'Heroes' has some 'splaining to do

Jackcoleman_heroes_s2_240 Tonight's Heroes introduced us to the most efficient government black-ops program ever, showed once again how hard it is to die on the show and featured some rather nice black-and-white cinematography in service of the "Fugitives" volume's flashback episode.

Nothing much was wrong with what was there, at least no moreso than usual. It's what wasn't there that's bugging me.

How the hell did these spoilers get here so fast?

Structurally, I appreciated "Cold Wars" as much as any of the back-story episodes Heroes has done. The flashbacks served a clear purpose -- Matt excavating Noah's brain for information on why supers are being hunted -- and led to a couple clear courses of action, namely getting Noah's files and then going after Danko. Jack Coleman was given more to do than he has all season, and reminded me that although his character has drifted this season, he's still capable of making Bennet a very compelling guy.

Yet I still feel like there's a big hole in the center of this story line. More than once tonight, Bennet and others mention that the existence of these abilities has been kept secret for 20-plus years. Nathan has managed to get his sizable covert operation up and running within a couple of months -- which stretches credulity, but whatever. In fiction, black ops are usually efficient.

What I really have trouble with is the idea that in that short span of time, a junior senator with no track record in Washington has managed not only to convince enough people to let this program go forward, but also has managed to be wishy-washy enough in its execution that there are already differing schools of thought as to how to deal with this "problem."

The lack of any decent explanation behind Nathan's motives has sort of been hanging over the show since this arc began a few weeks ago, but it became impossible to set aside tonight. In one of the flashbacks he appeals to Bennet's sense of duty and unfinished Primatech business to get him on board, even though it means indiscriminately rounding up people with abilities, many of whom Noah knows pose no threat. Fine -- it's a sales job, so Nathan's not going to tell Noah that, oh by the way, you'll be working for a zealot who'd just as soon shoot a super as catch one.

Adrianpasdar2_heroes_240 Yeah, but why? Surely Danko has a reason for being so into his job, and it sure isn't his respect for what Nathan has put together. His line to Noah, "Don't presume you know anything about me," maybe hints at some history with someone who has powers, but at this point it feels less like mystery and more like vagueness for its own sake. For both Nathan and Danko, the unexplained true-belief streak has become almost maddening.

Noah appears to buy into Danko's this-is-war mentality, but the ethically fluid Mr. Bennet is once again working another angle, as we close with him and Angela discussing a secret plan to bring the hero-internment program down from the inside ("He's got it all wrong," Noah says of Danko, "and so does Nathan for that matter"). Given his history -- Primatech was, you know, bad, but at least it tried to distinguish between dangerous supers and benign ones -- this wrinkle at least feels consistent with the character (if a little shopworn -- has there ever been a time when Noah wasn't playing both sides?). Plus, seeing Coleman deliver the line "You know me -- I've always been comfortable with morally gray" is still kind of fun.

But seriously -- I know Nathan and Danko are the bad guys of the piece here, but Heroes needs to come up with some sort of rationale for their actions, and quick. 

More thoughts on "Cold Wars":

Can't anyone ever just freakin' die on this show? Matt's last mind-read on Noah reveals that his beloved Daphne didn't perish at the plane-crash site, but is only gravely wounded and under heavy sedation at Building 26. Oy. I guess this will allow Matt to keep being a good guy, but frankly, I think it would be more interesting storytelling if Daphne really were dead and Matt really were driven by a need for vengeance.

Speaking of good guys acting bad, I guess all the back-and-forth between Matt and Suresh (with Peter mostly just stalking around in the background) was supposed to make us think about how far an otherwise good person might go to get something he really needs in an extraordinary situation. Mostly I was thinking that it was more interesting on New Caprica.

As for Suresh's fuzzy motives for wanting Matt to stop, well, his read on the situation certainly wasn't wrong. He knows Matt well enough (presumably from their time as Molly's Two Dads) to know that he won't react well to the knowledge that Suresh didn't warn them all about the impending roundup. The character has been taken so far around the bend, though, that it was hard to take his side.

Credit where due: The black-and-white sequences looked really crisp and cool (Seith Mann directed the episode). I also enjoyed the tighter focus of this episode -- we didn't need to involve the entire cast to spell out the backstory of Nathan's covert op. And frankly, after last week's Bollywood wedding hijinx, I was not sorry to leave Hiro out of the mix this time around. Also: Peter actually used his current power to get things done tonight. Kudos.

Line of the night probably goes to Zeljko Ivanek for Danko's incredulous "How the hell did you get here so fast?" line to Nathan. Now, Danko may be a lot of things, but I don't suspect he's dumb. Between this little incident and the fact that Nathan's brother and biological daughter also have powers (and, oh yeah, the survelliance footage of Tracy calling Nathan out as "one of us"), it can't be long before he realizes he's working for a super.

The episode ends with Matt painting himself as a suicide bomber (in the oft-repurposed Mendez loft, it looks like) and a conflagration over Washington. Hey look -- another disaster to prevent.

How did you like "Cold Wars"? Did the tighter focus help or hurt the show? And will Nathan ever fully explain himself?

SHARE IT ON: