Review: Heroes 4×5 – Hysterical Blindness

The pace is picking up at last!

Hysterical Blindness

In the US: Monday 12th October, 8pm, NBC
In the UK: The New Year

It would be cruel to re-title this episode Hysterical Blandness because it’s not. Well, maybe just a little bit.

But the pace is perceptibly starting to pick up again on Heroes. Thank God.

Spoilers, etc, after the jump, where we also discuss Claire snogging girls.


Samuel (Robert Knepper) prepares for new additions to his family, while Lydia (guest star Dawn Olivieri) warns him of the consequences. Claire (Hayden Panettiere) discovers that her roommate Gretchen (guest star Madeline Zima) may have a hidden agenda. Meanwhile, Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) finds an unexpected way to connect with Emma (guest star Deanne Bray), who would prefer to stay distant. Elsewhere, a different side of Sylar (Zachary Quinto) emerges as he desperately tries to remember the person he used to be. Masi Oka and Cristine Rose also star. Rachel Melvin and Jack Wallace also guest star.

Was it any good?
Although it started kind of slow, by the end of the episode, things were chugging along nicely. Not the best episode ever but, of this season, certainly better than Ink and at least as good as Acceptance.

There were three basic strands to the episode: what’s up with Peter and the cello girl (Emma); what’s up with Claire and that Gretchen girl; and what’s up with Nathan/Sylar?

Peter and Emma
Peter and cello girl was the slowest and probably the least interesting, with Peter inadvertently stealing from Emma what appears at first to be the world’s most useless super power: the ability to see sounds as colours. He spends the rest of the episode trying to bond with her, since he’s been told he’s not really been that empathetic of late. And since Mummy Petrelli seems more interested in finding out where Nathan is, I guess he’s got to look elsewhere for sympathy.

This storyline is just about starting to work now. The ending of Peter’s detachment could spell the recovery of his full powers, which would be just cracking, since one-at-a-time Peter ain’t all that exciting. Cello girl’s power seems to be more useful than previously thought, since she can now use sound to cause destruction (without a Weirding module in sight). And the hint of a romance is actually quite welcome after all this time without.

Other than Tracy, who’s just about endeared herself to the majority of viewers now, this could also spell the first time than Heroes has been able to introduce a new character since season two that we’ve wanted to see more of. It’s a proper adult relationship growing between Emma and Peter, and Emma’s issues with her mother (Louise Fletcher) are an involving back story for her character. It still all feels a little detached from the narrative proper but at least this isn’t a “Hero and Ando in India” scenario being painted for us: they are going somewhere with this.

Claire and Gretchen
Finally, we’re getting some pay-off here. And no, I don’t mean Claire and Gretchen snogging. The continuing mystery of WTF is going on with all the weirdness around Claire is explained, and it’s reasonably good. Yes, it’s all linked back to the Carnival and their plans, whatever those are, although we’re also getting some proper fleshing out of them as well. I’m not absolutely buying the idea that the Carnival has been doing all of this just to try to destabilise Claire’s life so she’ll run off and join the circus, but I’m optimistic that the explanation will be a bit deeper and more plausible further down the line.

Claire has also finally proven she can avoid being irritating for more than a couple of episodes in a row. The “speed dating” scene was entertaining, as was the continued expansion of Claire and her mother as people. Gretchen’s proving to be distinctly unappealing, even though we now know she’s not the evil one behind Claire’s misfortunes, so a Claire/Gretchen romance is about as appetising as Sting on the mandolin for an hour. But maybe she’ll improve over time like Emma.

I’m less optimistic about that though.

What’s going on here then? It’s exciting and there are lots of powers being used. But where are they going with it? Having been shot and buried alive last week, Sylar now can’t remember who he is. He can’t remember who Nathan is either. Unfortunately, everyone else knows who he is and they’ve arrested him for it.

After being interrogated and then theraped by a psychologist, Sylar starts to recover his powers and escapes. He still doesn’t know who he is, but now he wants to be a goodie. Oh oh. We’ve been here before in Volume 3 and that was a bit of a disaster. We’ve also been here before earlier in the volume, with Nathan wanting to be good, too. Does this mean that Nathan and Sylar both want to be good now? Has Nathan been slowly cleansing Sylar’s psyche or vice versa? If Sylar has no memories, does he still have ‘the hunger’ or is that an acquired taste?

We suddenly have a whole load of questions, with the potential to have a load of very unsatisfying answers. But let’s keep our fingers crossed that they know where they’re going with this, too, because at the very least it’s allowing Zachary Quinto to put the Grand Guignol back in his acting bag and do some subtle acting for a change.

Nice to see Ernie Hudson again, too.

The Carnival
The arrival of the Carnival at the end was a cool touch. It seems clearer that the Carnival is becoming the odd fantasy realm of Heroes. Whereas Heroes is ostensibly grounded in science fiction, the Carnival, with all its earthiness and weirdness, started to become far more of the magical realm this episode: Samuel’s weird seed-growing and relocation of the Carnival are outside the usual Heroes science locus. This should make for an interesting confrontation later on.

Samuel also mentioned Tracy this episode, who’s been notably off the Carnival’s hit list until now, so expect future developments there.

Next episode, the pace is picking up again. More Sylar, Hiro and Peter together again and (probably), HRG’s got an idea and there should be some Tracy as well if you believe the official NBC synopsis. Hooray!


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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