“I’m a natural progression of the species. Evolution is a part of nature, and nature kills. Simple, right?”
During this year’s Super Bowl, a commercial for a revival of the NBC television series “Heroes” was aired. While not necessarily a reboot, the series is set to debut in the fall as a 13-episode miniseries with several new characters and cameos from those in the original series. “Heroes” debuted in 2006 and had a strong first season. The premise revolved around the lives of ordinary people born with genetic mutations that give them superhuman powers and abilities. For this reason, I admit, I initially hated the series because it was heavily derivative of X-Men. As I watched the first season, I found it to be interesting and engaging. Though the comic-book influence on the series was clear and present, it eventually became its Achilles Heel. As the series progressed, it became more and more like a comic book: An overflow of characters, writers ignoring continuity, rehashed ideas until it was cancelled after the abysmal fourth season.
With the series resurrection and new title, some of the previous actors are slated to return such as Jack Coleman, Greg Grunberg, Masi Oka and Sendhil Ramamurthy. That’s good, because it gives the series proper context, especially for new viewers. However, I’m disappointed that Zachary Quinto won’t be returning. His character, Sylar, was the primary villain of the series and the most interesting character (even after the writers mishandled him). That said, this article is an appreciation for and explanation of the character and his powers.
Gabriel Gray was a mild-mannered ordinary watchmaker who seemed destined for an uneventful life. Upon discovering and being overtaken by his power of intuitive aptitude, he became a psychopathic serial killer. Adopting the name “Sylar” from one of his watches, he abandoned his old life. He targets and murders other evolved humans in order to understand their abilities and add them to his own. Also, he seems to have an “on/off” switch between his two personas, reminiscent of the Joey Cusack/Tom Stall character from 2005’s “A History of Violence”. Though he has killed several fellow evolved humans and stolen their abilities, below is a list (in order of accrual) and descriptions of the powers he has demonstrated.
Sylar’s base power is intuitive aptitude. He is able to perceive and intuitively comprehend the structure, functional uses and flaws of any system within his visual range without having had any special education or training. This ability allows Sylar to analyze and understand all systems and apparently extends to human behavior. For systems that he’s never encountered before (such as an 18-wheel vehicle), it takes longer for him to understand, but lesser time than a person without his ability. However, for systems he already understands (like clocks or watches), he can diagnose with a mere cursory inspection. It is this ability that placed him beyond expertise-level in watchmaking and repair.
A side effect of this ability is that it compels the holder to understand as much as they can, a “hunger” which can manifest as a need to understand. His ability compels him to seek out evolved humans in order to understand their abilities. Sylar uses his ability to physically interact with the victim’s brain, analyzing and memorizing the physiological and chemical reactions that produce that individual’s ability. Sylar’s brain can then mimic those reactions, giving him the same power. The process is typically fatal for the victim and requires removal of the skull, resulting in massive blood loss and trauma. His power allows him to understand and master his acquired abilities at a faster rate than the victim. He has been shown to acquire abilities through understanding his target’s emotional issues, however this method prevents him mastering the ability as quickly as he would through direct brain examination. He can use multiple abilities at once. He was infected with the Shanti Virus which removed most of his powers even after he was cured. Since then, he’s continued to acquire more abilities.
Sylar can move and manipulate matter through the application of mental force. He can use this power with relatively little concentration and typically uses hand gestures in conjunction with telekinetic feats, although he can use this ability without them. Presumably they somehow help him to direct the power. He was able to incapacitate an opponent when he was unable to move, although it seemed to take intense concentration to do so. Sylar can simultaneously manipulate dozens of objects at once, levitate himself and manipulate bodily functions. Telekinesis was the first ability he acquired as well as his most frequently utilized. He uses this power, focusing it through his index finger, to slice open the skulls of other evolved humans to examine their brains.
Sylar gained the ability to create explosions in his immediate vicinity by pointing his finger at an intended target. His power operates by harnessing the minor kinetic energy created when his finger moves, amplifying it to a significant degree, and redirecting it spatially so that it strikes and affects the target within his line-of-sight, causing an violent release of force. This ability was lost upon his infection with the Shanti Virus.
Sylar could project waves of intense cold from his body that cool and condense the moisture in the air into super-hard ice. Sylar could shape and manipulate this ice in a variety of ways. This ability was lost upon his infection with the Shanti Virus.
Sylar could project a form of invisible energy that loosened the bonding forces between the molecules of substances, causing these substances to change from solid form to liquid form, thereby melting. This ability didn’t involve the usage of heat and could be used to partially or wholly affect objects (toasters, wrenches, cordless phones, etc.) This ability was lost upon his infection with the Shanti Virus.
Sylar could perceive sounds with a range and clarity beyond that of normal human hearing. Upon gaining this ability, he experienced a great deal of difficulty controlling it, being highly sensitive to all aural sensations around him. Within days, he gained full mastery over this power. He could perceive and recognize heartbeats, as well as hear a pin drop from a mile away. This ability was lost upon his infection with the Shanti Virus.
Sylar could enter a plane of consciousness where he could mentally perceive information about future events. He could activate this ability at will, entering a trance-like state with his eyes becoming completely white. He expressed this ability through visual art, creating accurate depictions of future events. He could focus his precognition on specific people or events, and subsequently create prophetic images of them. This ability was lost upon his infection with the Shanti Virus.
Sylar could generate and manipulate radiation in several different varieties of ways. He could create heat, electromagnetic pulses and lightning-like effects. He was also completely impervious to the effects of radiation, which he could generate in great quantities with no harm to himself. This ability was lost upon his infection with the Shanti Virus.
ACCELERATED CELLULAR REGENERATION:
This ability allows Sylar to automatically regenerate damaged and destroyed areas of his cellular structure near-instantaneously. This rapid recovery from injury does not move displaced body parts back into the correct location, Sylar has to manually rotate broken limbs (above) to the correct orientation to allow the healing to occur. He can still perceive pain from his injuries, but the sensation rapidly diminishes upon healing. It is unknown if this power has halted Sylar’s aging process yet since, after a certain amount of regeneration, the body ceases to age.
Sylar can alter the chemical composition of matter upon physical contact. This ability enables him to apply a uniform molecular transformation of matter, converting all of the various elements comprising his subject into solid gold. This ability requires active concentration, otherwise he’d transform everything he touches into gold. Sylar can affect both organic and inorganic materials with this power.
Sylar can perceive the psychic imprints that people leave on objects upon physical contact. Through concentration, he can read the thoughts and memories that the person who previously handled the object had while handling the object. He can also read an objects’ entire history, as well as that of any person, upon contact. Sylar perceives the imprints from people and objects as both emotions and mental images and stores them in his conscious mind.
Sylar can utilize his vocal cords to generate hypersonic frequencies which can be used to mimic and distort noise, replicate frequencies, and project powerful sonic waves as force blasts. Above, Sylar is seen utilizing this power against opponents.
Sylar can bodily generate and project electric energy. He is able to project electricity in varying degrees of strength and power, from minor sparks to blasts containing thousands of volts. He can fire a continuous stream of lightning, or unleash short bursts. Sylar remains unharmed by electrical currents that he creates, although he could shock himself if he attempts to use his power under unfavorable circumstances. This is the first ability Sylar gained through empathy rather than direct brain examination. Unlike with his other abilities, Sylar didn’t have an immediate mastery over this ability and needed assistance before gaining control over it.
Sylar unconsciously projects waves of psionic energy into his environment that are attuned to the bodily reactions in people when they are vocally deceptive. The waves analyze the lie being spoken, the voice, the reactions of the person who says the lie and relaying that information back to Sylar, creating a a tingling sensation. The range of this ability is unclear, but Sylar has been shown to detect lies from a distance of a few meters away.
Sylar can mentally imprint images from his own mind onto physical surfaces. When he uses this ability, his hands glowed golden.
Sylar can psionically shift the atoms and molecules of his own body in order to duplicate any humanoid form. Sylar can duplicate eye & hair color, skin pigment, and traits related to abnormal physiology, including shifting his internal organs to match that of another person. This ability involves mass-shunting/accrual when mimicking individuals of larger or smaller densities. He can alter his vocal cords so as to change the sound of her voice to match any person and can even shift the atoms and molecules of his clothing so as to change its form. Using this ability causes him considerable strain. He cannot revert to his original shape if killed or rendered unconscious. Sylar requires a tissue sample from the person he wants to impersonate. This is usually accomplished by touch, although other methods are possible.
Sylar can generate repetitive vibratory pulsings that can cause objects to shatter or crumble, even disintegrate under sustained pressure. He focuses on a target, which begins to tremble, and when he snaps his fingers, the target breaks down. It has been implied that this ability may be able to affect organic matter.
Sylar is capable of self-propelled flight. The limits of this ability are unknown, but he has utilized it in various ways from hovering a few feet above ground to flying at supersonic speeds. This ability includes protection from extremes of temperature and atmospheric pressure as well as allowing him to perceive his surroundings while flying at high speeds.
Sylar can telepathically sense the desires and emotional states of those around him. Injecting ink into his skin allows him to manifest this power as visual tattoos. He seems to be able to gather basic information about a person’s wants and desires through touch.
All images, characters and likenesses appear courtesy of the National Broadcast Company.