First off, a little note to you savvy readers, yes, I did change the title to my reviews by using the word ‘Volume’ rather than ‘Season’, since, well, that’s what the show uses.
So Volume 3 is now over. It seems that nothing will ever beat Volume 1, Volume 2 was such a disappointment that it could only get better – and, in retrospect, it has, and very much so.
I say in retrospect because there was more than one occasion during Volume 3 that I wanted to throw my remote at the TV screen (I once actually grabbed my crutch in what I wanted to be a threatening move, only to drop it and giggle quite unthreateningly). But overall, it was a good Volume that wrapped things up neatly, mopping up mistakes (quite literally, perhaps, after last night’s bloodbath) and setting the stage for what could be a pretty awesome Volume 4.
The last couple of minutes, with Sylar’s voiceover, put this entire Volume in perspective; it was an exploration of the darkness and evil within all of the characters, which, while it made us more than uncomfortable at least a couple of times per episode, made perfect sense in a Volume of a show named ‘Heroes’ that was named ‘Villains’. After all, heroes exist because villains do, and there needs be a set of criteria that differentiate the two. And why should being a hero or being a villain be so simple when each one of ‘normal’ us flirt with our own ‘other side’? And doesn’t this make us and those around us thoroughly uncomfortable with the sometimes sudden change? And don’t we make the seemingly most irrational decisions during these ‘explorative’ periods, only to have it make more sense when, having arrived at our destination, we turn and take a look back at where and how long we have travelled? Now that I fully realise what the writers were doing, I can only commend them on this aspect of Volume 3.
Of course, there are still a couple of technical details that bother me (and numerous fans out there, I’m sure), but I choose to let go of them not only for this review, but also because I have decided to just enjoy the ride. Nitpicking took a lot of the fun out of Volume 3, and I don’t intend to do that again. Chalk that bit of wisdom to two months of crutch-usage and a LOT of time to think.
Let’s now get into the nitty-gritty of the episode’s details (ironic, isn’t it).
Sylar’s ‘Saw’ moment
It seems that Sylar’s inner fight between his good and bad side is anything but over; it also seems like he’s getting a little lonely in his quest, since he happened to have killed off the one and only person who was willing to follow him (i.e. Elle the Conscience). Hoping to topple a couple of our favourite characters into his dark hole, he locks them into Pinehearst in the hopes of bringing out the inner monster in everyone. Seen ‘Saw’, anyone?
Thankfully, Sylar didn’t quite manage to bring out the monster in anyone – at least, not yet. Quite the contrary; Claire chooses not to kill of her grandmother and Noah refuses to shoot Meredith unless there is absolutely no other option. Perhaps the only thing Sylar managed to do is to give our heroes yet another reason to not let the inner monster in them out.
Poor, tormented, tortured little Sylar, who still has a bit of something good within him. I can understand why he would want to snuff it out – it’s brings him more pain than anything else. And isn’t it interesting that the person who initially wanted to be special, is now claiming: “I could have been a nobody instead of the monster I became.” Better be good and normal than evil and special?
Sylar’s transformation into a monster isn’t complete – yet. In his own way, he’s still ‘nice’, although the proofs are dwindling at breathtaking speed (a little like the NYSE in the last couple of months). Last episode, Sylar killed Arthur because, as he put it, although he is a killer, Peter isn’t. Sylar kept Peter from doing something he would have regretted the rest of his life, which is, in a way, ‘nice’. Aaaaaaaaaaand that’s about all I have.
Ultimately, Sylar still has the choice to not remain a monster. Everyone can be one, and not just in TV shows. But our ability to choose, which, according to Sylar, is what the real gift from God is (free will, anyone?) make us choose to let out the monster within or to control it.
Sylar looks like he is doing everything he can to be a monster, as if he likes it and wants to perpetuate it. I’d say it started with him killing Elle, who was the one person who seemed to have enough sway to make him try to give the good side a try. Will there be another ‘conscience’ for Sylar anytime soon?
I really like the continuation and deepening of this theme of good versus evil, the exploration of the fact that there are so many shades of grey and that choices are ours to make. I don’t know if I would call that thing inside us ‘monster’; I guess it’s the most TV- friendly way of putting it, rather than saying ‘lower self’; plus the imagery of monsters versus angels is a much starker contrast than ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ self.
The one thing that really bothered me about Sylar in this episode is how he chose to drive a wedge between Claire and her father, by claiming that: “Claire, you and I can heal… Except from a broken heart, which is what parents give us.” While there are some parents who are absolutely terrible, they are the exception and not the rule. On the other hand, parents aren’t perfect and make mistakes, which can hurt an offspring who doesn’t grasp how hard it is to parent a child. Writers of shows as popular as Heroes should be very, very careful how they present these topics. In an ego-centric and ego-driven world, such seemingly innocuous sayings meant to advance plots can also cause adverse effects within family units. With fame comes responsibility, be it for a celebrity or a show.
On a lighter note (pun intended), I still love the circus freak music typical of Sylar scenes. That’s probably what I would miss the most were he to be killed off.
Hiro’s slow uptake
It took Hiro long enough to think of doing something every single viewer probably thought of doing as soon as he feel off the ledge. Then again, this is Hiro, and Ando wasn’t there to help him. I loved the fact that Hiro was the one who gave the idea to separate the two parts of the formula. Therefore this ‘trip’ into the past happened, and belongs to the ‘normal’ time continuum.
And by the way, Daphne was wrong; were adult Hiro to die in the past, it wouldn’t have changed anything to her present. But it’s OK – she’s allowed to make a wrong assumption, and a philosophical discussion about the nature of time travel would have made many of us want to throw our remotes at our TVs.
Ando’s adorably annoying insistence to be a hero
Ando’s insistence to help Hiro is adorable, but still… It’s getting on my nerves. Does he want to do it because he wants to do it, or because he wants powers, he wants in? Kudos to the writers though; his power is really original, basically turning into the adrenaline. It also brings a whole new set of possibilities to the show: this power potentially has positive effects (Daphne) as well as its negative ones (Meredith). And, yet again, we have yet another opening for a return to the plot of an exploding man, just like in Season – sorry, Volume – 1.
Nathan’s scary turn towards the dark side
One of the most thought-provoking Petrelli moments in this episode was Nathan underlining the irony of Peter using the formula, everything that he stands against, on himself, be it to save them from the fire.
The most shocking moment, reminiscent of the relationship the Petrelli brothers had in an alternate future (Volume 1, anyone?), came a little later, when Nathan asked Peter, referring to having saved him: “Why did you do it?” Peter, looking puzzled, answers: “Because you are my brother and I love you” – a very Peter-worthy answer. To which Nathan responds: “That’s not what I would have done” before flying off.
When ‘saving the world’ can destroy it
Nathan seems to be developing into an extremist, intent to help the world in any way that he can. We see this in the Volume 4 teaser, when Nathan tells the president that he wants all the people with special abilities to be rounded up and put in a facility where they can’t hurt anyone.
Which brings me to another absolutely fascinating aspect of this show, which can be easily translated into the day to day international scene: for the most part, humans are intent on ‘saving’ each other from disaster. There are very few people who don’t care about human suffering. There are so many groups who are each trying to ‘save the world’; but because we don’t take the time to understand each other on the one hand, and to consult and coordinate our efforts, it always feels like we are competing with each other when we all want the same thing.
This brings us back to Sylar’s monster vs. angel dilemma; after all, just as he points out at the end of the episode, if we have the strength to be honest and admit to the existence of this duality in life, that we are both capable of being both good and evil, destiny can be rewritten by the choices we make, by the love we hold on to and the promises we keep. Sylar’s monologues on the difference between good and evil at the beginning and the end of this episode are setting the tone for what is probably going to be a Volume 4 war. And, amidst everything that is going on in the world today (corporate greed vs. human suffering), they seem to reflect so much more than the fate of fictional characters.
– Hiro bowing to Tracey in apology before punching her;
– The president at the beginning of Volume 4 is African-American – nod to Obama, perhaps?
– The fact that there are finally characters dying ‘for real’, however gory that might sound;
– Ando: “What happened? Do I have abilities?” Daphne: “So far all we know is that you can pass out really well.”
– Ando: “What was that?” Matt: “I don’t know. But that sure wasn’t time travel.”