Heroes Season 4, Episode 7 Review: Strange Attractors

Reminding us that Christmas is not the only period to inspire corny, unimaginative television, this week Heroes remembered that Halloween is just around the corner and decided to give us a cheesy girls-in-a-slaughterhouse episode to get us in the holiday spirit.

The episode begins with Claire and Gretchen still awkward after having locked lips, trying to figure out whether they are just friends or something more. They have little time to think however when masked figures burst into the room to try to bundle them away. Could it be that the government is once again trying to round up people with abilities? No, it’s just a good, old-fashioned sorority initiation ritual. So begins the episode’s rapid descent into the horribly clichéd.

Those who caught the episode before last will recall that Rebecca, working on Samuel’s instruction, is intent on removing everybody close to Claire. Her reason, of course, is to try to ensure that Claire has no one to turn to and will be more susceptible to an approach from the Carnies to join their merry gang. Now that Claire is friendly (or should that be: more than friendly?) with Gretchen, guess who’s next on Rebecca’s hit list.

Now Rebecca has a power that should make her an ideal assassin – she is able to turn herself invisible. You might think that any plan she might formulate ought to involve Gretchen being on her own and completely off-her-guard. Instead she takes the ludicrous option of following her around the spooky slaughterhouse during the scavenger hunt, trying to kill her with a well-aimed meat hook. It seems far from being the easy option.

A storyline like this demands one of two styles: either lashings of good humor or lashings of… well, lashings. Sadly it fails on both counts, delivering neither laughs nor grotesque deaths. It feels tame and more an excuse to burn up some screen time with a little tension and some light flirting than a serious attempt to push forward the Claire and Gretchen relationship. It seems those seeking some resolution may have to wait a little longer.

Competing with Rebecca for the honor of coming up with the most stupid plan this episode is our own Matt Parkman.

Still haunted by Sylar’s consciousness, Matt decides that he has to do something when he awakens to discover that Sylar had taken over his body during sex with his wife. Understandably upset, Matt tells her that he needs to leave for a while but instead she suggests that she leave him on his own to figure things out.

That process for Matt starts with a beer, which, he notices, seems to weaken Sylar’s grip on him. This inspires him to formulate his most ingenious plan to date – get hammered so that Sylar will go away. In the plot twist you see coming the moment Matt hits the bottle it turns out that Sylar was only pretending to be weakening with each mouthful. The end result – Matt is now trapped inside his own body that is controlled by Sylar. Do we expect him to now head to the carnival in search of his body? I think we should.

Meanwhile Noah remains in Georgia, working to make amends for some of the wrongs he did when working for the Company. Having managed to convince Jeremy to call the Police after the boy inadvertently killed both his parents, it turns out that his plan has hit some difficulties. Namely the local sheriff thinks the boy is guilty in spite of Noah’s fabricated evidence and wants to keep the boy under lock and key.

Not content to let Jeremy rot in the slammer, Noah decides to call on the assistance of Tracy who he asks to pretend to be the boy’s next-of-kin. After she speaks with Jeremy in his jail cell, Samuel turns up and tries to convince her to bring the boy to the carnival. Giving her the compass to enable her to find them again, she returns to the jail to make arrangements to sign Jeremy out.

The scenes that follow the boy’s release did move me although I realized I was being manipulated by the crude civil rights imagery. Jeremy’s treatment is equated to a hate crime and a parallel is drawn between people with abilities and repressed minorities.

Such familiar territory has been explored successfully in the X-Men comics and movies and here feels a little slight. Still, the scene that caps the sequence off with Samuel taking vengeance on those responsible not only provides some satisfaction but also defines Samuel’s abilities and temperament more clearly. It also continues the redefinition of the characters of Noah and Tracy and it is easy to imagine how both will be affected by the night’s events.

Taken as a whole, “Strange Attractors” is an episode that never really comes together. Too much time is wasted on the ridiculous scavenger hunt storyline that fails to be either funny or scary enough to be of interest. Although there are some fun moments in the Matt and Sylar storyline, it also ends up playing out predictably.

Only Jeremy’s story proves effective, moving the characters and series’ plot forward rather than just burning screen time. Sadly the good is not enough to balance out the bad and the episode ends up disappointing more than it pleases. Hopefully next week’s episode with the return of Charlie will be satisfying; unfortunately “Strange Attractors” is anything but.

– Aidan Brack

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