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.So there’s this show, and it’s about people with powers. But for the most part (at least this season), it’s really about whether or not the people with powers actually use them for anything. In this week’s episode, the only people who are actually utilizing their powers to do anything are either oblivious to them, or evil. Perennial “Heroes” villain Sylar, as well as newcomer Samuel, manipulate their powers and the powers of others (namely Parkman and Peter) to get what they want, as a new character introduced this episode discovers that she is able to “see” sound. Handy, since she’s deaf, and apparently it allows her to reverse the method of the holophoner from “Futurama” by creating beautiful music based on watching the pretty colors or something—but it’s unclear to what extent this is actually a concretely useful power. Even (in the course of the episode) unclear whether she can see sound or whether she can manufacture Jubilee-like light and color when she creates sound (she’s deaf, and doesn’t talk much…but the one time she does in the episode no light show occurs as a result). Hiro, Ando, Nathan and his mother, and anyone else not directly related to the Parkman, Claire or Peter stories are omitted from this episode, allowing the writers to focus about fifteen minutes each on those three arcs. In each case, most of that time is spent dealing with the characters—to one degree or another—being in denial of their powers.
Parkman’s is the most interesting story in the episode, partially because it appears to be moving the Sylar story forward in a meaningful way and partially just because (even though I’m sick of him as a rule and still think he should have been given a season off) Quinto is the lone piston still firing in the beleaguered engine of this show. Sylar is really starting to show why he’s such a great villain in this episode, and even Parkman gets a few great character moments.
One of the elements touched on last episode was that Parkman, following the Sylar mindwipe and a subsequent epiphany that it had been a horrible idea, has decided to give up using his powers. Sylar, on the other hand, is appearing in Matt’s subconscious to test his resolve on the matter. Whether Parkman truly did inadvertently siphon off some of Sylar’s personality while trying to suppress it in Nathan Mark II (don’t these people read comics? Wasn’t that pretty much the whole premise that led to “Onslaught” in the X-Men titles?), or whether it’s just his guilt messing with him is still somewhat up in the air—but I’d lean toward the former, as Sylar manipulates Matt into using his powers…and then uses Parkman’s own powers against him to mislead him. The resulting string of bad decisions forces Matt’s hand and he’s compelled to use his powers again—signaling a potentially serious personality shift for the rest of the season.
Peter Petrelli has a fair chunk of plot, too, but it’s all build-up. He encounters demented ringmaster Samuel, who uses both his command of ink (last seen manifesting itself as a series of prophetic tattoos) to alter documents, newspapers and other physical evidence in an attempt to force a meeting with Peter when he thinks he’s being sued by one of the people he rescued as a paramedic. In reality, Samuel is looking to replace his brother, apparently a deeply empathic individual, as the “compass” of their superpowered carnival show. And just when you think that maybe he ain’t such a bad guy anyway—seeing the good in Peter he agrees to drop the case—he turns around and uses his earth-manipulation powers (last seen manifesting itself as he buried his late brother with a wave of the hands) to kill a bunch of folks who live in a mansion and won’t let him in. Jeez, and I thought that jerk who kept hassling Eddie Izzard on “The Riches” was impatient about getting his cut of the cheddar…!
Claire’s story, as has consistently been the case so far, is still kind of mired in shallow character development and unresolved mystery. When Noah takes her and new BFF Gretchen out to lunch, Gretchen tactlessly lets slip that she knows about Claire’s powers. She begs daddy to leave her friend alone, and so rather than calling the Haitian, he goes back to his depressing bachelor pad and thinks about how he’s too controlling as a father. Gretchen decides to move in with Claire and replace the street-pizza roommate from last episode, after a late-night cutting session with Claire that showed off the same special effects that we’ve seen a bunch of times before (hey, look! When she cuts herself it heals!), and made me personally wonder who keeps scissors around that are so sharp you can slice your hand without applying any pressure? If Hiro’s sword had been so sharp in season one, we’d never have seen Sylar again!
At any rate, Gretchen still rings a little false for me. She’s either a Mary Sue character, just too good to be real (I mean, seriously—who just ACCEPTS all this madness out of a friend she met last week?), or she’s got something to hide. I have to think that they spent too much time in the premiere building up the roommate’s suicide to be a homicide, and that chances are good we’ll find out Gretchen is at best a master (mistress?) manipulator and at worst a murderer.
It didn’t really occur to me until I looked back and thought about who was missing, that Hiro and Ando didn’t have any screen time this week. Presumably they’ll be back next week, but frankly I didn’t miss them. They’re nice guys who deserve a happily-ever-after, but to be honest the “will his powers work this week or not?” thing is a little tired, and the characters haven’t grown or changed much since the series premiere. I’m much more interested in seeing more from the girl who can make pretty lights come out of a cello, or the sinkhole-of-death villain. Who’s with me?