Something funny happened after the off-screen plane crash. "Heroes" actually gained a sense of direction again.
I have to wonder if it has something to do with writer/consulting producer Mark Verheiden. Verheiden is perhaps best known for his solid contributions to early seasons of "Smallville" and, more recently, critically and fan acclaimed episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" (including the recent masterpiece, "The Oath").
What "Heroes" needed was a touch of the chaotic, the feeling that events are spiraling out of control and lives are changing forever. The premiere for this volume set the stage for the changes seen here, but little else. This is when the overwhelming nature of the circumstances starts to sink in for everyone involved, and that adds some much-needed tension.
As mentioned in the review for the previous episode, the main shift in the story is the nature of the organization hunting down the metahumans. It's not some private company with a vested interest in keeping things quiet, run by metahumans with a desire to prevent future reoccurrence of old mistakes. This is the federal government controlling a potential threat. Government is seldom known for its subtlety.
Nathan is already getting the hint that the soldiers assigned to this little roundup are led by a man without restraint. Daphne's death (and Claire's momentary imitation of Swiss cheese) should have been an indication of how bad it could get. Nathan and Noah can make all the demands they want; these soldiers are not going to hold back. It's already bad enough that I'm counting down the episodes until Nathan himself is forced to go on the run.
While someone had to die for the stakes to be raised, I'm a bit annoyed with the decision to kill Daphne. It's designed to push Matt into a darker direction. Daphne was already the victim of unfortunate storytelling during the third volume (where her conversion to "good" was the exact opposite of "show, donât tell"), so this is just the icing on the cake.
There are also lingering problems with the treatment of abilities. It's not at all clear how Matt could or would develop Isaac's ability on top of his own, and it feels more like the desire to hold onto a convenient plot device than a necessary element of the story. Hopefully this will be explained before much longer.
Peter's ability, on the other hand, has finally been adjusted into more manageable territory. It might be that this "one power at a time" limitation is a temporary state of affairs, but for now, it eliminates the problem of having a hero with too much power and control. The writers were always trying to find ways to hobble him so the plot could remain viable. (The same was also true for Hiro, but the removal of his ability resolved that problem.)
The bottom line is that the familiar characters are now facing a new kind of threat. They are faced with the choice of remaining out of the public eye and struggling for survival, or making the public aware of the civil rights violations taking place right under their nose. If Nathan is threatened by his own initiative, he would be the perfect (and ironic) choice to lead to a public unveiling of metahuman existence. Then again, it would be even more interesting if the metahumans were forced out of hiding by the emergence of an even greater threat.
Sylar's character gets a bit of indirect restoration in this episode. While his personal genealogy project is still a bit repetitive for its own good, his encounter with Luke and his mother is the highlight of the episode. It also flies in the face of the notion that he has an irrepressible hunger to kill. He even makes a snide comment to Luke about his supposed addiction! It's interesting that Sylar didn't just rip the information out of Luke's mind; it suggests he has some other purpose for him, based on his rebellious attitude.
Keeping Verheiden on the writing staff, especially once Bryan Fuller returns, w