I officially have nothing left this month. Not nothing left to do, or to tell you about, but nothing left to offer to it. Already getting an idea for Friday, though, so that's a good sign. I'll see you guys next month.
Give credit where it's due: writers Adam Armus and Kay Foster took a premise that could have imploded big-time – Sylar coming unraveled – and turned “I Am Sylar” into a taut, capable lead-in to next week's season finale.
Tying it all together, of course, was the Big Bad's stumbling all over his new power. The story starts 18 hours before the final shot of “1961,” as we see the implausible occur: the Man with the Plan losing himself so badly in his new shape-shifting power, he wakes up wearing the face of a recent victim. Things get so bad for him he actually takes advice from Danko, who wants nothing more than for his heaviest hitter to keep racking up the metahuman notches.
Along the way, though, an equally unlikely voice emerges on Gabriel's other shoulder: the much-missed Micah. Whereas maybe even a few weeks ago, Sylar would have shredded Micah like so much confetti, his state of confusion allows the kid to urge him toward something better. That appeal gets Micah a reprieve and an assist from Gabriel, but it opens up a whole other can of worms.
See, Micah's pep talk seems to lead Sy toward dreaming big – like, Presidency big. It also, however, references Sylar being the one to ultimately stop the superhumans from being hunted. And here, in a very nice touch, is where the Benetrellis rejoin the story, with Nathan promising to stop his newfound doppelganger on his own. So now we face two questions: who's the bigger dead man walking between Nate and Danko, and is there a chance Sylar could (gulp) sincerely want to do the right thing here?
The episode also took promising steps in bringing more of the major players back to the nation's capitol in the name of the right thing: Hiro and Ando, er, the Crimson Arc make their way to Building 26, where they hope to ... uh, it doesn't seem like they even know what they're doing. Worse yet for them, just before they stage their assault or whatever, Hiro's power shorts out, hinting at more than just emotional damage. And seemingly not far behind is new papa Matt, whose sense of duty pulls him back into action, and away from his seemingly reborn family ties.
And not far behind any of them are the rest of the First Family, who are sure to figure in next week's proceedings, for better or worse. The biggest question I had coming out of this episode was: why do we always have to go through 8-9 weeks of mindless chaff with this show before a (usually) passable end to the Volume?
The Racialicious Scorecard: Micah: Ask and we shall belatedly receive, I guess. The upside to Rebel's sporadic appearances is, he's not around enough to be damaged by the creative team. His breakthrough with Sylar, however implausible, was a feel-good moment and provided a nice counter-balance to the "talks" Gabriel was having with his interpretation of his dead mother.
Hiro & Ando: Another week, another adventure toward couples therapy. This week, we learned that Hiro is apparently “a little fascist.” Well, yeah, the guy is short, but Ando might have been over-swinging there. As Hiro learns (again) to get over Ando's own heroic ambitions, though, his time-freezing power glitches big-time, hinting at deeper problems ahead. Oh yeah, one more thing: can somebody write Hiro to call more people BY THEIR FIRST NAMES?!
Mohinder: Doing the voiceovers and getting shot and captured. Some things just never change.
Next Week: Tim Kring's writing the Volume IV finale! What could go wrong?
There's a moment early on in Red Dwarf: Back To Earth where we see Lister, in a bow tie and tails, sitting at a makeshift altar for his beloved Kochanski. As he starts to read to her – Jane Austen, natch – his eyes well up, and there he is: somehow still looking disheveled even when dressed to the nines, but the show of emotion lifts what might have been a throwaway gag into a very odd place for this show.
And in a way, the scene sums up this much-delayed, much-anticipated mini-series: a sad clown, looking for a graceful way off the stage. Sad to say, Back To Earth doesn't deliver this for anybody.
WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD
Instead, we get a lurching, ominously monotone march that cuts itself off whenever it starts building any comic momentum – seriously, ending Episode 2 while the boys are driving Starbug? Major buzzkill – and turns into an outright slog when the creative team junks everything for a series of ham-handed Blade Runner homages. The show didn't just lose its' laugh track; it lost the laughs. When Lister tells the boys near the end that he feels "elation," it's nigh-impossible to believe him, and it's not Craig Charles' fault – it's the script he's been given that betrays him.
And this story also betrays those of us who have been hoping for the show to return in any form for the past decade. Instead of a series that reminded us of what we loved about this show – the zip-bang pacing, the ping-ponging zingers between the ensemble, the smegging fun everybody seemed to be having – we got a stark look at how this show, this comedic style, has been left in the non-ironic dust by the Offices and No Heroics of the world. By the time the final deus ex machina is played, we're all better off treating Red Dwarf like a woebegone relative: remember the good times you had when you were both younger, and try not to think about the staggering mess that just took 90 minutes of your time.
It's never a good sign when Petey's argument makes the most sense. But he's exactly right -- "1961" was, quite the pointless trip in the wayback machine, an ostensible origin story for the Company wrapped around a maudlin effort at “reconciliation” for the Benetrellis.
Picking up from last week's events, the family comes together at Coyote Sands -- the site, it turns out, of a metahuman relocation camp and some sort of subsequent massacre involving the members of Angela's family. But the vacation's not all fun and tomb-raiding; the former Angela Shaw is there looking for her sister Alice, who was apparently so traumatized that she's been living in a bunker at the camp for more than 50 years.
Think about it for a second: a firefight involving superhumans at a government facility, and the site is still wide-open? And, there's evidence of spontaneous weather patterns generating in this one particular zone and nobody – not even Primatech -- sussed out something weird was going on? And the camp can't be as remote as we were led to believe if the nearby cafe has been able to stay in business this whole time. Surely somebody would have noticed a weird woman wandering around town?
For all the (literal) Sturm und Drang kicked up here, none of it ultimately matters a lick in the bigger storyline. Alice disappears (or something); Claire and Noah make up (for now); and so do the Petrelli boys (for now). Until their next pissy argument erupts; then it'll take them four more months to figure out that, hey, the world might be going to pot again.
It's not literally until the last minute that we get a bit of plot development: Sylar has somehow taken on Nathan's appearance – have they even met? -- and is impersonating him in front of the media. Wouldn't all that time spent chasing ghosts in Arizona have been better spent preventing this from happening?
The Racialicious Scorecard Charles Devaux: Who's the handsome black chap callin' people Ja-Shut your mouth! ... For the most part, the young Mr. Devereaux we saw here was a complicated man (though Angela seemed to understand him). But seriously, that out-of-nowhere slur scripted for him was completely at odds with the serene, sympathetic Devaux we met in season one. (Not quite as jarring but also incongruous: Roy Orbison's "Crying," featured in the episode, was actually released in July 1961, months after the events depicted therein.)
ChandraandMohinder: Like father, like son, in a bad way – we didn't get a satisfactory resolution for either character. We saw Chandra conducting interviews and holding up a gnarly-looking syringe, but writer Aron Coleite pussy-footed around any hard evidence that the elder Suresh himself was doing anything harmful to the people at Camp Notanxmenripoff. Worse yet, after spending most of the episode in disbelief that his father would do such things, Mohinder begs off when offered the chance to actually confirm his suspicions. Instead he separates from Peter and company with some vagaries about seeking "Redemption." Since that's the title of Volume 5, it's likely we'll find out more about Mo's quest next season – but what a lackluster way to seemingly write the guy out.
"This is the last time The Doctor gets to have fun, in a way." -- David Tennant, as quoted on Radio 1.
WARNING: SPOILERISH DISCUSSION AHEAD
If I had to pick an episode to teach a friend about The Doctor, "Planet Of The Dead" would be on the short list of contenders. That's how solid the latest leg of the Tennant Ta-Ta Tour was.
The story by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts was inspired by a Jimmy Stewart film, but it actually reminded me of Midnight, as once again, the Doc is trapped on a bus with a group of strangers. "Humans and buses -- always blaming me," he muses.
This time, though, he's got an ally -- Lady Christina, who gives the episode a breath of fresh air after the melodramatics of The Next Doctor and The Doctor a truly worthy companion. The Lady is a professional thief -- emphasis on professional, so while she respects his intellect ("You're the brainbox," she teases. "So start boxing") she's not all aflutter. It's too bad Michelle Ryan has already ruled out a more permanent spot on the show, because Davies and Roberts actually, believably present Christina as a worthwhile Companion.
The Doctor's refusal to bring Christina aboard, however, solidifies something mentioned in "The Next Doctor": he's not just heartbroken about losing his prior sidekicks, he's outright refusing to take on any more. We know that's not bound to last, of course, not with the rumors about Rose, Martha & Donna coming back to the fold, but it's a valuable clue as to his mindset going into his final challenges. When one of the passengers tells him "Your song is nearly over," just as the Ood did, the fear in his face is palpable.
Beyond that moment, though, "Planet" is just what Tennant described it as: The Doctor having fun.
Like a bad '80s thriller or the opening of any “CSI: Miami” episode, “Heroes” wasn't about business this week. Instead – pause for Caruso Pose – it was personal.
At the center of the grudge matches was the show's new Dastardly Duo, Sylar and Danko – who, it turns out, does have some game with the ladies. Seems America's Top Lawn Gnome, besides being married to his job, had himself a girlfriend on the side, a former call girl named Alena (Blonde #2,560,742, if you're keeping score).
At least, he did until Matt Sr., seeking revenge for the death of Daphne, outed the "Hunter," a confrontation that leaves both men emotionally broken. Lucky for Matt, not only is he rescued from the wrong end of the gun by Hiro (with an assist from Mohinder), but his mood brightens considerably when Hiro introduces him to a new reason to keep going – his own flesh and blood. The shot of the two Matts in the park, with Hiro and Ando, provided a smile-worthy moment.
While Matt rediscovered his sense of family, Noah saw his start to unravel in earnest, thanks to Sylar, who set out not to kill HRG, but “to destroy him,” personally and professionally. The cat-and-mouse game between the nouveau shape-shifter and the professional paranoid seemed to bring out more sincere evil in Gabriel than even the showdown with his dad a few weeks back.
Credit here should go to the cast members (Jack Coleman, Ashley Crow and Zeljko Ivanek) who aped the Big Bad's Sylarisms when the occasion called for it, as Sylar's powers pushed Noah into both a marriage-ending confrontation with Sandra (further props here to Coleman and Crow during a wince-inducing scene) and a career-killing showdown with Danko and some of his shock troops – HRG turns out to be right, but at the cost of the political capital he'd been building for the past few months.
In the end, the former spook is forced to turn to his own family for support, as he joins Angela and the rest of the Benetrellis in bumfu-k Egypt Coyote Sands, Ariz., where, it's hinted, some heavy ish went down back in the day involving herself and, presumably, the original group of SuperFriends. And as the family digs for answers out in the desert, Mohinder is doing some digging of his own back in New York – it appears his own father was entangled in this web, as well.
Next Week: Everybody into the TARDIS, 'cause we're going back to 1961!
The Racialicious Scorecard: Mohinder: Speaking of being involved in stuff that actually matters on the show, the younger Suresh got a couple of nice moments: he not only seemed to finally mend his friendship with Big Matt, but his off-screen phone tip enabled Hiro's last-second rescue. And his burgeoning quest to find out the extent of Chandra's involvement with the metahumans of the past promises to make him – I hope – a player in whatever events close out this season.
Hiro & Ando: On the bright side, it was nice (if a bit implausible) to see Team Yatta make its' way from literally the middle of nowhere to the right place at the right time. At least they mattered again in the proceedings. But their continued politeness just annoyed me this week. It's one thing for them to be cordial to the “Asian Redneck” they encountered on the road, but after all this time, you'd think they felt comfortable enough to refer to their friends as “Mohinder” or just “Matt.” BTW, about said Redneck? I place him in the same category as the “La Cucaracha” horn and the name-dropping of Harriet Tubman – the less said, the better.
Micah: I want to talk about Micah here because his lack of involvement since being outed as Rebel a couple of weeks back only confirms a lot of folks' worst fears. One of the season's most-touted mysteries has seemingly been tossed aside, when it wouldn't take more than a line or two since then (like Mohinder saying,: “Rebel arranged a flight for me.”) to establish that he is still acting as the Heroes' agent. After all the emphasis on Micah's spiriting metahumans to safety via members of the core cast – like, say, Baby Parkman – to not even mention him lately smacks of creative laziness.
Besides writing my thoughts and reviews here, I'm a Special Correspondent for Racialicious.com and the co-creator and co-host of Hour 42, a podcast covering superheroes -- in the air, on the air and all around us.
I'm not a good person. I'm the guy who whistled "Always Look On The Bright Side" during Passion Of The Christ. I've gone to SCA battles and yelled, "WHAT'S IN YOUR WALLET?!" You can say it, it's okay: Smart-ass. Jerk. Bigmouth. This is where I share my take on ... well, basically everything. But especially the geeky stuff in life.