One question raised repeatedly over the past week is whether this will turn out to be the show’s final episode. It’s an unfortunate predicament, firstly because it leaves the show’s writers no opportunity to bring their story to a fitting conclusion, secondly because it leaves the show’s fans with no sense of closure.
For both of those reasons, I hope very much that this isn’t the show’s final episode. If it were, it would in turn raise the question of whether this will be my final review for the show. Which is also an unfortunate predicament, firstly because I’m not sure how sentimental I’m supposed to be, secondly because giving an overview of 78 reviews and half a million words is too daunting for me to contemplate.
So I’m not going to. I’m going to live in denial until the show’s network makes an official announcement, and I’m reviewing this episode as a volume- and season-ender rather than a series-ender. And, all things considered, that’s probably in the show’s best interest, because if this episode were to serve as a series-ender, it would leave more unresolved storylines than I can count.
It’s not the weakest finale the show has delivered, but it’s close. There’s nothing catastrophically bad about it, and nothing that plunges it to the depths of awfulness that the Sylathan Debacle reached last season, but there are inconsistencies running throughout it, there are aspects of the plot that aren’t developed anywhere near as far as they need to be, and if there’s a central criticism to be made, it’s that the absence of awfulness doesn’t make this a successful finale. Like almost every episode, it showcases superb performances from its cast and some profound ideas in its plot, concluding the volume with a suitably open-ended development that all but begs the network to consider renewing the show for another season. But within the context of the volume — and, yes, the series as a whole — it’s a by-the-numbers, seen-it-all-before finale. It has nothing to match the level of tension and drama that made the previous finales remarkable, it leaves multiple character arcs unresolved, and its pace is such that the volume doesn’t march to a conclusion so much as hobble.
There’s also something eerily familiar about the idea of someone announcing the existence of people with abilities to the public. I figured at first that the familiarity was down to Claire’s threat to publish The Company’s files and Nathan’s ill-fated attempt to call a press conference. But even then, it felt like we’d seen or heard something similar to this before.
I started to think about how reckless and irresponsible Claire’s actions are, and how no other character on the show had ever possessed quite that level of arrogance, but it was several days before I realized why it seemed so familiar. It’s because Claire’s plan to out specials everywhere goes all the way back to the first season, to a character I’d pushed to the furthest recesses of my memory.
This isn’t Claire’s plan: it’s Simone’s!
Simone: “Let’s tell them everything! Isaac painting the future. Hiro stopping time. Even you. What you all can do is incredible! It’s time people know what’s happening. The truth.”
Alas, this finale has no Nathan to kill off, which means Noah is saddled with the task of telling Claire that her plan to go public is insane, and that his dialogue becomes almost word-for-word the dialogue we heard from Nathan three seasons ago:
Nathan: “If people knew what we were capable of, they would drop a collective brick.”
Simone: “You think they’ll burn you at the stake?”
Nathan: “Yeah. Pretty much. Because that’s what I would do. I’d round us all up, stick us in a lab on some island in the middle of the ocean.”
A case of history repeating itself? A subtle tribute to the brother who died this season? Unintentional self-plagiarism? You decide. I’m still trying to get over the idea that Claire this week turned into Simone.
The Volume Four finale begins with Claire and Noah trapped in a trailer. There’s a certain whimsical irony to Claire beginning the volume at college and ending it 50 feet underground, but this is an opening that in many ways encapsulates what’s been great about this volume: a tense, claustrophobic environment that’s conducive to compelling drama. Also, lots of dirt. And ominous creaking sounds to remind us that the dirt is about to crush the trailer.
Lauren shows up at the site where the trailer was buried.
Beautifully shot, if a little too picturesque to come across as believable. It’s also regrettable that Lauren’s escape from Eli last week is shrugged off. I’m not sure whether that says more about Lauren or Eli, but since the show chooses to focus on Eli, it’s worth noting that Eli finds Matt burying a villain behind a brick wall, propping up a friend at the side of it and then…
… PREPARING LUNCH?!
So putting a mass-murderer inside a brick tomb and watching a friend trap himself inside that guy’s mind is the kind of thing that works up Matt’s appetite? I’m going to assume he was taking the food to the basement to force-feed Peter.
There’s something mildly amusing about the fact that the man with the all-conquering Parkman Whammy isn’t worth the attention of the “prime” Eli, but there’s also something delightful about the way Todd Stashwick plays each of the clones with a slightly different temperament. One is laid back, another is jumpy and neurotic, and, curiously, one of them leads Matt to believe there’s a trace of humanity inside him.
Is that a guilty face? The implication is Eli realizes he’s working for a tyrant and wants to back out, and this is where my disappointment begins. Eli’s not the most pivotal of characters, and his redemption after shooting Lydia is a very tough sell, but his storyline this week is ambiguous in the worst kind of way. It never becomes clear whether his decision to support Noah and Edgar comes from a genuine wish to repent or from a Parkman-Whammy-induced autonomic action.
We cut to the carnival…
… in a scene made spectacular by some staggering digital work, some superb photography by John Newby and some extremely subtle set work by Ruth Ammon. Samuel steps onto a stage that looks weathered yet sturdy, and it’s one of the nuances of this episode that the villain stands on a stage that’s filled with history and character. Compared to the pristine perfection of Pinehearst or the minimalist walls of Building 26, there’s something rich and complex about the carnival that I’ll miss once it’s gone.
The issues arise from everything and everyone that isn’t shown. Doyle and Ian are there, but Becky’s relegation to the graphic novels is disappointing, and Amanda’s absence since before Lydia’s death is baffling.
The really bizarre detail, however, is that Edgar is there.
How?! Didn’t Samuel pin Joseph’s murder on Edgar and scare the guy into exile? And suddenly he shows up to mourn Lydia and just goes back to being a member of the community? I guess we can speculate that Samuel told everyone it was a misunderstanding, but even if that’s true, Edgar knows that Samuel killed Joseph, and SAMUEL KNOWS THAT EDGAR KNOWS. There’s so much about this that’s unsaid, to the point where you wonder if you’ve forgetten a crucial scene or missed a webisode to explain it all.
Hiro wakes up in hospital, now fully recovered from the operation that saved him from an inoperable brain tumor.
Humor me. Read that last line again and tell me it’s not the most ridiculous thing you’ve read here all season. I’d buy it if Hiro was at least wearing a bandage over his head, but it’s as if the whole debilitating-terminal-tumor storyline never happened. If any other character on this show ever suffers from a terminal illness again, the lesson we take from this is that no terminal illness can kill a Heroes main character.
Hiro: “Life was simple once, wasn’t it?”
Ando: “It can be again.”
Hiro: “I’d like that. I’d like that very much.”
^ ^ ACTUAL DIALOGUE!
What a hypocrite! Putting aside the fact that Hiro clearly sucks at running Yamagato and needs his sister to run his financial empire, the reason this rings false is because WE’VE SEEN HIRO LEAD A SIMPLE LIFE. It descended into messing with Dad’s clock and opening Dad’s safe out of boredom, and then, when that got old, using company time and expenses to rescue cats. It would be understandable if Hiro genuinely wanted a simple life, but we’ve seen Hiro renounce that simple life in favor of inadvertently wreaking havoc.
Sylar pwns Prime-Eli, the copies dissolve, and Matt is saddled with the task of representing everyone who thinks the lifetime-in-an-empty-dream-city concept is absurd.
There are countless winning screensavers to capture the bond that now exists between Peter and Sylar, but the intriguing part is the characters seem to be of practically one mind. They explain to Matt that it’s “a long story” in unison, and throughout these scenes…
… Peter barely looks at Sylar. You’d think that would be a trivial detail, but when you consider the context, it’s significant that Peter trusts his brother’s murderer enough to look away for even a second, let alone to let his guard down for an entire episode.
It seems convenient that Eli happened to be here to provide Peter and Sylar with the details to Samuel’s plan. You have to wonder how they would have found Samuel without him. The only other way they would have found the carnival is if one of them had a Magik Comp-
Wait a second.
Wait a second.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAGIK COMPASS TATTOO?!
Forget the part where Samuel wanted Peter to be Joseph’s replacement. Or don’t, but it was 16 episodes ago, so I think it’s safe to say the show has. But what happens to the tattoo itself? Is it branded into Peter’s arm and waiting to be reactivated? Does it vanish when Samuel’s power vanishes? Will it still lead Peter to any large gathering of supers?
One word, casting department: bravo.
Phenomenal casting. Like, Young Angela phenomenal, right down to the eyes and the shape of the nose and the angular jaw. There are peripheral details that help; the accent, obviously, and the necklace that Young-Charlie was wearing the day she walked out of the diner. But beyond the physicality, it’s in the way K Callan plays her — as lively and warm and effortlessly charming — that she sells the part. Which is to say, she plays Charlie exactly the way Jayma Mays plays her. The moment you see her, you know this is Charlie. Callan absolutely owns the character, and you don’t doubt for a moment that this is Charlie.
Claire reassures Noah that his actions don’t change the fact that he’s her dad…
… and Noah’s ferocious response conveys that he doesn’t believe he deserves her sympathy. This is remarkable because it sets him apart from the other characters who spent the volume trying to redeem themselves. Angela’s attempt at redemption after the Sylathan Debacle has been non-existent; Matt’s emotional fallout has been explored, but with vast chunks of his backstory left out. Oddly, Noah and Sylathan have been the only characters all volume to express any genuine guilt over their actions. In a volume entitled “Redemption,” these were the two characters who strove to atone for their actions, knowing all along that they couldn’t.
Noah: “It doesn’t matter what I believe anymore, because the whole world is about to find out about you. We can thank Samuel for that.”
Claire: “Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe the world is more ready than you think it is. Things change.”
On the one hand, I have to praise the way the actors knocked this scene out of the park, because, really…
… Hayden plays Claire’s hope and resolve with endearing conviction.
It sadly behooves me to point out, however, that this earns her a *PING!* Dumb As Hiro Award. Come on, Claire. Samuel’s planning to kill thousands of people and leave a crater in the middle of Central Park. You really think that’ll go down well with the rest of the population?
Noah: “Sure, there might be curiosity for a while. But all it takes is one Sylar, and then the pitchforks come out and all hell breaks loose. I’ve seen it — they will turn on you, Claire. It’s human nature.”
Blueprint for the following volume? It’s the reality Claire will face by jumping off that Ferris wheel. She might not find herself on the receiving end of a pitchfork unless she becomes really obnoxious, but regenerative blood will surely be one of the most coveted commodities the average non-super will want. It’s hard to imagine her getting much further than the outskirts of Central Park before a hundred people mob her in a bid to save their dying relatives. Even if people are “ready,” they’ll be greedy, they’ll be opportunistic and they’ll be fixated on abilities like Claire’s.
Which is perhaps something Claire will be happy to put up with. The rest of the superpowered population might not be, and a lot of them will suddenly find themselves thrust into the limelight and forced to explain why they haven’t been donating their ability to the benefit of mankind all these years. It’s those people who’ll suffer from Claire’s actions, and it’s why Claire ends this episode looking selfish.
Sylar: “I’ve done so much wrong to so many people. Just give me a chance to redeem myself.”
I still can’t decide if we’re meant to take this seriously. The way the show sold the concept so effectively in “The Wall,” I want to believe it’s true. Adam Kane tries to convince us by way of a series of intense close-ups on Quinto’s eyeball. The upshot is that Matt rummages through Sylar’s head, and concludes…
… What, exactly? I can’t tell. Is that shock that Sylar’s head is devoid of deranged fantasies about slicing heads? Is it disappointment that Matt doesn’t have a reason to put Sylar into another empty mental landscape? Is it horror at the images of Sylar visiting kids at the orphanage, helping old ladies cross the street and donating clothes to the homeless shelter? And, really, if it’s not any of those things, there’s only one other mental picture Matt’s likely to glean.
Sylar looks so hopeful when he asks Matt if he can “see it,” and as disingenuous as Sylar has proven to be over the seasons, his disarming optimism is as affecting as his look of dismay when Matt shoots his hopes down.
While I’m betting the backbone of Volume Six will be another dozen installments of The Sylar Show — complete with Sylar-angst and Sylar-trauma and numerous Sylar identity crises — I choose to be hopeful, if only because this past week’s spin on the situation has added creativity to Sylar’s character arc. If this volume was about Sylar rediscovering himself, it seems the following volume will be about Sylar struggling to prove who he wants to be.
Matt tells Peter and Sylar to get out of his home, Parkman-whammies Eli and prompts me to wonder two things: firstly, whether Eli’s whammy is so extensive that it lasts up to and beyond his decision to turn on Samuel, effectively negating his redemption and turning him into a permanent lemming; and secondly, whether this is really how the show intended to wrap up Matt’s character arc for the volume. One imagines he’ll head to the nearest hospital to be treated for the dislocated leg, but after that time he evaded police custody, I’m not even sure that’s a viable option.
Which leaves Matt in agony, stuck at home, with Janice and Baby Matt in hiding and an entire volume’s worth of development unresolved. None of the focal points of Matt’s character arc have been brought to anything resembling a conclusion by the end of this episode, and it’s disappointing to know that most of them didn’t even lead to any tangible development for him. If anything, the person they served is Sylar; as Sylar acknowledges, the ghost experience helped him to see “what it takes to be a good person.” In effect, Matt’s character arc this volume has existed solely to serve Sylar’s.
Claire huddles with her father while he slowly runs out of oxygen. It’s a scene that offers the same overwrought drama we’ve seen a hundred times, but it speaks to the caliber of the actors that, after all those variations, they still succeed in making these scenes affecting.
One word: aw.
Noah: “When I said I was the product of my experiences, I left out the most important part: you. You came into my life, and you changed everything.”
… Just like what’s-her-name?
… And what’s-his-name?
Never mind. Somewhere, in someone’s fanfic, they’re living out their lives in a giant house with Heidi, Simon and Monty, their walls adorned with pictures of They Who’ve Been Wiped From All Established Canon. ALL of them.
Noah: “The man you saw in those memories could never have died a happy man. But I can, because of you.”
It’s a heartfelt moment, but isn’t Noah basically saying the family he was starting in his flashback wouldn’t have made him happy? Am I the only one feeling bad for dead Kate and her unborn baby right about now? Thanks a lot, Noah!
Noah: “I want you to promise me something. That you’ll hide.”
Noah: “You can stay hidden. You can blend in. You can pass, Claire. You know how to do it.”
Oh, Noah. She broke her neck just to scare a mean cheerleader. She jumped out a window with lights switched on up and down the campus. She sliced her arm open in front of a stranger at Thanksgiving dinner. Why on earth would you believe she can stay hidden?
The heartbreaking part is this is Noah’s dying wish. Claire doesn’t deny it outright at this moment in time, but with hindsight, knowing Claire disregards the wish within hours, this scene loses a big part of its impact. Claire should know by now that even when Noah has his ethics backwards, he ALWAYS knows best, and in this case her decision to disobey him could have global repercussions. Even if Claire goes into seclusion immediately after revealing her ability, there are countless supers all over the world whose lives will be turned upside down by her stunt.
Still, Claire frantically scraping at the dirt outside the trailer and watching water pour in? Regardless of the context, it’s awesome. You cheer because the moment the camera focuses on the water, you know what’s coming.
Gorgeously shot, and with such a neat symmetry when the volume began with Tracy trying to kill Noah and ends with her saving his life.
Welcome back, Ali Larter!
It’s sad that I have to say that, given that it’s an exclamation usually reserved for recurring or dead characters rather than, you know, regular cast members.
Tracy points out that Noah’s going to have to “get through 30 feet of dirt.” Judging from Noah’s look of semi-coherent horror, I think he appreciates that this is the equivalent of what I’ve endured during every Troah scene this season.
Tracy water-drills a tunnel to the surface and then… disappears. Well, thanks for stopping by, Tracy. It seems like just two paragraphs ago that I welcomed you back. I have no idea how you even found that trailer 50 feet underground, but it’s been fun reviewing your scenes this season. You met Noah in a sushi bar after trying to drown him, shared clam chowder with Noah in hospital, tried to get your old job back and then decided you didn’t want your old job back, watched a kid get dragged around town and, finally, you froze Claire’s foot off.
That’s about it, isn’t it? Besides the material in the graphic novels, that’s Tracy’s character arc this season. And that’s with Bryan Fuller’s best efforts to give the character a more prominent role. I shudder to think what the show would have done with her otherwise.
Farewell, Tracy! We hope to see you again. Someday.
I have to credit Lauren for her resilience given that she took a gunshot wound, stumbled through a forest and was only superficially patched up before finding the exact spot where Noah was buried, directing Tracy to the carnival site, calling a chopper and helping to haul Noah out of the water before flying to Manhattan and taking it upon herself to tend to the PR damage control.
But she’s also a martyr! She called Tracy! The Lauroah bowed down to the might of the Troah! Now that’s admirable. That’s like swallowing your pride and admitting that The Other Hot Blonde is more useful than you are. Can you imagine how sorry Lauren must be feeling for herself right about now?
Noah: “Tracy saved us.”
Lauren: “I know. I called her.”
Noah: “Where is she?”
Remember, fanfic writers: the Troah is a spark that fizzles, but the Lauroah is a candle that will burn forever.
The amazing part here is there’s chemistry between them. Not in the creepy 90-year-old-lady-making-eyes-at-a-30-year-old-nerd way, and not in the so-adorable-your-heart-melts way, but in a way that transcends time and definition. You can see intimacy between the characters, and it’s the kind of intimacy that made the romance between Hiro and Charlie so heartwarming. Again, it goes to show what spectacular casting this was.
Old-Charlie describes how she got a job in 1940s Milwaukee, but perhaps what’s more relevant is what she unwittingly reveals: that in spite of comprehensive knowledge of the 65 years ahead of her — not least because of an ability to absorb information at a superhuman rate — Charlie stayed under the radar. And given the enormous opportunities she had — to make groundbreaking discoveries, to invest in software development, to warn authorities of impending crises — that says a lot about Charlie’s respect for the timeline. It’s also worth noting that Old-Charlie made no attempt to visit the Burnt Toast Diner to intervene on the day her younger counterpart was captured by Arnold. Which, again, says a lot.
Not that Hiro appreciates any of this. But the point is he should!
Perhaps even more relevantly, Charlie achieved what Noah hoped Claire would achieve. Which is to say, she got on with her life and kept quiet about what she could do, even under the bizarrest of circumstances. This is evidence that people can get a handle on their ability and live out their lives without the melodrama the rest of the characters have put themselves through. And, in the context of this episode, this is the kind of individual whose prospects of a happy family life will be nixed by Claire’s actions. Instead of being surrounded by family, it’s more likely Old-Charlie will be surrounded by a team of doctors drawing blood samples and trying to figure out how her ability works before she dies.
Old-Charlie seems to have forgotten that Hiro’s “weird doctor friend” is a serial killer. You’ll recall that she was standing in the storage room when Hiro described the circumstances under which the brain-scalping mass-murderer would die. I categorically refuse to assign a Dumb As Hiro Award to Charlie, so I’m going to assume that with old age came some convenient forgetfulness.
Hiro: “I can fix this.”
Just so we’re sure…
Yes, I know: he learned his lesson before the end of the episode. BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THE LESSONS HE LEARNED BEFORE THIS EPISODE? Did Hiro take anything from his experiences this season? The repercussions of screwing with time? His responsibility to not tamper with history? The near-death hallucination in which he was brought to account for EXACTLY THIS KIND OF SELFISHNESS? Should it really fall to Ando to tell Hiro that he’s incapable of changing the timeline without colossally and selfishly screwing it up? Has Hiro been Haitian-whammied? Did Ando’s electro-charge to the head cross some wires? Has the brain tumor effaced everything he went through over the course of this volume? Because it seems like Hiro’s as happy to mess with the timeline now as he was when Samuel found him in “Jump, Push, Fall.”
Beautifully shot. I have no idea what it means — whether it’s a reflection of a villain’s vanity, the hero who’s ready to stab him in the back or just a moment committed to film for sheer aesthetic value — but it looks amazing.
Emma’s blood trickling down the cello string? Still looks as awesome now as it did two weeks ago. Disconcerting, but incredibly well realized.
Noah and Claire make their way through the carnival. The obvious reason to assign Noah a Dumb As Hiro Award would be his failure to consider contacting René, but for obvious reasons that would be a very tactless complaint. If we’ve indeed seen the last of the man who was known for most of the past four years as the Haitian, it seems fitting to acknowldge that Jimmy Jean-Louis played his character with inimitable charm and wit, and that his real-life efforts in Haiti make him twice the hero he’s played on this show for the past four seasons.
We’re now blessed with some of the finest dialogue we’ve heard all season.
Yes, that is sarcasm.
Noah: “We’ve gotta find the backstage area. Do you know where it is?”
Claire: “Yeah. [Points to the back of the carnival.] It’s back that way.”
You have to be a showrunner to come up with dialogue like that.
The actors salvage the material:
Noah puts his hand to Claire’s head, and Claire pushes her head into his hand. It’s a brief moment, but it captures everything that’s effective about the dynamic between the characters.
The script then nosedives when Peter and Sylar arrive on the scene.
Peter: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…”
^ ^ ACTUAL NUMBER OF WAIT’s!
Peter: “The dream!”
Peter: “All these people — they’re all here!”
Peter: “Like lambs at the slaughter!”
Was Kring stoned when he wrote these scenes? Did he hand off scenes to freshmen drama students to ghostwrite them for him? Because this is not the dialogue that made this season great. As valiant an effort as Milo makes to render it meaningful, it’s some of the most awful dialogue of the series. The fact that it’s credited to the showrunner doesn’t just speak volumes. It speaks oceans. It speaks entire continents.
What the episode lacks in dialogue, it makes up for in nuance:
The Magik Popcorn stand has been repaired!
One assumes there’s no longer a Tattoo Girl, but the poster of an “illusionist” is a neat detail. You have to wonder whether that’s a reference to Disappearing-Act Teddy, or to a Candice-style illusionist we never got to meet.
Claire finds the backstage area… out back.
Samuel’s look of composure reflects the confidence that made him a superb villain throughout the volume. He’s the superpowered villainous version of Noah: he always has a plan, he always thinks 10 steps ahead of everyone else and he always banks on his ability to sweettalk his way out of a crisis. It’s part of the reason his sudden downfall seems so contrived.
We cut back to the hospital, where Hiro furnishes Charlie with a plan to retrieve her from Milwaukee. Sally appears, and again…
… the only word that springs to mind is aw. Much to Hiro’s credit, he finds it in himself to force a smile as he greets the kid who represents a life Hiro never got to be part of.
It’s possible some of these children and grandchildren have abilities, but perhaps they should consider themselves lucky to have had any kind of a life before the crapstorm that’s inevitably about to begin. Once again, thanks, Claire.
Hiro looks like he finally realizes that meddling with the timeline causes more harm than good. I feel obligated to point out that he should have come to this conclusion long before now, but the way it’s written and the way Oka plays it, I want to look past the time it took for Hiro to mature and instead appreciate what is, at heart, a moment of surprising selflessness from the character.
Sylar goes from slitting throats and ripping open heads to politely asking the puppeteer to release the cellist. Interestingly, Doyle does clarify that he’s planning to keep Emma playing “long enough for Samuel to finish the show.” I don’t think it’s clear whether Doyle knows what the show actually involves, but the implication is he’s willing to follow any plan Samuel wants to go along with, irrespective of absurdity.
Which, oddly, makes for a character who redeemed himself before the volume titled Redemption, and who now overturns his redemption and goes back to being a villain. It strikes me as a step back from the complexity of Doyle’s material in the webisodes because it effectively saddles him with the role of the mindless carnival lackey. As perfectly as Lawrence plays this side of Doyle, it’s disappointing to watch the character revert to something akin to his Volume Three personality.
… is we now see Emma sound-streak-whipping Doyle across the tent. It’s an empowering moment for Emma because she’s the one who overpowers Doyle, and Sylar’s merely the guy who takes care of him once he’s on the ground.
But then, Sylar TK-choking Doyle…
… is ultimately what makes Sylar the hero of the finale. Which, with hindsight, seems to have been where much of this volume was leading. As with Matt, you could argue that Doyle’s role — his vilification as a carnival drone — was ultimately in service of Sylar’s redemption.
Samuel insists to Claire that his family won’t desert him after all he’s “done” for them. It’s intended to come across as dishonest because of Samuel’s hidden motives, but I can’t help feeling bad for Samuel in light of how much he has done for them. These are people who’ve formed a community, and as false as their sense of belonging might be, it’s a community, and it’s a community Samuel’s been responsible for sustaining after Joseph’s death. When Claire tells them to “walk away now,” it’s played as a moment in which the heroine convinces the troops to walk away from a tyrant. And on the surface, that’s more or less the truth. But there’s a dimension to the story which the show never addressed, the one involving the life these individuals face once their community fractures. They’re going to emerge into the world with nowhere to go, no money, no friends, no family and no idea how to cope without the father figure they’ve depended on.
This, more than anything else, is what dragged this finale down for me. There’s a difference between open-ended and unresolved, and the conclusion to the carnival storyline struck me as decidedly unresolved. The way the episode wraps, you know you’re meant to feel a sense of victory: the villain was defeated, the people he used and lied to have been liberated, and everyone is still alive. The problem is this feels like a very short-lived victory. The people who were unwitting accessories to Samuel’s plan will be thrust into a world they don’t understand and without any idea how to reintegrate. To add to the adversity, they’ll now have to contend with the public’s awareness of a carnival populated by the kind of individuals whose injuries miraculously regenerate. And as Noah pointed out in the trailer, it’s a small step from fascination to mistrust, and in turn only a small step from mistrust to persecution.
Claire tells everyone about Joseph’s murder, and suddenly Samuel loses his unshakeable influence on the community. For whatever reason, Samuel’s immediate response is NOT to remind everyone that, per the story he previously ran with at Thanksgiving, Joseph was murdered by Edgar. It wouldn’t have helped when Edgar and Noah show up to incriminate him, but the fact that he doesn’t even try to stick with that story is what seems so strange.
The community’s sense of betrayal grows, but it falls to one individual to cement everyone’s perception of Samuel as a liar.
The guy who’s been Parkman-whammied!
If you go with the theory that this is another of Matt’s industrial-strength Parkman Whammies, this isn’t really Eli taking ownership for his mistakes, but rather a guy who’s saying stuff because he’s been brainwashed into saying it.
But then, if that’s true, it means a big part of the grand conclusion to the carnival storyline — the carnival members deciding to abandon their leader — was facilitated by… a Parkman Whammy?
So, not the whole collapsing-a-town-and-killing-all-of-its-inhabitants thing?
Of course not! That would be so petty.
Does anyone else feel cheated? Call me crazy, but is turning the community against Samuel with a Parkman Whammy any less objectionable than maintaining a community with false declarations of love and family?
On the other hand, if this is a genuine expression of guilt from Eli, does it even begin to atone for his actions? Besides killing Lydia, we this week watched him nearly slice Matt’s limbs off. And you’ll note that this a guy who, along with everyone else, teleports into the normal world and who we assume will blend into the rest of society. A more accurate assumption would be that he’ll go into the real world and become something even worse than he is now. The problem is this isn’t even addressed.
Eli’s confession gets the job done. Claire shepherds the carnival members away, and Samuel is left alone in the backstage area… out back… and forced to melodramatically bellow that they’ll NEVER GET FAR ENOUGH.
Here’s where the episode falls apart. And by “falls apart,” I wish I could say I meant it was so riveting that it literally tore itself apart. Sadly, the climactic confrontation is so unmemorable that it doesn’t cause the scene to rock so much as disintegrate. I sympathize with the crew who were working with a limited budget, but given that the volume appears to have been building towards this moment since the premiere, you’d think there’d be something more spectacular at the finish line.
This is a villain who, three episodes earlier, leveled an entire town. A villain who, providing he’s pissed off enough…
This week, the scale of the villain’s anger and fury reach heights so unimaginable that they enable him to confront Peter with…
… a lump of dirt.
This is what we’ve been building up to all season?! Peter and Samuel terrakinetically pushing a lump of earth back and forth between them?!
It’s kind of like a tennis match, but with clumps of earth instead of balls.
I suddenly realize there’s a double-meaning in that last sentence. It wasn’t intentional, but it does seem quite apt.
To Milo’s credit, he tries to make it look like wielding a wheelbarrow’s worth of dirt with his mind is the most strenuous challenge Peter’s faced all season.
Knepper seems to have resigned himself to the fact that his character’s best material is behind him, and resorts to just smiling villainously.
Samuel: “Peter, you of all people should know they have to fear us! It’s the only way they’ll respect us!”
This from the villain whose defining trait all volume was his underhandedness? This from the villain who gently pressed compasses into his prospective members’ hands and left it to them to decide if they wanted to join a group filled with love and camaraderie? This from the villain who defended his family to Gretchen by insisting that, if nothing else, they offered unconditional love.
Apparently the character’s entire demeanor throughout the volume was a pretense. Perhaps this was the point. Perhaps we’re meant to look back on Samuel over the course of the volume and say, “Ooh, that Samuel — he was a clever one! We thought we knew him — but we were wrong!”
I’d like to know how a wonderfully complex, multi-faceted villain became a one-dimensional caricature for the sake of fulfilling his role in the finale. Because, really, judging from the dialogue in this scene, apparently all it’s ever been about for Samuel is inspiring fear.
Samuel: “We both know what it’s like to live in the shadow of a brother. Joseph destroyed my potential! Kept me down! Just like your brother!”
Peter: “My brother didn’t let me down. He built me up.”
It’s a nice throwback to Nathan, but somehow, when you put it in context, when you look back on Peter’s eulogy over Nathan’s coffin and realize that his resolve to be “ready for anything” amounts to a dirt-pushing contest, this showdown devalues what came before it.
Claire ushers the carnival members to Hiro and instructs him to immediately teleport all of them away. This, we gather, is a challenging feat for Hiro to pull off.
Ando supercharges Hiro, the carnival’s members teleport away, and Samuel finds himself devoid of power.
Wasn’t he terrakinetic to begin with? Isn’t that how he turned the mansion into a sink hole and brought the police precinct down? Wasn’t the whole deal that he just became more powerful when he surrounded himself with other abilities? And even if he only needs a few of them, shouldn’t Peter, Sylar, Doyle and Emma be amping him up right about now, if only by a little?
Samuel struggles as much as we do to reconcile this development with the volume’s internal continuity. Perhaps we should all just go with the “battery charge” theory and assume the terrible shock of losing his community was such that he found himself unable to recover his initial ability. In any case, I refuse to believe this character is Samuel. He’s so out of character that he bears no resemblance to the villain we watched develop over the course of the volume. I instead choose to believe that this is a shapeshifter, and that the real Samuel has been trapped in 1944 Milwaukee, where he got a job in a munitions factory and married a wonderful man woman and had four children and seven beautiful grandchildren.
All of that said, credit should be issued where it’s due, because this…
… is an incredible shot. The way the camera pulls back and back and back, taking in the scope of how alone Samuel is and how much he lost. It’s the kind of moment you want to take out of context and appreciate for what it is — exceptional photography and directing to support the character.
If you put it in context, this volume ends with the carnival arbitrarily walking away from Samuel — not because he destroyed a town, and not because he was absorbing the carnival’s super-energy and planning to use it to inflict horrific casualties, but because he got angry and killed his brother back in the day. And as bad as that is, it apparently trumps mass-murder and plans for a massacre.
Volume Four ends with Samuel reverting from a compelling, fully-developed, three-dimensional villain to a caricature who mwa-ha-ha’s his way into near-victory and is only stumped when someone mentions a murder which Samuel had already pinned on someone else. And that, above all, is the tragedy of this finale.
Samuel staggers into the middle of the carnival and falls face-down. It’s an unfortunate reflection of the show’s own trajectory, stumbling at the eleventh hour and undermining what was otherwise a solid volume. This finale provided a fitting resolution for Peter, Sylar, Claire and Noah, but it gave us only a brief glimpse of Tracy, a couple of scenes with Matt, no Mohinder, no Angela, and ultimately no sense of closure to a storyline revolving around a carnival whose members will now find themselves in the real world without any of the skills they need to survive.
We reach the end of the volume with a finale that was at times profound, perceptive and well crafted, but also deeply flawed.
3 out of 5
Looking back, the strongest volumes seem to be the ones preceded by a teaser with a clear idea: Nathan betraying the people closest to him, Sylathan struggling to understand his fixation with clocks.
The cryptic teasers seem to precede the weakest volumes: Hiro landing in a 17th century field, Sylar regenerating in an alley.
Volume Six begins with promise, at least insofar as it introduces a clear idea of where it’s planning to go. Claire’s naïve idealism is established, Sylar’s confidence in his capacity for good is articulated, and the prospect of people with abilities becoming common knowledge looms.
If there’s a reason to be skeptical, it’s because previous volumes have concluded with ideas that were either brushed aside or outright ignored.
All of these were dramatic starts or finishes to volumes, and in the end it’s been sad to see how little they resonated in the following volumes. The New York explosion was brushed aside. Nathan’s death was mysteriously undone and never referred to again. The president’s awareness of the superpowered population led to funding to track and imprison them, but in the end neither an assassination attempt nor plans for a new Company organization generated any significant advances to the ensuing story.
I’d like to think this next volume will be different, if only because Claire jumping off the Ferris wheel is so far-reaching. It has the potential to change the tone and format of the show in much the same way the fourth volume’s teaser did. The great part is that, as with the fourth volume’s teaser, this change is underpinned with potential for character exploration.
Samuel is driven away in a car with a siren, but according to Noah it’s old-school Company. I find it sad that a year after the prospect of a new, high-minded and enlightened Company was introduced, we’re now talking about the old Company again. Putting this disappointment aside, let’s hope there’s a Magik Power Dampener in the Level 5 cell that Samuel finds himself in, because otherwise it won’t be long before he absorbs enough super-magnetic energy to bury the building.
What the heck, though. That’s so last volume.
Sylar strings up Doyle and prides himself on not killing him. Given that this is the fourth occasion that Sylar has passed up to kill him, I’m starting to wonder if Sylar has a soft spot for the guy. In any case, I find it questionable that Eli gets to teleport to freedom while Doyle is strung up and humiliated. In terms of their crimes and their role as Samuel’s lackeys, there’s very little difference between them.
But hey, that’s so last volume.
It’s telling that Sylar gets to be the one to voice the title to the next volume, but it’s a choice that hints at the creative possibilities, if only because Sylar will be both the poster child for special abilities and the first target of the witch-hunt. Hilariously, though, Sylar’s claim that it felt “right” being a hero takes place in front of a stall with a slogan that reads “KNOCK ‘EM DOWN.” Unintentional humor from the set dressing if ever there was such a thing.
Noah: “Is everyone safe?”
Claire: “Yeah, Hiro’s taking care of them. They’ll be fine.”
Was that intended to reassure us? Because I can’t help thinking those two statements are antithetical.
Lauren provides damage control by spinning a story about a gas rupture and an elaborate special effects show. This in theory makes Lauren look like an adept PR agent for The Company, but given that the news crew now rushes to Noah and Claire to demand the REAL story, whatever attempt Lauren made to misdirect them clearly had very limited success.
But then, perhaps that’s the segue-way to Claire deciding it’s time to stop lying. As selfish as her decision to out the superpowered population might be, it represents an optimistic view of human nature — one that appeals to people’s tolerance and understanding.
It’s naïve, and at this point Noah’s prediction strikes me as infinitely the wiser, but there’s an admirable quality to Claire’s willingness to make herself the first guinea pig.
Claire looks apologetic, and although I think she owes the apology to everyone whose life is about to be turned upside down rather than to Noah, it’s established right away that she has an inkling of how horribly wrong this might turn out.
Claire gives one final look at the man who did everything he could to protect her.
Noah gives one final look at the daughter who’s about to expose everything that he, Angela and all of the ElderSupers agreed to keep under wraps.
And as arrogant as that makes Claire for thinking she knows better, it’s also tantalizing as a volume teaser. It carries the implication that this will lead to significant change.
As a bookend to the series, this would be about as perfect a way to go out as it’s possible for the show to come up with. I hope it’s not the final image of the series. If the show gets the fifth season it’s planning on, this is a moment that leaves the story and characters in a perfect position for development.
That’s a wrap on HeroSite’s reviews for Heroes Season Four. As near as I can tell — and assuming I’ve done the math correctly — the average score for this volume was 3.89 out of 5. That puts it behind the average scores I gave Volume One (4.24) and Volume Four (4.08), but ahead of Volume Three (3.85) and Volume Two (3.68). Which, on balance, sounds about right. It’s been a consistently good volume, but one that never quite matched the consistent brilliance of the first and fourth volumes. It’s a volume that included Hiro reuniting with Charlie, Sylathan begging Peter to let him go and Peter delivering a eulogy over his brother’s coffin, but also one that consisted of Nerdspeak!Hiro, Claire doing her laundry and Matt getting wrecked. Beyond the best and worst moments, however, it’s a volume that features Claire giving Tracy a bath, Lydia asking Hiro to touch her and Peter climbing inside Sylar. Which, if nothing else, offers enough innuendo to fuel a lifetime of scary fanfic.
Let’s hope the show gets a chance to produce an outstanding Volume Six. In the meantime, this season’s reviews wrap with a rundown of the volume’s Dumbest moments.
A grand total of 25 Dumb As Awards were issued this volume. That’s more than Volume Four’s 18 awards but less than Volume Three’s 26. While this might make it sound like Volume Five represented a step back in character intellingence, it’s worth noting that Volume Five was of course longer than Volume Four, and, consequently, if you’re judging it episode by episode, the characters in fact end up looking smarter. The characters earned an average of 2 Dumb As Awards per episode in Volume Three. This dropped to an average of 1.5 awards per episode in Volume Four, and, bearing in mind that this season’s 25 awards were distributed between 19 episodes, the characters in this volume earned an average of only 1.3 awards per episode. In short, this volume might not have been as strong as the previous one in terms of quality storytelling, but there’s some comfort to be taken from the fact that the characters behaved less idiotically in Volume Five than they did in Volumes Three or Four.
Needless to say, the key offenders are the same ones that racked up awards in previous volumes. The characters who earned Dumb As Awards this volume, in order of rank, are as follows:
Hiro Nakamura: 7 awards
Noah Bennet: 5 awards
Claire Bennet: 5 awards
Peter Petrelli: 2 awards
Matt Parkman: 2 awards
Ando Masahashi: 1 award
Kimiko Nakamura: 1 award
Mohinder Suresh: 1 award (and with appearances in, what, TWO EPISODES?)
Lydia (R.I.P.): 1 award
A few observations to note from this: first, Matt seems to be getting smarter each volume; secondly, Noah seems to be getting progressively dumber each volume (which may be the result of constantly getting shot, slashed open and hit over the head); and thirdly, despite an often shockingly inconsistent character arc, Sylar continues to evade my Dumb As Awards.
On that note, I bid everyone a fond farewell for the hiatus. I said I wouldn’t treat this as a final review, but if this does end up serving as the show’s final episode, it’s the conclusion to something that goes beyond description. It would be impossible for me to condense four seasons of reviews and articulate what an amazing journey it’s been. Hopefully, if you’ve followed HeroSite’s reviews this far, you know what an amazing journey it’s been. It’s a journey which started out with reviews discussing comic-book comparisons and crazy theories, and which somehow ended up with Shakespeare-quoting turtles, purple flags, election campaigns in the underworld and electric ferrets. And Maya.
I’d like to state the obvious by issuing a heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s gone on this journey with me. Thank you to the cast and crew who’ve been kind enough to get in touch with me over the years. Thank you to the writers for enduring my criticism with such good humor, and for creating characters who’ve at times been so stupid that the Dumb As Awards practically assigned themselves. And thank you to the readers who’ve visited HeroSite and read its reviews over the years, because you’re the reason this site has been such an enormous pleasure to support and why it’s come to feel like home.
Dammit. I said I wouldn’t.
Have a great spring and summer, and I hope to see you all again in September.