Wednesday, 25 February 2009

HEROES 3.17 - "Cold Wars"

Wednesday, 25 February 2009
"You know me. I've always been comfortable with morally gray."
-- Mr. Bennet (Jack Coleman)

Spoilers. Throwing off the shackles of the interminable Hiro/Ando and overplayed Sylar, "Cold Wars" focused exclusively on the volume's main storyline, with fugitives Peter (Milo Ventimiglia), Matt (Greg Grunberg) and Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) drugging Mr. Bennet (Jack Coleman) in a bar, then dragging him back to a motel for interrogation. The episode reminded me of season 1's exalted "Company Man" (that also featured Bennet being interrogated by mind-reader Matt, allowing for gap-filling flashbacks), and while it's certainly nowhere near as polished as that gem, "Cold Wars" is still a decent try...

Heroes often likes to jump around chronologically to tease out its story, or make retroactive changes, so "Cold Wars" tries to make the birth of Nathan's (Adrian Pasdar) government-sanctioned plan feel less unlikely than it does -- mainly by introducing the notion that Nathan doesn't just want to lock up superheroes and throw away the key, but hopes to take away their powers and release them in due course. To help, he recruits Bennet -- recently retired from the defunct Company, pensioned off by Angela (Cristine Rose), bored at home doing crosswords -- then undoes thirty years of secrecy by telling authorities about the existence of superheroes.

The Hunter/Danko (Zeljko Ivanek) is introduced to Bennet, immediately considering him a weak operative because of his split loyalties to work and family, with Nathan acting a mediator as Building 26 is set-up. Bennet initially thinks Nathan's operation is The Company version 2, but the loss of their "one of us, one of them" policy (where a regular agent is partnered by a super-agent) clearly says otherwise, with Danko preferring to overwhelm the "targets" with sheer numbers, brute force and the element of surprise.

All of this information is imparted in monochrome flashbacks, triggered by Matt feeling his way inside Bennet's mind inside their motel room -- where he occasionally pulls some information that could help their fight, and sends Peter to investigate. In particular, Matt discovers the location of a secret storage room Bennet has been using for decades, containing equipment they can use. Unfortunately, after Peter arrives to stock up on weapons, he's unaware the room contains a security camera beaming a live-feed to Building 26. With Bennet AWOL and Peter spotted rooting through his storage room, Danko sends a team to catch Peter, suspecting they've kidnapped Bennet -- with Nathan again stressing the need to incapacitate their target, not shoot-to-kill as Danko would prefer.

Anyway, it's not long before Danko's team locate Bennet and send an armed team to their motel to retrieve their agent, tazering Mohinder as he tries to slow them down, to give Matt enough time to corroborate Bennet's story that his beloved Daphne (Brea Grant) is alive -- having survived multiple gunshots a few episodes back, to be taken to Building 26 and pumped full of sedatives. Matt is then captured when Danko's team storm the motel, but quickly rescued by flyboy Peter as he's taken outside and whisked to high altitude.

Later, we see that recent events have helped smooth the prickly relationship between Danko and Bennet, with the latter admitting his loyalties have been divided recently, but promising he's totally focused on their objective now, and will help Danko deal with the more liberal views of Nathan. But, as we suspected, it appears that Bennet is still working for Angela -- who he reports to on a nearby park bench after Danko leaves. The Company may have folded, but Angela and Bennet are still working together to keep a close eye on Nathan's operation, with Bennet as her inside man.

A number of things worked well in "Cold Wars": the decision to focus on one storyline, instead of jumping to extraneous or boring subplots kept the whole episode more focused than usual; the flashbacks were handled nicely; and the pace felt smoother. The downside was the fact that, really, we didn't learn much we didn't already suspect (particularly regarding how Nathan set the ball rolling with his plan), and the surprise that another "dead" character is still alive is beyond cliché for this show.

It was also terribly worrying that the episode's coda (Matt painting Washington D.C engulfed in flames, and himself wearing explosives) is a scenario we've seen before -- yes, it's similar to the "exploding man" threat to New York in season 1. Why does Heroes find it so impossible to think up fresh material? Don't they hear the audience feedback that criticizes how often they repackage old ideas? And does this mean Volume III's foreshadowed doomsday (the planet splitting like a melon) has been forgotten about, or replaced by something more localized? Is D.C's destruction tied into that global catastrophe, or with the Tokyo blast Hiro witnessed back in episode 1?

Overall, "Cold Wars" didn't reveal enough to have any lasting impact -- things generally reverted to the status quo by the end (except for Mohinder's capture), and there are more signs Heroes is set to repeat itself. What rescued it was the absence of any irritating subplots, better material for Coleman and Ivanek to chew on, and the fact that (while nothing amazing happened) these days you're just glad nothing awful happened.

23 February 2009
NBC, 9/8c

Writers: Christopher Zatta, Joe Pokaski & Aron Eli Coleite
Director: Seith Mann

Cast: Jack Coleman (Mr. Bennet), Cristine Rose (Angela), Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder), Greg Grunberg (Matt), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Ashley Crow (Sandra), Brea Grant (Daphne), Jonny Siew (Analyst), Japheth Gordon (Agent #1), Bernadette L. Speakes (Waitress), Zeljko Ivanek (Danko) & Nayo K. Wallace (Med Tech)