People have been seeing the future since literally the first moment of Heroes. The trick doesn’t really work as drama anymore, but not because it’s a bad trick. The problem is that none of the really bad stuff ever comes true. Apocalypse is always averted. I’m not sure if Peter’s “Sylar rescues Emma from causing mass murder with her violin” dream actually counts as another apocalypse vision, but whatever it is, I bet you a billion bucks it’s not going to happen.
With that in mind, let’s all wish a fond farewell to Lydia, the Lady with the Plot Tattoos: she might just be the most ridiculous character in Heroes history. Using her amazing powers of empathy, she spent the first half of this season as the show’s umpteenth variation on premonition dreams and 9th Wonders!: She told Samuel what to do, and he would do it, not because it made dramatic sense but because that was what the tattoos told him he should do.
Lydia’s powers were a weird slapdash of precognition and telepathy. Supposedly, she was an Empath, but Lydia, I knew Deanna Troi, and you’re no Deanna Troi. The Next Generation Empath seemed to have absorbed all the misery and joy in the universe into her sad, understanding wide Manga eyes. Sylvia, conversely, wore a perpetual flat grimace of narcotized disinterest. That lack of emotion made her actions inexplicable and her character arc illegible. She kind of had the hots for amnesiac Sylar, or maybe it was all a ruse. She kind of didn’t trust Samuel, but she never did anything to move against him.
Maybe her motivation was hiding somewhere no one would ever look (like in Slow Burn.) Yet without ever being a main character, she was arguably more important to the narrative action this season than Tracy Strauss, Mohinder Suresh, Matt Parkman, and Sylar combined. It was weirdly sad to see her die last night, but only like it’s kind of sad when your girlfriend makes you clean up the pile of newspapers that’s been building up in the corner for months. By god, you were kind of getting used to that pile.
Last night’s Heroes could charitably be called exciting – two of the plotlines were actually beyond boring, but the Carnival plotline finally gathered some steam. Or rather, for the first time all season, the Carnival plotline didn’t just lie there. Oh, Carnival Plotline: with all your tilted camera angles and your lens flares and your shots that are just a little bit out of focus. I’m sure the writers created you with the best intentions: what’s more fun than a carnival? Unfortunately, a carnival is only fun if you visit; if you actually have to live there, it’s hell. (This is the same reason why The Terminal probably seemed like a great idea to Steven Spielberg: international terminals are super fun for half an hour, and then miserable forever after.)
The Least Exciting Plotline
Peter Petrelli looks so lonely in his blue-filtered world now. He’s having more of his premonition dreams: We got a longer look into a future I will henceforth refer to as “Emma’s Violinpocalypse.” It looks like Eric Doyle is controlling her in this future, meaning that whatever is happening isn’t really her fault. Besides People Who Can See The Future, the most common demographic on Heroes is People Who Can Control Other People. What if the whole show was just about Specials with those two superpowers? They could be from two feuding families. It would be like Underworld, except cheap and not terrible.
Anyway, Peter saw Sylar rescuing Emma in his dream. Or anyways, he saw Sylar run into the Hall of Mirrors and say, “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you.” He went to see his mom, who’s still freakishly obsessed with Nathan even after death. She was agonizing over his headstone, and admiring a portrait of him. Adrian Pasdar grinned at us, as if to say, “Don’t worry, kids, I’m in a better place: Not on Heroes.!”
The Runner-Up Least Exciting Plotline
Recent studies indicate that women today are marrying men who are less well-educated than them, and thus, less salaried. Matt Parkman is racing into this New World Gender Order with open arms. He was off shopping for his breadwinning wife, excited as heck to cook her some food after she came home from a long day of wearing the pants.
But uh oh! He had a surprise visitor: Crazy Cousin Sylar! “Are you back inside my head?” asked Matt. “That’s so two months ago,” said Sylar. (Side note: Does anyone have any idea how much time is passing in this season? Some storylines seem to crawl forward about one day at a time, while other stories seem to take week-long leaps. I like the idea that the entire action of this season has taken place over a particularly eventful fortnight. Remember Season One, when we knew exactly how far away we were from the Congressional election? Okay, I’m done talking about Season One forever.)
Sylar was visiting Parkman for two reasons, one of them stupid and one of them stupid. You would think that stupid plus stupid equals less stupid, but the equation of stupidity is more complex than that. The first stupid reason was: Sylar wanted to see if it was possible for a Special to live their own life. (I like to call them Specials now, but only because I don’t want to sully the word Mutant.) “You really figured out a way to live with your ability,” said Sylar to Parkman.
The second stupid reason was: Sylar doesn’t want to be Sylar. “I don’t want to be that person anymore,” he explained. He wanted Matt to take away his powers. How should he do that? “Create a mental block? Repress them. I don’t really care.” How could a perfect plan like that fail?
Parkman held his hand up to Sylar’s head and thought REALLY HARD. When that didn’t work, he held his hand up to Sylar’s head and thought EVEN HARDER. All of this thinking was getting nowhere. Matt blamed Sylar: “You’re not trying hard enough!” Viewers, when did this show become so devoted to the most abstract superpowers?
Anyways, Matt got a quick pep talk from his wife, and somehow managed to do something not merely impressive, but also cool: he trapped Sylar inside of his own brain, and then started burying Sylar behind a brick wall. It was just like The Cask of Amontillado, except that none of the plot points made any sense.
With that perfect Petrelli timing, Peter showed up upstairs. Matt answered the door covered in plaster and said something like, “Hey man, long time no see! Remember the last time we met up, when I passed evil Brain Sylar into your brother’s Sylar body? Whatever happened with that? What, me, covered in plaster? You’re crazy! No way am I burying someone alive in my basement!”
Peter didn’t believe him and walked down into the basement. I should note that this episode may have actually been taking place in an alternate reality, since there are no basements in California. That fact took me two seconds to look up online, but as we all know, the Windowless Writers’ Room at Heroes HQ doesn’t get any internet. Peter saw Sylar hiding being an almost-complete brick wall and said something like, “What the hell did you do?” Then Peter jumped into Sylar’s brain, even though Parkman told him not to.
Cut to: Peter all alone in a busy street, yelling Parkman’s name. Could it be that Peter and Sylar will have a showdown… inside Sylar’s brain? That would be the coolest thing since never.
(I have to give full props to Zachary Quinto: he didn’t have anything interesting to do tonight, but there was a total throwaway shot where Sylar was climbing the stairs, and something in his gait – confident, straight-backed, yet also tentative, like a zombie with swagger – felt more threatening than anything else in this whole miserable episode. Can Sylar please just kill every character except for Peter Petrelli? Okay, fine, Ando can live too… but only for revenge.)
The Process-Of-Elimination Most Exciting Plotline
Am I the only one who thought that the Carnival was supposed to be, like, the main plotline of this season? So little has really happened with the Carnival, and what little has is of no interest to anyone but people who live at the Carnival. We’re supposed to like the Carnies, I think, because they’re poor downtrodden Specials downtrodden by “normal” society. “Look what they’ve done,” said Samuel of the dead Lydia, “these so-called normal people.”
Call me an Evil Normal Person, I hate everyone at the carnival. Not because they’re freaks, but because they’re dreadfully boring freaks. I expect my freaks to act freakish and look freakish and have freakish personality traits. The freaks at the Sullivan Bros. Carnival look like trustafarian renegades from a retro-future Syfy production. They wear Vampire Weekend hats and say things like, “No, Samuel!” and “Yes, Samuel!” They’re like the worst combination of hippies and hoboes. Sullivan Brothers: We’re the Carnival for Kids Whose Parents Don’t Like Them!
Anyways, last night Noah Bennet decided to launch a secret sniper attack on the Carnival and things finally got interesting. Claire found out about the attack accidentally, and decided to drive her roommate’s car out to the Carnival and warn everybody. The roommate seems pretty exasperated with Claire. Join the human race, roommate. Roommate says: “Why don’t you just try going to class for once? You say you want a normal life, right?”
I officially move that, if Heroes actually does come back for a fifth season because NBC’s pilots keep failing, no character is allowed to strive for a normal life. The first issue of X-Men came out in 1963, which means the whole “superpowered individual wants a normal life” plotline is almost half a century old. What if, instead, the characters try to use the special skills they have to further the advancement of the human race? What if they start worrying about anyone but themselves, for once?
There were two interesting things about the Carnival plot tonight:
1. The fascinating POV shot through Noah Bennet’s sniper rifle. Now, some of you will say that this was unrealistic, because no way could Noah hold a sniper rifle so smoothly. But you probably didn’t notice that he was lying prone, which allows you to hold a sniper rifle perfectly still. (It’s in Metal Gear Solid; look it up!)
Anyways, he found Samuel, but then he saw Claire. His crosshairs settled on her face, as she raised her cell phone to her ear. And then his cell phone started ringing. And he picked it up and said, “Hello, Claire.” He heard her over the phone and watched her in the crosshairs. This visual was deeply unsettling and totally awesome. If Heroes could be this smart approximately 1000 times more often, this show could actually be passably mediocre.
2. Samuel Sullivan gave three speeches last night. His first speech, to Claire and Lydia, was a speech about his sorrow. Killing his brother, destroying that town: “I wish I could take it all back.” His second speech was a louder version of the first, with an emphasis on sacrifice: he begged the carnies for forgiveness and said that he was turning himself in. His third speech was in direct opposition to the first two: having manufactured a villain (he got his good friend Michael Keaton to shoot up the carnival and blame it on the captured Bennet), he led his carnie friends in a Braveheart-style uprising. “It’s time we show the world what we truly are!
The notion of a carnie army is laughable at best, but by god, I’m excited to see Sullivan finally become the Big Bad he was supposed to be all along. As far as the carnival goes, last night was practically a long-after-the-fact season premiere. Finally, the carnies have something to do beyond hang out and amuse easily-amused children. Finally, Samuel Sullivan wants to do something more than lurk around corners and hand out compasses to anyone who comes his way. Could this mean… viewers, could this mean that next week, something might actually happen?
Also, Tracy Strauss made an appearance. This ends the Tracy Strauss portion of the recap. Check back here next week for more fun Tracy Strauss news!
What did you think about “The Art of Deception,” viewers? Do you hate the carnival as much as I do, or do you hate it more? Who do you think would win in a Goldeneye sniper-match: Noah Bennet or the Multiplicator? Is Sylar still a character, or is he just a stipulation in Zachary Quinto’s contract? Is the tangled, reboot-heavy narrative arc of Heroes a brilliant meta-commentary on NBC’s recent fantastic programming decisions, or is it in fact a metaphor for the confusion modern life? Sound off below!