Tuesday 27 October 2009

Heroes - I'm starting to think this isn't a game.

Heroes Season Four Episode Seven: Strange Attractors.

„Strange Attractors“ is all about belonging and strange bedfellows, in a way. While Samuel failed to revive the true Sylar in the last episode, fittingly called “Tabula Rasa” (blank slate), because all he found beneath the surface were fragments of Nathan, memories of his past as a pilot, his name, shaking hands, “Strange Attractors” focuses on another character who fails to find a new path on her own, and ends up in Samuel’s Carnival. The argument here is simple: some of the traces of the past can not be that easily removed, and living among the hostile environment of a world that does not recognize abilities can be difficult, especially for those who have been hunted down for them.

Matt / Sylar
Anyway, the first storyline is quite literally about strange bedfellows: Matt’s Sylar-problem is now permanent, and invades even the most private moments with his wife, who does enjoy the sex, but, as head-Sylar indicates, probably won’t survive his next overtake of Matt’s body once he “really starts to have fun”. Matt has made some questionable choices in the past, but it wasn’t exactly his fault alone that the all-too manipulative Angela Petrelli talked him into doing the complicated Nathan-Sylar-mindswap in the first place: but he might have asked for help a little bit sooner (it is only now that he remembers to call the scientist who has been blissfully missing for the past episodes, let’s just hope that his return does not bring the awful “let me tell you what this episode was all about” voiceovers back), and probably should have told his wife that he isn’t in control of himself anymore a couple of weeks ago.
But now Matt decides to fess up and pack his bags, he even remembers that Janice shouldn’t tell him where she is going, since the enemy is always listening – but then he makes the stupid mistake of falling for one of Sylar’s schemes, convincing himself into believing that drinking the bad man away might work. Didn’t he learn anything from that prolonged sessions with Alcoholics Anonymous? In the end, Matt is lost, now a figment of Sylar’s imagination rather than the other way around, and while the actual Sylar wanders the world believing himself to be somebody else, this one is hell-bent on getting his body back. It seems like poor Matt Parkman, after losing Daphne and any trust in his own abilities, just can’t catch a break.

Noah / Tracy / Samuel

Noah Bennet on the other hand, the man previously having a plan, now living in an apartment over a Chinese restaurant and earning barely enough money to fill his fridge, is trying to return to his roots, and is running a one-man version of the “Company” with a more charitable cause. Last episode he tried to help Peter to rescue Hiro by finding a healer, who turned out to be a teenage boy, Jeremy (played by Mark L. Young, who has already played a disturbed young man before on “Dexter”) , who is not in control of the darker side of his powers: killing by touching. Noah found him in his parents’ house, living with the dead bodies of his family, basically a lost cause, and decided that this would be a good point to start a new career. Sadly, the opposition he meets in the small town, police men and townies who are convinced that the young man is a killer and must be punished, is too much for him to overcome alone, and so he makes the unlikely phone call to Tracy Strauss, who was introduced as a character just as lost as Noah in the beginning of the season. Tracy, after all also only slowly growing into her new powers and occasionally lethal, should understand Jeremy. But Noah seems to have forgotten how Tracy started out this season: As a woman looking for revenge for what the secret government operation had done to her, a woman very much conscious of the fact that the world she lives in does not welcome her. Her attempt to save the boy from the community that wishes to punish him, and finally, in a disturbing scene, lynches him in a brutal way, is the last thread that connects her to what Noah represents. Here, the ordinary people become a much more threatening villain than Samuel ever could be.
When that thread is gone, Samuel’s tempting proposal of a “home for people like us” just sounds like the better offer, and so Tracy joins the family, leaving Noah behind, once again back where he started. Samuel, after all, is such an interesting character because he is not a big bad – he is a man who has decided for himself that the only way for him to protect his people his family, those with powers (who are presented here as travellers, artists, people so often persecuted in history for being different) is to resort to violence. In the face of what we saw happening in the third season of the show, where people with abilities where collected and imprisoned, stripped of their human rights, disappeared, this strategy doesn’t seem that misguided.

Claire / Gretchen

When we last saw Claire and Gretchen, they were led off by the creepy sorority, interrupted in the aftermath of an awkward kiss that was more of an “hey, I am not actually a psychopathic murderer” than a “hey, look, girls kissing! Ratings!” kinda thing (despite the fact that NBC promoted the hell out of that scene that wasn’t even remotely as intimate as the whole “would cutting into your hand be crossing a line” scene from “Ink”). Interruption in general seems to be the driving force of the relationship: Just as Claire and Gretchen start to get close, Noah calls to give Claire an “I will always protect you, Claire-bear” lecture (in “Ink”). Just as Gretchen tries to figure out what Claire thinks of the crush-confession, the candle-bearing sisters walk into their room (in “Hysterical Blindness”). And now, just as they start to have a conversation about the elephant in the room, they get kidnapped by the aforementioned creepy sorority (and by Samuel’s “niece”, the invisible girl).
Claire: „You awake?“
Gretchen: „Yeah, you?“
Claire: “Yup”
Gretchen: “You’re afraid I’m gonna kiss attack you in your sleep?”
Claire: “Maybe. We should talk about this.”
Gretchen: “I guess we should. It was stupid, and impulsive, and bad.”
Claire: “It wasn’t bad. I mean..you’re a good kisser I just… I don’t wanna mess this up.”
Gretchen: “Mess what up?”
Claire: “My new, totally ordinary life. You know, the one that I’m still chasing? Gretch, you are the first real friend I’ve had since I left Texas and that’s a big deal for me. And I really like you a lot…”
Gretchen: “Just…not in that way.”
The idea that Claire would stall a definite decision because she is afraid to see her only friendship messed up, rather than because she considers being with a girl the issue here, is really surprising: that, of all shows, “Heroes”, the one with a pretty bad track record in character development, would get this storyline right (at least so far). Also, kudos for making Claire a likeable character this season: I have always found it disturbing how whiny she was, and finally, she starts to become the “supergirl” Gretchen admires, going all “Buffy” (the most obvious reference) on the intruding sorority sisters, who stand no chance against her. Finally, Claire is turning into that blonde girl in the alley that fights back, rather than relying on her dad to bail her out. Although she is trying to lead a normal life, she is ready to fight for what she loves, and she is no longer the damsel in distress that needs to be rescued (just remember the first season tagline: “Save the cheerleader, save the world”. Finally the cheerleader is taking care of herself).
Anyway, the awkward conversation continues in the trunk of a car, headed to the modern day spooky castle, the “Sawesque” abandoned slaughterhouse.
Claire: „I can not believe they shoved us in a trunk. So lame.”
Gretchen: “Look at us. All tied up in the dark.”
Claire: “You know there are entire websites devoted to this.”

Then, both, as a bump in the road brings them into kissing distance:


Gretchen: “So, erm, you were saying how you didn’t really like me that way?”
Claire: “No, you were saying that. I was saying that you’ve been a great friend.”
Gretchen: “So which way is it?”
Claire: “I don’t know.”
Gretchen: “What does that mean?”
Claire: “It means I don’t know.”
Gretchen: “Awesome.”
The actual treasure hunt that is nothing more than a ploy by Becky to get rid of Gretchen in the most dramatic, pain-inducing way possible (for Claire), isn’t as exciting as it might have been: No red-shirted easy victims – but the setting was supposed to point out two things in the relationship between Claire and Gretchen. One, that they actually make a pretty good team, and two, that Claire, no matter how normal she wishes her life to be, will always get into situations like that, and those who are close to her will always be in danger.
Claire: „So how long have you known?”
Gretchen: “Known what? That I really don’t wanna be in this sorority?”
Claire: “That you like girls.”
Gretchen: “You make it sound like I have to declare it, like it’s my major or something.
Claire: “I’m actually jealous. First year of college and you’ve already figured yourself out.”
Gretchen: “Well I don’t know about that. Truth is I’ve had more boyfriends than girlfriends.”
Claire: “Really? How many more?”
Gretchen: “Six or Seven. That’s not a lot, right?”
Claire: “Sounds about right.”
Gretchen: “Hey you’re not…no, you couldn’t be. You were a cheerleader.”
Claire: “Not what?”
Gretchen: “A Virgin? Wow. We could not be more different. Maybe we’re strange attractors.”
Claire: “Strange attractors?”
Gretchen: It’s a physics thing. Everything in the universe has a magnetic charge, so strange attractors are particles that end up together that don’t really belong together but when they’re together they’re super powerful. Sorta like we could be. Or not. What?”
Claire takes the lead in the slaughterhouse, figuring out the first clue, she saves Gretchen twice, and finally wins in the confrontation against Becky, but getting nailed to the wall in the process, which reveals her powers to the two strangers. Gretchen slowly realizes how complicated Claire’s life really is, which is a long way from the girl who pushed her so hard to explain everything after she found out about her abilities.
So in the end of “Strange Attractors”, Claire is still no closer to joining Samuel’s Carnival, and if anything, she is now close enough to Gretchen to remain firmly rooted in the small world she has built up for herself, but she has to deal with the fact that her secret is revealed. In the final scene in the storyline, Gretchen asks “what are WE going to do”, apparently willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure that Claire is safe, who has just come to a decision: “I need you. Trust me.”

No comments: