If there's one thing that Heroes is good at, it's apparently not family drama if last night's episode is anything to go by. Daddy issues for cheerleaders and psychopaths abound, and spoilers await.
Is it just me, or is there something weirdly charming about the way that Heroes seems to be trying its hardest to be contemporary and relevant for people who haven't left the house or had any communication with the outside world for about five years? It's not just the show's increasingly 24-esque approach to the internal machinations of governmental policy, but the fact that Claire seems to just have discovered text messaging. The episode opens with her messaging "Rebel," the mysterious maybe-good guy who's been sending her fight the power messages like "U R SO HAWT - F THE MAN" and the like for the last week. If nothing else, it's distracting her from pretending to her exceptionally gullible mother that she and her dad did a college tour the week before instead of crashing a plane into generic countryside somewhere. Eventually, she snaps (with the great line "Dad was busy... locking up innocent people."), tells her mom that Daddy HRG has been lying to her for the seven-millionth time, and then cries when her mom throws him out because, like, she loves him really. It's just hard when your domineering father figure happens to be a bad-ass spy who forces you to go to community college instead of become a guerilla warrior against the government. Or something.
In HRG's defense, he's clearly still on the side of the good guys and working to bring them down from within... which is why I'm not too bothered that he gets drugged and kidnapped by Peter, Matt and Suresh - oh, the moral ambiguity! - at the end of the episode. Also, as Claire showed when she saved the life of Alex, the most stereotypical comic book clerk in existence ("You're a girl!" he exclaimed upon seeing Claire, shocked that one would be in a comic book store. That groan you heard was every single comic retailer in the country), she's not the greatest freedom fighter in the world. After all, good freedom fighters generally don't keep those they free in their closet.
Of course, maybe Claire just got her planning skills from her biological father, the increasingly ineffectual Nathan. This week, Nathan's new governmental agency got shut down and then unshut down within an hour, because Tracy Strauss froze someone to death in front of a governmental investigator. Which, when put like that, almost works as a plot. Sadly, in the actual show, it was less of a nuanced look into the way that fear of the unknown can impact decision making, and more a sudden swing of extremes from "This is inhuman, and worse, unamerican!" to "You can have whatever you want" because the plot demanded it. Was this all a cunning plan by Nathan, showing a previously hidden Machiavellian side? No, not exactly; it was all manipulation by this volume's cardboard cut-out badguy, the Hunter, who's eager to show that he has no limits to how far he will go yadda yadda yadda.
Also undergoing ill-advised father issues, Sylar continued his strange roadtrip with new sidekick Luke, who only seems to exist to give Sylar a reason to tell us that he's not so bad really, he's just looking for his father to find out how he ended up this way. While we can put up with - almost - his saving Luke from the Hero Hunters, we're really not too convinced by his attempts to teach him not to waste his powers and be more responsible with them. What's next, telling him not to put his elbows on the table? We can only hope that, when he eventually appears, Sylar Snr. will tell his son to stop being such a wuss... and perhaps kill Luke in the process.
In the grand scheme of things, this episode didn't really move any of the larger plots forward (with the exception of HRG leaving his family and being captured), and maybe it's that sense of pointlessness - and the characters' uselessness, or yet another pointless plot where Hiro "learns to be a hero" (This week: You can be a hero without superpowers! Who knew?) - that made it feel like Heroes again, as opposed to the last couple of episodes. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, of course, but there was one good side to this episode that no-one can deny: Only one scene of Milo Ventimiglia means less frustration. The less Peter Petrelli whining, the better.