Wow, wow, wow, wow. I think "Company Man" just got replaced as the best "Heroes" has to offer.
Of course, it's easier to pull out all the stops when you're doing the Alternate Dystopian Future storyline. On "Deep Space Nine," Sisko was never as interesting as when we saw him in the Mirror, Mirror universe and Avery Brooks got to smile. One of the few highlights of X-Men comics in the early '90s was the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline that liberated every title from the shackles of 30 years of continuity. By presenting different versions of our characters, the writers got to ignore what was weakest about many of them. Parkman's wife and son were in hiding and he seemed genuinely dangerous. Mohinder and Peter were too tired and bitter to be their usual pretentious selves. Nikki actually intereacted with other characters. (I think this is the first time she and Peter had a scene together.) DL and Micah were just plain dead.
But just because this type of episode is easier to make exciting than your average arc-bridging show doesn't in any way diminish the work done by writer Joe Pokaski, director Paul Edwards and the rest of the cast and crew. This one had the necessary epic feel. It looked bigger and was edited differently than the series usually is. This show has never gotten my pulse racing the way it did during the cross-cutting between Nathan/Sylar's speech, Hiro and Peter kicking ass in the lobby, Mohinder readying the syringe and Parkman and the SWAT team preparing to blow holy hell out of whoever came out of the elevator. Just a killer sequence.
Just as heart-pounding: the revelation that Nathan was really Sylar. I'm usually three steps ahead of these kinds of twists, and I didn't remotely see it coming, at least not until "Nathan" said that line about Candice (which I guess is the shapeshifting woman's name) helping him become president. I raised an eyebrow at that, and when "Nathan" suddenly froze Claire with telekinesis and her head began to bleed, I unleased a string of profanity the likes of which my TV room hasn't heard since Uncle Junior gutshot Tony Soprano.
And where last week's episode was uncomfortably close to the plot of "Watchmen" (Linderman's plan to unite the world through fear is a direct rip of Ozymandias's scheme, down to Manhattan as the target), this one borrowed the basic template of "Days of Future Past" (the great-granddaddy of superhero Alternate Dystopian Future stories), without swiping many of the details. (The lobby scene was more of a "Matrix" imitation than anything else was copying stuff that Wolverine and Storm did in that old story.)
The "Heroes" creative team has no doubt had to use certain characters' powers sparingly for budget reasons, but they've become very good at making a brief power demonstration seem much more impressive with the right set-up. Peter's rescue of Future Hiro and Ando from Parkman's clutches took less than a minute, I think, but because of the stakes, the surprise of Peter's arrival and the ease with which he used all his acquired powers, it felt wicked awesome. Ditto his showdown with Sylar, which took place almost entirely on the other side of a closed door, with only light flashes hinting that something really f'ed up was happening out in the hall.
Really, my only major complaint about the episode was the terrible actor they cast as Claire's fiance, and we only had to endure a couple of scenes with him before Parkman showed up to take her for her brain removal, so I don't care that much.
You guys are welcome to analyze the implications of everything the characters said to each other about what's happened in the last five years. I'm not going to wind myself up about it too much, if only because I believe so many of the details to change now that Hiro has come back. Again, following the "Days of Future Past" model, I don't expect Hiro's going to be able to make everything hunky-dory for his fellow, um, ability-havers, but things aren't going to go in exactly that direction, because then the writers would be locked into years worth of stories that the audience already knows the endings to, and that way lies the "Star Wars" prequels.
But a few other random thoughts:
- People keep asking if Ando is going to turn out to have a power. I prefer the idea that his "power" is helping to keep Hiro his familiar ebullient self, just like HRG's "power" is explaining how other character's abilities work.
- Just sticking with the whole time-travel thing, if Peter caused the explosion, then will Hiro killing Sylar stop anything? Isaac sure seemed to think so when he drew those pages he gave to the bike messenger last week.
- FX technology has come a long way when it comes to doubling up an actor in a scene. When Michael J. Fox played four or five different parts in "Back to the Future II," I remember being really conscious of every bit where he passed something to himself, but here Hiro and Future Hiro were crossing each other in the frame like Masi Oka had a secret twin they brought in for the occasion, Linda Hamilton-style. (Or, if you prefer, Jill Hennessy-style.)
- Bluetooth Girl! I had forgotten about her.
- Who knew Goldfrapp would still be big five years from now? Then again, most strip clubs play music that's years out of date. (Or so I've heard. You know. From other people.)