Heroes Reaction Time: Season 4, Episode 6, "Tabula Rasa" Review - Featured

See, THIS is why I keep watching Heroes. Was this week's installment a perfect episode? No.

But it was very, very wonderful and had some visual and thematic elements that tied it back to the good old days of Season One - and, even better, the story went in some genuinely unexpected directions.

To start off, let me say that while there are few things quite as wonderful as Sendhil Ramamurthy's overwritten but melodic Indian-English accented, baritone voiceovers, Robert Knepper's opening narration was, for lack of a better word, delicious.

As for the rest of what Robert Knepper (or rather his character Samuel Sullivan) got up to this episode...oh my. We finally entered the world of the carnival. It's both more and less creepy than what I was expecting. I definitely enjoyed getting more of a look at who else is in the 'family' besides Samuel, Lydia, Edgar, and that dying guy. But what I loved was that we finally get an up-close look at the dark(er) side of Samuel Sullivan. It's one thing to see the aftermath of him dropping a dinner party into a sinkhole, but quite another to hear him explain his twisted vision of the world and his intentions for Sylar with so much relish you can hear him tasting the words.

And the house of mirrors. Oh my lord the house of mirrors. As a rule, any scene including a room with 360 degree mirrors is epic. But Heroes stepped up and delivered - not just once, but twice. We've seen all the horrors of Sylar over the course of the show. But watching the footage over again, creepily zoomed in, heavy on the blood and screaming, reflected from every direction...it made me physically uncomfortable. In a good way. And an appearance by the marvelously talented Ellen Greene? Icing. Decadent, grotesque icing. The Sylar character has always been intriguing, but this is a genuinely new and different direction. I don't buy Zachary Quinto quite as much as an innocent semi-Nathan, but the battle between the physical urge to kill and the mental horror at ensuing violence was presented in a way I can only call ingenious.

My favorite thing I'm taking away from this portion of "Tabula Rasa" is validation for the faith I've kept in this show. There are down moments, but the way they are dealing with the Sylar/Gabriel/Nathan character now is truly masterful. I have absolutely no idea where it's all going to go. I missed that feeling.

Moving on to the other parts of the Heroes world. Hiro. Emma. Peter. HRG....I'm gonna work that list in reverse order, I think.

HRG is historically my favorite character. He's just fascinating, in terms of action and mentality. What I liked about him in this episode was that he finally got up off his couch and picked up a gun again. What I loved was that Noah Bennet's psyche was verbalized for what I believe is the first time in the whole series. "My power is understanding people like you." Can't put it any better than that. I don't know that I'd be a fan of that healer-kid sticking around for too long. But I'm glad to see that HRG finally has a direction this season (and especially glad that it doesn't involve Claire or Tracy).

Not much to say on Peter this episode, except that he was classic Peter - the good, heroic kind of classic Peter. Not the emo one. He mostly just served as a handy plot device. That gunshot time freeze, though? Killer. (No pun intended...mostly...)

To say I haven't enjoyed the Emma storyline much thus far would be a gross understatement. In this episode, though, it took off in a direction that really worked well for me...up until the end. Hiro is kind of like a band-aid for bad power-discovery storylines. He patches it up and does a damn fine job, but it only works so well. Having Emma confront her fear with Hiro's aid while switching back and forth with the terrified healer-kid was beautifully handled in terms of storyline symmetry and balance. Disparate storylines haven't matched up that well thematically in a long time and I really enjoyed it.

Towards the end, Emma's story started to backtrack a little. She went and did some more gratuitous piano playing. The fact that she can make things break with sound was not touched on at all. And (this was actually at the beginning of the episode, but hey) it turns out that the cello wasn't hers, but someone planted it in her home. What? This particular plot is still struggling, although I'm now willing to give it some space to develop. We'll call it two steps forward, one step back for now.

And finally, Hiro. Hiro, Hiro, Hiro. His magic show was delightful, and his sagelike counsel of Emma was even better. Somehow, Hiro can get away with melodrama that I would scorn from any other character. I was almost worried for a moment there that Peter would show up and he'd get healed. But not really. Heroes has never been that incompetent. What I was definitely NOT expecting was this whole Charlie thing. WHAT? I already had Jayma Mays on the brain when they showed a flash of her in Sylar/Gabriel/Nathan's house of mirror-horrors, but I was definitely thrown for a loop. She's not slotted for an appearance, according to imdb. A shame, but not world-shattering. I'm just curious to see where this all goes.

All in all, this was a solid episode of Heroes. I really enjoyed it. Not because it was mind-blowingly crazyamazing. But because the story moved along in directions that surprised and intrigued me, there was a good amount of character development, and there was fodder for both my technical effects/literary device analyzing brain and my sardonic/easily amused crackbrain. It was entertaining. And that is the best thing I can say.

(This review - with a few less intelligent but more funny comments - also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com)


Oct 20, 2009 3:51AM EDT

I agree this is a great episode! I'm happy I've powered through and stayed this long because this is what I was missing.
I'd love for to Samuel realize the potential of Nathans gift and turn him into a politician for their cause. Maybe their lion will have a roar just as powerful as his bite.
I've always hated that Peter could only have 1 power at a time, but this episode it seemed to work really well. I like Peter in this wildcard position and would love to see more.
Hiro, I love his character and he's totally gaining a new type of charm and I think this directly reflects the skills of Masi Oka. I know this may be a stretch, but I'd love to see Hiro survive and be the 'uber powerful yet flawed' mentor. Help others with powers grow. It maybe hard to tip-toe the line of X-Men with this but I think it's a crucial character.
I also hope we drop away from Emma's story line. She's beautiful and inspiring but, as corny as it sounds, I'd love to enjoy that small connection rather than just dragging out another complex character. At least don't pursue the crack in her wall, that was just silly.

Great review!

Oct 20, 2009 4:43AM EDT

I really liked this episode also, I thought that the lack of claire and parkman did it wonders. Peter finally started using his abilities in a somewhat logical way. The most interesting storyline involved hiro and emma and sylar. I am pretty sure hiro is on his way to a dramatic exit- probably dying along side charlie. I'll miss him, but it feels time for a major death. Emma is the most interesting addition to this season, and I hope we explore her character more and she doesn't end up a dead end like maya. I hope this time Sylar stays remorseful and introspective, and develops into something other than a plain old villain. I hope this doesn't become a heroes vs. carnies showdown, that would be silly.

Oct 20, 2009 5:50PM EDT

This episode was pretty good, though Emma...I have no idea where her story is going or going to end up and i must say i find her story the most...boring out of all of then. And then Sylar, I hope in the next epsiode, or at least soon, Parkman just puts Sylar back together and he returns to normal, and bye bye Nathan.Good thorough review!

Large 1318971011 avatar   durarara  shizuo
Oct 20, 2009 9:00PM EDT

Haha, I also loved Samuel's narration. It also made me miss Mohinder :(
Samuel pulls off the creepy ringleader (both literal and metaphorical) very well. He just seems so excited to bring out the power of Sylar and twist it to his own ways.
The house of mirrors might have been my favorite part of the episode. Not just for the scenes of Sylar's murders past, but also for the way it forced Sylar to confront the monster that he had been, and make him think about what he'd do next. It also brings out another part of Zachary Quinto's acting that's been very underutilized in the show so far (he's spent way too much airtime just killing people).
I'm glad HRG's finally getting to be a nice guy who follows through with helping people with powers instead of just keeping tabs on them.
I liked the development between Emma and Hiro, and how he showed that her power didn't need to scare her. I don't think it's really necessary for the show to expand on the destructive capability of her powers yet - after all, she's just starting out on her path. As far as the cello goes... I think it's possible the Carnival has something to do with that.
And Hiro... Already mentioned the excellence of him helping Emma come to terms with her power. Like Hiro, I too forgot about Charlie (in a way); I didn't think to expect him to try to correct that wrong in his life. I don't know how he'd do it, either, besides taking her back to the present and having Peter heal her as well as him.
All in all, an excellent episode.

Oct 21, 2009 2:46AM EDT

I liked this episode myself. Heroes IS getting interesting week after week. I do miss the old Sylar though... he's my fave character, afterall. However, the way his story goes...I'm really excited of what's gonna happen next. I would beware if I were the people from the carnival though... they sure want the old Sylar back... but with his capability and lust for power... they might all turn up dead. "Bloodlust at the Carnival"...that would be fun.
I really don't like this Emma character. I can't explain why... but I'm irritated every time I see her and I just skip her parts. They're all plain boring and I don't know where her story is getting at... plus, I don't find her ability that interesting. Too bad I can't skip some of her parts coz Hiro's in most of them...
I'd love to see Parkman and 'Sylar' next week... and a bit of Claire and Ando... though I'm not really sure about this Charlie character...
Can't wait!

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