The episode was called “Thanksgiving,” and we had something to be thankful for: an episode that didn’t suck! Nothing really made any sense, and if you think that last night was yet another example of the show’s long spiral down the toilet bowl of badness toward the sewers of TV oblivion, I won’t argue with you. But human existence is nasty, brutish, and short, and you could’ve done much worse than spend an hour (only 42 minutes on DVR!) watching Heroes last night.
Let’s take a look at the three Thanksgiving dinners that formed the bulk of the episode:
The Family Bennet (with friends)
Claire wants to be normal! But everyone thinks she’s weird! Etcetera. Noah listened patiently to his daughter whining about her sole character trait for the millionth time, but there was a glimmer in his eyes and a spring in his step. Claire Bear, he explained, I’m planning a Thanksgiving Dinner! One of those divorced-family dinners where Mommy brings her new boyfriend and your little brother doesn’t show up because he’s hasn’t been important since season one! So cheer up, emo kid!
I know what you’re thinking: Noah Bennet, cooking dinner? Yeah right! More like cooking up a harebrained plot! While shopping for turkey, he just so happened to run into Lauren Gilmore, his retcon amnesiac office romance from that terrible episode a few weeks ago. Lauren asked him what he was doing in the supermarket. “Shopping for canned yams!” “Didn’t peg you for a yam man.” “Big yam man!” Awful dialogue! Thankfully, Lauren’s no dummy: “You’re stalking me, aren’t you?” Noah admitted he was. She liked it. Noah invited her to dinner with his ex-wife. She said yes. Looks like Uncle Haitian may have removed more brain cells than he meant to!
We were led to believe that Lauren had all her feelings for HRG Haitianized into oblivion. So, the fact that HRG was tracking her down led me to believe that we were going to see some serious HRG flirtation, as he tried to woo the woman who once gave him an illicit motel room key out of her love amnesia. (She Forgot That She Loved Him… But He’ll Make Her Remember!) But she practically fell into his arms. So everything that happened before was meaningless, but call me crazy, I kinda like the idea of good ‘ol HRG (it sounds cooler than Noah) having a love interest, especially one who’s as kooky, workaholic, and semi-homicidal as he is.
Even better, Lauren bears a striking blonde resemblance to Claire, which leads right into my Oedipal thesis of Heroes, which I’ll explain next time there’s a crappy episode. Probably next week!
The dinner itself was a charming little farce. Claire arrived first… and met Lauren. “You brought a date to Thanksgiving?” she asked her papa. HRG: “Your mother will understand. We’re a complex modern family.” Ex-Mama Bennet has a new boyfriend. His name’s Doug. He loves dogs way too much. He’s probably repressing something. Claire doesn’t like Doug. Doug doesn’t understand Claire. The only person who understands Claire is Gretchen. Claire tried to explain this over dinner. In the process, she recapped the season so far for her mother’s benefit. It took about ten seconds. Thank god nothing ever happens!
“I’m thinking about leaving school,” she said. She wants to figure out who she really is. Doug thought she was just being a normal teenager, but Claire was all like, “I’m not normal!” And then she stabbed herself in the wrist with a knife. Doug fainted.
Noah, your party’s spinning out of control! Ah ah ah, kids, but look behind door number 2: our clever HRG called Gretchen off the Crappy Supporting Character bench. Get in the game, Gretch! Hope you die soon! Gretchen ran off with Claire into the night, searching for the Carnival of Love with the Compass of Mystery. Ex-Wife Bennet shared a laugh with Platonic Galpal Lauren. Doug the New Boyfriend was proven to be a pansy boy. And HRG got Lauren’s number! It was the best Thanksgiving ever.
La Famiglia Petrelli
Meanwhile, over in the land of Blue Camera Filters and Frowny Faces, Peter Petrelli and the shapeshifting body that currently houses the mental imprints of his brother and his worst enemy had a surprise visitor. It was Mama Petrelli! She wanted to throw a special Thanksgiving dinner for her boys. Peter and Nathan asked her about that Nathan Petrelli body they found in the storage locker yesterday. “That was just a shapeshifter posing as your brother!” she said. “Imagine if the press had gotten wind.”
I like Angela Petrelli. She’s one of those utterly corrupt power-mad matriarchs that modern TV excels at (I’m thinking about Sherry Palmer on 24, Atia on Rome, or Julie Cooper on The O.C., women whose sole motivation is to further their family’s rise to power, but who are totally willing to essentially destroy their family in the process.) Angela always sounds like she knows what she’s talking about, which is helpful, considering that most characters on Heroes now spend whole seasons moping around and being all like “What am I? Who am I? Oh look, a carnival!” Tracy, I’m looking at you!
Despite the season-long narrative idiocy that led up to last night, the Petrelli Thanksgiving was a tense, darkly comic little ride. Angela tried to convince Nathan that he was really Nathan; he had Nathan’s memories, and he had Nathan’s bodies. If everyone on earth tells you you’re Nathan, then you’re Nathan. Heavy stuff! (I felt like I was watching Battlestar Galactica. Except cheaper and bad.)
Nathan wasn’t having it. “When you look at me, you don’t see your son. You see the man who murdered your son.” Adrian Pasdar, totally killing it! Angela tried to distract him by serving the next course, but then some crazy lightning bolts sprung all around Nathan’s body. He looked at his brother, his sad Pasdar eyes expressing nothing but complete defeat, and said, “We never should’ve gone to Texas.” What a line! Adrian Pasdar, be my father!
Boom! Shapeshift sound effect, and hey, presto: Brain Sylar and Body Sylar, together again! Zachary Quinto bit into his reunified role with relish. “I feel like I haven’t eaten in months. You think that’s some kind of existential soul thing?” Some Kind Of Existential Soul Thing: That’s a WAY better name for this volume than Redemption! Here’s a guy who knows he can destroy the world, and he loves it. Yes, yes, I was thinking, finally, we get Sylar without the safety brake on! Sylar about to go crazy! He pointed his magic finger at Angela’s forehead and said, “Time to carve the turkey!” he said. Ha ha! That’s funny! Kill her!
But no! Brain Nathan fought back, and he took over Sylar’s body again, and flew off, leaving Peter with a worried expression on his face. That wasn’t a fun Thanksgiving dinner; not at all!
The Sullivan Idiot Carnival
Meanwhile, over in the land of Tilted Camera Angles and Characters That Only Exist For The Sprint Tie-In Webisodes, Hiro was impotently begging Samuel to tell him where he hid Charlie. Seriously, people, let’s start the betting. You know she has to be somewhere ironically close to Hiro’s past, since no Heroes villain is smart enough to hide her somewhere completely random. But where? Maybe back in feudal Japan? Maybe two weeks in the future at Ando’s wedding? You just know the answer is going to be somewhere stupid!
I keep on hoping that the show will let Robert Knepper off his leash and just act the crazy heck out of his role: Scotch-Irish-Terrakinetic T-Bag 2.0. We saw a bit of this in the first scene of the episode, when Samuel was watching the film of his birth, and he was basically seat-dancing with happiness at how powerful he can be. We also saw a bit of energy in the flashback: I kind of glossed over this last week, but according to the show, eight weeks ago Samuel was about 15 years old and he kept on asking his fun-killing older brother to let him stay out after midnight. Seriously, he was adolescent. How did he become a pontificating patriarchal mastermind in the last eight weeks? The magic of bad writing, kids!
What else happened in the Circus? The Clairvoyant Tattoo Lady and Hiro went back in time and saw that Samuel killed his brother. (Anyone who didn’t call this way back in the first scene of the season: you’re an idiot.) There was a charming moment where Tattoo McGee and Hiro were hiding behind one corner of a trailer and they saw Mohinder pass by, and they were about to step out and follow him, but then they saw Samuel come out from behind the opposite corner of the trailer. How much of this Circus plot is based on characters lurking behind corners and hearing secret information? Man, I hate the Circus!
During the Thanksgiving dinner, Samuel Sullivan used his brilliant powers of oratory to claim that Edgar (Ray Park) killed his brother. (I was going to make fun of what a pointless character Edgar is, but then I looked at the picture on Ray Park’s wikipedia page, and my heart melted.) Stuff happened, Edgar ran off. All in all, the dinner was subpar. You call that a carny dinner? THIS is a freaking carny dinner!
At the end of the episode, Hiro had enough. He stormed over to Samuel’s trailer. He demanded that Samuel show him where Charlie was. By god, this is the Hiro I’ve been missing! Strong! Passionate! Sure, Hiro will always be a geek, but finally, he wasn’t just some stupid amnesiac man-child!
Samuel was all like, “What’s that in the sky!” Hiro turned… right into the arms of a magical bearded man, who put his hands over Hiro’s face. Images from Hiro’s stupid story line flashed before his eyes. Hiro said, “I must rescue Watson! Beam me up, Scotty!” and disappeared. Yes, you guessed it: Hiro’s a stupid amnesiac man-child! Again!
Actually, in hindsight, this episode wasn’t very good. I think I would’ve been much happier with a whole episode of tense, blue-tinted Petrelli holiday dining. On the comment boards, one commenter (sonny) (if that is your real name) rightly took me to task last week for mentioning ‘Company Man’, the episode which everyone and their mother usually references when they talk about how good Heroes used to be. Sonny, you are right, and I apologize for being an unimaginative critical gasbag.
What I should have said is: I miss the idea that Heroes could do a whole episode about one single set of characters, with one unified narrative, and scenes that didn’t constantly cut away to other scenes occurring on the opposite side of the country with a completely different cast of characters. I miss the notion that Heroes could shake up its whole storytelling style every episode, instead of just cross-cutting between zany unconnected subplots and hoping that at least one will get your attention. Seriously, the show’s basically a gritty Telenovela half the time, now!
Think about it: How awesome would the slow-burning tension of the Petrelli dinner have been, over the course of a full hour instead of just little snippets intercut with Carnie Shenanigans and the Noah Bennet Dinner Theater Hour? Sylar’s appearance would have felt genuinely thrilling and inevitable. The Petrellis could have talked about something other than the plot. “So Nathan, you’re a senator. What’s that like?” I dunno, maybe I just like the Petrellis. They’re way cooler than the Bennets, and man, they blow the Sullivans out of the water.
What’d you think, fight fans? Do you agree with me that the episode successfully achieved not-terrible mediocrity? Do you think that the absence of Matt Parkman made a big difference in the overall suckage level? Don’t you wish that all the commercials during the show were product tie-ins? Wouldn’t it be great to see Mohinder Suresh trying to solve a science mystery while telling his lab assistant how comfy he feels in Gap clothes?