Tuesday 10 November 2009

Heroes - What Would Bennet Do?

Heroes Season Four Episode Nine: Shadowboxing.

Claire / Gretchen

When I said at the end of "Strange Attactors" that if anything, the slaughterhouse incident had brought Claire and Gretchen closer together, I seem to have understood Gretchen's "What are WE going to do" wrong. Now, given what has happened to that poor girl over the past weeks (finding out about the existence of superpowers, crushing on a girl that "isn't sure", getting almost killed twice by an invisible girl), her actions in this episode are completely understandable, but for some reason "Shadowboxing" doesn't fit in neatly with the ending of "Strange Attractors" (although it picked up right where the seventh episode left off). First of, Claire "gets off the hook" (heh) easy here, explaining that the water bottles provided by the sorority sisters must have been spiked and caused hallucinatory goodness ("I just saw you two making out" says Gretchen), but the self-assurednes and resilience displayed only minutes earlier crumbles once that particular problem of the two overly-excited (Oh-My-GAAAAAAWD) girls is solved: "No, actually I am not OK, Becky just tried to kill me".
Claire, at the beginning of this episode, is just happy that her status of normalcy remains intact to the outside - and realizes too late what this means for Gretchen, actually being the one targeted here, by an invisible opponent. Claire leaves her alone in the dorm room with a bottle of baby powder (like that would do anything to actually help her once she does discover Becky in her room? What the heck, Claire, after all the smartness from two episodes ago), and finds her Dad and the Haitian already solving her problems at the sorority house. She lays down some ground rules: make the bad things go away, but let me keep the good stuff (which is, apparently, Gretchen) - only to realize that said girl might decide to flee the scene all on her own, without the incentive of HRG. Gretchen is packing her bags, and leaving for the airport, and not even the assurance of future safety and devotion convince her to put her life on the line. Which is kind of a good call, actually, but still sad considering how tough and unshakable she's been so far (in short, it seems "out of character", if this is even possible in such a tiny and recent role).

Noah / Claire / Samuel / Becky

But this volume is mainly about redemption, not failed attempts at redefinition and a normal life, and so Claire's storyline finally comes to fruition when we find out, once again, that the agenda of the Carnies actually is justified from past actions. Noah, who is so eager to protect his little Claire-bear, is responsible for this entirely: he has killed Becky's dad, and the girl has decided to take a little bit of sweet revenge (Samuel is all about family and revenge too) on Noah. Of course taking what is most valuable to him is a bit tricky, considering that Claire is the Invincible Girl, but as it turns out, Samuel has a more complicated plan here: Noah is not special, and Claire doesn't even begin to know everything about his shady past, although she does trust him. As he has done before, Samuel tries to drive a wedge between those with superpowers and "normal people".
In the showdown, when Noah has Samuel in cuffs and Becky comes in to save him (yeah - cause once she had disappeared, everyone forgot that the invisible girl was still at loose...so many plot holes, so little time), Samuel even seems to calculate on Noah killing Becky, just to prove his point to Claire (who is more shaken by Gretchen leaving than by anything that is being revealed about her dad here, interestingly enough). In the end, Samuel and Becky return to the Carnival unharmed (ok, I see why HRG would spare their life, but why did he LET THEM GO?), Samuel states that he still thinks he's got Claire where he wants her (which is in her bed, staring longingly at the empty bed on the other side - the entire episode is filled with nostalgic moments from "Strange Attractors"), realizing that it takes more than just the conviction of wanting to be normal to get all the things she wants (and I can tell myself that this just provides some alone time for Claire to figure this all out until Gretchen comes back - pretty please?).

Matt / Sylar

The other storylines worked a bit better this episode. Nathan in Sylar re-ermerged after some vivid dreaming, and Nathan flew away from the Carnival, which was a nice welcome back present for Samuel when he returned from Arlington ("dude, you're project's gone"), and Sylar in Matt, or rather, Matt in Sylar, went on a road trip in which Matt once again proved that he has good intentions but not the sharpest of minds ("I can make you trip", says Matt, "I can kill random people and take the world my HOSTAGE!" says Sylar). Matt gives up the valuable information in the end, about Nathan, and Sylar vows to get back his body (now re-united with Pete, it's nice that Nathan would trust his little brother more than his mom) and then take revenge on anybody who was involved in this (which is what, like two people?). Then, Matt realizes that he is not cut out to be an equal opponent to the person currently controlling his body and tries suicide-by-cop.

Peter / Emma

Peter, meanwhile, finally has the ultimate power for a person so eager to help everybody, but discovers that he can't because healing people makes him weak (which is bad, because there was a train wreck and hundreds of victims flood into the hospital). Emma, inspired by his helping people, is deciding that she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life in the filing room. I like the slow build-up of their relationship, it's well executed, and it is nice to see Peter smile occasionally instead of always beeing broody and sulky (but I would like it more if I could rely on the other slowly-building relationship to miraculously return in at least two weeks).

Compared to "Strange Attractors", with the emotional violence of the scene in which a boy was lynched for being different (by the way, I never mentioned this but many people speculated that this was meant to be a reminder of the Matthew-Shepard killing ten years ago, in which a young student was brutally killed for being gay in Laramie, Wyoming), or even the sweetness of seeing Hiro rescue his one true love in "Once Upon a Time in Texas", this episode feels like a filler - trying hard to finally connect the separate storylines, to set up a finale and advance the agenda of Samuel. The Matt-Sylar storyline was mostly fun, in that "a righteous cop goes on a road trip with a wacky serial killer" kinda way, but seeing Noah after the disaster that just happened with Jeremy here, in a way, trying to redeem himself by sparing a life, was supposed to do a little more than this achieved (also with the "why did he let Samuel go" question). Claire is a mixed bag again - making ridiculous decisions at one moment that don't fit in with her recently discovered Buffy-ness, then getting all somber and serious the next (she's always been an uneven character, but the past episodes indicated that maybe she had finally found a path, that has now disappeared along with Gretchen's suitcases). Oh "Heroes", you were doing so well, don't screw up now!

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