap

After last week’s break, Heroes is back. It’s pretty darn good, especially for an episode that: a) features a plotline involving a super-powered baby, and b) kicks off with a montage of Danko watching himself in the mirror whilst shaving.

So, Danko shaves. An alarm interrupts his morning ablutions, so he goes out to his living room to investigate. He finds an incapacitated Eric Doyle with a bow tied around him and a tag reading, “My gift to you.”

Bennet has a clandestine meeting with Angela. She wants him to distract Danko’s attention from Nathan by apprehending someone else: Rebel. Bennet tips her off that Danko’s goons will be coming after her next. (Bennet, by the way, has traces of shaving cream on his face. This may be just an artistic flourish, or it may turn out to have some future relevance. We shall see.)

In Building 26, Danko takes Mohinder to a room filled with drugged super-powered people strapped to gurneys. Matt and Daphne, who is in bad shape from her gunshot wounds, are among them. Danko’s henchman does a perfunctory job of manhandling and drugging Mohinder. Sigh. Sometimes I doubt Danko’s commitment to being a sexy and dastardly villain. You know who I miss, improbably enough? Flint. Flint wasn’t much of a villain (or a character), but he sure knew how to manhandle Mohinder with gusto.

In a rare display of bonhomie, Danko offers to give Eric Doyle to Bennet, so Bennet can exact his revenge over the way he tormented Sandra and Claire. Okay, it’s creepy bonhomie, but bonhomie nonetheless. Bennet tells Danko he’ll capture Rebel for him -- provided he can use Tracy, who appears to have some kind of connection to Rebel, as bait.

Hiro and Ando babysit little Matt Parkman, who has his very own ability: his touch activates things, like toys and electronics. Hiro is pretty grumpy about getting stuck with the kid. As he tells Ando, “Heroes change the world, not diapers.” Hiro, my friend, I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with you more. Ando psychoanalyzes Hiro about why Hiro’s so crappy with kids, and Hiro somberly tells Ando about seeing his mother die when he traveled into the past. While they’re bonding over this, Janice Parkman comes home. Janice, by the way, looks just fantastic, like getting divorced from Matt mid-pregnancy was the best thing to ever happen to her. Hiro and Ando recreate a pivotal scene from E.T. by hiding among a bunch of stuffed animals, but Janice isn’t fooled. As she’s grilling them, Danko’s goons arrive to apprehend the baby. They haul away Janice, but before they can take the kid, Ando uses his super-charging ability in conjunction with baby Matt’s powers and holds them off… and then Hiro stops time! Thanks to the baby’s ability, Hiro has his powers back! Hallelujah -- this crappy super-powered baby plotline was good for something after all! Hiro still can’t teleport, but this is surely a step in the right direction. Hiro and Ando get the baby to safety and decide to go in search of adult Matt.

Danko’s goons try to apprehend Angela, but her precognitive ability gives her enough advance warning to allow her to escape. She meets up with an old friend (Swoozie Kurtz), who reluctantly gives her some cash to help her disappear for a while. Goons catch up with Angela and trap her in an elevator, but Peter flies in and saves her. Peter and Angela hide out in the Statue of Liberty’s head and plan their next move.

Rebel cuts the power to Building 26. Tracy breaks out of her cell and frees Matt, Mohinder and Daphne. She’s initially kind of a brat about not wanting to wait for injured Daphne, but reconsiders after Matt uses his Jedi Mind-Tricks™ to effortlessly get them past Danko’s goons.

As soon as they’re free, Tracy goes off on her own. While shoplifting clothes, she gets apprehended in the dressing room by Bennet, who asks her to lead him to Rebel. Via a random ATM, Rebel provides Tracy with cash and instructions to a locker in Union Station containing a train ticket and passport. Little Micah Sanders, who is both taller and deeper-voiced than when we last saw him back in Volume Two, secretly trails her. Aw, Micah is Rebel! This is a cool surprise, which was not at all ruined by seeing Special Guest Star Noah Gray-Cabey’s name in the opening credits.

Micah joins Tracy at Union Station, intending to flee with her. Tracy is horrified to realize she led Micah into a trap. As Danko’s goons close in on them, Micah manufactures a false alarm and triggers an evacuation of Union Station.

Micah and Tracy run for it, but goons surround them in the parking garage. At Tracy’s request, Micah uses his power to activate the sprinklers. Tracy tells him to run away and stay ahead of the ice. While Micah sprints to safety, Tracy commits a little mass murder by freezing everyone and everything in the garage, including herself.

Danko arrives and shoots still-frozen Tracy. She shatters. Even though her entire body is in pieces, one of her eyes blinks.

Matt and Mohinder take Daphne to the hospital. Matt uses more Jedi Mind-Tricks™ on the doctors to get them to treat bullet-ridden Daphne without notifying the cops. Daphne wakes up two days later in a hospital bed filled with balloons and flowers, fully recovered. She argues with Matt that he’s not really in love with her -- he’s just in love with the idea of it -- and zips off to Paris. Matt tracks her down. He claims he flew to find her and, indeed, demonstrates this by flying her around the Eiffel Tower. Just as this is starting to seem extreeeeeeemely fishy, Daphne tells him to let her go: she knows she’s really in the hospital, dying, and Matt is just trying to give her some good final memories.

Back in the hospital, with Matt and Mohinder keeping vigil by her bedside, Daphne flatlines.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Heroes Volume Four, Chapter Six: Shades of Gray

Finally! At long last! Huzzah! After his interminable road trip, Sylar finds his real dad, who turns out to be a thoroughly creepy and cancer-riddled taxidermist. Sylar’s dad is played by the most awesome evil TV dad in the long and storied history of awesome evil TV dads, Smallville’s John Glover. This is exciting for many reasons, not least because it opens up the dizzying possibility that Sylar and Lex Luthor could be brothers. This would make a strange amount of sense, actually, and would be a whole lot cooler than last volume’s hastily-discarded revelation about Sylar and Peter’s fraternal bonds.

The air kind of goes out of Sylar’s daddy-murdering sails when he realizes his father is terminally ill, but he gamely tries to pick a fight with him anyway. Like Sylar, his dad can steal abilities from others. He’s also awesomely manipulative: he indirectly calls Sylar a coward and accuses him of leading an unsatisfying life, then somehow talks him into helping him gut a bunny.

While bonding with his dad over killing and stuffing small furry animals, Sylar (foolishly) demonstrates the healing power he stole from Claire. His dad pretends he’s not totally jealous of this, then riddles Sylar with arrows at the first opportunity. He hypnotizes Sylar with one of his myriad abilities and prepares to steal his power. Sylar recovers before his dad can cut his head open and frees himself. He taunts his dad for a while, then saunters off, taking his newly-stuffed bunny with him. Sylar is weird.

Nathan gets a call informing him that a drugged-up and panicky Matt is hanging out in front of the Capitol with a bomb strapped to his chest. Nathan thinks this is strange behavior, even for Matt, so he heads off to investigate. Matt reads the minds of the bomb squad to find out how to defuse it, then talks Nathan through the process. It’s not entirely clear why Matt doesn’t save himself a step or two by having the bomb squad take care of the matter directly, but I’m sure Matt knows what he’s doing. As soon as the bomb is deactivated, Nathan punches out Matt and apprehends him again.

Back at Building 26, Nathan gets cheesed off at Danko for almost blowing up the Capitol just to make a point about how people with special abilities are inherently untrustworthy. He threatens to have Danko fired. Danko is not overly worried. Danko is also becoming aware of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Nathan -- who has a super-powered mother and a super-powered father and a super-powered brother and a super-powered daughter -- might be super-powered himself. Oh, Danko, you think?

The still-sweaty and shackled Tracy (Ali Larter, you’re a lovely woman, and I sure do feel bad for you having to do these scenes with that tube stuffed up your nose) receives a message from Rebel telling her that help is on the way. Danko interrogates her about Nathan. She tells him that Nathan a) has no ability, and b) is lousy in the sack. She’s not especially convincing on either point.

Danko then tries to worm Nathan’s secret out of Bennet. Just for kicks, Bennet sends him after Angela Petrelli. Angela taunts Danko with veiled references to shady incidents from his past and scares him off.

Nathan fires Danko and promotes Bennet. Danko, who refuses to go quietly, shoves Nathan out a high window and watches in grim satisfaction as Nathan flies off.

Danko returns to his apartment to find a freshly-stuffed bunny sitting on his table and Sylar lurking in the shadows.

Eric Doyle, operating on Rebel’s advice, breaks into Claire’s house, steals her popcorn, and asks for her help evading Danko’s goons. He claims he simply wants to go back to being a harmless and non-evil puppeteer. Claire, who is no fool (this episode, at least), tells him no dice.

Claire decides to take Alex’s old job at the comic book store. There then ensues a painful scene in which Claire is interviewed by the awestruck geeks running the shop while the (all-male) patrons gape at her. Ha! It’s funny, ‘cause girls don’t ever go into comic book stores, and guys who read comics don’t know how to deal with girls! The joke is even funnier now than it was three episodes ago! Hey, Heroes? You need to knock it off with this crap. No need to offend comic readers and women (hint: sometimes those two groups overlap!) for the sake of a hackneyed gag.

Danko’s agents locate Doyle. Rebel sends Claire a text message begging her to save him. Claire rescues Doyle and equips him with a new identity. Back at the Bennet home, agents burst in and hunt for Claire. Claire, meanwhile, hovers safely outside her bedroom window… in Nathan’s arms.

Los Angeles: Hiro and Ando arrive at the address on the “Save Matt Parkman” fax sent to them in India by Rebel. They encounter a frazzled babysitter, who mistakes them for her replacements and hands them a baby named Matt Parkman, who is presumably Matt’s son with his ex-wife Janice. I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I see no possible way a “Hiro and Ando take care of a baby” plotline won’t be dreadful. It’s like stranding Hiro in feudal Japan: some ideas are doomed from the start.

And the episode ends with Mohinderlogue! Aw, man, we haven’t had one of those in ages! Mo yammers on about fathers and sons or something, and it’s swell, but all I can think about is how we’ve now had two Mohinder-free episodes in a row, and how the universe is just a little darker for it. Not that there was anything wrong with this episode, but replacing the Hiro-Ando-baby nonsense with more scenes of poor shackled Mohinder getting buckets of water thrown on him would have really kicked it into a higher gear. But perhaps that went without saying.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Heroes Volume Four, Chapter Five: Exposed

Aw, man. Is there anything lonelier than a Mohinder-free episode of Heroes?

In Costa Verde, Claire is still harboring cute water-breathing fugitive Alex. She buys him a train ticket to Albuquerque and cheerfully tells him he can start a new life there, away from all his friends and family. Alex seems pretty easygoing, but this fails to thrill him. When Sandra stumbles across the cute boy hiding in her daughter’s closet, Claire explains, “Dad was after him! I didn’t know what else to do!” Oh, Claire. I like your moxie, but when hiding fugitives from your father, maybe stashing them in your own house is not the swiftest move.

When agents stake out the Bennet house searching for Alex, Sandra decides to suddenly become awesome. She converts Lyle’s drivers license into a fake ID for Alex, chirping about how she used to do this as a teenager to go to Def Leppard concerts, then distracts the agents while Claire smuggles Alex off to the train station. En route, Claire and Alex engage in a bunch of sexy shenanigans like rolling around in the bushes together and hiding in a pool, where Alex (naturally) has to smooch Claire to share his oxygen with her. Not like she’s in danger of drowning, being immortal and all, but I can appreciate the flimsy excuse to get these two attractive kids to swap spit.

After successfully shipping Alex off to Albuquerque, Claire and Sandra fire up some celebratory microwave popcorn, only to find creepy puppetmaster Eric Doyle in their kitchen. Doyle is the proud recipient of a text message from the still-unidentified Rebel, which says Claire will save him.

Luke and Sylar continue on with their Road Trip of Monstrous Irritation. They stop at an abandoned hotdog stand, where, with the aid of a couple of Fleetwood Mac songs (no, really), Sylar unearths a repressed memory from 1980: his father murdered his mother with the same trademark forehead incision Sylar uses on most of his victims. Sylar goes berserk and gets scary with Luke and pins him to the wall. Instead of killing him, he send him home to his mother, then grimly heads off by himself on a quest to kill his father.

Back at Building 26, Danko tells Bennet and Nathan that Peter and Matt are now their top priority targets. He gives his goons permission to shoot to kill. Nathan demands Danko make an exception for Peter. Danko, for his part, is getting noticeably peevish about constantly having to make exceptions for Nathan’s felonious family members.

In Mohinder’s lab, Matt paints up a storm. It’s the same painting over and over, featuring Matt with explosives strapped to his chest. Matt and Peter receive a message from Rebel, who provides them with an address where Daphne is being held and warns them that agents are on their trail.

Peter and Matt head to DC to save Daphne. Peter swipes Matt’s power so they can tag-team each other with the mind control. They hilariously mind-whammy their way through Building 26, leaving a string of dazed and confused agents in their wake. When they hack into the computer system, they discover Daphne has already been moved to a different facility. Meanwhile, Rebel sends them the incriminating video of all the captured super-powered people being herded onto the plane. Matt and Peter decide to use the video as a bargaining chip to secure Daphne’s release.

Bennet, Nathan and Danko spot Peter and Matt on the security cameras. Bennet, who tends to know all sorts of things that the viewing audience doesn’t, explains that Matt’s nerves become super-sensitive whenever he’s using his powers. They incapacitate Matt with lights and loud noises and capture him, but Peter scampers away with the incriminating evidence.

Peter calls Nathan and tells him he’ll trade the evidence for Matt and Daphne. Hey, Peter, you know Nathan has Mohinder in custody too, right? You remember four episodes back how Mohinder totally saved your life when he kept you from flying out of that big hole you punched in the side of the plane? Have Matt and Daphne saved your life recently? No? Since you’re making deals, maybe you could ask Nathan to throw Mo into the bargain as well. Just a suggestion.

Bennet shows up to make the exchange, but telepathically tips Peter off that it’s a trap. Peter gets shot in the arm in the resulting melee and (somehow) topples off the side of a parking structure, but Nathan flies in and saves him. Thus far in the series, Peter has jumped, fallen, or been thrown from a truly absurd number of rooftops. I’m not complaining, just making an observation.

Nathan takes Peter to meet with Angela. Claiming he wants to fix the harm he’s done, Nathan tries to convince Peter to surrender the evidence and turn himself in. Peter’s not buying it. He gives Nathan a big hug, steals his flying ability, and zips off. It’s a very basic rule: Never hug a Petrelli. They’re sneaky! Angela, who has used her ability to glimpse the future, whispers something disturbing and inaudible to Nathan..

Peter releases the video of the military operation to the press. Meanwhile, Danko straps explosives to Matt’s chest, injects him with some kind of drug, and drops him off in front of the Capitol.