Possibly the best Heroes episode yet–not as moving as “Company Man,” but more thrilling and generally mind-blowing than any others. That’s how you do it: take one compelling character, one compelling story, and follow it through from beginning to end. I accept that Heroes is wedded to the hopscotch, get every-storyline-in-every-episode formula, but I do hope they’ll do this more often.
Having President “Nathan” turn out to be President Sylar was an impressive twist–maybe I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t–but I was also a little disappointed. I liked the idea, as a philosophical exercise, that Nathan could have had it in him to turn on his fellow mutants (OK, X-Men term, but then… X-Men storyline). It would have raised an interesting question about character and fate: to what extent can circumstance change a good guy (or at least a generally decent, if morally conflicted guy) into a bad guy? Could it be that saving the cheerleader or not saving the cheerleader, killing Sylar or not killing Sylar, could not only change events but change characters’ souls?
Then again, maybe we do still have to ask that question. Future Matt is clearly a changed, hardened man. And just before squaring off, Jedi-style (with complementary red and blue hands), Sylar told Peter, “When I killed Nathan, he’d already turned against his own kind.” Sure, he could be lying, but like many good villains, Sylar is willing to tell the truth if it hurts enough.
There were so many nifty reversals, twists and what-ifs, I’m not going to try to mention them all. But speaking of reversals–what exactly happens to the people in a particular “future” when someone shifts a detail in the past, as when Peter ended up saving Claire? Would the people around Claire, to whom she had been dead, suddenly remember her as if she’d never died? And does the Peter in this alternative future remember having saved Claire, and if so, had there been another alternative Peter who did not remember? My brain hurts; I’m hoping some of our harder-core genre geeks can help me out here.
One detail that especially struck me, though, was seeing the future news coverage–“America Remembers: Five Years Later”–and how eerily it evoked the landscape, images and rhetoric of 9/11. Well done all around. If this five-years from now future didn’t involve my being blown up by Peter Petrelli, I’d almost wish we could go back there next week.