Despite the polarity that the title seems to suggest, "Pass/Fail" was actually all about middle-ground and gray area - my very favorite thing, and the one element that, even in its worst moments (*COUGH*SeasonTwo*COUGH*) Heroes has managed to maintain.
Not a whole lot happened in terms of actual story progression, but some of the things that haven't been all that clear so far in Season Four were fleshed out and given some real depth.
For starters, Hiro. Now, I'm a sucker for a good dream sequence no matter what the context or form is. But this was a great one. I feel like Hiro's been the most altered character so far this season, and this was an excellent way of reminding everyone exactly what lies at the core of Heroes' least ambiguous good guy. (Nobility, and also quoting of Quantum Leap as testimony.) The whole sequence/plotline with the tumor still gets my disapproval because there was never even a remote possibility that Hiro was going to die. Miracle surgery (that the Japanese didn't even think was possible?) and Magical Mommy Healing? Yikes. But at least the penultimate stage of Hiro's storyline ended more or less satisfactorily. Extra bonus: George Takei in a judge robe and David Anders in a suit!
Moving on, this episode showed Samuel Sullivan at his absolute grayest. He's generally expected as the bad guy, but he does what he does out of love? Mushy, cheesy, fourteen-year-old boy love? His better side was book-ended by the badder one - at the beginning he shaves with a straight razor (because he's just that much of a badass), and at the end he makes the Earth swallow up a little town in the Midwest. Ultimately, he comes out scary as hell (possibly even more so than Sylar at his worst) and ready to do major damage. But the bulk of the episode shows a new aspect of his softer side - romantic love, not creepy cult leadership family love. And he's partnered with the excellent Kate Vernon, who I like SO much better when she is not Ellen Tigh.
The third major event of "Pass/Fail" was probably my favorite. Putting Claire and Sylar (and Gretchen) together could have gone either very well or very VERY poorly. As it turns out, it was phenomenal.
Gretchen has been a highly confusing character all season. First, she was the least irritating Claire-friend since Zach and an intriguing potential villain. Then she became the face of all the wrongness that was the out-of-the-blue girls-kissing-for-ratings. But now, after this episode, I'm liking her again. She's funny, and also just a really nice character, and Heroes doesn't have those. Of course, to be fair, during the part of this episode where I liked her most, she was actually Sylar.
We didn't get any definitive answers to the question I personally have been asking since Season One - "Why Claire Bennet?" - , but we got back in touch with the incredible grayness that is Gabriel Gray with success that hasn't been reached since the first appearance of his mother. The odd connection between Claire and Sylar has been somewhat explained, and we may be headed toward An Actual New Development: Sylar without powers. By CHOICE. Wouldn't that be wacky. I'm not sure why he's off visiting Parkman(s). Maybe to get all the junk out of his head?
There was one MAJOR FAIL in this part of the episode. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll assume you've just blocked the memory.
We're coming in on the home stretch of Season Four, which may or may not be the ultimate end of Heroes. This is the time of the season when things need to start looking exciting and building up toward an explosive finale. And oh boy are they. I am super jazzed for the next few weeks.
(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com.)