I think this week’s episode is our clearest marker yet of where Tim Kring is taking us on this season of Heroes and, if so, there is a lot to take heart from, but also every reason for despair.
The episode title ‘Eris Quod Sum’ (Latin for “you will be what I am”) is a clear indication of the duplicity that Kring has sought to create throughout the series. At first, this was restricted to heroes versus villains as we were introduced to level five and the first superpowered baddies we have seen since Sylar was first introduced. But as the series has progressed, the writers have continued to weave counterpoints for each of the characters whether they be partners, mentors or future selves, all culminating with the reintroduction of the older generation with Arthur and Angela Petrelli as its figureheads.
In the first season, and indeed the second, there was a clear line between heroes and villains, with Sylar becoming pantomime-like in his role as nemesis, but with season 3, Kring has employed these opposites to explore the complexity of our cast of heroes, using each partnership to blur the lines between hero and villain, right or wrong, good or bad.
This blurring of boundaries is sometimes in a wholly obvious way. That was the case with Peter who was stuck inside one of the villain’s bodies, forced to go along with the newly escaped level 5 nasties. It’s also been done with a more subtle spin, such as the brilliant dynamic between Sylar and Noah, a ‘One of us, one of them’ relationship, which frequently forced the audience to reconsider who the bad guy really is.
In fact, if you go back through the season so far, every character has had their own partner, working in tandem since the very first episode: Nathan and Tracy, Noah and Sylar, Hiro and Daphne, Parkman and the precog, Maya and Suresh and Peter with just about everybody from his future self to Sylar. The list goes on and to hammer the point home, there’s even two companies now.
In this episode too, characters have started to pair up and the story is very much centred on how these characters are then coming together. We have Claire and Elle following their own yellow brick road to see the wizard who can cure them of their powers, Peter and Sylar working as a team, Parkman and Daphne trapped in an improbable love story (I mean I can suspend my disbelief to accept time travel and flight, but I am not accepting any form of attraction between the cute as a button speedster and an overweight cop). There’s also Nathan and Tracy, who are after answers about where their powers came from and why they’re like they are; everyone’s working together on some level, looking for answers and, conveniently, all in the same place.
So like the DNA helix, which permeates the whole Heroes mythos, each character now has an equal and opposite whose life runs parallel to each other, at times joined together in a shared moment, but at others, completely separate.
Kring has used this to show the often minute decisions that can push a character down any one path. We’ve heard how Elle was pushed into her life as an agent by her father and not out of choice, how so-called villains have been honest family men ruthlessly separated from their loved ones. We’ve even been offered a future where Peter is a terrorist menace and Sylar the domesticated father. But Kring has also given certain characters the freedom to shift plains, jumping between hero and villain. Suresh is a prime example, as the gentle scientific genius has shifted from conscientious observer to animal-like monster. Sylar too is another who has switched from power hungry pscho to waffle wielding father of one.
Whilst I am sure this has partially been done for effect, Kring has also expertly made us think deeper about who these characters are and what makes them tick. In doing so he has put us in an interesting position as we empathise with villains we couldn’t have dreamt of rooting for, or fearing docile characters who were once a constant source of comfort. I mean, how many of you, at the end of season 1, would have thought you’d be cheering on Sylar and terrified of Suresh? It’s like going back to the seventies and telling Star Wars fans that they’ll be cheering on a pint sized Darth Vader by the end of the saga, or telling Trekkies that one day there’d be a Klingon on the bridge of the Enterprise – we just didn’t see it coming.
So our moral compass has been left spinning like we’re at a pole of emotional ambiguity and, with a depiction that is one part sympathetic to two parts sinister. We are left to question whether Arthur Petrelli and Sylar really are the season’s big bads or just another example of what our heroes could well become. What is evidently clear however is that ‘ Eris Quod Sum’ is the clearest example of what Kring and Co have wanted Heroes to become this season.
Read Daniel’s prior review here.