Save th-- Whaaaa?

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I was so smug.

Weeks ago, I'd already figured out that the exploding man on Heroes wasn't Peter. It had to be Sylar. The price of his wanton gorging on other people's powers. Somewhere along the line he'd meet up with Ted, slice off his skull, and absorb a nuclear meltdown he hadn't counted on. The heroes would have to kill Sylar before he could go Hiroshima, and it would take Peter's yin to defeat Sylar's yang-- but perhaps at the cost of Peter's life (you can't leave someone as powerful as Peter wandering around in your universe unchecked-- there has to be some price to pay to rein in his abilities). That was the logical conclusion to all of this season's storylines. So when this week's episode revealed that Sylar was the bomb, I nodded sagely. I knew it.

When Nathan explained to Mohinder that he understood how things worked, that killing all the special people would unite everyone else, I was a little slow on the uptake. Knowing how things work is Sylar's trick. "Nathan's starting to sound like Sylar," I thought. I thought it was supposed to suggest that power and fear had twisted Nathan. So when Claire froze in her tracks and started bleeding, I was stunned. I didn't see that coming at all, and I loved it.

Alternate history stories are already among my favorite genre, but the success of this twist sealed the deal: Best. Episode. Ever. Even with Parkman's poorly-justified character transformations in service of the plot.

But now Hiro's got a problem. The comic book pages suggest that Hiro has to kill Sylar (and kudos for the completely sensible payoff to "Save the cheerleader, save the world"), but Peter's the one who actually blows up. Does Sylar somehow push him into it? Did saving Claire wind up saving the world both because Sylar can't heal and Peter now can?

I'm back to not knowing how this is going to end, which is exactly where I want to be.

8 Comments

"...Peter's the one who actually blows up."

Well, there's one thing I know, and it's that that ain't happening. There's no way New York winds up a smoldering crater in the show's official continuity.

I don't see how the "save the cheerleader, save the world" bit makes sense anymore though:

  • In Timeline Zero, which we've heard about but never seen, Sylar eats Claire's brain at homecoming, becoming immune to Hiro-Zero's sword. So...
  • ...Hiro-Zero goes back in time to warn Peter, creating Timeline One, which we've been watching all season. Peter stops Sylar, Claire lives. Later, Hiro-One travels forward from this timeline into...
  • ...Timeline Two, which we saw last night. We know they're not in Timeline Zero, because Claire's alive and thus didn't get eaten by Sylar. But Sylar won anyway. The Hiro of this timeline is Hiro-Zero, because he remembers Timeline Zero—Timeline Two is where Hiro-Zero went after leaving the subway car.
I'll buy all that, mostly. But there must be some defining event that distinguishes Timeline One from Timeline Two. That defining event can't be Hiro-Zero's "save the cheerleader" warning, because that warning exists in both timelines—that event is what distinguishes Timeline Zero from Timelines One/Two.

Unless the defining event is that Peter personally saves Claire in Timeline One (absorbing her regeneration), whereas in Timeline Two he does so indirectly. That would make some sense, and would explain why Peter-Two's scar didn't heal. But if that's the case, then Timeline One just got lucky, because nothing about Hiro-Zero's warning made Peter-One specifically be the person to save Claire, because Hiro-Zero delivered that warning to Peter before the Timeline One/Two split. So again, the "save the cheerleader" bit wasn't anywhere important enough to merit its prominence in the marketing.

AAUGH! Curse you, Hollywood screenwriters! If you're not going to plan out all the details, don't write time-travel stories! I love the show, and if they actually wrap up these loose ends I will bow down to them ("Tim Kring is my master now")... but I'm bracing myself for disappointment.

We're not sure exactly what happened in Timeline Zero, but based on Hiro's warning we can assume Sylar killed Claire, aborbing her power and become invincible. I don't believe Hiro ever said it was Sylar who exploded, only that killing Sylar is the key to stopping disaster. Which makes "Save the cheerleader, save the world" very important, since saving Claire keeps Sylar mortal.

I think the defining event that will separate Timeline One (where Sylar replaces Nathan and becomes President) from Timeline Two (our main timeline) is that in Timeline Two, Hiro will kill Sylar. That clearly did not happen in Timeline Zero or Timeline One.

We also don't yet know where Peter's scar comes from. Since he has it in Timeline One, where he's already saved Claire and therefore absorbed her power, the most likely explanation is that Peter will get injured while the Haitian is around, nullifying his powers. Since we've seen that Claire and Peter can "heal" death (and being nuked to a skeleton, in Claire's case, though her clothing conveniently survived-- damn you network censors!), nothing else we've seen would explain how he could possibly get a scar now.

What bothers me most about the story is the writers' failure to fully appreciate the ramifications of having a character who can time travel at will (two characters, actually, since Peter has met Hiro and has probably absorbed his powers in Timeline Two). Since they've already established that Hiro can coexist with an earlier/later self, there's no reason Hiro can't travel back to the same moment repeatedly until he accomplishes whatever he's trying to do. Timeline One simply shouldn't exist. As soon as Hiro saw Isaac's comic book, telling him how to stop Sylar, he should have been able to travel back and do it. When you can travel in time, time should literally have no meaning for you. You should never be in a rush, because you can always go to exactly the right moment you need. Short of getting killed or maimed, no mistake is irrecoverable. Our naive Hiro may not have that level of proficiency with his powers, but future-Hiro certainly does.

The fact that Hiro hasn't been able to stop the disaster suggests that something hasn't been right yet (up until now, one assumes). The conditions in Timeline One haven't been right for success to be possible. This week's episode may have changed that, by giving young Hiro crucial information that young Hiro never had before.

The gf rolls her eyes at me when I talk about works of fiction like this, as if they're real and have cause and effect. But to me, that's a mark of good (speculative) fiction-- the ability to immerse yourself in it and explore the possibilities with an internally consistent logic. Capturing the imagination is what it's all about.

That, and chainmail bikinis. Never underestimate the chainmail bikinis.

Now I haven't thought this all through, but my understanding of Hiro's power is that he can't make 'dramatic' changes to the past to change the future. Like that was the point of the episode where he tried to save the waitress, that no matter what he tried she'd still die somehow (see Charlie & Desmond's dilemma on LOST). I got the impression that this wasn't due to lack of skill on Hiro's part, but a hard limitation to the power.

So, with this time travel limitation, future Hiro had to reconstruct the complex timeline so that he could find a way to go back and make a tiny change ("Save the cheerleader, save the world") which would snowball into a significant change.

As for talking about this stuff as if it's real... heck, that's what makes it so fun!!!

It's a hell of a lot more fun to talk about than reality tv.

I'd assumed Hiro wasn't jumping around in time because he didn't want to create the mess that would inevitably ensue. I imagined that he wanted to be as efficient as possible.

My assumption was that Peter has the scar because he didn't absorb Claire's powers in Timeline Two (using the well-established Beeman system of timeline identification). He saved her some other way, like fending off Sylar while she was running away. Then Bennett whisked her away and hid her.

But that's strange because at the moment that Hiro and Ando moved forward in time, Peter absolutely had absorbed Claire's powers, and had used them multiple times when Claire wasn't around (like when he was thrown on to the cab by the invisible man).

That would mean that Hiro and Ando not only moved forward in time, but also sideways into an alternate reality branching from a point earlier in the story. If Timeline Two doesn't represent an extrapolation of the events of "now" in the TV story, then it's not an indication of anything that will happen, but rather an indication of what might have happened had some earlier events not turned out the way they did.

Or maybe Peter just keeps the scar as a reminder. Or maybe the writers just wanted Peter to have a scar to remind us that he's a badass now, and they haven't thought this through very well. Or maybe there's some other explanation. Certain kinds of scars can't be healed via Bennett-style regeneration, or something like that.

Definitely a good episode.

I don't think the writers always had a good handle on how Peter's powers work, because by the simplest explanation they've already contradicted themselves.

When Peter was first trying to manifest the powers he'd absorbed, he couldn't. When Invisiman threw Peter off the roof and he survived, he claimed he was able to heal because as he fell, he remembered how Claire had made him feel and that was the key. Peter was a kind of empath, absorbing powers and accessing them through emotion. But it seemed clear that Peter had to make a conscious effort to invoke them.

That got blown out of the water when a shard of glass pierced his skull. He was dead, yet removing the shard allowed him to heal. On the one hand, this tracked-- Claire had healed when the branch was removed from her skull in the same way. But the difference is that they established that Peter has to "invoke" his powers, which he couldn't very well do while dead.

Then again, Peter didn't consciously invoke Claire's healing the very first time, when he saved her from Sylar. So what was all that mumbo-jumbo about remembering how people made him feel? That would have made sense for any "active" power, like flight or telekenesis, but for a power that was already demonstrated to be passive, it makes no sense.

So the writers are either fudging and refining as they go, waving it away by intending "his body used Claire's power subconsciously when he saved Sylar, and he needs empathy to consciously control them", or they goofed.

As for the scar, unless we're told otherwise we have to assume that what we saw was THE future from the point Hiro moved forward-- which means Peter already had Claire's powers. So my money's on the Haitian.

Perhaps Peter has the regeneration power essentially all the time because he doesn't have to think about it; he's often been unconscious (or dead) when it's worked. Perhaps it's overthinking that keeps him from using his other powers fully.

That would suggest that he has the scar because he wants to have the scar. It represents some failure on his part, where someone died due to his screwup. Which would make for good TV later. When he finally feels like he's made up for whatever bad thing that led to the scar, perhaps we'll see it heal. Music swells, and he falls into the arms of Nikki. And...scene!

Well, Peter seems to involuntarily use powers when they are right up against him. Witness both the first healing with Claire, and alos the shard of glass. The trick is for him to use the powers when the original source is *not* present.

As to Hiro's time travel ability, I say entirely unproven. Yes he has moved forward and back in time, but never with the comfort we would walk to the park. Stopping time he could do with some control, but the travel bit has been pretty spotty. Perhaps the future Hiro knows why and it is more dangerous/impossible to do with the knowledge than with ignorance, so he sends back his younger self to do the deed. The writers seem to be falling into the "alternate realities" mode of time travel, so perhaps the future Hiro even knows that his fate is set, but he can help himself in another reality to avert the disaster. We don't know if timeline two goes poof just because timeline one gets fixed.

I totally agree about the thing with Sylar catching me mostly, but not entirely off guard. They gave you just enough time to think "wait, this doesn't make sense", but not enough to think through what must have happened before springing the twist. Excellent writing there.

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