Review: Heroes 4×15 – Pass/Fail

A bit like fan fic, but still good

Heroes 4x15 - Pass/Fail

In the US: Monday 18th January 2010, 9pm, NBC
In the UK: April/May, BBC2. Probably

One of the accusations that used to be – and still is – made at Heroes is that no one ever dies. It doesn’t take.

Now, as the last two volumes have shown, that ain’t really true any more – if someone appears to die, the producers make sure there’ll be a clue in the episode that said person will be coming back, or said person will be back before the end of the episode. Otherwise, they really are dead.

That doesn’t mean they can’t come back in another form, though – and so it is with Pass/Fail, where a huge wodge of long-dead characters came back in a reasonably good, if fan-ficcy episode. I won’t tell you how until after the jump. Spoilers ahoy.

Plot (just for fun, the first NBC press release followed by the one they replaced it with)

As Hiro’s (Masi Oka) brain tumor gets worse, he unintentionally teleports two years in the past to meet his father. Claire (Hayden Panettiere) receives an unexpected visit from Sylar (Zachary Quinto) as she gets the shock of her life when she overhears the outcomes of Samuel’s (Robert Knepper) grand plan. Samuel reveals his darker side as he tries to win back Vanessa (guest star Kate Vernon). Meanwhile, Angela (Christine Rose) warns H.R.G (Jack Coleman) of a greater evil threatening the whole earth.

Actual plot

Hiro’s (Masi Oka) life hangs in the balance as his brain tumor worsens, prompting him to subconsciously deal with some of his past decisions. Meanwhile, Sylar (Zachary Quinto) pays Claire (Hayden Panettiere) an unexpected visit to get answers as to why he isn’t quite himself. Elsewhere, Samuel’s (Robert Knepper) plan to impress his long-lost love, Vanessa (guest star Kate Vernon), takes a terrifying turn. Jack Coleman, James Kyson Lee and Sendhil Ramamurthy) also star. Lisa Lackey, Danielle Savre, Sally Champlin, Satomi Okuno and Jordan Dang also guest stars.

Was it any good?
This was a first-time effort by all round nice bloke and newly appointed staff writer Oliver Grigsby. And it has certain first-time writer hallmarks, on which I will expound later. Still, for anyone who wanted a character piece with just a hint of action, this was it.

Erm, the pairing no one wanted (ew!), but they’re back again. Sylar’s got issues and thanks to the power of his tattoos, thinks Claire’s the girl to help him. So he apparently kidnaps Gretchen and Claire goes to rescue her.

This is where those first-time writer things come in: everyone talks endlessly about their emotions. Sylar, king of serial killers, seems to have a ridiculous amount of insight into people and emotions, even for someone with Lydia’s ability, and hardly seems like the same character any more. Claire just gases on at Gretchen a lot, having been shown her true, ambiguously gay feelings for Gretchen by Sylar.

It’s like someone said to themselves, “I know what this character is about. This character knows what they’re about. Now they should say it out loud.” All we needed was a bit of hurt/comfort and it could have been put on LiveJournal.

Slightly tedious, as plots go, but okay actually. It’s not like it made me want to stab anyone in the eye with a pencil or anything.

Again, a different Samuel from the one we’re used to, here all dreamy and happy. Has he really been assembling all those heroes together so that he could build a nice garden and cottage for Vanessa?

This seems unlikely to me – in fact, about as likely as Vanessa suddenly going all dreamy-eyed at the man who kidnapped her.

But at the end, he starts to go all evil and destroys a town with his earth-moving powers, which was fun at least.

All by himself in his own dream, thanks to Ando’s super-electricity ECT last week, Hiro finds himself meeting just about everyone we’ve ever seen in a Hiro plot in Heroes, including his dad (George Takei), his mum (Tamlyn Tomita), that woman who runs the diner in Texas, young Ando, current Ando, and immortal fake English bloke (David Anders).

Hiro’s so wracked with guilt, he puts himself on trial in his dream for actions against the hero code. Here he has to justify his actions to everyone.

The dream-trial in someone’s head when they’re fighting for their life is pretty familiar to most people (you can go way back to the 80s at least or further still with the likes of A Matter of Life and Death in 1946 and beyond) so nothing ground-breaking in terms of plotting. But it was, at least, an interesting character piece for Hiro. Yet again emotional incontinence strikes, but it’s all well handled, it’s nice to see the old faces again, and there was even a sword fight at the end. You can’t say much better than that.

I can’t say things have advanced much, beyond Sylar’s increasingly inexplicably actions which now seem to have him wanting to give up his powers – and thus looking for Matt to help him purge himself at the end of the episode. Samuel’s pretty much in the place we all assumed he was in already, so didn’t realise he needed to go back there. Claire and Gretchen are now ambiguously going out with each other.

But really, the Carnies aren’t exactly demonstrating why we need to worry about them, and that’s the main thrust of the season. Indeed, this episode makes it looks like they’ve only really just become a threat, which makes you wonder what everyone was worrying about earlier. We’ve only a few episodes left in the volume and we’ve hardly hit Defcon four in the scheme of things.

Nevertheless, as an individual episode, it was pretty good. It did feel like a bit of fan fic, in which fan faves come back and current heroes talk at length about their motivations, but it was still a nice character-based piece that ticked a lot of boxes.

PS Please can we have some Tracy soon?

Next week, Mark Verheiden’s back with his last script of the season. Should be good.


  • 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.