Tuned In

Heroes Watch: "Holy–!"

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SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, watch last night’s Heroes. And FINISH YOUR CEREAL.

In this very special episode, a major character dies… for an entire commercial break!

Oh, right. That’s what a good episode of Heroes looks like.

There’s been a lot of hashing over this season about Heroes’ plot problems–storylines that moved too slowly or weren’t necessary in the first place and so on. But what worked about last night’s episode didn’t have to do with plot, really. Sure, things, happened, stories advanced, certain more annoying plots and characters didn’t surface. But the best thing about the episode–“Cautionary Tales,” credited to Joe Pokaski–was simply that it was written. By human beings who enjoy words, who understand that they’re more than tinkertoys that connect Plot Piece A with Plot Piece B.

This time out, Heroes was funny. (“Stings like a bitch, doesn’t it?”) It was moving. (Hiro’s goodbye to his father was probably Masi Oka’s most stirring moment yet on the show.) You actually had the sense that someone wrote a script, read it back, and asked, “Hmm, is this line a cliche? Is there a more original way of putting this?” There was dialogue that crackled (“Hey Fight Club, check this out”). There were nimble shifts in tone (loved West sheepishly greeting Mrs. Bennet with Elle slung over his shoulder–this was the first episode that I actually enjoyed West). The show had a script, not just a storyboard.

As for the plot, yes, things happened and you can’t say the episode lacked for action. I particularly like Parkman’s embrace of the new dimensions of his powers, which both showed them off as way cool and suggested the power’s potential to corrupt its user. I do have to knock points off, though, for the showdown at the beach, where HRG got the drop on Bob–and started monologuing like The Riddler in an old Batman episode: “If you die, Bob? The company dies with you!” (Ironically, there was an ad for The Incredibles at the following commercial break. Remember: “He starts monologuing!… Yammering! I mean, the guy has me on a platter and he won’t shut up!”) The payoff of Hiro discovering that Adam had killed his father was slightly undercut by the fact that the home audience had already figured it out. And while we all knew that HRG was never seriously going to be killed off, I’m a little worried about the brave new world of Fake Deaths that the show can engineer now that it has Claire’s Amazing Resurrection Blood.

But all that was saved by the perfect last scene of HRG waking up in captivity, which recalled the scene, from the show’s first-season glory days, of Claire waking up vivsected on the autopsy table. When it comes down to it, you can get away with a lot of plot sins if you write well and remind us what we love about the characters–Hiro’s noble idealism, HRG’s tragic devotion to family–and “Cautionary Tales” did that in spades.

Or is the impending strike, and the end of new Heroes episodes, making me go all soft? You tell me.