Finally, an episode of HEROES I don’t have to be embarrassed about watching and even enjoying. This week’s installment was a vast improvement over previous weeks’ for two simple reasons: a) stuff happened, and b) human interactions were emphasized.
In an effort to…um, undo a lot of the bad stuff that has been happening lately, Hiro transported Claire 16 years into the past, where they witnessed Kaito Nakamura (George Takei, reprising his role as Hiro’s late father) giving Noah custody of the infant Claire while young Hiro played videogames nearby. adultHiro was shocked to see his late mother in another room and, realizing that she had healing powers, figured she could cure his memory loss. Ishi Nakamura, played by Tamlyn Tomita (Giselle, GENERAL HOSPITAL), was the original vessel for the “catalyst,” the mysterious element that makes superpowers work. Since Ishi was dying, Kaito had her transfer the catalyst into infantClaire. But teenClaire resolved to stop that transfer because…well, because it would change history. For her, at least. Since it’s unclear what the catalyst does or how it’s used, the potential effects of this change were unknowable — a key fault with the episode. After Ishi restored adultHiro’s memories, he asked her to give him the catalyst instead of the baby, so she did. Then she died. But then, so what? Sylar’s comments implied that Claire could not be killed because of the presence of the catalyst, so…is Claire now mortal? Is Hiro now immortal? Since Claire never had the catalyst for Sylar to steal, is Sylar once again mortal?
One of the best parts of the episode was seeing Sylar back to being unabashedly evil. He once again delighted in taking on new powers, reveling in the act of slicing open a victim’s skull. Everyone loves a good bad guy, and this was the Sylar that puts HEROES on the map. His amorality is is fun to watch, and hey, aren’t there days when we’d all like to rip the top of somebody’s head off? (No? Um…never mind.) Sylar seemed cruel when he set fire to Elle’s corpse (Bye, Kristen Bell!), but he was downright cold when he slammed that bullet into Arthur’s forehead. Let’s hope the Petrelli patriarch is dead, but don’t count on it. Sylar was using multiple powers simultaneously in the presence of the Haitian, so Arthur may be playing possum. (And just what was that golden glow that swept over his “corpse”? Was the catalyst activating a power within Arthur?)
Actually, the best part of the episode was the emotional component. Once again we got to see characters, not merely a collection of superpowers. Masi Oka finally got the material to do some real emoting; his scenes with his mother were quite touching. And Tomita gave as good as she got, making Ishi a beautiful and compassionate figure, full of love and honor. She was almost too good to be true, like an idealized version of a mother. I liked that Hiro came right out and told her who he was, and asked her to heal him. Her joy at seeing her time-traveling son was realistic: She just wanted to know what he had done with his life. (He saved the world, twice!) Similarly, Claire had highly emotional scenes with Noah — who could not accurately be called HRG yet, since he lacked his trademark specs. Hayden Panettiere was subtle as she reined in Claire’s conflicting emotions for her father. She assured him the child will be in his life and depend on him to protect her from some nasty customers. (In one of those “only in sci-fi” moments, Claire actually got to change her own diaper and give herself the nickname “Claire Bear.” Think about: She traveled through time to deal with a wet diaper.)
Here’s hoping next week’s winter finale can pick up the baton and bring this chapter to a successful conclusion.