This was an amazingly successful episode. And I'm surprised to be saying that. Considering the inconsistent quality of this season so far, I had some sizeable doubts about how such elements as the return of Mohinder and "Nathan"'s discovery of his real nature would play out. I am happy to say that I am, for the most part, quite impressed.
To be clear, I am sooooooo done with this Nathan/Sylar thing. Nothing would make me happier than to just finally have it over with. That said, the way this episode engineered, the whole reveal was as good as it could have been. The scene where Sylar retook control of Parkman's body and those two, along with Nathan, did a whole lot of melodramatic shouting and gesturing where no-one was actually speaking to anyone else was more than a little ridiculous. But Nathan knows who he is (due to the mysteriously very involved Haitian and a thankfully not-over-emphasized staring at his own corpse), Parkman has his body (and brain) back, and...well, actually, we're not sure what's happened to Sylar yet. But that's alright. More fodder for next time. As long as the Syluccination conflict doesn't just stretch on indefinitely with Nathan substituting for Parkman, this could turn out to be veeery interesting.
That vital progress was completely overshadowed, though, by the unraveling of the mysteries surrounding Samuel Sullivan. Finally, finally, we are getting to the stage where the writers start to give us answers in addition to questions. The weirdness of the compasses has been driving me batty all season, so I am unbelievably happy to finally have that answered. Even better, it was answered in a way that almost makes a whole lot of sense. The idea of all persons with abilities emanating a force/magnetism is admittedly a little odd. But it is science fiction, so we'll roll with it. The idea of Samuel having an intensified and intensifiable version of this same magnetism is one of the most brilliant things to come out of this season. It works flawlessly with not only the ability we knew he had, power over earth, but also with what we know of his character. And that latter knowledge was even expanded up on in "Brother's Keeper."
The functional purpose of looking nine weeks back was to set Hiro to his Samuel-given task (in order to save Charlie), and to finally bring Mohinder back into the story. Task complete. And then we were also treated to not only fuller development of a new and intriguing character, but also an enjoyable reminder of what value one of the veteran characters brings to the show.
Irritating, naive, and inappropriately egotistic as he is, Mohinder is a pretty fascinating character when you step back and think about it. He embodies an intense dichotomy between his well-meaning moralistic baseline and the mad-scientist vibe he takes on when presented with the challenges of his father's work. After the horrendous turns his character took over the course of the previous two seasons, this reminder of (we might even say reversion to) the origins of what makes Mohinder who he is was entertaining and an effective way of bringing him back into the game a third of the way through the season. I worry about how this mental hospital thing is going to work itself out, but I'll just have to wait and see.
My favorite part of Mohinder's rehabilitation came at the very end when Hiro reminded us all exactly how tricksy he is. With all this death-and-doom-and-paying-of-debts drama that's been going on all season with Hiro (who doesn't have Ando as a counterbalance), the innovative of the rescue of Mohinder was delightfully welcome. And, it helped transition from one part of the story to another - where Hiro and company begin their resistance of Samuel.
And that brings me to the part of this episode that was most fascinating and most successful. First off, "Brother's Keeper gave Robert Knepper an opportunity to show off the full range of his abilities and his character's aspects. I like vaguely creepy, manipulative Samuel. But I love having him accompanied by drunk vagabond Samuel and power-mad out-of-control Samuel. So kudos for that. And also to the long-awaited introduction of Joseph Sullivan. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn't what I got. And that is totally okay. Because I have so much more captivated with the idea of the Samuel character now - and that is saying something.
It looks like the slow build to things coming to a head has begun, and I am super excited. Judging from previews next week, the Samuel-centric plotline is taking a turn for the adversarial next week with not only Hiro and Mohinder, but also Lydia on the frontlines. I haven't been watching the "Slow Burn" installments, but I'm thinking I may want to catch up in the interest of context.
My final comment about "Brother's Keeper" must be preceded with a warning: Hell may be freezing over and the apocalypse may very well be nigh. Because, astounding as this may seem (I still can't believe it myself), I enjoyed the Claire/Tracy subplot in this episode. I hate Claire. I hate Tracy. So don't ask me why them being put together adds up to a situation I actually connected with. This event, which I believe is unprecedented (have Hayden Panettiere and Ali Larter ever had an extended scene together?), completely defies logic - especially since I feel like the arrival of HRG (my favorite character) in the last few moments ruined it. But I am wise enough not to question it.
I feel like Season Four has finally moved on. The narrative paradigms are shifting at long last and it looks like there is some real, sensational changes are going to start taking place.
(Please, please, Heroes, do not disappoint me. Please.)
(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com)