Aaaaaaaand we’re back in the present again. But was it worth the trip?

Well, as goofy as they were, I have to admit that I enjoyed the breeziness of the segments with Hiro and Ando, though to do so required me to set aside my uncertainty about what the hell had happened to Hiro in the first place. I mean, we’ve seen Brother Voodoo make with the mind wipe maneuver, but based on the way Hiro was screaming, I figured Papa Petrelli was all but ripping his brain to shreds, and when he announced that he thought that he was 10 years old, my presumption was that Papa had wiped out everything he’d known prior to that age. But given Ando’s conviction that he can trigger Hiro’s memories to return, I guess we’re supposed to presume that Papa now has the ability to inflict hysterical post-traumatic amnesia…? Well, fair enough, then. It’s not like it’s the most ridiculous conceit I’ve had to buy into with this series. The scenes in the bowling alley were silly fun, and as a geek of the highest order, Hiro’s rant about the changes in comic books was very much of the “it’s funny ’cause it’s true” variety for me.

I will grant you that the electricity effects in the Elle and Sylar sequences were pretty cool, but I just don’t understand why they’re forcing this pairing down our throats, especially when the only purpose seems to be to make Sylar into a kinder, gentler, touchy-feely version of himself. His villainy was one of the few consistent highlights during those interminable Maya and Alejandro scenes in the second season; I can’t imagine that any of us really want to see him start to chill out, even if he does end up continuing to work on the side of the villains.

I did, however, love the tension of the Nathan / Papa encounter; it was good to see Adrian Pasdar and Robert Forster square off again. (Their scenes in the flashback episode were a lot of fun.) I didn’t really think that Nathan would go over to the dark side, as it were…but, then, I didn’t forsee Tracy selling out Nathan, either. Is it a fake-out? Is she trying to work both sides of the fence? If so, she’s playing with fire…which is a little ironic, given her abilities. As for Peter and Claire and their close encounters with Feary and Firey, they were entertaining enough, but it felt mostly like filler, just to keep them in the episode until the grand finale.

Now, having said that, the last fifteen minutes of the episode were pretty damned good. Daphne was already the weak link in Papa Petrelli’s chain, given her growing fondness for Matt Parkman, but her uncertainty about Papa’s actions toward Mama clearly proved to be the last straw. When Matt dived into Mama’s head to try and free her from the effects of Papa’s powers, his mental experiences were very creepy and well-directed, and the end result – Daphne finally admitting her feelings for Matt, and Arthur acknowledging that he still had enough love left in his heart for Angela to release her from his grasp – was sweet stuff. Then you had the punch-up of a reunion between Matt and Peter, Ando failing to convince Hiro that “9th Wonder” reveals the future in every issue (say, who the hell’s drawing it these days?), and Mama Petrelli’s speech that led to Claire’s realization that she’s the catalyst. Even the brief appearance by Mohinder was interesting, serving to paint him further into this new direction as Papa Petrelli’s very own Mengele.

Next week begins the two-parter where the eclipse returns and, if the preview is any indication, the powers of the heroes and the villains bid adieu. Obviously, it won’t last…but the mere fact that it puts them on a level playing field has my curiosity piqued.