Heroes 4.9: "Shadowboxing"



Something funny has happened since the rough start to the fourth season. “Heroes” has actually gotten some good storylines going. I find that the success or failure of an episode has everything to do with which plot threads are currently being explored, and by extension, which characters are involved. I mentioned this in a review for one of the earlier fourth season episodes, and it continues to be true.


I've liked the Matt/Sylar battle since the beginning of the season, and it's only gotten better with time. I thought that Sylar's ploy to take over Matt's body was very well done, but I think I like Matt's chess game with Sylar in this episode even more. Both of them are playing for high stakes and adopting a “scorched earth” policy that fits their personalities. Sylar is willing to destroy Matt's life and kill innocents to gain advantage; Matt is willing to sacrifice his own life to stop Sylar.


The best part about Matt's decision in this episode, however unlikely it is to succeed, is the fact that this is his chance to redeem himself for the mistake of helping Angela with her plan at the end of the third season. He's not talking about redemption; he just does what he feels is necessary. It's far more believable and genuine when redemption, or the search for it, is unspoken.


Quite unexpectedly, I liked Claire's subplot this time. I almost wish that Gretchen could have stuck around for a bit longer, since her swift departure plays into the notion that the lesbian angle was just used for shock value. But her departure does make sense in terms of Claire's sense of isolation, and the circumstances could very well drive a wedge between father and daughter.


In the end, Samuel could get what he wants: Claire within the watchful care of the carnival. His plan may have been a bit more complicated than necessary (almost to the point of being impossible to follow), but the end game is still just as compelling as it has been all the while. I've always felt that Samuel was the saving grace for this season, and this just continues to prove the point. I just hope that the writers manage to make the inevitable revelations worth it. They have a bad track record with developing strong conclusions to their arcs.


Hopefully Samuel's latest act has resulted in a more satisfying subplot for Noah. His character has been aimless this season, with several false starts, and it would be nice to see him finally get on a solid and meaningful course. Hunting down the truth about Samuel is a promising direction, but the writers definitely need to approach it carefully. It would be all too easy for Samuel to be rendered as an absolute villain; it would be a lot more interesting if the situation could be seen from differing perspectives.


Considering how Peter and his issues used to be one of the worst aspects of the series, I was shocked to discover how much I like his relationship with Emma and his struggle with the healing ability. I found his desire to heal more and more people, despite the effect on his own health, to be a logical extension of his earlier behavior. Emma's medical scenes were a bit overdone, but when that's the worst thing I can say about an episode of “Heroes”, that's a very good thing.


With the ratings so low and the show essentially on its last legs, I get the feeling that the gloves have come off and they are just doing their best to go out swinging. Maybe that's why, for the first time in a long time, I find myself looking forward to each new episode. I didn't want this one to end.

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Nov 13, 2009 10:04AM EST

Noah is indeed aimless, but it looks like he'll gain some direction soon by the re-appearance of the partner shown when Hiro travels back in time...

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