After weeks of slow buildup, story padding and other barely disguised stall tactics, Heroes finally kicked into gear on Monday with its seventh episode of the season, “Out of Time”. Written by Aron Eli Coleite and directed by Daniel Attias, we finally get to see more than two main characters interacting together, as well as some decent twists and a good deal of advancement in the season’s main arcs. The same flaws are still there—stilted dialogue, those ever-present wooden characters and a recycled time-travel plot—but because the pace is much improved, the flaws become so much less important. It doesn’t forgive that it took us six weeks to get here, but “Out of Time” certainly proves that the faster Heroes moves, the better it seems.
As I mentioned, the best thing about this episode is that it assembles a good amount of characters together for the central story. It doesn’t even matter that Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) and Matt (Greg Grunberg) coincidentally arrive at the Company headquarters just as Matt’s nightmarish shlub dad Maury (Alan Blumenfeld) attacks, or that Niki (Ali Larter) and Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) are hardly the most exciting characters on the show. All thrown together, the showdown is good solid fun, although it fails to make the most of a telepathic showdown between the similarly powered Matt and Maury. That aside, I feel the whole hour is an excellent argument for uniting Heroes’ vast ensemble rather than keeping them in their own storylines, as Tim Kring seems insistent on doing. A story centered on characters like Mohinder or Matt or Niki alone can be terminally dull. Together, though, they prop each other up and sometimes even spark off that rarest of things—chemistry!
As the group tries to protect mysterious Company man Bob (Stephen Tobolowsky) from assassination by Maury, they each fall into the comfortable superhero stereotypes required for a functioning super-team: Mohinder the clinical scientist, Matt the big-hearted idealist, Nathan the cynical misanthrope and Niki the unstable element. They’re no Avengers, but if only the writers deigned to keep them together and try to build real character dynamics between them, they could get there. Sadly, I’m not optimistic about that happening, certainly not in the short term. Matt’s climactic face-off with his father, who is unveiled as merely the pawn of a bigger villain, is a turning point for the character as he realizes he can do more than read minds, as is true with any comic-book telepath—he can manipulate thoughts far deeper, making his ability both useful and visually interesting, if the budget allows. I found their final scene, where Matt manages to trap his father within his own nightmare, a little disappointing (I prefer it when Heroes submits to its grander, over-the-top tendencies), but it is nonetheless effective.
Niki’s confrontation with her past, spurred by visions of her dead husband D.L. (Leonard Roberts), are somewhat less effective because of how the character has been backgrounded this year. Still, it finally gives Larter something to do, as her character is now infected with the hero-killing virus and is not responding to the established cure. Surprisingly enough, one of my favorite moments in the hour came from Mohinder’s story strand. Not from Mohinder himself, (Ramamurthy being as bland as ever) but from his confession to Bob that he has been working with Noah (Jack Coleman) to bring the Company down. Tobolowsky, who has kept Bob’s cards close to the chest throughout this season, plays the moment perfectly, with barely a flicker of surprise on Bob’s face as he asks in his usual flat tone, “why are you telling me this now?” Considering he’s been given such a non-character, Tobolowsky has done an excellent job imbuing Bob with mystery, so much so that his motivations in ordering Mohinder to kidnap Claire remain murky.
Noah’s behavior in recent weeks (lies, torture, murder etc.) has no doubt been darker than usual, understandable given that he’s trying to decipher various clues that play into a future-vision of his death. Still, I think the writers have been laying it on a bit thick with him. This season they’ve almost written Noah as two characters, the caring father and the icy operative, bantering sweetly with daughter Claire (Hayden Panettiere) one moment and killing someone in cold blood the next. Coleman is far better when he plays Noah as a conflicted man, working in shades of gray, and while I’m sure the audience is still on his side (even after his sudden freakout at Claire about her boyfriend West, mostly because West is such a bore), I worry that the writers aren’t doing him any favors portraying him like this. Hopefully Noah will get back into the thick of the action, or at least include other characters in the mystery of the Mendez paintings, because it’s no fun to isolate the best character on the show.
The other two major storylines this week finally wrap up two of this season’s biggest problems, Hiro’s (Masi Oka) misadventure in Japan and Peter’s (Milo Ventimiglia) aimless wanderings in Ireland. They even manage to dovetail Hiro’s story into the plot at large, and thank God for that, or else it really would have been a huge waste of time. It wasn’t exactly the most subtle idea, but it made sense as a plot development: Kensei (David Anders), after watching Hiro kiss his girlfriend and seething about it, tries to kill Hiro and is seemingly killed in an explosion. Except, of course, he isn’t, his regenerative abilities render him basically immortal. At the end of the episode, he is revealed to be Adam Monroe, the mysterious figure who has been targeting the twelve in the picture, as well as the founder of the Company. Bob describes him as having ideas about superiority over humanity, which means he could develop into a Magneto-style central villain for the show, a nice counterbalance to their current chief villain Sylar. Anders has been good so far in the role, and this is a clever way of keeping him on board and letting him flex his dramatic muscles a little bit.
Peter’s journey into the future, while still a disappointing rip-off of last year’s finale scenario, has its moments. The disinfected dystopia New York of June 2008, where 93% of the world has died of the Shanti virus, has been done a million times before. Still, the sparse warehouse sets are a little creepy, and Peter’s glimpse of all the dead bodies being piled up (the image in one of the paintings Noah unearthed) is well played. Best of all, his tiresome girlfriend Caitlin is herded off into the future while Peter has some of his memories unlocked by his mother (Cristine Rose—still unsure of the exact nature of her power) and is promptly shunted back into the past and greeted by Kensei/Monroe. Excellent stuff! I fail to see how Monroe could ever convince Peter to help him dominate the world, ’cause Peter’s such a softie, but I’m interested to see them play off each other.
All in all, a fun hour—and next week, titled ’Four Months Ago’, will apparently fill us in on Peter’s backstory after he was killed in the season-one finale. I’ll admit it’s frustrating that Heroes has taken so long to really kick off, but at least it’s finally having a little fun with itself, and that’s enough for this reviewer.
A side note: with the WGA strike now in full swing, rumors are surfacing that Heroes season two could conclude with the end of this ’volume’ in episode 11. More news will undoubtedly trickle down soon, but the show’s sophomore slump could be brought to an end quicker than usual because of all the turmoil.
London-based writer David Sims is a contributor to South Dakota Dark.