Heroes 4.16: The Art of Deception

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Broadcast Date: 25 January 2010
Director: S.J. Clarkson
Writers: Mark Verheiden and Misha Green
Cast: Jack Coleman, Greg Grunberg, Robert Knepper, Ali Larter, James Kyson Lee, Oka Masi, Hayden Panettiere, Adrian Pasdar, Zachary Quinto, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Cristine Rose, and Milo Ventimiglia


© Copyright Universal Pictures

© Copyright Universal Pictures

Claire: “You have to take responsibility.”

Oh, I get where they’re going with this. Except for the first, every season of Heroes so far has suffered from all the characters making implausible decisions just so their arc could match the volume’s title. Compounding the problem in previous years was the fact the themes were never discussed, only followed. Yes, the third volume was called “Villains” and Peter was acting like a baddie for whatever reason, but what did that say about villainy in general?

“Volume Five: Redemption” is just as convoluted, but it’s got a message: making amends is more than just cleaning up the mess you’ve made. Last week’s episode explored through Hiro what constitutes true redemption. “The Art of Deception” is about the fake kind: the lies we tell others to gain back their respect (Samuel) and the ones we tell ourselves to alleviate our guilt (Sylar). It’s nice to know the writers had a plan this time round.

Samuel a.k.a. The Carnival Machiavelli

As the volume’s big bad, Samuel is designed to miss redemption by an inch every time. He knows regret but doesn’t care for consequences. In this chapter, rather than face the carnies’ distrust, he has Lydia killed and then frames Noah so they have someone else to despise. It’s a testament to the character that I couldn’t tell at first whether he’d orchestrated the whole thing or was being manipulated by his own zealot. Either way would’ve worked, but Samuel’s final confession to Lydia is a spectacular scene, both chilling and heartbreaking, not least because he seems genuinely sorry.

Having said that, or rather written it, this is a Heroes episode, which means some of the details don’t quite add up. First of all, if you’re going to frame Noah for raiding the carnival, you might want to avoid shooting his daughter during the attack. It sends mixed messages. Second, here you have an entire community filled with powerful super-beings, and they all start running like headless chickens at the sight of a single shooter? Wow. Just wow.

Matt a.k.a. The Psychic of Amontillado

Matt’s thread features two deceptions. The first consists of Sylar’s denial regarding the source of his evil. The notion that his powers could somehow be to blame is, of course, utter nonsense. Just look at his method for absolution: first, he toys with Janice; then he demands Matt put a mental block on his abilities; and when that doesn’t work, he threatens to kill the man’s family. I think it’s safe to assume there’s no redemption in store for Sylar.

The second deception totally caught me off guard. I didn’t think old Parkman had it in him. Convinced of it being the only way to keep Janice and Baby Parkman safe, Matt pretends to help Sylar long enough to trap his psyche into a perpetual nightmare and hide his immortal body behind a brick wall: “Welcome to hell!” Yeah, that sounds about right. It’s too bad Peter had to show up and ruin everything.

Peter a.k.a. The Dumbass

I’m being hard on Peter, who, of course, means well, though it’s hard to fathom what on earth he was thinking. The entire subplot consists of his mother warning him that visions can be deceptive, and then the reckless fool runs off to save Sylar (his brother’s murderer!) based on a few cryptic images. Incidentally, said cryptic images mostly show Zachary Quinto imitating Peter’s mannerisms (body switch!). Well, that and Emma being unhappy about something, but, you know, what else is new?

© Copyright Universal Pictures

© Copyright Universal Pictures

Bits and Pieces

I’m not done listing the inconsistencies in Samuel’s plot thread:

  • Noah needs to stop drinking on the job. Some maniac is shooting carnies left and right, including his own target and, come to think of it, his daughter. Two scenes and a commercial break later, he turns around and thinks, “Hey, did I hear gunshots?”
  • Where’s Lydia’s daughter? I can’t imagine her wanting to be anywhere but at her mother’s side at a time like this.
  • This one’s not an inconsistency so much as some random thing that amuses me to no end, but the scene in which Stacy answers the phone has such a soap opera feel to it, by which I mean you can tell Ali Larter is holding for editing. Her eyes keep shifting, trying to find some emotion to convey.

Quotes

Matt: “Are you back inside my head?”
Sylar: “That’s so two months ago.”
And now you know the writers’ approach to continuity.

Noah: “I can handle this. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Lauren: “That’s not an option anymore.”
Hmm. That was fast.

Samuel: “I’m so sorry. I needed a villain, someone worse than me. You gave that to them. Thank you.”

Janice: “Forget what he wants. I’ve worked with monsters like this. He’s broken inside, Matt.”
I hope she isn’t referring to Pressman, her married gay boss in denial, because that wouldn’t be very PC. In all seriousness, this is more evidence we’re not going to get Cuddly Sylar after all. Woohoo!

There’s an awful lot of goofiness, but it’s the most interesting Heroes has been in years.

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Category: Heroes, Verdict: 3.5 | Tags:

          
Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."