“I Am Become Death”
October 6th, 2008
When “Five Years Gone” debuted last Spring, I was amongst those who were a bit lukewarm on the episode. Sure, it was interesting to see this potential future for our Heroes, but at that point the “here and now” drama of the series was actually quite compelling. Every time since that point, though, the future has been getting more and more attractive: with the future comes a promise of getting away from the doldrums of the present, of the slowly changing landscape actually getting around to changing before we all grow old or, worst of all for NBC, impatient to the point of tuning out.
What “I Am Become Death” does is follow in this same tradition, as Heroes plagiarizes itself in an effort to keep people interested. I would love to report that it doesn’t work at all, but the episode throws enough “Isn’t the future wacky and crazy?!” at the viewer to give them some (likely irrational) hope that the series is heading in some exciting directions. The entire thing plays out as, in combination, Future Peter ushering Present Peter into this new world, and Matt Parkman witnessing the thing while in a hallucinatory state in Africa, and while there are some interesting broad divisions being drawn as related to the key theme it feels like a lot for the future to live up to.
And Heroes isn’t good at living up to its promise.
I’ll admit it: I’m intrigued at the whole division between those Heroes who were born this way and those who were made this way. It’s moving a bit too closely into, say, X-Men territory in terms of the idea of ostracizing people based on their status, but I’m no comic book fan and I think it has some dramatic potential regardless of the likely plagiarism. It also helps to explain a lot of what we’ve been dealing with of late with Ando, and even Tracy, who we learned this week was given powers by a doctor who preceded Mohinder in the whole “Inject people with Powers” scheme.
The biggest issue about the entire flash four years into the future, though, is that I’m tired of the show retreating into this pattern. In the first season, the future was a post-apocalyptic warzone that brought word of the importance of “Saving the Cheerleader.” In the second season, it was a New York City eviscerated by a virus, also quite post-apocalyptic. Meanwhile, here, we have an entirely new future, distinct from the others if I am to understand exactly, where heroes are out in the world and where divisions are running deep and threatening their existence.
The problem is that there is no real sense of how time is being manipulated: because the question of time is purely a device the writers use to inject interest into the story and not an actual consistent element of the series’ development, what we have is something that will ultimately lack meaning. While I would blame the strike, and the relative lack of quality, for the second season’s poor use of the time travel element, I still don’t know if, over the span of 18 more episodes, the show will be able to do enough to live up to the promise we’re seeing her. If patterns continue, what will any of this matter when it will all be rewritten when the writers get bored with it by the end of the season?
It’s all just a bunch of “How did that happen?” questions: how did Daphne and Matt get together? What did Peter do to get his scar (And how come that’s stayed as a constant even with all of the time shifts?), and to piss off everyone so much? Are we only seeing the Blood-side of the equation, and where are Ando and Hiro within this setup? Why didn’t Molly age in four years? What happened to the real Noah Bennett, and why is his namesake now son to Sylar…sorry, Gabriel? These are all some neat little tidbits, and even the most cynical amongst us likely perked up at the idea of some of them, but the problem is that Peter jumps back into the present at the end of the episode, and Parkman is now on a quest to stop this all from happening.
As a result, it’s not entirely clear how they plan on handling this: do they plan on using Peter’s newly acquired powers he got from Sylar to alter the present to prevent the future, or to actually travel into it more often? The show has already gone into this time period a few times this season, so perhaps there is a plan to spend more time there. However, even if there is, that’s still a lot for the show to handle, and to be honest some parts of that world aren’t all that fun: Claire is annoying enough when she’s a petulant teenager, but when she’s supposed to be more mature and just isn’t, it doesn’t do much for the character’s likeability.
It is possible to argue, of course, that this episode is all about its execution, but even that was much more inconsistent than, say, “Five Years Gone.” The one very cool scene, as Mohinder putting down his tape recorder in the present day slowly morphs into a cobwebbed and petrified tape recorder as Peter walks into the apartment four years later, is immediately followed by an incredibly lame transformed Mohinder who stalks around bookshelves like a shadowy librarian with a head cold. And, rather than finding us entirely in the future, we get little snippets of Hiro and Ando, Mohinder, and Tracy and Nathan as the latter two discover one another’s powers, the former two discover that they need to go wake up Adam (David Anders) in order to find the formula, and Mohinder makes Maya upset.
The end result is an episode that feels like its quality will be undermined by the time the season ends, and that in itself wasn’t even all that interesting. I’m intrigued by some of the show’s direction, but I can’t say that I left this episode anything but curious – forgive me for being quite so cynical about it, but Peter gaining Sylar’s powers (now affectionately known as “The Hunger”) feels less like a positive development and more like yet another dashed hope of Noah Bennett taking over as our lead actor and Peter being stuck in the future forever.
But since wish fulfillment isn’t Heroes’ strongsuit, this is at least enjoyable enough in the interim…just not a good sign for the season’s longevity.
- While the giant explosion special effect was quite fun to watch, in that horrific kind of way, I do have to wonder how plausible it is that Marlo (Does he have a name in the show? I don’t know it, so Marlo it is) escaped the fire using his fear capabilities and yet Daphne, who can travel faster than time, wasn’t able to do so. The argument could be made that she was more injured, but still – she was obviously running away.
- I’m really curious: is Noah, the 4-year old waffle-loving-Abracadabra-saying boy, the same Noah that we know just Babified? Or is there some other explanation? Something really strange like that makes me think we have more time yet to spend in the future.
- What happened to Nathan’s kids, exactly? We never see them, or Rena Sofer, which is understandable although forgive me for wondering why he never sees them, or talks to them. And, speaking of Nathan the father, that scene with him and Claire in the future was just kind of silly.
- And for those who don’t know from whence the episode title comes, it’s the first half of a piece of Hindu Scripture, made famous by Robert Oppenheimer when he used it to describe the impact of the atomic bomb. Within the context of the quotation, it is actually quite apt.