Tonight's very talky installment of "Heroes" sort of hit the pause button on the forward momentum — but it also filled in a fair amount of information about the past. It was hardly the show's best effort this season, but the flashbacks gave "1961" some extra oomph.
The entire episode took place at the Coyote Sands complex where the Petrelli-Bennet clan ended up at the end of last week's episode. Through some very nice-looking black-and-white flashbacks, we learn (or rather, confirm — this wasn't all that hard to figure out) that it was a sort of internment camp for people with abilities, and Angela, her younger sister Alice and her parents were brought there in early 1961.
Also there? Dr. Chandra Suresh, who's supervising the scientific work going on at the camp, and fellow internees Charles Deveaux, Daniel Linderman and Bobby Bishop. Everyone's a Kennedy-era optimist to start, despite the armed guards, but it soon becomes clear to Deveaux, at least, that things are not as happy and cheerful as they seem. Because crappily built huts in the middle of the desert always mean fun.
We never quite learn what exactly the elder Suresh and the government was doing — the implication was that he was trying to "cure" people with abilities — but as we learned last week, it all went sideways, and now there's a mass grave in the desert floor. Angela has been dreaming about the place, and she's convinced she needs to dig up the bodies in order to find Alice. Except: In the dreams, Alice is alive, but Angela's convinced there's no way she could have survived.
You know what's coming, right? Alice is alive, if not entirely well, and has been living in the Coyote Sands fallout shelter lo these many years — because Angela told her to wait there, that she'd be back and that everything would be OK. It's not quite the heart-warming reunion Angela may have been hoping for, as Alice — who can make weather a la "X-Men's" Storm — doesn't take the news that Angela lied to her way back when all that well, stirring up some lightning and wind and then disappearing into the desert.
But that's not important, because the real purpose of the Coyote Sands family reunion was to Learn a Lesson about how people with abilities should be treated. Angela's all for returning to the Company way — it was formed by Coyote Sands alumni, after all, and it served its purpose of keeping supers hidden from the world for many years.
Now, it's not hard to see why the Company's founders would want to be so hush-hush — none of them wanted a repeat of what happened to them as teenagers. But having seen the corruption and downright evil that the Company eventually became, Peter and Claire want no part of that. Peter eventually proposes that they act as a family, acknowledging that he's willing to forgive Nathan in order to make it happen. Nathan, in turn, agrees to go back to Washington and man up about the Danko-headed monster he's created.
Too late, though: The episode ends with Sylar-as-Nathan apparently announcing a run for president, promising to bring "real purpose back to the White House."
"Heroes" has two episodes left before the "Fugitives" volume concludes. Suresh is still at Coyote Sands, looking for an explanation of what his father did there, and Hiro, Ando and the two Matt Parkmans were last seen leaving Washington. It's going to take quite a bit of fancy footwork to get everyone in place for a finale in that short amount of time.
Other thoughts from "1961":
- Aside from the muddled explanation about the nature of Chandra Suresh's work at Coyote Sands, the thing that's nagging me the most is the idea that Alice somehow caused a massacre with her storm-starting power. The guard shooting the guy who shockwaved Dr. Suresh away, I can see. But the subsequent and systematic killing of some 200 more people, just to cover up tracks? That's one awfully huge leap.
- Is the show taking place in 2011? Angela makes several references to things at the camp having happened "50 years ago," and while she may have just forgotten to put an "almost" in front of those statements, it sure seemed to me that we're meant to believe the story is a couple years ahead of our time.
- I enjoyed the revelation of Deveaux's Jedi mind trick-like power. It seems appropriately badass for a character who would grow up to be played by Shaft.
- In case you didn't pick up on the history-repeating-itself theme, the show drove it home with all the subtlety of a shotgun blast by showing that the lab at Coyote Sands was in Building 26.
- If the goal is now, as Peter stated at episode's end, to go back underground, how does that square with the show's ongoing theme of identity? For most of the past three seasons, "Heroes" has been at least partly about people trying to come to terms with their abilities. Denying they exist doesn't seem like the best way to do that.
What did you think of "Heroes" this week? Did the flashbacks work for you — and did the present-day material live up to what we saw of the past?