It's amazing what a powerful creative force can do for a writers' room. "Heroes" is often written by committee, with the credit going to whichever writer gives a script its final polish. The net effect is that an episode is based on a bullet-point list of gestalt ideas, and it comes down to the talent and inspiration of the writer to flesh that out into something worthwhile. Given what weâve seen of the "inspiration" provided by Tim Kring and the previous showrunners and the endless repetition of plot elements, that room needed some new (or, in this case, old) blood.
I make this point because it seemed to me that this episode wasn't necessarily a dramatic move away from the storytelling conceits that were found in previous episodes. Obviously, it couldn't stray too far from what was established, but if one saw a summary of previous episodes and this episode side by side, it wouldn't look all that different. What was different, however, was the evolution from the breaking of the story to the final version. The tone was substantially different, and I believe that is what many fans have noticed and continue to laud.
For example, Daphne's death seems to be rather pointless, given the fact that the audience was already led to believe that Daphne was dead once and she actually dies of her earlier wound in this episode. The end effect (driving Parkman towards revenge) was already in place. Letting her live only serves the purpose of giving Matt and Daphne a moment of closure that was previously missing, thus exploring an aspect of Matt's power that hasn't been seen recently.
There's also the baby plot with Hiro and Ando. Now, using this plot to explore Hiro's psychological reaction to everything that happened in Volume Three was a nice touch, because they usually don't bother with that enough. But having Matt's baby somehow restore part of Hiro's ability? That's a real stretch.
Finally, there's the latest example of a character "dying" out of some semblance of sacrifice, despite the fact that she's obviously not dead. Tracy's trick of freezing herself and fooling Danko into thinking that he can shatter her to death was clever enough, but how many times has a character seemingly died, only to come back? (See Daphne's recent arc.) This happens all the time on "Heroes".
Normally these things would be irritating. In this case, they were given more depth by just the right spin on the material. There was a much better emphasis on the characters and how these situations were affecting them on a personal level. Daphne's fate was secondary to how Matt reacted to the knowledge of it, and how he ultimately helped her have one last magical moment. Hiro's interaction with the baby was mostly about his own sublimated emotions. Tracy's ruse was well-done, and her reasons were tied to her regret for betraying Micah.
Add to that the exploration of Angela's attempts to escape Danko's forces (which was focused mostly on her fear), and this was more devoted to motivations than the lion's share of the episodes this season. It's hard to know if this was Bryan Fuller's doing or if it was simply the synergistic effect of his return to the writers' room. But whatever it was, it was a huge step in the right direction.