With this season of "Heroes" just churning along at a relatively slow and methodical pace, the same pattern continues to emerge. Characters with a clear sense of motivation drive their subplots development and make those segments work. Characters with less direction inhabit storylines that seem to be going nowhere fast. Thankfully, this episode was more of the former and less of the latter.
I've been enjoying Matt's struggle with Sylar's twisted consciousness, even if there is a predictability to its progression. I saw the twist in this episode coming a mile away, but that didn't take away from the satisfaction of the end result. As I've said in previous reviews, there needed to be consequences for the ill-advised attempt to force Nathan's personality and memories onto Sylar, and Matt is definitely paying the price. It's hard to imagine that he will survive this intact.
Claire's subplot was also surprisingly strong. For the most part, it felt like something that could have happened on a standard episode of "Buffy". It would have fit the fourth season of that series comfortably. It's good to see Claire work out the reality that Gretchen was in danger from the evidence at hand and a little deduction (not really her strong suit in earlier seasons). Hopefully that suspicious mind will continue to work.
Claire's relationship with Gretchen is less successfully handled. I won't deny that there is a bit of chemistry between the two actresses, but I'm still struck by the fact that the entire plotline was based on a random whim from Hayden. It's hard to feel like this is an organic evolution of the character, when it really isn't. I'm also not convinced that the writing staff has the skill to make this work without resorting to stereotypes.
I'm also still impressed by the characterization of Samuel. Every time he's on-screen, it just plain works. Robert Knepper gives true depth to his performance, sometimes to the detriment of other members of the cast. His desire to bring all the metahumans under his wing is soulful and sincere, just as his menace and wrath are deeply convincing.
The weakest storyline involved Noah and his search for a new direction in his life. Jeremy's fate is directly tied to Noah's sense of direction, and that goes very badly. So does the logic of the subplot itself. The writers present Jeremy's situation as if it is something we should care about, but since he came out of nowhere, his circumstances don't resonate. There's no reason to care about Jeremy's fate.
That fate seemed forced, to say the least. Nothing in the episode suggested a reason for there to be a crowd outside of the police station when Jeremy was released. If there had been so much anger and fear beyond the police themselves, wouldn't they have confronted Noah and Tracy at some point? It also felt like the decision to kill Jeremy by dragging him behind a pickup truck was well out of proportion for the situation.
For that matter, why didn't Samuel save Jeremy? He was obviously keeping tabs on the situation, since he knew to contact Tracy. How hard would it have been to make an offer to Jeremy himself, anyway? The answer is that the writers had a certain set of plot points in mind, and they forced the circumstances to arrive at those points, regardless of how the logic of the situation argued against it.
Still, two good plot threads out of three is not bad, especially now that "Heroes" is concentrating on deeper exploration of only a few subplots per episode. It's easier to follow the overall progression of the story as a whole. Nothing can hide the fact that the writers are still struggling to find a way to recapture the glory days of the first season, but they are holding their own at this point.