In this column, we'll have a variety of contributers from our Best Shots and Blog@ crews taking a look at the biggest sci-fi and genre shows, providing recaps and commentary. The nature of the column allows for SPOILERS, so consider yourself warned. We apologize for the late recap to Episode 1, but technical difficulties prevented it from coming sooner. Look for Episode 2 to be much more timely, and catch up now for tonight's all new episode!Orientation/Jump, Push, Fall
Ever since the cliffhanger at the end of Heroes’ third season, which implied that Sylar might resurface sooner rather than later, I’ve been looking forward to the fourth season with a mix of dread and preposterously low expectations. Season four’s two-hour premiere last week offered a look at any number of new plot threads featuring characters we’ve seen before and a few we haven’t. The sheer size of this show’s ensemble cast (even with a healthy number of deaths last season) leads to a schizophrenic premiere, where each character or group of characters only gets a few minutes of screentime to suggest where they might go next.
When the episode opened with a focus on funeral rites being performed by an entirely new group of metahuman characters, who apparently have created a community to shelter themselves from the rest of the world, it immediately sparked a little hope that Sylar wouldn’t be the focus. That maybe the dense continuity of the show might take a little break and introduce some new characters who don’t suck. After all, rumors have said that the original concept of the show (before Hiro and Claire got so popular in the first season) was to follow various different groups of heroes and powered individuals, rather than always centering around the same handful. Even though each new character introduced in the last two seasons has been a disaster, that’s no reason to completely bail on the concept.
It was, of course, only a few minutes before they reintroduced all of the show’s staples and began dealing with Sylar. Claire’s ever-changing supporting cast features a self-righteous, stuck-up, overachieving roommate whose gubernatorial aspirations seem likely to become a plot point when she realizes that she’s sleeping six feet from the bastard daughter of Nathan Petrelli. The relentlessly-perky newcomer felt a lot like Lexie Grey, the younger sister of Grey’s Anatomy’s titular narrator, who drove viewers insane in her first few episodes but was eventually toned down. Her manic energy left Claire seeming the same way the viewers felt after her entrance into the story: drained. “The cheerleader,” surprisingly I suppose, picks a tall, ostensibly awkward (really just “Hollywood-ugly”) girl to be her BFF instead, and the consequences of that will likely reverberate through the rest of the season when, like she has before, Claire starts shedding her friends and peers almost immediately and compromises her secret within an episode.
Hiro and Ando are quickly re-established, having started the superhero version of a detective agency. As one might expect, their “Dial-a-Hero” company deals with a lot of the same challenges that the Ghostbusters did in 1984. The pair, after sharing an “Any calls? Any messages? Any customers?” scene, are quickly shown what will likely be the season’s B-plot: Ando’s longing for Hiro’s sister, who thinks he’s a twit after he made a bad first impression more than ten years ago. How small a change can you make as a time-traveler before you’re really running the risk of ruining everything? It’s an incredibly shallow reason to screw with the timestream, but for all his good intentions Hiro hasn’t been above selfish or vain mistakes in the past, with disastrous results (why in the world would he ever have opened that safe last season?). Either way, anyone who hoped that the ever-repeating pattern of Hiro losing control of his powers would abate, has another thing coming in a big way.
While the elder Petrelli’s share of the episode is filled with bad omens, younger brother Peter has finally started to really find his groove from what we see; he’s using his powers, substantially toned down as they are, to do actual good in the world. Rather than fighting superpowered sociopaths, he has reverted to his paramedic roots and is rushing to accident victims by scaling buildings and leaping fire escapes.
The All-Star Squadron of superhero parents, now narrowed to just Mrs. Petrelli and Noah Bennett, spends their screentime trying to re-establish their Company and coping with the very real possibility that Senator Nate could disappear at any second, replaced by the all-powerful sociopath who they inexplicably locked away in his brain instead of killing at the end of last season. Which is nothing when they have their own share of sociopaths—from ally-turned-enemy-turned (apparently)-ally Danko to Tracy Strauss, the woman whose sights are set on Danko, but who tries to take out Noah along the way. Led by Samuel, a kind of junior-varsity version of DC Comics’ Tattooed Man and the latest in Heroes’ line of psychic or semi-psychic artistes, the newest batch of characters introduced here are carnival folk. They’re also hunting Danko...and while the Company is worried about Nate’s future, Matt Parkman, whose powers paved the way for the Sylar mindwipe, is doing the dad thing and doesn’t want to get involved again. He’s having elaborate, terrifying fantasies involving Sylar and while he doesn’t want to help keep the villain in check, he may actually end up helping the big nasty come back into play. Meanwhile, the Haitian has another mindwipe in this episode—but one that seems less likely to have long-term ramifications.
With so many plot threads taking off in a single episode, it’s a little daunting to try and keep track of which ones might intersect and how. History says that by the time the season ends, all or most of these people will end up in a room trying to kill one another—so I guess most of the fun comes from trying to predict how.