Heroes achieves the nigh on impossible this week and actually does something productive with Emma's character. After weeks of pontificating over bizarre colours, oohing and aahing at her ability to see sound but ultimately achieving nothing other than giving the cinematographers something different to do, Carlos Cota actually bothers to make her story relevant to the ongoing narrative, doing something more with her than simply pointing and exclaiming at how gosh darn cute she is. As suspected, good old Samuel was responsible for sending her the cello and while we're still unclear on how it managed to crack a hole in the wall of her apartment, at least now we're aware that Emma can do a whole lot more than just make the screen look pretty. That she is a siren should have been screamingly obvious from the earlier park scene but its underplaying did a deft job of disguising the fact. Refreshingly, Cota actually explores the possibilities inherent in her deafness too, using sign language rather than lipsynching and attempted dialogue, which feels far more natural than the conversations she's been having in her previous appearances. It makes the viewer work to appreciate the scenes and adds a potent level of believability, strengthening our investment in her character.
The other crucial development this week concerns ol' Clairebear, whose trip around Carnyville (see what I did there?) actually proves to be more than passingly interesting. It's intriguing to follow the day-to-day activities of the occupants of the place and acquire a different perspective on their way of life: Doyle's dialogue in particular gives us an opportunity to understand just how much the notion of togetherness, of community, can mean to people. Once again, David H. Lawrence XVII is tremendous as the illustrious puppet master, proving endearing and bloody freak in equal measure. Further airtime for Lydia and Eli proves to be nothing other than a good thing too: the latter is particularly eerie in his continual observation and pursuit of the young Bennet, while the tattooist just generally fascinates, enveloping Samuel's world further in murky shades of gray and allowing someone, anyone, the opportunity to finally see a little of what T-Bag might be planning. It is never quite apparent what will happen to Claire, whether or not she will choose to stay, as developments twist and turn continuously, flipping her onto opposing sides of the decision. This lack of predictability is certainly refreshing and the fact that the choice is only stalled by Nathan's death really strengthens the storyline.
As was probably to be expected, this is treated with great sensitivity, steering clear of the mawkish and overly emotional. Petrelli's funeral is a sombre affair, with surprisingly little dialogue. Peter's speech is short and sweet, a perfect tribute to the world's most schizo brother, and the use of military procedures adds a nice lump-in-the-throat touch. The cinematography is wonderful too, all fitting greys and blues, giving everything a solemn hue. It's a rather nice decision to use it as a bookmark to the hour, having no other reference until the thirty five minute point, as it qualifies all that has gone before, adding a strong sense of perspective. The only slightly disappointing element of the episode is Hiro's descent into ridiculousness, which does threaten to veer too greatly into cringeworthy territory at times (especially as he's rescuing the 'maiden' or whatever), but given that his dialogue is effectively a fangeek's wet dream, loaded with intertextual references, we'll forgive it.
A solid return for Heroes, then, continuing the strong balancing act between character development and plot progression that the show has been pulling off so far this season. Tropes move forward, characters acquire new significance and insight and Masi Oka gets to reference Battlestar Galactica. Let's just forget about those horrible child actors and their side-splittingly awful attempts to pull off an Irish accent, shall we?