With reports indicating that Heroes has lost about two million viewers since the beginning of the season, and that the number of people watching it is now only about half of the number watching Chuck (a better show, granted, but it was on the cancellation chopping block at the end of each of the last two seasons), things look as grim for the future of the show, as they do for the Petrelli family reunion.
This week’s episode, which ratings indicate had only about four million viewers (that’s in the neighborhood of ten million fewer than watched the first season), opens with Claire and Gretchen sitting and having a sullen breakfast together at school. Gretchen is trying to get Claire to open up about everything that’s going on in her life, but Claire wants to think. She leaves to go to a review session on the other side of campus and when Gretchen is staring into the camera, looking miserable (presumably because she couldn’t help Claire), Sylar walks up and asks her, “Is this seat taken?”
The reveal of Sylar was a neat one—Quinto has really nailed the smarmy, “I’m-having-fun-with-this” thing this season—but I do look at it and go, “If only they hadn’t blown that he was coming for Claire two weeks ago, this could have been a GREAT reveal instead of just a stylish way of doing what we all expected anyway.
Back at Noah Bennett’s apartment, his girlfriend is gone, but Hiro, Ando and Mohinder are still there; while Ando and Noah are looking after Hiro, trying to make sure he’s alright, Mohinder is putting together some kind of machine—presumably a proxy for a carnival compass. He finishes, reminding Noah that it will only work in the hands of “one of us,” and excuses himself to go back to his wife. Apparently showrunners weren’t willing to drop a bridge on him, but still decided to respond to the broad base of fans who are just tired of seeing this character everywhere; he’s only really gotten three or four episodes this season. He leaves, though, and almost immediately Hiro collapses.
When he wakes up, Hiro looks around and finds himself in a diner (is it Charlie’s? I can’t really tell from the camera angles), where the first person he sees is Adam Monroe. Looking around the room, he sees a number of other people watching as Adam explains to him that whether he’s dead or not is for the “judge” to decide. Hiro’s father appears, wearing a judge’s robe, and reads off charges that Hiro has altered the timeline for personal gain, an offense punishable by death.
Claire rushes up the stairs to her study session, but the room is empty, save one man writing on the chalkboard. She asks if this is where she’s supposed to be and he flips the chalkboard around to one on the other side that just says Claire’s name hundreds of times; he turns around and when she realizes that she’s talking to Sylar, she asks him what he’s doing there. “I came to learn,” he tells her.
At the carnival, Samuel is shaving when the kidnapped love of his life wakes up, dresses and walks out the door, where she runs into him. He tells her that he’ll take her home right after he “shows her something” and gets her breakfast, and while she resists at first, she’s won over by some tortured metaphor about when they were kids and he broke, then fixed, her record player. At no point does she suggest that maybe breaking a record player and kidnapping someone are completely different offenses. Anyway, they head off to breakfast.
Back at the hospital, Ando has taken Hiro in. While the doctors and nurses are fighting to save his life, Adam Monroe is the prosecutor in Hiro’s “trial.” After entering his not-guilty plea, Hiro asks for a lawyer, and Ando appears in a suit to tell him that however bad it looks, Ando has his back. Then, of course, Monroe calls his first witnesses—ten-year-old Ando and Kimiko.
Back at the college, Sylar explains that the only way to get him “back on his game” is for him to form a personal connection, make a friend and not be so alone in the universe. Claire tells him that she wouldn’t help him if her life depended on it—but he tells her that he’s got Gretchen somewhere, and that it’s her life, not Claire’s, that depends on Claire’s help. He goes to the blackboard and starts making a list of all the things he and Claire have in common, with minimum interruption from Claire to clarify or correct, until she finally gets fed up and asks him what the point is. She tries to tell him off and walk out, but he uses his telekinesis to pin her down. During a monologue in which he says that if she’s not going to help, he’ll just have to “take” the answers from her head, it’s notable that he stops with a flourish to call Gretchen Claire’s “roommate.” It’s notable that he doesn’t suggest he knows anything, but that it’s noticeable the awkwardness of the couple-that-was when they’re in a room together; there’s been nothing that’s really dealt with their relationship in weeks. He explains to her that he has taken Lydia’s ability to read people, and that while her methods are a little “hyper-erotic,” well…what the hell? It’s college. And he kisses Claire. A lot.
At an ice cream parlor somewhere, Samuel is trying to win Vanessa over with strawberry milkshake and stories of old times. Despite her initial skepticism, bordering on outright hostility, it seems to be working as the pair exchange meaningful glances as they share the shake.
At the hospital, Ando is watching them prep Hiro for surgery. Hiro seems to have come back to his body for a second, but “wakes up” and finds himself in the court again. He rebuffs the testimony of the young Ando and Kimiko by telling his father that “two people found love, and nobody got hurt.” Adam Monroe, then, convinces him to define what he’s been doing with the timeline as “okay as long as nobody gets hurt,” and then calls Sylar as his next witness.
The real Sylar, of course, is still at the college, with Claire pinned to a table, and he’s got another good villain-monologue going, this time about how he and Claire are “the same,” in that they can’t do what they really want to do. He’s suggesting that the whole relationship with Gretchen is so loaded with meaningful pauses and subtext that he didn’t notice before. He keeps talking for a while, and ultimately Claire jams a pencil into his eye and runs off, telling him that he’s right about being off his game, and that he’s told her just where Gretchen is.
This is the moment where we all pause and go, “What kind of moron is Claire?” The answer, of course, is that she’s the SPECIAL kind of moron who would leave a nearly-all-powerful, homicidal maniac sitting on the floor of her classroom, howling in pain, and then wander off to find her girlfriend, leaving Sylar to his own devices where he can heal, and then come after them—or the whole school—or really do whatever he wants. Ten out of ten for style, Claire, but minus several million for good thinking.
Back in the court in Hiro’s imagination, Adam Monroe has taken the position that Hiro’s bargain with Sylar—that if he saved Charlie he could have Claire and whoever else he wanted (an agreement made, of course, with a season one Sylar who didn’t know that Hiro was manipulating history into happening just as it already had)—constitutes Hiro being responsible for Sylar’s murders. The strained logic of the scene is bolstered by a grimly-hilarious Sylar trying to make a full list of all the people he’s killed [“Some guy named Ted—something?”]. Monroe eventually gets Hiro to say that the world is a better place with Charlie in it, which justifies his actions; of course, Adam then points out that the world really doesn’t HAVE Charlie in it since Hiro’s abortive deal with Samuel has her lost in time. Adam rests his case.
Back at the carnival, reminiscing about Vanessa’s dream home melts her resolve and the two get all flirty and happy together. He leads her out into a secluded area where he’s actually built her dream cottage, and asks her to stay there with him. She tells him that she can’t, though—she’s got a life outside of here that she can’t just abandon to run off into the woods and fulfill a childhood fantasy. Of course, we all know how well Samuel takes rejection. He basically stomps off crying.
Running at top speed across campus (apparently it’s now occurred to her that she left her girlfriend’s fate in the hands of a marginally –injured lunatic who can heal fast and fly), Claire arrives at her dorm room and unties Gretchen, who’s bound and gagged to a chair. Given that binding and gagging isn’t really Sylar’s schtick, it’s probably better for her that he wasn’t in a killing mood the last few episodes. She apologizes up and down, but Gretchen tells her it’s alright and that she’s just glad it’s over—of course, it’s not, since Claire never watched “Zombieland” and doesn’t understand double-tap. A minute later, the lights go out in their room and the windows and blinds explode inward.
In the hallway, Claire is using the fact that she and Sylar have so many similarities to try and predict his next move as the pair escape. Hiding in a closet somewhere (awesome metaphor, writing staff!), the pair have a long heart-to-heart about their relationship, Claire’s similarities to Sylar and the struggle of having powers, etc. etc. This is, of course, a much better idea than SHUTTING UP SO THE MASS MURDERER DOESN’T HEAR YOU TALKING. But it’s a non-issue, as once the two of them finally suss out what Sylar’s issue is, according to Claire—“in order to regain his humanity he has to get rid of all his powers”—Gretchen shape-shifts into Sylar, who then reveals that he never really took Gretchen to begin with; he had just stolen her backpack to fool Claire into doing what he wanted, because he’s not feeling like himself or something. He walks off, and she runs to find Gretchen, and when she does, there’s a long rambling speech that ends with the two walking away holding hands. A few feet away, Sylar gives the camera one of those meaningful looks that the Heroes creators should really just trademark and get it over with.
Back at the trial, Ando calls Hiro to the stand, and he delivers a series of answers that are supposed to exonerate him by showing that no matter what the letter of the law was, his intentions were good. It ends, however, with the old “Well, if that makes me guilty, then I guess I’m guilty,” so the judge declares him guilty. At the hospital, Hiro’s body has flatlined and the nurses can’t seem to get any response with the defibrillator paddles. Of course, it couldn’t have hurt any if they removed his gown first, as they try to zap his heart through clothing, but that’s a whole other thing. He sits up again (in his mind), and the operating room doors open for him to see all the people from the trial standing in the hallway. He walks through the group and almost all the way to the light at the end of the tunnel, but when he offers to change his plea to guilty so that he can “go out” doing the right thing and die a hero’s death, his father tells him to go and fight for his honor. The sword from the first season appears in his hands, and everyone moves out of his way to allow him to go back to the operating room. Everyone, that is, except for Adam Monroe, who now has a sword, too, and who challenges him. After a brief swordfight, he defeats Adam, who disappears and Hiro’s mother appears in the door to death. He tells her that he thought he could fight the tumor and beat science, but that he sees now that he can’t and that he’s ready to die. She tells him, instead, that she’s come not to take him, but to heal him so that he can fulfill his destiny. Apparently the Heroes writers really believe in the “Let mommy kiss it and make it all better” approach to medicine, as that’s what happens.
And before any of you comic book fans object to the abject ridiculousness of this scene, think back to “Blackest Night: Wonder Woman” for a minute.
Back at the ice cream parlor, Samuel sits, dejected, and pushes away a milk shake. The waitress comes to see him, and asks if he’s alright, which prompts him to explode into a rant about how he’s done trying to conform to the world outside (was he ever really trying? I mean, everything we’ve seen so far has pretty much been him trying to create a Genosha for the supers).
Anyway, he screams and creates an earthquake/sinkhole that swallows up the entire town (maybe not the best-timed episode of Heroes ever aired, but what can you do?), scaring even the carnival folks who watch it happen.
He storms back to his trailer, while Gretchen and Claire enjoy their night together, as do Hiro and Ando. Back at the Parkman house, Matt’s wife and son join into the montage of people having a fun, uplifting night together—except that Sylar comes to knock on their door, looking for Matt.