This was billed as a much-anticipated episode, and it certainly had its allure. The Hiro/Charlie episodes were some of the best of the first season, and I was interested to see how the current version of Hiro would manage to interact with the old timeline without causing massive problems and changes. Add Samuel to the mix, and things get really complicated.
Right off the bat, there is one thing that irritates me. As much as I love Samuel as a character and I enjoy his cryptic machinations, his plan doesn’t quite fit with the way that time travel has been treated in previous seasons. The writers always made a point to show the past as relatively immutable and the future as to be determined. This is definitely not the case with this season, especially since Samuel is pushing Hiro to change things.
Some things clearly have been changed over the course of the series. Hiro’s original six-month relationship with Hiro is an obvious example, and Hiro’s adventure in historical Japan in the second season caused certain ripples. But this is on a much more substantial level. Maybe it’s just the fact that Hiro used to insist on preserving the timeline, and now he is not. And maybe it’s because time travel is a storytelling crutch that the writers can’t seem to avoid.
That said, I think it’s very interesting that Hiro would go so far as to manipulate Sylar into curing Charlie and then resuming his reign of terror. While it seems extreme at first glance, and therefore out of character, I would argue that it speaks to how important Charlie always has been to Hiro. People do terrible things for love, and this proves how far Hiro will go for her. And that, in turn, makes sense of Hiro’s decision to fall in line with Samuel’s desires.
I was wondering how Mohinder would factor into this season, and why he hasn’t made an appearance yet. I suppose we now know why Mohinder has been out of the picture. It makes for a nice twist, even if I personally haven’t missed Mohinder one bit since we last saw him. I get the feeling this will integrate the carnival with the rest of the known “Heroes” world a bit more, and that would not be a bad thing.
It was also great to see Charlie again, even if she looked noticeably different from her original run in the first season. I’ve also gotten used to the actress on “Glee”, so it took a moment to adjust. Considering how the episode ends, I have to wonder if Charlie is supposed to appear again later in the season. If not, maybe she’s trapped in the same temporal limbo as Caitlin, Peter’s erstwhile girlfriend from the second season!
Even with the time travel-related annoyances of the main plot, it was much, much better than the Noah/Lauren material. I really have no idea what the point of that was supposed to be. I understand that the writers enjoy going back and retroactively adding details to the story, but there should be a rule that such changes/additions be value-added.
There is a certain attempt at counterpoint between the Hiro/Charlie and Noah/Lauren relationships, but it doesn’t seem to matter beyond that ephemeral purpose. If Lauren never appears again, what was the point? And beyond that, did Lauren have an ability? We never see one in play, so it seems to contradict the long-standing Company policy of using normal/metahuman partners.
Episodes like this play a dangerous game. They harken back to popular moments from the heyday of the series, and remind us of all the things we loved about the show in the beginning. Yet that also tends to remind us of how the show has fallen from grace from those heady and fascinating days.