Heroes Season 4, Episode 6 Review: Tabula Rasa

Has Samuel never heard the old expression about the dangers of playing with matches?

It was certainly the first to come to my mind when he took a serial killer with a penchant for collecting abilities, introduced that killer to his “family” of Carnies and then attempted to restore the killer’s memory and personality. Unless he has some secret power up his sleeve that can contain a restored Sylar it is probably for the best that his plan did not quite work out as intended.

Instead the series is once again treading the familiar path of Sylar trying to fight the reemergence of his own personality. Confronted with images of the murders he has committed, Sylar’s response is to break down. His memory of who he is and what he has done has returned but the transformation is incomplete – whether it is because Matt Parkman took something away from him when he rewrote his memories or because there is still something of Nathan Petrelli’s personality within him is still unclear. For now at least he is fighting against his violent instincts.

Meanwhile Hiro has been admitted to hospital having collapsed at Peter Petrelli’s apartment. Peter, aware of Hiro’s brain tumor, meets up with Noah and asks for his help in finding someone with healing powers to help cure his friend. Noah searches his records from his time at the company, remembering that there was a boy, Jeremy (Mark L. Young), who had begun to manifest the ability to restore dying creatures to life.

The pair arrives at Jeremy’s home only to discover the boy’s parents dead in the front room. It seems that his power to heal has developed into an ability to kill. Attacked moments later by a scared Jeremy with a shotgun, the pair tries to persuade him into putting down his weapon and to talk with them.

Back at the hospital, Emma talks to Hiro about her new power in the hope that he can answer her questions and find a way to make it stop. He tells her that powers cannot be turned off but that they are part of you and the challenge is to use them for good.

Realizing that she remains unwilling to see any positive possibilities for her ability, Hiro puts on a magic show for the patients at the hospital and uses his ability to stop time for her. Having enjoyed the show, later Emma sits down at a piano and begins to play, once again taking pleasure in the use of her power.

Talking to Emma also has an effect on Hiro, as he realizes that he has forgotten one wrong that he wants to right. The episode ends with him traveling back in time and sets up what should be an exciting episode that will see the return of a much-loved character from the first season and possibly a confrontation with Sylar.

Notable in this episode is the tighter focus that the writers have given to this fourth season, concentrating on telling just two to three characters’ stories each episode. While some may find the slower storytelling style frustrating, it does allow the writers to spend more time drawing parallels between stories and characters.

Here we see two characters, Hiro and Samuel, attempt to guide characters struggling to accept their powers and convince them that they should view their powers as a positive force. The speeches each gives are quite similar in phrasing, yet their purposes in doing so are entirely different. Hiro’s noble, if slightly naïve, approach to his powers contrasts with the more manipulative approach Samuel adopts, throwing light on both of their characters.

In previous seasons a situation like Sylar’s memory loss would have already been resolved by this stage and no doubt the bodies would be piling up. Instead the writers appear to be taking more care with characters and situations, allowing them to develop carefully and actually leaving us waiting for answers. One case in point: five episodes in and we still do not know what Samuel is looking to achieve, allowing him and his Carnies to retain a sense of mystery.

“Tabula Rasa” is not the sort of episode where a lot happens, nor does it contain flashy effects or set pieces. Instead it is a quieter, character-focused episode that allows us to see a little more of Samuel’s methods and sets up several storylines for future episodes.

It also is the sixth episode in a row that has entertained much more than it has disappointed. While past experiences with Heroes have left me wary of declaring that the show has returned to form, it is hard to ignore that the series is demonstrating a consistency in quality that has eluded the last two seasons.

For those who have followed the show in the past and fallen away, now may be the time to take another look at Heroes.

– Aidan Brack

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