Heroes 4.15: "Close to You"

I keep mentioning the pacing this season, but it really has been the difference in terms of the quality of storytelling. As much as it has brought the overall momentum down a few notches (often just short of flowing molasses), there is none of the frenetic chaos that used to be the hallmark of the series. I really get the feeling that the writers have thought the season arc through a bit more than in the past.

That doesn’t mean that this episode was a particularly good one. It just means that I understand the context of these events within the season’s format, and I’m still willing to be patient, despite the continual flaws. When the writers are dedicated to focusing on a handful of plot and character threads per episode, which is a response to one of the more pointed criticisms of the past, then it bears keeping the strengths of the season in mind.

This is a rough episode because the four characters/threads in focus are either mediocre or tedious. Bright spots are few and far between. Probably the best subplot belongs to Matt Parkman, who seemed to be written out once Sylar’s consciousness was ripped out of his body. His struggle to find a purpose and a place makes perfect sense, and it was good to see Grunberg get more material this season. (Though, after seeing Janice’s new haircut, I wouldn’t blame him for running from his family again. That was hideous!)

Unfortunately for Matt, much of his time was spent with Noah, who continues to be stuck in an annoying “emo” character rut, as he has been all season. I have the feeling that the writers have a purpose in mind for Noah, but the rest of the plot threads aren’t sufficiently far enough along to allow Noah’s development to take place. So we’re still forced to listen to him flail around about doing something about Samuel.

Trying to use Vanessa for that purpose was fine to a point, but Noah is still all about the ends justifying the means. Neither Noah nor Samuel gave a damn what Vanessa wanted; they saw her as something to use or possess. In Samuel’s case, it’s portrayed as evidence of his dangerous psychosis, but Noah’s activities were never really examined. It’s as if Noah’s ongoing indecision about his path in life has infected the writers’ treatment of him.

Speaking of one’s path in life, we get a little bit better sense of where Peter is going, and it seems to align with my predictions in the review for the previous episode. Peter could very well be the next leader for the metahumans, especially if they have a place they can call their own, and it would resolve his personal desire to make a difference and atone for past mistakes. I can even see his current acquired ability playing into that eventuality, should he have a dream where he assumes that leadership role.

I would also find it ironic yet fitting if he chose to keep his mother’s ability or otherwise decide to depend on it for guidance. He has been very critical of his mother and her choices, and rightfully so, yet he is willing to take unilateral action based on the information he receives from his oracular dreaming. It’s no different than what he has chastised his mother for doing, and it would be interesting to see him forced to address that hypocrisy. (The upside being that the cliché of romance between Peter and Emma seems to have been avoided.)

As always, the Hiro/Ando subplot was the weakest link. The competence of the asylum’s security force seemed to be proportional to the needs of the story, along with the applications of Ando’s ability. In fact, there has yet to be a solid explanation for how Ando’s ability is supposed to work; it’s been used for a lot more than super-charging other metahumans. Then again, the writers have been inconsistent with the level of Hiro’s control and health all season, too, so why change things now?

Ultimately, this just feels like more stalling. The writers clearly have something in mind for Hiro and Mohinder (and perhaps even Ando), but they need to keep them off to the side for a while. The subplot doesn’t seem to have a reason to exist beyond that purpose. And because it is only mildly amusing in and of itself, Hiro’s portion of the story is just frustrating.

It all boils down to something I’ve been saying again and again this season: the problem is the set of existing characters and the writers’ inability to find exciting new things for them to do within the confines of the status quo of the “Heroes” universe. The best material is connected to the fresh characters. If they get another season, they either have to kill off the dead wood, or sufficiently shift the state of play, so the existing characters have a fresh set of motivations to pursue and interesting to protect.


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