When Bryan Fuller returned to the "Heroes" fold, he was bluntly honest about the state of the fourth volume. He said that the first few episodes would be a strong start, but that things would fall apart and get pretty bad by episodes 18-19 of the season. That kind of honesty could be interpreted as simple arrogance and narcissism, but I can't help but see his point.
Oddly enough, I'm usually one to root for the underdog. If I start watching a random football or baseball game with little or no personal investment in a given team, I'm the one who starts cheering for the losing team. Someone says a film or book sucks? I look for the silver lining. Which is the roundabout way of saying that I still have hope that "Heroes" can pull out of the tailspin they've found themselves in for the past couple seasons, and I see the potential within the story that has yet to be managed particularly well.
The episode doesn't get off to a good start. Previously, Danko had set Matt up as a "terrorist", complete with a bomb strapped on his chest, to give the public and his superiors evidence of a threat worthy of serious human rights violations. For this to work, Danko's involvement shouldn't be obvious or easy to determine. Unfortunately, somehow, everyone is quickly convinced that Danko set Matt up, and Danko doesn't even try to deny it. This renders the entire situation moot, revealing it to be little more than an attempt at shock tactics.
But it does serve to bring the conflict between Danko and Nathan to a head, effectively paying off their little power struggle. There was never any doubt that Danko would take full control over the operation, and that his more extreme policies would take effect almost immediately. Nathan was a fool to ever expect that he could keep Danko under control, and sure enough, now Nathan is in the crosshairs. (The outright thick-headed stupidity of the Petrelli family is staggering to behold.)
Much like Matt's subplot early in this episode, Claire's subplot seems a bit pointless. If the writers were going to have her stay in Costa Verde for a while, working for Rebel and the burgeoning metahuman underground, it would make sense for her to take a new job and establish herself. But as it stands, the situation is mostly notable for tossing her into a comic shop job where she can be the object of attraction. Oh, and so she can prove to be as clueless as her father and uncle when it comes to taking people at their word.
The highlight of the episode is, as usual, the Sylar subplot. Even that, of course, has its flaws, but the darker side that Sylar represents is a lot more interesting. I loved John Glover during his tenure on "Smallville", and he brings some familiar amoral depth to the role of Samson Gray. If Samson hadn't been weakened by time and disease, I doubt Sylar would have been able to beat him so easily. But it does seem to have given Sylar the closure he needed to move on, and it should be interesting to see what he does with Danko. I suspect he will convince Danko, one way or another, to make him an operative, serving both their interests (since Danko's team was unable to stop Sylar in the past).
It's far better to contemplate Sylar's ongoing shifts in character motivation than, say, the logic behind tossing Hiro and Ando into a baby plot. That turn of events was beyond random, and perhaps typifies the underlying problems with the episode (and the volume thus far). While the central conflict could certainly be compelling, the writers appear to be struggling with the task of giving so many characters something to do. Even so, I'm holding out to see if the revised writing staff can turn things around.