Tuesday, April 7, 2009

HEROES And Shakespeare

I made this statement in the blog on HEROES last night. Had some revelations further quantifying the statement that last night's episode - and the drama of late - has reached truly Shakespearean levels, with three subplots regarding revenge and romantic couples.

Let me toss this plot summary out as an example of the multi-level story we are dealing with here; Shakespeare's most critically acclaimed tragedy; Hamlet.

On the odd chance that there's anybody who is unfamiliar with Hamlet, let me sum up. The main story is about how a young prince named Hamlet is asked - by the ghost of his father - to seek vengeance upon his father's murderer. In this case, the murderer is Claudius - Hamlet's uncle - whom killed his own brother in order to marry his hot wife and, to a lesser degree, for the throne of Denmark.

Hamlet, who has a pretty heavy grudge against his uncle already, isn't entirely convinced that he's really seeing his father and elects to pretend to be crazy while waiting for a plan to present itself. After scaring his girlfriend Ophelia with his crazy behavior and worrying his mother, Hamlet finally comes up with a plan when a group of traveling actors arrive at the castle. He gets them to perform a play based upon how his father's ghost claimed to have been murdered and watches his uncle's reaction. Convinced now of his uncle's guilt. Hamlet begins to plan the opportune moment to get revenge.

Before he gets his chance, Hamlet winds up having to thwart Claudius attempts to get him out of the country where he can be assassinated, inadvertently kills his girlfriend's father Polonius, drives Ophelia to madness and possible suicide and winds up having to fight a duel with Ophelia's brother Laertes, who wants revenge on Hamlet for killing his family. Hamlet eventually does kill Claudius before bleeding to death from the wounds he received during the duel.

Enter Young Fortinbras; a young king who has been lying in wait on the borders of Denmark for most of the play, ready to seek revenge for his own father's death at the hand of Hamlet's father. The play ends with Fortinbras assuming the throne of Denmark for himself.

Basically, Hamlet is ultimately the story of three sons seeking revenge for the death of their fathers. Hamlet is after Claudius. Laertes is after Hamlet. And Fortinbras is after Denmark, now that the man who killed his father (King Hamlet) is dead.

Despite this similarity in want, the approach used by each son is totally different. Hamlet is all thought/no action; a "not to be", to quote the text of the play. He spends most of the play planning and plotting, waiting for a chance to act but never taking it. Laertes is all action/no-thought, rushing into everything and demanding blood at every turn as soon as he learns of his father's death. Fortinbras is the perfect balance between both thought and action; he plans on how best to conquer the kingdom and then takes action at the right moment.

We see a similar conflict in Turn and Face the Strange, with three men seeking revenge and four couples in play. Let us list our players.


Noah and Sandra Bennet
Matt Parkman and Daphne Milbrook
Danko and Alena
Gabriel Gray (Sylar) and Elle Bishop


1. Gabriel wants revenge on Noah for having put him on the path to becoming a killer/Sylar in the first place, for having killed him (it didn't take) and for cracking the illusion Gabriel built up during Season 3 that he had parents who loved him and that he had a shot of redeeming himself, culminating in his becoming Sylar again and killing the only woman he ever loved.

2. Noah wants revenge on Gabriel for the numerous attempts to kill him, kill Claire, kill Sandra and every other bit of hell Sylar has put him and his family through.

3. Matt wants revenge on Danko for having indirectly caused the death of his girlfriend Daphne, by denying her proper medical treatment after she was shot by men acting on Danko's orders.


1. Using his newly-acquired shape-shifting powers, Sylar goes to Noah while impersonating Sandra, whom Noah has recently become seperated from. "Sandra" claims that "she" has seen what a monster Noah is and that "she" wants a divorce. Knowing that Noah is deeply paranoid and that Noah doesn't believe Sylar is truly dead (Danko and Sylar used the "still looks like Sylar" corpse of the shape-shifting fugitive Sylar killed to fake Sylar's death), Sylar sets Noah up so that he confronts the later confronts the real Sandra after Noah uncovers proof that Sylar is still alive.

Thinking he still has the real Sylar, Noah roughs her up, accuses her of being Sylar and is on the verge of killing her when Sandra gets a call from their son on what he realizes is his wife's cel phone, asking a question regarding Mr. Muggle's medicine only his wife would know the answer too.

Abandoned by his wife, Noah puts 2 and 2 together and confronts Danko with his knowledge that he's been helping Sylar. Danko seemingly spills the beans as to who Sylar is now disguised as and leads Bennet to a team in the field. Once there, Danko denies everything when Bennet pulls a gun on the agent he identified as a disguised Sylar. Bennet shoots the agent expecting him to regenerate... and then is shocked when he fails to rise from the ground. Branded a murderer by the men he worked for, Noah makes a run for it and goes to the one ally he has left; Angela Petrelli. Naturally, the fallen agent was actually Sylar playing possum.

In this, we see that Sylar is Fortinbras - the perfect balance of plan and action who ultimately gets what he wants; to take everything that Noah Bennet holds dear and to have done so by causing Noah to trigger his own destruction.

2. Noah's plans for revenge run concurrently with Sylar's. In his case, however, Noah is so blinded by rage and his Ahab-like lust for revenge that while he is capable of pulling off several plans with his famous cunning, he does fall into two fairly obvious traps. First, attacking his own wife after being convinced she is Sylar. Then by walking into a situation with no proof of wrong-doing on Danko's part and no proof that Sylar is really alive.

In this, we see that Noah is Laertes - all action, with little thought behind his actions.

3. Matt uses his powers to cause Danko to think that the person he values most in life is in danger. Matt follows Danko to a house in the Washington D.C. suburbs, thinking that the woman he sees is Danko's girlfriend. In truth, she's an escort who - despite her occupation - does hold some feelings for Danko, who has told her that he's a married man with kids who will leave his wife for her as soon as the kids are grown.

Matt breaks into Alena's house with a loaded gun, yet he seems uncertain of what he will do once he is inside the house of the woman his enemy "loves". Using a combination of his powers and persuasion, Matt keeps Alena calm enough to talk to her before "showing" her the truth about her favorite customer.

Taking Alena to Danko's house, Matt forces both of them into the home at gunpoint. After making an impassioned speech about how he just wanted Danko to know how it felt to lose the woman he loved - and to do it by exposing the truth about what a monster Danko truly is and forcing him to admit it himself. Matt then drops his gun and tells Danko to go ahead and kill him, feeling that he has nothing left to live for and that his revenge is complete.

In this, we see that Matt is Hamlet - all thought with little action. He has plans but lacks the ability to follow-through on his dreams of revenge except through a muted plan that will do nothing but end his suffering. In this we see another parallel with Hamlet, who was himself gloomy and suicidal, soliloquizing about whether or not it would matter if he died.

We also note a rather disturbing parallel in that all three of these characters used basically the same means, to different degrees, to try and destroy the relationships of their chosen nemesis.


1. Sylar masqueraded as Sandra, to push Noah over the edge and to later reveal to Sandra just how far the man she loved had sunk into The Abyss.

2. Noah shot down Gabriel's attempts at a normal life with Elle - first by chewing Elle out for getting cold feet about the plan to push Gabriel into killing then by later mocking Sylar's attempts at redemption and another attempt at a relationship with Elle, telling them both that it was just a matter of time before Sylar lost it and tried to kill her.

3. Matt using his mind-control powers to set up Danko to confess to his real life before the "girlfriend" he'd been lying to for years as well as the numerous immoral acts he committed in the line of duty.



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