Monday, March 19, 2007

Heroes Retrospective #4: Collision

1. Another point of criticism with regards to Niki is that her storyline doesn't really intersect with any others. This episode's encounter with Nathan nonwithstanding, the Hawkins-Sanders family is off in their own world, with no tangible involvement in or contribution to the major plotlines (Sylar, the destruction of New York). If Niki, Micah and DL were to be suddenly erased, nothing would change.

Now, self-contained subplots are perfectly legitimate in an ongoing narrative... unless you make a point of stressing that everyone's connected. And with the exception of these three, everyone we've seen so far is connected in one way or another. It's like a game: Link Peter and Ted? Peter was Simone's lover, Simone's ex-boyfriend is Isaac, Isaac works for the Company, and they had acquired Ted at some point in the past. Link Candice and Hiro? Hiro's mission was to save Claire, a figure of great interest to the Haitian, whose replacement in the Company is Candice. Niki and her family just aren't part of that tapestry.

2. It's funny how re-viewing older episodes can suddenly provide a context with which to understand later plot twists that I might not have interpreted correctly the first time around. Mohinder's abrupt change of heart and subsequent retreat to India had, at the time, annoyed me greatly because it seemed he was just being shunted aside for lack of any appealing direction for his character. And yet, "Collision" establishes (fairly early in the series) that Mohinder can't maintain his convictions in his father's theories without proof, and he's not getting any at this point. On top of that, his decision to just drop everything and leave comes on the heels of one emotional blow after another - being dismissed as a madman by Nathan, frustrated with Peter and the unresponsive Isaac, and, of course, being confronted (for the first time) with the reality of his father's demise. One possible downside to the cliffhanger endings is that time gets a bit wonky, because the next episode picks up from the same moment the last one left off, while a week has passed in real time. Four episodes in, Chandra Suresh has only been dead for a few days, a week at most. In that light, Mohinder's confusion is perfectly understandable.

(It's interesting to note, though, that his father had the exact same methodology: as we'll see later on, Chandra discards the timid Gabriel Gray when he doesn't get immediate results, despite the fact that he's actually found what he's looking for.)

Still keeping with this theme, we have Hiro and Ando. At the time, I felt that Hiro ditching Ando was a bit contrived (especially with that "Partners Are No Good" guy monologuing about it). And here we are, months earlier, watching Ando scheme and whine and manipulate Hiro into one pointless diversion after another, getting them both in a lot of trouble. If Ando hadn't been around, Hiro would have made much more progress. Of course, if Ando hadn't been around, Hiro would have ultimately failed to get the Magic Sword, so Ando isn't a strictly negative character.

3. No matter how many times I see white eyes as a sign of oracular vision, it never fails to creep me out.

4. I'm sorry, but switching cards at a poker table after your opponent has already seen his hand is sheer idiocy. What, you couldn't stop time before the hand was dealt?

5. Back to Nathan again: he admits to Niki that he's happily married, and then he cheats on his wife. It's that same sort of dissonance we see in his relationship with Peter: there's a significant chasm between what Nathan says (and, ostensibly, feels) and what he does. I wonder, at times, if we're not meant to see him as a villainous figure despite his positive attributes.

6. That said, the seduction scene? Sizzling.

7. And here's the payoff to the rape storyline, as Claire - initially content to keep quiet so as not to draw attention to herself - takes action to prevent Brody from forcing himself on another girl (after finding out that she's not his only victim). What does she do? She tricks him into giving her a ride and drives his car into a wall at a hundred miles per hour.

You know, I've read stories where women avenge themselves on their rapists; I've read stories where women forgive their rapists as a way of healing themselves; I don't think I've ever seen a scenario where a woman sacrifices herself to kill her rapist. It's not as clear-cut as that, since we know Claire can recover, but all the same, it's an extension of self-destructive tendencies that result in a positively chilling moment.

This is what I meant by the rape being justified, as it has led to this wonderfully ambivalent scene; on the one hand, Claire isn't doing this for her own sake, she's trying to protect someone else; on the other hand, she's 17 and has basically just attempted murder. Not only that, but she's utterly calm as she springs her trap, even as Brody tells her she can't do anything to stop him. Her casual reply - "I can do this" - sent chills up my spine.

8. This episode concludes the first arc of "Heroes", leading in to the infamous "Save The Cheerleader, Save The World". I'll discuss pacing at a later date, but it's probably important to note that this show's meticulous structure is not unlike that of today's comics and their modular format of story arc followed by story arc.