Honestly, I feel like everyone (real and fictional) sorta dropped the ball in this week's episode.
There were a couple of moments and moves that I really enjoyed, but I'm sad to say that even the elements of this season I love tended to miss the mark this episode.
I was definitely not happy to return to the utterly confusing and seemingly pointless world of Emma and Peter. This side-plot is starting to seem more and more like a way to keep up Milo Ventimiglia's screentime quotient until Peter actually becomes relevant to the story. For a few brief moments, it seemed as if Emma might be at least slightly redeemed. She sutured up that one patient and saved the little girl, and it all led up to the long-awaited reveal of her Oh So Tragic Past. Unfortunately, said Oh So Tragic Past was just plain boring. Truly sad, yes, but also completely irrelevant. I was hoping she would somehow get a little more connected to the overall Heroes 'verse, no matter how ridiculous that would be. But no. As far as I'm concerned, she is still nothing more than filler.
The good news is, it looks like Peter might finally start being relevant again soon. Nathan showed up on his doorstep, very scared and very confused and very ready to get some real answers. More on that next week, presumably.
Nathan's re-entry also means that Parkman and the Syluccination are being taken out of their isolate little corner of Season Four so far. Of every aspect of "Shadowboxing," this was the least disappointing part for me, but it was definitely not perfect. I did love Sylar's line "The world is my hostage." It was brilliant, character-perfect, and every bit as disturbing as it should have been. Another good thing was the temporary return to the Burnt Toast diner of the present, which helped to give "Shadowboxing" at least a tenuous connection to last week's "Once Upon A Time In Texas." The comedy of Matt screwing with Sylar was excellent, and the turning point from that was even better. What ruined that exchange, though, was Matt's statement that Sylar could have his body and his voice but "I will never ever let you control my ability." Matt Parkman is historically the Heroes character with the most fear/loathing of his power, and suddenly he holds on to it as the most precious thing to him? Consistency fail. Definitely redeemed, though, by Matt's last ditch effort to stop Sylar via letting himself get shot. Obviously he's not going to die, but it was still a noble and unexpected move. And Matt'll be back in his body again soon. Which is good. Because having Sylar-as-Parkman and Nathan-slash-Sylar both walking around is confusing as hell.
On the other side of the world, Claire called in the heavy guns - HRG and a happily returned Haitian to try and unravel Samuel Sullivan (and Becky's) plans. This was only slightly less pointless than the rest of Claire's storyline this season, and having Gretchen gone is surely a plus. The problem with this whole scenario is that it doesn't seem to make any sense whatsoever. Samuel wants Claire in his "family," but he's allowing Becky to get her revenge on HRG, who is reverting to his Company Man-era self for absolutely no reason. Some odds and ends in the season-spanning storyline have been connected, but I'm having some difficulty understanding how and why. I was disappointed in the Samuel/Claire scene, mostly because Robert Knepper has to bring down his performance quality a lot so that Hayden Panettiere didn't look completely out of her league. And epic fail of the episode goes unquestionably to Samuel for losing SYLAR at the expense of trying to get CLAIRE.
If previews are anything to judge by, next week looks like one of those super-important connect-the-dots installments where all the disparate plotlines start to be put together. It'll be good to finally get Mohinder back and learn exactly what the heck he got up to after disappearing at the end of Season Three, and the closer we get to a conclusion in this Nathan-Sylar-Matt business, the better. But I'm dubious of how well it will all work out. Time to wait and see.
(This review, with a few extra parenthetical notes, is also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com)