Friday, March 30, 2007

Looking To The Stars - A HEROIC Theory

With three weeks to go until the airing of the last five episodes of the first season of Heroes, I find myself jonesing for a fix like Isaac Mendez (My apologies to those of you who have not seen Heroes yet, who do not get that joke).

This past weekend, I found myself trapped at home by a terrible storm. I wound up catching a Heroes Marathon on TV while talking to a friend in Germany who had not even heard of the program, much less seen it. And as she asked me for details and I found myself telling more and more of the story to her... I had something click in relation to recent revelations. Things I hadn’t considered that suddenly made sense in relation to other things.

With that in mind, I present this theory as to where the major plot thread of Heroes, dealing with a nuclear explosion in New York City and the efforts to stop it, is going. If you are not a Heroes fan – and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be – or just haven’t seen it yet, I bid you come back next week.

“Save the cheerleader. Save the world.”

Those were the words that a future version of time-traveler Hiro Nakamura left a confused Peter Petrelli with. These words held the key to stopping a nuclear explosion in New York City that was foreseen by the precognitive painter Isaac Mendez and by the present-day Hiro Nakamura. These were the words that the Future Hiro emphasized above all others. But Future Hiro said more – much much more – in his brief conversation with Peter while time was stopped...

HIRO: Peter Petrelli?

PETER: What?! Are you doing this?

HIRO: You look different without the scar.

PETER: I don’t know you...

HIRO: Not yet. My name is Hiro Nakamura. I’m from the future. And I have a message for you. I don’t have much time. I’m risking a rift just by coming here. The girl! You have to save her!

PETER: What girl?

HIRO: The cheerleader. It’s the only way to prevent it.

PETER: Prevent what?

HIRO: (pause) Everything. Listen to me. She must live! The painter. Isaac. Go to him. He will know. When I call you, you must tell me where we meet! (pause) You told me many times how lost you felt when it all started. This is what you’ve been waiting for. (pause) Be the one we need.

PETER: (nods silently)

HIRO: (turns around and starts to walk away)

PETER: Wait!

HIRO: Save the cheerleader. Save the world.

PETER: Wait! Hiro! I don’t understand-

This scene gives us five important facts but also raises a number of other questions.

1. Peter is physically scarred by some incident in the future.

It is worth noting that in all of the 18 episodes of Heroes thus far, Peter and the Present-Day Hiro have never met face to face and they spoke on the phone only once. Given Future Hiro’s apparent shock at seeing Peter without a scar on his face, it is apparent that Hiro met Peter for the first time after he was scarred.

There has been much fan speculation on this point but it seems likely, given the end of Episode 118 (Parasite) that Peter gets the scar during a fight with Sylar; a super-powered serial killer who somehow steals the powers of other individuals through a process that involves telekinetically cutting his victim’s heads open while they are still alive.

2. Claire Bennet’s survival is the key to stopping the future from going bad.

Save The Cheerleader. Save The World. It doesn’t get much plainer than that. But if Claire was originally killed by Sylar, then how did Future Hiro find out about Claire and her powers and determine that she was the key to where things went wrong?

3. Peter and Hiro are friends in the future.

The first sign is Future Hiro’s shock at seeing Peter without a scar. If seems unlikely that Future Hiro would bother to note this unless he was used to seeing Peter with a scar. Another hint lies in Future Hiro’s attempts to comfort Peter and his mention that at some point Peter would tell him of how lost he felt after discovering his powers. Given that, it seems likely that Peter and Hiro become friends at some point in the future.

More importantly, Future Hiro’s comments suggests that Peter survives the coming nuclear explosion – given that the current timeline of the show’s final few episodes would require them to form this bond over the course of a few days. But how is that possible if Peter is the explosion, as his visions of the future since Episode 111 (Fallout) indicate?

4. The destruction of New York is the first of a series of bigger disasters that change the world for the worse.

Hiro does not say that saving the cheerleader will prevent the disaster. He says that it will prevent “everything”. Clearly, things only get worse from there. But how exactly will things get worse? And how will Claire’s living change that?

5. Peter has to “Be the one we need.”

It has assumed by most fans that when Future Hiro says this, he means that Peter must be the one to save Claire. Certainly when it comes time to save Claire, Peter is the only one in position to do anything. But what if Hiro meant that Peter had to “be the one we need” at another time and another place? A place relating to stopping the nuclear disaster in New York and not saving Claire?

Now, let us ponder those questions.

1. If Claire was originally killed by Sylar, then how did Future Hiro find out about Claire and her powers and determine that she was the key to where things went wrong?

In considering this, we have to remember who else knew about Claire’s powers before Sylar’s attempt on her life and who would be likely to give Hiro that information in the future.

a. Sylar - While he could probably rattle off a list of people he killed and who gave him what power, it seems unlikely that he would ever do this except under duress. And as we’ve seen, it is very difficult to keep Sylar contained for long.

b. Mr. Bennet and his team - Mr. Bennet certainly knew about Claire’s exact powers and given his general attitude toward trying to protect and help powered individuals, it seems likely that he would work with Hiro – particularly if he had a chance to save his daughter’s life.

c. Mohinder - Within a matter of weeks he was able to determine Peter Petrelli’s exact powers as well as the possible abilities of other people on his father’s list whom he had not met. It seems likely then that he would be able to do the same for other people on the list... including Claire. Given Mohinder’s general desire to use his father’s research to protect and help people, it seems likely that he also might work with Hiro in this manner.

2. How is it possible for Hiro and Peter to become such close friends in the future if Peter IS the nuclear explosion?

One unspoken rule of the show so far that seems to have been forgotten in pondering Peter’s death by explosion is that a powered individual cannot be harmed by the effects of their powers.

• Meredith Gordon, Claire’s fire-starter mother, was not burned by the flames she created.
• Nathan Petrelli did not appear to suffer any physical damage despite flying at supersonic speeds that should have broken his bones in Episode 105 (Hiros)
• Ted Sprague, a man who naturally emits radiation did not experience any ill effects from his powers despite his footsteps killing grass and his powers slowly killing his wife – even after being shot in the Bennet household in Episode 116 (Company Man) and nearly causing a nuclear explosion, Ted did not get radiation burns or radiation sickness.

This last one is particularly noteworthy given that Peter’s glowing hands in his vision before exploding resembled the way that Ted’s power appeared when he nearly melted down in the Bennet house.

Assuming Peter’s copycat powers allow him to mimic another person’s superpowers exactly, he should get all of the related benefits and drawbacks of those powers. We know for a fact that Peter gets all the drawbacks, as when he met mind-reading cop Matt Parkman in Episode 111 (Fallout), Peter copied Matt’s telepathy and also gained the headaches that are a side-effect of Matt’s power.

Given this, it seems likely that Peter will – at some point – gain Ted Sprague’s ability to emit radiation but lose control of it. This will not kill Peter though as Peter will also have Ted’s immunity to radiation.

3. How exactly will things get worse after the New York Nuclear Explosion?

Four Words: Nathan Petrelli for President.

In Episode 118 (Parasite), Nathan met with Mr. Linderman – a casino-owing crime boss with long-lasting connections to the Petrelli family through Nathan’s father as well as several other characters in the series. While the exact nature of this connection and Linderman’s own stakes in the game are unclear at this time, one thing is certain – Linderman knows the coming disaster and wants it to happen. Further, he has the means to see that Nathan will become President of the United States within a very short amount of time.

Perhaps Linderman is scared of the threat super-powers pose to the world and hopes the disaster will expose them as a threat and force the American government to work against powered individuals. Perhaps Linderman is a super-powered individual himself and he hopes the disaster will expose the existence of powered individuals to the world and allow him to come out of hiding. Or perhaps he is merely hoping to exploit the disaster to further increase his own power base.

This last theory seems the most likely, given this portrait.

Taken from The Linderman Archives, hidden within the fake website for Linderman’s Casino, this Easter Egg portrait is titled The President Stands Alone. The man pictured, standing in the Oval Office of the White House, looks a good deal like Nathan Petrelli.

Nathan, it should be noted, has the distinct dishonor of being both the most actively evil character on the show and being the person least enraptured by the idea of super powers.

The short list of bad things Nathan has done includes cheating on his wife, abandoning the woman carrying his child when he was younger, painting his brother as a suicidal lunatic in order to make himself look good and working with a crime boss in order to attain political power.

Never mind that Nathan has always appeared to have regretted these choices after the fact. Whenever he has been offered a choice throughout the course of the show, he has always taken the most selfish route. Indeed, he stated on one occasion that if it were up to him he’d take all the people with powers and put them on an island in the middle of the ocean.

We also know, thanks to Hiro’s first trip to the future, that Nathan is pre-destined to win his Congressional election and that the disaster is going to happen on November 8th, 2006. The day after Election Day in the USA.

So imagine this scenario – a huge disaster happens in the wake of an election. A heroic young Congressman - his own district destroyed and his family killed in the wake of this disaster - struggles to rebuild in a brave new world. Milking the sympathy vote, he is put up as a dark horse Presidential candidate in 2008 and is indeed President within two years.

It doesn’t seem like it would bode well for any powered individuals if the first exposure the world had to them was a living Human Bomb. Having someone as adamantly anti-powers as Nathan in the White House would be even worse. The problems this might cause in the future are too numerous to contemplate.

4. How will Claire’s living prevent the New York disaster?

Let us first consider what Claire’s death would have prevented from happening in the episodes following Episode 109 (Homecoming).

• Peter would never have been in Odessa.
• Peter never would have been questioned by Matt Parkman, who would never have then been told to protect Claire Bennet.
• Parkman never would have interviewed Mr. Bennet and become suspicious of him.
• The Haitian would never have gone on the run and would still be employed by The Company.
• Mr. Bennet never would have had to go rogue regarding his daughter and would still be employed by the Company.
• Meredith Gordon would never have found out her daughter was still alive and would never have tried contacting her daughter’s father (Nathan).
• Assuming the stand-off with Matt and Ted Sprague at the Bennet house still happened (Hana the technopath still could have found Ted and contacted Matt, telling them where to find Mr. Bennet) it would have ended in a much more violent manner and there would have been a nuclear disaster in Odessa before there was one in New York.

Clearly there are many events that Claire’s presence has influenced. But what, exactly, wound up causing the disaster? This far, Peter has not made contact with Ted Sprague, The Radioactive Man. Given Ted’s current status as a captive for The Company in Odessa (along with Parkman and, probably at this point, Bennet) it seems unlikely that he and Peter will meet without some manner of escape occurring – an escape that, ironically, would never have been neccesary had Claire Bennet been killed earlier.

The assumption by many fans has been that Peter, in order to survive the disaster, would need to have Claire alive and in close proximity so that he could copy Claire’s regeneration powers. But in Episode 114 (Distractions) it was revealed that Peter can recall the powers of anyone he has met by thinking of that person.

Unless Peter is pulling an Animal Man and drawing off the connection between all living things, he wouldn’t necessarily need Claire alive to use her powers provided he had met her once. And if he has Ted Sprague’s immunity to radiation along with his power to emit it, he wouldn’t need the power to regenerate...

... unless it was to close up a wound that prevented him from being able to control the nuclear powers he copied from Ted. This would explain why Future Hiro went to Peter in the past and told her that he needed Peter to “be the one we need” in order to save Claire. Without that one-time contact with Claire, Peter would not have the power he needed to contain the explosion.

Or would he? Peter does not appear to be wounded in the visions he had of the disaster. So perhaps he needs Claire’s powers at some other point in the future?

5. What if Hiro meant that Peter had to “be the one we need” at another time and another place?

There is only one part of Peter’s visions of the future disaster that we have seen in any clarity – a conversation that Peter has with an eerily calm Nathan as his hands begin glowing.

PETER: I took his power, Nathan! I can’t control it!

NATHAN: Let me help you, Peter.

PETER: You can’t!

NATHAN: I’m not leaving you.

In this vision, we do not see Peter himself actually “explode”. Indeed, despite the presence of numerous other characters around them, we only see two people die; Nathan and Simone – Peter’s love interest.

Simone has already died, however and it was indirectly Peter’s fault. As Peter confronted Isaac over his working with The Company, Peter attacked Isaac with the telekinetic powers that he copied from Sylar. A panicked, gun-wielding Isaac – looking for an invisible Peter – shot at the first bit of motion he saw out of the corner of his eye. It turned out to be Simone entering his apartment.

Given the metaphorical nature of Peter’s dream visions (we see a panicked Isaac trying to pull Simone away from the obviously dangerous Peter), it seems likely that Peter is foreseeing that he will be indirectly responsible for killing two people close to him.

Perhaps this is what Hiro means when he says they need Peter to “be the one they need”. Killing Nathan before he becomes President would certainly prevent “everything” bad that might happen as a result of a Linderman puppet President. And if Peter was able to contain the blast but emitted enough radiation that somebody close to him was killed...

So here is my theory. Linderman intends to use Nathan as his puppet in the White House, for his own nefarious ends. Using the New York disaster as a means of getting Nathan national attention, Nathan will be elected President and be responsible for a long series of disasters. This causes Future Hiro went back to the past, seek out his friend Peter and give him vague instructions on how save the life of a woman, giving Peter the powers he needs to contain the first disaster while still indirectly killing his brother and thwarting Linderman’s plans.

As always, my e-mail is open for your comments.

Tune in next week! Same Matt Time! Same Matt Website!


  1. Or perhaps Peter needed to go to Odessa to get Sylar's powers.

  2. Except that if Peter became scarred after an encounter with Sylar, he could have gotten his powers then...

  3. Right. I read that interview as well. The writers have confirmed that, because of the way Peter's powers work, he has ever power Sylar had at that point.
    We know that Sylar has killed more than half a dozen people, but the only powers we know he has for certain - from the show and the on-line comic - are intuitive adapatation (i.e. his own ability to see how things "tick"),telekeinesis, cryokinesis (aka freezing), photographic memory/total recall (Charlie's power), liquification (Zane's power), and super-hearing (Dale's power).
    There are only two of these powers that Sylar didn't have before meeting Peter the second time but it's safe to assume that Peter has the ability to copy those powers now that he has met Sylar a second time.
    The question is - can Peter reflexively use a power he hasn't seen used? So far, he's only used Sylar's telekinesis but that's all we think he saw Sylar use. I've heard theories that Sylar has some kind of super-speed power which explains how he's moved so rapidly in certain shots (his fight with Matt, chasing after Claire and Peter, running away from The Haitian after being shot) but I'm not sure I believe that. There'd be no need for him to steal a truck (as he did in the on-line comic) if he were capable of super-speed.
    As for your questions...
    Can Sylar get Peter's power? Again, a lot of speculation here. I'd like to think that he can't. We don't know much about the exact process by which Sylar copies a power, save that he appears to need to examine the intact brain of the subject. My guess is that knowing how an ordinary brain works (he had the textbooks at his apartment in NYC), he can see the "brokenness" in people with powers and his ability to analyze and fix things allows him to see the exact problem and somehow change his own brain chemistry to mirror that same state.
    The point is - Sylar's power depends entirely upon a logical process. Peter's power depends entirely on emotional response. I think either Sylar will be unable to "understand" Peter or, more likely, he may try and copy it and wind up open to a whole heaping helping of psychic feedback as he empathically picks up Peter's pain and suffering.
    Also, Peter could - in theory - heal any any injury Sylar attempts, assumuing he can keep his head (bad pun, bad pun!) and remember to copy Claire's power. My guess is that Peter will wind up having to use another power to escape and that having to spilit his focus wil allow him to heal his injury but that it won't heal cleanly, resulting in a scar.