Heroes recap of episode 209: Cautionary Tales

by guest contributor Elton

This week’s episode revolves around the deaths of two fathers, Noah Bennet and Kaito Nakamura, and the struggles of their children, Claire and Hiro, to come to terms with the tragedies.

The episode opens with the funeral of Kaito Nakamura, who, a few episodes ago, was killed in a plunge off the Deveaux rooftop by someone he knew but least expected. Hiro is asked, as the eldest son, to give his father’s eulogy, but he hesitates, telling Ando that to do so would be to admit that his father is dead. He decides to go back in time to save him.

The prophecy apparently foretold by the Mendez paintings, that Mohinder would fire a Company gun, and the Man in the Horn Rimmed Glasses would die of a gunshot wound to the eye as his daughter Claire looked on, seems to be unfolding perfectly. Mr. Bennet tries to evacuate his family from Costa Verde, California, but is held back by Claire’s anger at his deception and refusal to cooperate. Noah Bennet has led a secret life of kidnapping and murder, and as Claire discovers that her boyfriend West was one of her dad’s victims, she comes to hate her adoptive father.

Meanwhile, Mohinder, Company man Bob, and Bob’s (adopted?) daughter Elle track the Bennets down to Costa Verde, where they will attempt to take Claire from Mr. Bennet. The healing factor in her blood is the key to saving Niki, who has infected herself with the Shanti Virus, and saving the human species, which will be devastated by the virus if it crosses over into the general population.

The conflict between Mr. Bennet, who will protect his daughter at all costs, and Dr. Suresh, who has found himself on the side of the Company in the pursuit of saving lives, comes to a head. After an initial fight with Mohinder, Bennet captures Elle, but Bob gets Claire and takes a sample of her blood. Bennet and Bob agree to a hostage exchange, and each brings the other’s daughter to the beach.

Mr. Bennet comes to a bit of an understanding with West when they realize what they both want most is simply to protect Claire, and Bennet enlists West’s help in flying Claire away from the hostage exchange. As she is being returned to her father Bob, Elle, ever devious, shoots a ball of lightning at Claire and West, who come crashing to the ground but are not seriously hurt. Mr. Bennet, seizing the opportunity, shoots Elle in the arm and prepares to kill Bob and end The Company once and for all. Mohinder chooses to protect Bob over his former ally and shoots Mr. Bennet, fulfilling the prophecy. The Man in the Horn Rimmed Glasses is dead.

There is an interesting minor story that involves Matt Parkman developing the power of suggestion, a.k.a. Jedi Mind Trick (similar to Mohinder’s deceased love interest Eden) and using it to extract from Angela Petrelli the identity of the final founder of The Company, Victoria Pratt. I am excited to learn what her role in the complex story of The Company will be.

But I think the most interesting story was Hiro going back in time to try to save his father. As with his experience in feudal Japan with Takezo Kensei, where his actions became an integral part of history, Hiro’s attempt to change the past is futile, as Kaito refuses to change his fate, even given the opportunity. Hiro takes his father back in time to his mother’s funeral to show Mr. Nakamura the grief he feels, to try to convince him to let him save his life. There, he runs into himself as a boy. Young Hiro is a mini-Takezo Kensei, a hero with a plastic sword, full of naive enthusiasm and convinced that he can save his father from his mother’s fate. As the older, mature Hiro explains to his younger self that there are things beyond the capability of even Takezo Kensei, and that the best way to honor his father would be to remember his lessons of “strength, responsibility, and justice,” Hiro finally comes to terms with the truth of his father’s death. Before they return to the scene of the crime, they both pay respects to Mrs. Nakamura.

Kaito Nakamura is murdered, as fate had it, but Hiro pauses time to discover one shocking fact: the identity of his father’s killer, known to Kaito as Adam Monroe and to Hiro as Takezo Kensei. He returns to the present day to give the eulogy at his father’s funeral, telling those in attendance that as long as he remembers his father’s lessons, they will live on in him.

As an American of Chinese descent, I feel deprived that I have been exposed to relatively few non-fantasy images of modern China in the media compared to images of modern Japan. The American involvement in rebuilding Japan from the ashes of the Japanese Empire has, no doubt, biased our understanding of that country versus China. Therefore, although I am not Japanese, I feel as an American that I have a fairly good sense of what is authentic in Japanese culture, and the portrayal of the funeral seemed very authentic to me. Please feel free to correct me in the comments if this was not the case. In this country, our rituals often severely distort the past, such as the whole Pilgrims and Indians motif during Thanksgiving, so I am never really sure what’s real.

It seemed to me, though, looking at Japanese culture through an American lens, that the funeral was not made exotic, but was shown as a real example of Japan today – a mixture of traditional and modern, secular and religious, and Eastern and Western. I often wonder, when I see portrayals of foreign culture in the media, if they are respectful and authentic, as I believe this example was, or if they are crass and commercialized, like a shopping mall rain stick. Is it possible for a gaijin like me to truly respect and appreciate Japanese culture? Or does the fact that I’m looking at it through an American lens make me as bad as people who get kanji tattoos? And will it someday be possible for me to be an American who appreciates his Chinese heritage without associating the nation with poisoned toothpaste and cheap Wal-Mart merchandise?

I also felt that the deep respect for elders and deceased ancestors as displayed by Kaito and Hiro was very authentic and crucial to understanding their restrained but strong emotions. As I’ve said in the past, it’s important to combat Asian male stereotypes not just by showing that we can be as tall and athletic and sexy as the rest of them, but also by understanding us as three-dimensional human beings on our own terms, and part of working towards this is portraying the family values we try to live by, as well as the different way we traditionally express our love and affection – not necessarily though hugs and kisses, but through devotion and honor. Having said that, I, for one, am certainly not opposed to hugs and kisses, wink wink.

In the aftermath of Mr. Bennet’s death, Claire expresses regret that the last thing she really told her dad was, “I hate you.” Sure, they had their difficulties, and they both became entangled in a web of lies – Mr. Bennet in his attempt to protect his family, and Claire in her yearning to live a normal life as an ordinary cheerleader. But they certainly had a deep, deep bond, and I’m sure Claire would have tried to save her dad if it were possible.

As I’ve mentioned before, Claire has experimented with testing the limits of her regenerative powers. She discovered that she can regenerate limbs (at least a toe). She’s wondered if she can be killed, and having died once, the answer seems to be no. The fact that Takezo Kensei has survived for 400 years seems to indicate she’ll never grow old. But what’s she’s really hoped for is the ability to save people with her blood.

In the last scene of the episode, we see a lifeless body hooked up to an IV drip of blood – the sample of Claire’s blood that Bob took. The body heals and comes back to life. It is Noah Bennet.

To read past Heroes recaps, click here.