I saw the first episode of Heroes season 3 yesterday at Comic Con, and...I’m cautiously optimistic. There was promise and there was also heart-sinking unpleasantness. I’ll explain why below the cut, but I will say one non-spoilery thing: smooth, calculating, unstoppable S1 Sylar is back. And right at this moment, that’s all I needed.
First of all, let me warn you: this is lengthy and incredibly MST3K-y. But it’s how I felt about the show: this episode was definitely an improvement over S2, but I still had a lot of “um...what???” moments. So this is your last chance to turn back, either to avoid the snark and the lengthy discussion, or to stay unspoiled (because I do reveal the plot in great detail, though there are a few things I've left out). You have been warned.
So yes, we do get to see Sylar back in action, and the ability he starts the season off with is...Claire’s. That’s right, bitches, he cuts Claire’s head open and gets her ability. I know some people didn’t like that because it would make him extremely powerful, but on the other hand, if Peter ever actually learns to control himself and his powers, Sylar is the only person who could match him, and Pete’s immortal as well. So they’ve got to either ramp Sylar up, or start all over with a new villain who’s equally as powerful (but doesn't already have a devoted fan base). Claire lovers don’t have to worry: apparently Sylar “couldn’t kill you even if I wanted to”. That remark will probably be discussed to death, especially in Sylaire communities; my interpretation: Claire and her dad have been a real thorn in Sylar’s side, so he doesn’t mind the fact that she can’t be killed, since they’ll be living with the horror of this forever – it’s the same kind of psychological torture he was trying to pull with Mohinder in “Powerless”. God...I have missed my psychotic baby.
So there are now indeed three immortals on the show, four if you count Adam in his cemetery tomb. I...don’t know about that. Again, if they’re going to try for a Peter/Sylar yin/yang matchup, it needed to be done. But still, the show has gone from the nailbiting first season when you truly never knew who would survive each week, to one where getting blown up in a fiery restaurant doesn’t even leave a mark on you. (Oh, yeah. Niki/Jessica/whatever-her-name-is survived. If you’re genuinely surprised by that, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.) And in further Sylar developments, while he’s taunting Claire, he notices a moving box marked “DAD’S OFFICE” on the counter and opens it to find files on a bunch of inmates on the Company’s Level 5, which practically makes him drool with anticipation...
I have to admit that part of my enjoyment of the Sylar/Claire scenes came from the fact that Claire came across as self-centered and bratty last season, and I wanted her to get a comeuppance. She did show a bit of the woman-of-action that she was in the last part of the first season, getting ready to head off on her own to try to get to her bio-dad before he dies. Maybe the terror of having Sylar calmly pin her down and fondle her grey matter will make her grow the frak up at last.
And I have a bone to pick here, as I seem to recall being promised that the first episode would show us what Sylar does with the brains...but we still don’t know. Sure, he doesn’t eat them, but we knew that already. And we also knew he must examine them closely. But the scene still didn’t show us how he acquires the powers, or what he does with the brains of the non-immortal specials. Yes, it might hurt the mystery if we knew what he actually does with them, but it’s not good that the very first episode left me feeling a little jerked around, and that I can’t trust what Tim Kring tells me.
Were there other people in this episode besides Sylar and Claire? Oh, yes, the Clan Petrelli. We actually open the season 4 years from now with Third!Alternate!Future!Peter, who’s got the scar back. Scar!Pete is running from someone/something, and appears to believe that going back to change the moment where humanity learned about the specials will prevent the once-again-looming end of the world. Third!Alternate!Future!Claire, who looks and behaves like Jessica’s understudy, stupidly attempts to shoot her time-stopping uncle in order to prevent this, but unsurprisingly fails. And if you didn’t see this coming after reading the earlier sentences, I’ll tell you right now: Scar!Pete is the one who shot Nathan in order to shut his mouth. Yes, it apparently was not ordered by Angela. I love this family.
There’s no need to worry, though. In keeping with the policy of “no one popular ever really dies, and even the unpopular characters get brought back to life to continuing grating on our nerves”, Nathan dies in the ER but then comes back. Have you seen or read “Pet Semetary”, where people come back but they’re not quite the same? Well, Pet!Semetary!Nathan has seen God. And he believes he’s been saved to do God’s work. It might have been less disturbing if he’d just woken up and tried to eat Peter’s eyeballs.
This change is a good thing in the end, though, because now that Nathan’s forgotten about announcing the specials’ existence, Scar!Pete doesn’t have to murder him again. Though, of course, Pet!Semetary!Nathan doesn’t realize that this is Scar!Pete, because Scar!Pete is masquerading as Present!Day!Pete, while Present!Day!Pete has been stashed in the body of a beefy special who’s locked up by the Company, and Angela (after confirming for us what her ability is) tells Scar!Pete to ‘bring back her son’, though it’s not entirely clear if she does this to diss Scar!Pete, or if this is really yet another special disguised as Scar!Pete disguised as Present!Day!Pete... Yeah, your guess is as good as mine about what’s going on; this was the point where I started wanting to go back to the nice, tidy, “Claire, your ability tastes delicious” storyline because I’d been awake since 4:30 am and couldn’t think any more.
Also, I was informed later that said beefy incarcerated special is being played by Francis Capra, formerly known as Weevil on Veronica Mars. I totally did not recognize him, which says less about his acting ability than it does about his…um…current girth.
Did someone mention unpopular characters? Hi, Maya! I’m going to be a total bitch and note that when most characters appeared on screen for the first time, they’d get varying degrees of applause. However, I don’t think Maya got one single cheer or clap – no noise was made until Mohinder burst into the scene. The showrunners were sitting out on stage watching audience reaction to the show, and I hope to hell they caught that one. So Maya’s staying with Mohinder, who’s back on board the “my life here is a failure, I’m going back to India” train. Wow. That’s original. Could we have a mention of his father’s murder, too, for old times’ sake?
It is amusing, though, that Mohinder essentially says to Maya, "So you're an illegal alien wanted for murder who doesn't know anyone in this country except me and the guy who murdered your brother, and now I'm about to leave you to fend for yourself? Go cry about it to someone who cares, babe." Less amusing is that the writers seem to have transplanted Claire's whiny "what about meeeeeee?" attitude to Maya, who continues insisting Mohinder is obligated to help her even after he tells her there is nothing he can do for her. After about 15 seconds, though, he miraculously realizes that special abilities are not governed and activated the way his father thought they were, and immediately decides not only to stay, but to figure out how he can make non-special people special, starting with himself, because hey, if he’d had abilities, he might have been able to stop things like his father’s murder from happening! Maya continues to follow him around whining about her needs, but the less we think about that, the better.
This Mohinder plot development doesn’t feel right, somehow. For one thing, it’s too rushed. The overall episode timeline is typically hazy; for instance, if Sylar getting his abilities back coincided roughly with Nathan’s shooting, and Claire is out in California watching the news bulletins about said shooting, how did Sylar manage to get to her house from that New York alley so quickly??? And now, they’re asking us to believe that once again, Mohinder manages to have a eureka moment and then figure out a solution within a couple of hours. Maybe he needs to be drafted into working on stem cell research. It’s also bizarre that Mohinder decides to try giving himself abilities not in the safety and privacy of his lab or home, but...down at the docks. Yeah. Mo goes down to the harborfront in the middle of the night to do his mad scientist routine. Why? WHY? Are they trying to inspire a whole new subgenre of Mohinder fanfic pr0n? Does no one in Hollywood question their character’s motivation any more?
And, let’s face it, one of the things that was nice about Mohinder was that he does not have a power. He held his own without one. Sure, the fanboys in the audience screamed and cheered when he suddenly exhibited one, but it remains to be seen whether this is a good direction to take the character. Mohinder’s appeal lies in his ability to outwit Sylar and other bad guys, not in having Superman-style fights with them. And maybe I’m just overlooking something, but I never would have said that Mohinder’s fascination with genetics and specials extended to wishing desperately for an ability of his own, which adds to the feeling that this isn't in-character behavior. In good news, though, the episode ended with a Patented Mohinder Voice-Over, so hopefully the rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated.
Hiro and Ando are back and in hilarious form. Hiro, unsurprisingly, is bored with his father’s company, position and money; Ando offers to ease his burden by taking care of those pesky millions of dollars. Hiro also learns via a “if you are watching this, my son, it is because I am dead” DVD that there’s half a formula locked up in his father’s safe that he needs to never retrieve. Of course, because characters on this show enjoy being randomly stupid, Hiro immediately opens the safe to retrieve the formula anyway, and has it stolen by a blonde chick with superspeed who appears to be basing her character’s behavior on Elle, which means I already don’t want to see any more of her. (I’m remiss in not mentioning that the first thing Hiro pulls out of the safe is another DVD of his father that begins with, “I told you not to open this safe!”) Hiro then decides to jump 4 years into the future to find out if losing this formula really will have catastrophic consequences, and after seeing his Future!Self get killed by Future!Ando, he turns around to see Future!Tokyo being blown apart by some sort of energy wave... and decides he now has the mission of saving the future. It’s...just...um...didn’t we see this in season 1 already?!? Yes, it’s apparently the entire world rather than just New York being blown up, but Hiro jumping back in time just before a blast wave hits him is not new.
Other characters. Yeah. Niki/Jessica has yet another freaking multiple personality name and is banging a governor, who apparently sees a nefarious use for Nathan, who Niki apparently doesn’t recognize. Apparently not knowing how she magically and un-injuredly got to wherever she is from that exploding restaurant, is supposed to add to her allure. I hope Micah and Monica are happy in whatever plot ghetto they’ve been sent off to. Matt is... look, it’s Parkman. Only he could wake up in the middle of a desert-like plain after Scar!Pete flings him there and decide to yell, “Is anyone there?” just in case there are people hiding behind the sparse clumps of grass. If the show doesn’t want me to call him dumb, it needs to not make him do dumb things. In a development that will make a lot of people happy, Molly has been sent off to live elsewhere. What’s significant is that Mohinder apparently put her on the plane by himself. Again, the timeline is questionable – I’m not sure exactly how Molly’s leaving coincides with the assassination attempt on Nathan. But Matt doesn’t make a single reference to her, and after noting that he hopes he made the right decision, Mohinder doesn’t either. I think Mohinder did make the right decision; Molly deserves a stable home rather than two constantly-bickering guardians who are consumed with their own missions. But it’s a tad disconcerting to see how quickly Mohinder lets that next mission consume him, within moments of announcing Molly’s gone.
And are you ready for the awesomest awesome ever? Even more awesome than Sylar cutting Claire’s head open and holding a conversation with her while he pokes around inside it? LINDERMAN IS ALIVE. That’s right. Linderman is alive and well and healing Nathan’s bullet wounds. At this point in time, I really don’t care whether there’s a plausible story for his survival, or why he’s healed Nathan. LINDERMAN IS ALIVE. And he hasn’t been Pet Semetaried!
So...I don’t know. There’s an awful lot of “WTF???” in this episode, particularly with Mohinder, and there wasn’t enough gut-grabbing awesomeness for me to forget about season 2. However, Sylar’s intensely creepy scenes rocked, and the other spoilery character awesomeness made me actually bounce up and down in my seat. In the end, “cautious optimisim” is the best description of how I feel. It certainly looks like it’s improving, but I’m going to have to see several episodes of increasing coolness before I’ll be completely back on board.