Heroes is at its strongest when they really buckle down and focus on the story rather than the powers. I think this episode was a great example of that.
Pass/Fail was all about Pacing/Character Development.
I thought all three plots were equally fascinating and emotionally solid.
Samuel is still keeping his old flame Vanessa in his, *ahem* company. I refuse to call her a hostage or this a kidnapping because of how everything played out. Robert Knepper has done a fantastic job as Samuel Sullivan this season, and I truly believe he's given us the most dynamic character ever on this show, hero or villain. I really liked everything about this story. Vanessa's shift from reluctant to enamored is completely believable, with the subtle, yet persistent way Sam woos her. Starting with a simple milkshake, and ending with a genuinely sweet dream come true, We can understand why she would fall for Samuel's charm. Sam's strikes me as a snake-charmer type. Like Bill from the Kill Bill movies. At the end, Vanessa's rejection is understandable, but it breaks Sam's heart and drives him to rage out. Excellent.
Sylar made his visit to Claire and gave her a little 'We're the Same 101' lecture. I could understand why this might have been a putt-off for some viewers; both of these characters are over-exposed on this show (where's the hell is Peter?). But I still liked what they were trying to say and where the story took us. I can't deny that Zachary Quinto and Hayden P have great chemistry together, and in some ways, this entire saga is about the two of their journeys. Emulating moments for the beginning of Season 3, Sylar once again 'forced himself' on Claire, and took something from her. This time just information, though. The clever twist with what he did with Gretchen was what I really liked. This drove Claire to finally open up the The Gretch and this capped with another sweet moment of the two girls holding hands. Expect to see the couple in a tree "I-N-G-ing" sometime soon.
Hiro's story was the oddest, yet somehow, even this worked for me too. Mostly because ADAM'S BACK! The only good thing about Season 2, made a welcome return as a prosecutor in a sort of judgment trial for Hiro's crimes against the space/time continuum. Ando was the defense attorney. Yeah,I know it sounds stupid on paper, but this turned out to be interesting because of how it played out. Characters of yesteryear are mentioned or appeared (like pops as the judge), and for a show that is infamous for ignoring its own history, this was pleasure. The case itself against Hiro was also interesting, as Adam pointed out the morally questionable decisions Hiro has made throughout the years. Hiro fought back with his noble intentions, but guilty was the verdict, and on his death-bed, Hiro faced one last challenge before moving on to the great hereafter. A final sword fight with Takeo Kensei! finish with a(nother) sweet scene with Mommy, and more than anything, this wraps up the tumor storyline and gets Hiro healthy and back on track. (Like anyone actually thought he would die?)