Having dissed on the gender politics of Heroes, I'll now go back on all that and say I loved the exploration of female subjectivity in 1.04.
I mentioned that I liked the rape scene for its realism. I like it even more now I've seen the continuing arc. I thought the exploration of Claire's emotions in the wake of what happened to her was very well handled and convincing. I'm finding her a very sympathetic and well-written character. The autopsy scene was incredible--an amazing visual metaphor for her emotions in the wake of attempted sexual assault: hollowed-out, exposed, violated, objectified, disempowered. It worked so well that it felt as if she had been raped. Seeing her 'zip herself out' and walking home barefoot was very moving. Her almost catatonic state at home was also very realistic of an assault victim. She feels like she's got something to hide--and this is all the more real to the audience because she really does, having to keep her powers secret.
I loved the scene with Claire and her male friend (what's his name?) where he tells her she's got to do something and she says 'why? what would it achieve for ME?' Again, emotions that assault victims go through. And very convincing that it would be the male friend that argued for this, not really empathising with the shock and denial and desire to be rid of the whole thing.
And it was wonderful that the girl from 1.03 who watched them go off together was explained. And I loved that that was the moment when Claire kicked into vengeance mode. Because of course she wouldn't do it for herself. It's far easier for her to feel anger on someone else's behalf than on her own--she has a need to protect her own secret, and she's still just a kid, struggling with the physicality of her condition and with the fact that she can be picked apart on a lab table. (Clark Kent's worst nightmare just came to life!) Claire's got a drive to heroism but doesn't want the spotlight on her. That's very sympathetic, and I was barracking for her so hard when she gave that guy the fright of his (short?) life. However, it was impetuous, if deserved, and I fear for what it will mean for her. Dad will clue on, right? *shudders*
Niki became a little less mysterious this episode when we actually saw her transform into her shadow self. However, I find her personality splitting fascinating. Clearly she's got a history of artificially splitting parts of her life as a coping mechanism. Her secret life in the garage versus her self as a mother, and her conversation with Nathan about what it means to be a parent both indicated that. It's interesting that in this episode her son showed that he knew a lot more about that double identity than she thought. So it's a self-deluding split though she likes to think she's doing it for her child. This is mirrored exactly in her superpowered self versus normal self split. Her son's picking up clues (he asked her why she stared at her reflection a couple of eps ago), but Niki thinks she's protecting him. I wonder if that illusion will also be shattered at some point. While it's a cliche, I do like the exploration of motherhood, with Niki willing to do anything, even embracing her 'dark half', for her child.
The boundaries in Niki's world are crumbling. Her erotic work is now 'in person' rather than at one remove over the net. She's still coping with it by entering a different 'self', but I feel it's only a matter of time before these selves slide closer and closer together.
Shallow comment: the heel to that guy's skull was really scary!
So it turns out Peter Petrelli's 'power' is sucking off other people's powers. So he's a parasite. Great. I can see he's going to be the 'can do anything we need him to do' character in the writer's pack of superheroes. The writers' whore: he gets more Lana-y with every episode! (And here I feel really really catty and mean--because I seriously love Lana now, but the issues I used to have with Lana and the issues I have with Peter now are too similar to ignore.) Suffice to say, he's not 'for me'. ;-)
Nathan, however, is MY MAN. *fans self* Oh, wow, was he hot this ep! I loved him with Niki. I love that he's thought about flying but that he's so focussed on becoming a senator that it's a side issue for him. He's taking real-world 'hero' status over the supernatural unknown. I love his straightfowardness: telling her yes, he IS happily married, thank you, but he still wants to sleep with her.
My boys clashed when Mohinder came blundering up to Nathan spouting warnings rather indiscretely. I loved Nathan's composure in the face of that. And I love his bluntness with Lana as well: yeah, you need to disappear, mate!
Mohinder didn't score so well in that round with Nathan. However he did deliver my favourite line of the episode, 'scepticism is the default scientific position', to Lana, so kudos for that!
In other notes: I'm still barracking for Elfgirl to be Sylar, Claire's dad is creepy creepy creepy, and Hiro's qualms about cheating were adorable. I loved that Ando foiled him with 'was Peter Parker cheating by selling pics of Spiderman?' Heh! But they're not the brightest either--you could see that alley-way beat-up coming a mile away. Awww!