The "Heroes" Finale: It Has to Be Good If It Rips Off Evil Dead 2
by Mark T.R. Donohue
While the final episode of the first "volume" of "Heroes" wasn't precisely the slam-bang climax Entertainment Weekly had me expecting, it was as entertaining and satisfying as any episode of the breakout first-year hit. Spoilers ahead, so be warned.
I was expecting a somewhat higher body count. The only character we know for a confirmed kill is Malcolm McDowell's Linderman -- having a fist put through the back of your brain is something you don't come back from, and dialogue made it a certainty. Other than that, who knows? Adrian Pasdar's Nathan appeared to be making a tremendous gesture of self-sacrifice at the episode's close, after the whole arc of the season made him appear like a weak and power-crazed villain. However, it's possible that Nathan could have ditched Peter's exploding body high in the atmosphere and flown to safety. As for Peter, it seems pretty clear that he's not a goner either, since a discussion between Nathan, Claire, and the deliciously wicked Mrs. Petrelli made it clear that Peter's absorption of Claire's mutant healing factor would make it possible for him to go nuclear and then somehow recover. (Also, the departed Ted was somehow immune to his own radiation, although he unlike Peter wouldn't survive a free-fall from several miles in the sky.)
One of the closing shots of the episode implied that Sylar after being run through with a samurai sword by Hiro escaped to the sewers, although as far as we know healing power is not one of the skills the "Heroes" serial killer absorbed from his victims. D.L., Mr. Bennett (who finally in the last episode of the season gained a first name, Noah), and Parkman all sustained injuries, but the tone as the curtain fell seemed to suggest that each and every one of them would survive into Season Two. Even Missy Peregrym's shapeshifter Candice only got knocked out even after Nikki/Jessica had a perfectly good opportunity to kill her. What's interesting about the possible survival of both Candice and Sylar is that the future posited in the episode "Five Years Gone" is still completely possible, assuming either that Nathan is not dead as well or that Sylar is able to absorb Candice's power and assume Nathan's identity before the death of the senior Petrelli brother becomes public knowledge.
One of the underrated aspects of "Heroes," a show that certainly would not have been possible even five years ago with the way digital effects have evolved, is the way the various hero powers are visualized. They combine physics and metaphysics in often-unexpected ways. There are two interesting ones in particular from the finale I would like to mention. The first is the effect used to show how the power originally belonging to the painter Isaac, absorbed by Peter, and stolen by Sylar, worked. During the episode from tonight's teaser visions of the future flashed into Sylar's eyes and the completed paintings hazily projected themselves onto canvas, like a futuristic paint-by-numbers set. What is interesting about the story of "Heroes" going forward about the way this was all presented suggested that the painting part of the future-vision was unnecessary.
At the time Isaac first began using his power, he was in the throes of drug addiction. Since he was a professional painter anyway, it's easy to see how in his experience of the power he needed to be painting in order to see the future. Peter also used a paintbrush to try and foretell what was coming after contact with Isaac, but that was after seeing several of Isaac's paintings come to life. The visions flashing before Sylar's eyes at the close of "How to Stop an Exploding Man" suggested that the villain, whose own inborn power is a never-quite-articulated ability to "see how things work," had streamlined the process to the point where the oil and canvas was unnecessary. This makes Sylar, of course, even more dangerous, and it also raises all sorts of interesting questions about the underlying nature of the series' reality. For example, take Peter's astral visit to the home of Simone's late father (Richard Roundtree) in tonight's episode. Was Peter manifesting Hiro's time travel ability, or Isaac's visions, or another unexplained function? Or perhaps it was something Charles Deveaux was/is able to do. It would be pretty cool if Shaft ended up being the mastermind of all this stuff, right? I can imagine a recurring situation in future seasons where characters from all over the timeline have to consult with Deveaux, dead in the present, through Hiro or Peter's abilities.
Here is another one regarding Candice, the shapeshifting character. First of all, the special effects and dialogue in past episodes have established that this hero doesn't change her own physical appearance, but rather does something to affect the minds of all those observing her. In that sense the term "shapeshifter" is a misnomer, but years of watching "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" have conditioned me for using it, so bear with me. But here is the really interesting question. In an earlier episode, Candice admitted to Micah that her actual physical appearance is that of a grossly obese woman, since her ability allows her to eat all of the junk food she likes and still appear to others as the fragrant Missy Peregrym. However, when Nikki knocked out Candice veiled as Jessica, she caused the fake Micah Candice had created to disappear and "Jessica" to look like... regular slim hardbodied face-she-presents-to-the-world Candice. Curious. Either Candice's power is persistent enough to maintain an illusion to those who have seen her face before and accepted that as her true identity even when she is rendered unconscious, or the "Heroes" brain trust were cheating a bit. Why would they need to, though? It's not like we don't know exactly who Candice is and what she's capable of. Indeed, the flash-forward episode with Sylar impersonating President Nathan Petrelli has made her one of the most important characters on the show.
Well, I could go on forever, but I imagine we'll have all summer to begin really picking apart the mythology and the internal consistency of the "Heroes" multiverse through reruns. I did just want real quickly to compliment Tim Kring and his staff on a job well done. Without a doubt "Heroes" is the only freshman show of the 2006-07 season to punch through and become appointment television. What's more, unlike "Desperate Housewives" or "Grey's Anatomy" in seasons past, it's a show that at heart is made for people just like me who obsess over things like why in the "Star Trek: Next Generation" episode "The Next Phase" Geordi and Ro Laren can walk through bulkheads on the Enterprise but don't fall right through the floor. That's why the comic book geek Hiro is the show's breakout character. It might have been a coincidence, but somehow I doubt it; I am pretty sure the closing scenes of "Heroes" season one, with Hiro falling through time into the middle of a battle between feudal Japanese warlords, was an allusion to the twist ending of one of cult cinema's most endearing classics, Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2. "Heroes" might be mass entertainment, but it maintains the sensibilities and the heart of a cult show, and that's why I have nothing but positive expectations for Volume 2, "Generations," debuting this fall.