When a bearded Adrian Pasdar appeared on a morning show earlier this week to declare that producers had told him Nathan Petrelli was “really, really, really dead this time,” and then Al Roker told us all to watch out for the “fall finale,” it was pretty clear that tonight was going to be a big episode. That was bolstered by the fact that almost every dangling plot thread was teased and rehashed in this week’s “previously on Heroes” opening sequence, which usually sets the stage for what’s to come in a given episode.
The establishing shot of the episode is on Lydia’s legs, as we watch her from the knee down walk through the carnival for about three seconds before the shot widens. My initial impression was something of a mingled, “Yes, those are very nice legs…but so?” and “who walks around a carnival in bare feet? What if she steps in elephant dung?” Maybe the latter was Sylar creeping in at the corner of my consciousness. At any rate, she’s making her way to Samuel, who’s sitting on his own reading a newspaper, to tell him that while she knows he killed his brother, she doesn’t want to have to fear for hers and her child’s life, and so she’ll keep quiet and leave him alone. She turns to walk away when a new character enters. Called Eli, apparently, he’s from the serialized comic stories on NBC’s website and is making what appears to be his first appearance, or at least first full appearance, on the show. Nevertheless, he’s apparently been a trusted friend to the family for years and Samuel invites him, in the absence of Edgar, to be his right-hand man. Some wonky camera angles throughout the conversation hide the fact that Eli is a Multiple Man proxy, but before the audience finds that out, he’s told by Samuel that his first assignment is to go steal some Primatech paperwork from Noah’s apartment (poor guy just can’t keep from getting all his stuff stolen lately). So yeah—
Eli’s coming, hide your heart, Lauren.
That was a bad pun worthy of Sylar, I know.
Noah and Lauren, meanwhile, are having an awkward first-date conversation, which turns quickly to a lowdown on the badguys and what Noah knows about the carnival. When he goes to the drawer for a visual aid to discuss the compasses he’s found, he realizes that the one he kept is gone, and immediately jumps to the (correct) conclusion that Claire’s responsible. He tries to call her, fails, and then Lauren agrees to skip their movie date and use her CIA resources to help her track Claire’s cell phone.
Outside the carnival, Claire and Gretchen are sitting in the car staring at the compass, a little surprised to see that they’ve reached their destination.
At Peter’s hospital, his mother has come to visit. He’s cold and indifferent to her, as he’s been more or less since he found out that Nathan died at the end of last season. As she tries to convince him to leave Sylar alone and accept his brother’s death, he’s collecting up narcotics and vowing to “kill Sylar once and for all.” She asks how he expects to do that, just in time for Rene the Haitian to arrive. Peter shakes his hand, thanks him, takes Rene’s power and walks away. This is, of course, an approach that’s so self-evident that the immediate question becomes how Peter never thought of it before…but the moment of power transference, when you go from an impression that Peter will be relying on the Haitian to the realization of what’s actually going on, is arguably the best moment of the season so far. Except for those of us out there who really hate Suresh, but their moment was short-lived and never destined to last anyway.
Claire has a moment of realization and clarity, understanding that the carnival is probably a pretty bad idea, that it’s very dangerous and that there’s no real reason for her to be there—but when she turns to leave, Gretchen convinces her that she’ll never find fulfillment if she doesn’t at least try to see this through. Before the debate can find a satisfactory conclusion, though, Samuel comes to greet them and welcome Claire to the carnival. Samuel gives them free, all-access passes and explains to Claire that the carnival lifestyle has evolved as the best way to make an honest living, but implies that he’s looking for something more permanent and a way to stay grounded and stop moving around all the time. He gives them boxes of “the best popcorn in the world,” and asks them to stick around until they’ve finished the box, and that if they’re not sold on the place, he’ll walk them to their car himself. He reiterates to finish the box, and wanders away. Claire has, in the past, shown the kind of paranoia that would lead me to throw down the food and run, but the pair merely shrug and start working their way through the carnival. Entering Lydia’s tent, Claire asks whether she’s supposed to be there and, when she appears on Lydia’s back with the caption “Indestructible girl,” she and Gretchen get freaked out and leave.
On the hospital elevator, a friendly nurse grabs Peter and throws him through the doors as they open onto a floor under construction. Shifting to Sylar, he picks up Peter’s dropped back full of “stuff to kill Sylar with,” dumps it out and starts to chase Peter. While Sylar has a soliloquy, Peter sneaks up behind him with a two by four and clocks him (this has some effect, since Sylar doesn’t yet realize he’s powerless). Instead of keeping it in his hands, of course, Peter drops it for the satisfaction of punching Sylar himself—something that seems like a self-evidently bad idea, since he’s a homicidal maniac who’s about 60 pounds bigger—but ultimately Pete gets on top again. When Sylar tells him that Nathan’s gone-gone, and asks if Pete plans to beat Nathan out of him, Peter picks up a nail gun and starts torturing Sylar with it. He tells Sylar that he’ll stop, let up, and let him heal, if Sylar gives him his brother back “body and soul.” While Sylar’s rejecting the idea for being too one-sided and not beneficial to him, all I could think was, “Who tries to make a deal like that with Sylar? What do you think will happen the minute you give him his powers back?” Finally, though, Peter decides to skip over the whole torture part and just use the Haitian’s mind-wipe powers to get rid of Sylar and leave only his brother behind. After few moments of intense effort, it seems to work.
[A couple of quick things about that: It seems to resolve the question asked by a reader after one of the recaps two weeks ago, as to whether Peter has the power to just come in, take all Sylar’s powers, and basically have his old power back so he didn’t have to keep changing and taking one at a time. His lifting both of the Haitian’s seemingly-unrelated powers suggests to me that he could do that. Whether he will, of course, is a whole other question. Second, one has to wonder how the shapeshifting happened, changing Sylar physically back to Nathan, if Peter had truly blocked Sylar’s abilities.]
Back at the carnival, Claire and Gretchen are talking about Lydia’s claim that Claire had seen “her desire” when she saw the tattoo on Lydia’s back. They discuss the relative merits of living out in the open versus having to be part of a traveling freakshow to do it, and then watch as a self-important jock tries and fails to win a prize that a small child wanted, only to realize it’s the carnival worker who’s preventing his balls from knocking down the bottles; he leaves in a huff after Claire laughs at one particularly awful attempt, and then the little girl’s first throw gets her the prize. We’ll ignore momentarily the fact that he says, “I’m going for that big stuffed tiger” and then the little girl takes away a unicorn, because that’s not the point of the scene. After all of this, Claire and Gretchen have come to the bottom of their popcorn boxes, and Gretchen says that she thinks it’s time to go—but Claire just rolls her eyes and wanders off into the carnival, with Gretchen following dutifully.
Back at Noah’s apartment, he and Lauren are going through old Primatech files. While she’s trying to cross-reference old supervillains with CIA suspects, Noah’s brooding. She tries to make him feel better by telling him that girls lying to their fathers is not unique to him—but he launches into a confession about what happened between them years ago, and her having gone to the Haitian to forget. This is, he says, an extension of how he drives people away with his control-freak personality. Before they get really into the meat of what their past and present means, though, there’s a knock at the door and they’re dealing with Eli. When the clones storm the apartment, Noah produces guns from hiding spaces all over the place and tells Lauren that in order to kill the “prime” and make the others go poof, the plan is to “shoot them all and hope for the best.” When they come out of the bathroom (where guns were hidden) to do so, though, Eli’s gone, and so are the Primatech files.
While Samuel’s telling stories to the children, Claire and Gretchen are again debating the carnival. Where Claire originally wanted to leave and Gretchen wanted her to at least try it, it’s now Claire who’s impressed and rationalizing the “bad” parts while Gretchen hems and haws about the ethics of “super-powered con artists.” In the midst of this conversation, Doyle (the Puppet Master-like villain who almost killed Claire, her adoptive mother and her birth mother last season) appears, all smiles, gives her a hug and tells her how living in the open without fear of persecution has allowed him to stop being a crazy perverted maniac killer-type. She explains to Gretchen that he was dangerous once, but “I got over it,” and is called upon by Samuel to tell a story to the kids. While Claire tells a veiled version of her own life to the kids, Gretchen confronts Samuel, asking what he wants from Claire. He tells Gretchen the same as he’s told everybody else—he just wants to give and receive love.
Back at the hospital, Nathan tells Peter that he doesn’t think he can keep fighting anymore—that he’s tired of the life he’s been living. Peter tells him that’s just exhaustion speaking and that they should go get some fresh air.
Claire finishes her story and Samuel sends the kids to bed, then is interrupted in a conversation with Claire by the angry guy from the earlier game (with the tiger and the unicorn. You know, that guy). He’s demanding to speak with the man in charge, saying that the game was rigged and he was robbed, etc. He starts punching Samuel, who just takes it and keeps coming back for more, never throwing a punch, until finally Claire steps in to break it up. He breaks a bottle, slashes her face, and then runs away in horror when it heals in front of him. Samuel stands up, smiling.
On the rooftop where Peter and Nathan first discovered that Nathan could fly, the pair of them stand and reminisce for a few moments. Peter tells him that they’ve made it through so much together, that he’s convinced they can beat anything…but Nathan tells him that they can’t make it through death; that he’s dead, and this is Sylar’s body, and that he doesn’t have what it takes to keep fighting Sylar for the rest of his life. As they talk, bits of Sylar start to peek through and Nathan tells him that this is what he means—that Sylar’s killing him and it’s better for him just to let go so that it’s not a surprise when Sylar does finally burst through. He tells Peter he’s sorry, then pushes his brother away and jumps off the roof. Peter catches his hand anyway, but Nathan only tells him to carry on for both of them: “Tell Mom I love her. Take care of Claire. Fight the good fight.” He refuses to lift himself up, making himself dead weight and telling Peter he loves him but “You have to accept that I’m gone.” Finally Peter says, “I love you Nathan,” and his brother falls to his death…but not the bloody, sidewalk pizza kind of death. More the “turning into Sylar halfway to the ground and walking away from it” death. One has to wonder what in hell prevented Peter from taking his brother’s powers away at the last moment before he dropped so that Sylar wouldn’t be able to get up and start killing people’s mothers, but I guess that’s a concern for next year at this point.
Back at the carnival, Claire is helping Samuel clean up and asks him why he let the guy keep hitting him, to which Samuel replies that no other choice contributed to the well-being of the carnival. He talks to her about her destiny, and the carnival’s, and how he thinks they’re intertwined and she’s welcome to stay for a while and do some soul-searching before she returns to school if she wants. Moments later, of course, she’s telling Gretchen to return to school without her, that she’ll see her in class on Monday. Gretchen reacts pretty well, tying Claire’s need to “see for herself” back to the first talk she gave her trying to convince her to stay. She tells Claire that she seems to feel comfortable and like she fits in at the carnival, and that she (Gretchen) has never had that anywhere. Claire says that she’ll see her Monday and Gretchen says she hopes so. Samuel, on the other side of the carnival, is telling Lydia that he’ll make it up to her, and that everything he’s done will make sense. She says that she doesn’t see what he gets out of having Claire around, and he tells her that it’s not her he’s after. As Gretchen drives away, there’s some odd visual effect in her back window—Becky, maybe, hitching a ride back to college and/or conspiring against Gretchen again?—and she passes a pickup truck with the beaten-up corpse of the jerk who slashed Claire in the bed (she doesn’t notice, but the viewer does, thanks to overhead camera angles).
Finally, Samuel’s giving an inspirational “Let’s make a home for ourselves—it’s time to kick some ass!” speech to the assembled carnival family while shots of the main cast establish what’s going on with them at the moment—Peter and Angela are crying in each other’s arms after the final, “real” loss of Nathan; Hiro, Ando and Suresh are running through what appears to be the forest outside of the Sullivan Brothers Carnival with a sense of great urgency; Sylar is ditching Nathan’s Armani in exchange for his more customary all-black outfit with the baseball cap; Tracy’s trying to control her powers, with tears. Back to Samuel, we see that the family is assembled in the field where, at the beginning of the season, they had buried his brother Joseph. He’s decided that this is where their Promised Land will be, and that they’ll set it up as soon as they’ve finished gathering their community. There’s a range of emotion in the assembled group, very little of it good—most of the carnival regulars are probably thinking, “How can he expect us to believe he’s a prophet when he was a drunkard who never did any work nine weeks ago.” But Claire is smiling, nodding, agreeing with him…and that’s where we’re left for the next eight or so weeks.