'Heroes' Aftergasm: I Am Sylar...Which Means What, Exactly?
'Heroes' Aftergasm: I Am Sylar...Which Means What, Exactly?
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Tim Kring, Bryan Fuller, and the rest of the Heroes crew have always spoken openly about their show as an investigation of identity. Characters who discover they have superhuman abilities in turn must discover what it means to be human. It's easy to see this theme played out throughout the series, but last night's episode, "I Am Sylar," was about as explicit as we could get an exploration of what makes a person, as Sylar struggled against losing himself to his shapeshifting ability. 

I've never quite come down on either side of the fence when it comes to Sylar. On the one hand, I have always appreciated the depth of his character's past and his twisted motivations, as well as Zachary Quinto's almost spotless portrayal throughout. He commands every scene, and is still capable of giving me shivers three seasons in.

On the other, however, his intensity as a character and range of powers has a way of overpowering the series at times. When he's truly Bad, I love to hate him, and when he's showing his human side, I love to root for his redemption, even though I'm always sure I won't see it happen. But sometimes I just want to see Sylar go away, so the other characters can stretch out a little and find their own ranges, without the constant fear of their limbs getting chopped off. Sylar has a way of doing that to everyone he comes across.

So, accordingly, I had mixed feelings about an episode focused almost entirely around Sylar's identity. He's a character who is meant to be both ambiguous and divisive (not black or white, but Gabriel Gray, after all), and now we are seeing his deep-seated "Who am I?" issues literally manifesting in his face. With the government thinking him dead, Sylar recognizes that the ability (and necessity) to be everybody actually makes him nobody, and he writes self-affirmations in blood to help himself and world remember: "I AM SYLAR."

Divided and tormented, Sylar goes on to make aptly schizophrenic decisions throughout the episode. Afraid of losing his sense of self, he summons the shape of his (adoptive) mother, but in resolving his past guilt over murdering her, he ends up losing himself more fully, using her to give him license to move forward with his plan to take on the form of the President. Micah puts Sylar at a crossroads, telling him he has forgotten who he is: one of many people with abilities, who are all connected. He offers Sylar the chance to be unique in a different way: by saving them all. He could become Nathan, and stop the hunting. Sylar spares Micah, but claims it is because he doesn't need the boy's power, and takes his advice to become Nathan Petrelli, but for the opposite reason. In the end, his old desires to be powerful and truly unique, and to rise above his childhood isolation and trauma, ensure Sylar will not rise to the side of good, but instead seek ultimate power at the expense of what remained of his identity.

During the hour, we were asked to consider (via Mohinder's voiceover) for all our characters, but especially for our villain: "Who am I? What does it mean to be alive? And in the vast infinity of time, how do I matter?" Like I said, I've always resented a bit the way Sylar has been the center of the Heroes universe, but at the same time I've always been fascinated by his undeniable gravitational force. Could these questions, and the intense concentration on Sylar's inner and outer identity, mean that he's about to implode--for good? (Feel free to read that both ways--for "good," or forever.)

Whatever happens, it's safe to say that when or if Sylar returns in Season Four, he will not be the Sylar we know, on the inside or the outside.

And since you're also your own special person with your own unique perspective, I want to know: how do you feel about that? What do you hope to see in the Heroes Season Three Finale?

Read the Recap: Heroes Episode 3.24 "I Am Sylar"

-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of NBC