For some time now I, and others, have been banging on about the writer Bryan Fuller and how this season of Heroes desperately needed his creative spark. The danger with getting exactly what you wish is that it often doesn’t meet your expectations. In this respect, I’ve tempered my expectations, he’s only one man and a complete team creates this TV show. He’s also not credited with this week’s show, although he was on board when it was written.
It’s far too early to know if the arrival of Mr Fuller will pull Heroes out of the creative mire that it’s wallowed in much of this season, but this story was entirely different in tone and style from anything else we’ve seen this season. Next week he takes the writer’s credit and we’ll really know then what’s happening, but Shades Of Gray was a surprise in lots of respects and not an unwelcome one for most of its running time.
How different it was going to be was very evident early on, as the opening scene dovetailed into the closing one from Exposed where Eric ‘The Puppeteer’ Doyle turns up at the Bennett household asking for help. The scene is remarkably simple, where Eric responds to the obviously negative reaction to his arrival by explaining how difficult it was to ask for help, and even manages a poignant, if calculated, tear. It’s good stuff, and transforms this once two-dimensional villain into someone entirely more interesting. But then suddenly Claire isn’t acting like a complete bimbo either and I began to wonder if I’d tuned into an entirely different show by accident.
We then move to the other cliffhanger element left from last week, poor Parkman rigged to explode in Washington DC. Nathan flies to his aid, which gives Denko an opportunity to kill them both. Except Rebel gets in between the computers that control the bomb, and it fails to detonate. More proof, if any more were needed that this is probably Micah, maybe with the help of Molly, but I could so easily be wrong.
Nathan isn’t that much use, other than stopping the SWAT guys shooting Parkman immediately. Eventually, Matt invades the mind of a bomb disposal guy and pulls the right wire. This is the precursor to an ongoing struggle for power that exists between Nathan and Denko, where each tries to manoeuvre the other out. But more of that plot segment later.
The real nugget this week are scenes where Gabriel Gray aka Sylar finally gets to meet his father, played brilliantly by veteran actor John Glover. Sylar arrives to kill Samson Gray, but finds that cancer has almost beaten him to that pleasure. Mr Gray Sr lives a hermit life, earning a subsistence income from taxidermy, and appears to have terminal lung cancer. Their conversation is broken into three pieces, and is enthralling throughout.
This is the best Zachary Quinto’s been since season one, undoubtedly. The first part is about explanations, of how Gray came to this sorry end, and what powers he has. The same one as his son has, unsurprisingly. The second part is about his realising what his son has become, and the third is when he realises Gabriel is immortal, and tries to take his power. It’s quite excellent throughout, and I have only one minor complaint about it. They kill a rabbit, and Samson stuffs it. This is silly, because the skin of any animal must be tanned and treated before it’s assembled in this fashion, which they patently didn’t have time to do.
Samson obviously doesn’t get Sylar’s powers, he’s far too powerful. But he doesn’t kill the old man either, choosing instead to let him die slowly. Is Sylar about to become the Hero we all know he really is? Maybe.
The rest of the story is about Denko versus Nathan, and Claire versus her better judgement. Claire eventually helps Eric to get a new life, but he remains obtuse about whether the pretensions to being a better person are just a means to an end.
The best part of the Denko sequences is the part where suspecting Nathan has a power he goes to see Angela, who is eating oysters at the time. It’s a spicy conversation where Denko gets Angela’s eclectic personality at point-blank range.
Denko eventually puts things together and contrives to throw Nathan out of a window, to find out if he can fly. That’s quite a gamble on Denko’s part, isn’t it? As a result Nathan is now a fugitive, like everyone else with a power.
Just before the final scene Ando and Hiro turn up, and not to be stupid, thankfully. They’ve been sent to a house to protect Matt Parkman, but when they get inside the young girl there gives them a baby! There’s no explanation, though the décor in the house does seem a bit Seventies.
The penultimate scene has Denko returning home after a long hard day shafting Nathan. He comes into his apartment to discover…drum roll…a stuffed rabbit. Is Sylar waiting to make peace or war?
The final motif is SWAT men invading the Bennett home. With Nathan’s protection gone, Claire is about to be arrested, and he helpfully turns up to fly her away.
Phew, plenty happened in this story, and most of it was pivotal. What I liked the most was the way that people had entirely sensible conversations and acted in a generally rational fashion. These things have been in such short supply recently, it’s noticeable when they return.
The crunch for me comes next week with a Bryan Fuller penned script Cold Snap, where we get to find out who Rebel really is. If he sprinkles his creative pixy dust on it, then this show might start cooking again. I so desperately want that to happen, I really do.
Check out our review of episode 18 here.