Tuesday 24 November 2009

Heroes - You know nothing about me.

Heroes Season Four Episode Eleven: Thanksgiving.

The "Redemption"-Volume of "Heroes" has been about finding a new path and making up for past mistakes, but this issue has always been linked very closely to the idea of family. So what better way to escalate some of the conflicts that have been simmering under the surface for quite some time now on the rich Thanksgiving dinner tables of three separate families? In a season that struggled with at least eight separate storylines that only intersected occasionally, having an episode that sticks to an internal structure for these storylines, instead of just providing a puzzle of different locations and events, is an appreciated change of pace.

The Carnival Thanksgiving Dinner Table Power Play (Hide the Knives!)

Let’s start out with the Carnies. I mentioned in my discussion of last week’s episode that I preferred the idea that Samuel was basically just trying to protect his people and using questionable methods to do so: “Heroes” has had a fair share of power-hungry white male villains obsessed with collecting stuff, something a little different would have been nice for a change. Samuel is still an interesting character, and now that he is holding Hiro hostage, we also get glimpses of the dying Master of Space and Time trying to figure out what he can do about the miserable situation he has gotten himself into. One of the biggest mistakes “Heroes” has made in past seasons was always reducing Hiro to an almost child-like (sometimes even literally that) state whenever he was about to realize his potential (and probably become the dark, sword-bearing man from the future we saw in the first season). Giving Hiro something that might push him to make difficult decisions in Charlie, the love of his life, is a fantastic opportunity.
Hiro discovers frictions inside the Carnival. The series itself has only hinted that Lydia and Edgar don’t always agree with Samuel’s choices (there is a more complex exploration of this in the additional content provided by the graphic novel and the webisodes, that also answer the question who the newly introduced character of Lydia’s daughter is). Lydia asks him to go back eight weeks so they can figure out what happened to Joseph, Samuel’s brother – and they watch as Samuel, angry after finding out about the true potential of his power, kills his own brother, who intends to deliver him to the government because he can no longer control Samuel’s hunger. Samuel later framed Danko for the murder of his brother and used this to spark the conflict between his family and the government.
Not that Hiro himself could do much with this information. The conflict threatens to break out at the dinner table, but Hiro is still Samuel’s hostage, so instead of telling the truth about what he saw, Edgar now gets framed for the murder and Hiro can only manage to buy him time to run away, which leaves Lydia all on her own. And now that Samuel has seen the film Hiro saved from Mohinder (who, by the way, is to blame for ALL OF THIS, he decided not to destroy his father’s work, figured out the formula, built the compass, and came to the Carnival to talk to Joseph), he knows what he has to do to consolidate his powers, and as these things go, it looks like another hero might be on her way to accidentally help him with that (although wiping some of Hiro's memories to keep him in check turns out to be not such a good idea).

The Noah Bennet Thanksgiving Dinner Bloodbath (Hide the Knives!)

In the beginning of the episode, we get so see something that we probably have never seen before (except for some small scenes from the past in “Once Upon a Time in Texas”): Noah Bennet in a social interaction that does not involve either his family or people with powers. Although he is the one who is building his life from scratch (one of the reasons why he connected so well with Tracy in the beginning of the season), we haven’t really seen him do that. Now it turns out that he has apparently decided to take matters into his own hands by stalking Lauren (Lauren’s “You’re stalking me, aren’t you” is so different from Claire’s reaction when she thought Gretchen was a psychopath – cute how the two storylines mirror each other), the previous co-worker who had a crush on him and decided to go Haitian because that’s what you do in the Company with feelings and emotions. Lauren, possibly the least complicated character we have ever been introduced to, gracefully accepts an invitation to the “unconventional” Bennet family dinner (which is good, cause Noah can’t cook).
While Noah successfully connects to another person, Claire is still miserable in her room. We are treated to another one of her longing stares at the empty bed - Gretchen moved “to the other side of campus” (she apparently sneaked into the room to get all her stuff, as we have no indication that the two of them spoke since she left – because there is no such things as phones or the internet on “Heroes”), and other people in the dorm don’t even greet her back, now that she is a social pariah. She doesn’t really want to have dinner with her family, but accepts anyways because she wants to talk to Noah. That Other Child I Seem To Remember From Previous Seasons is somewhere else and will not be spoken about ever again (but hey, the cute dog is back!)
So, to sum up the people present in Noah’s miserable one-room apartment (he didn’t even bother to cover up his creepy serial killer “clippings about Samuel”-wall): Noah, Lauren (“She’s not a date! That’s Lauren!”), Claire, and Mrs Bennet with her new partner, Doug Douglas, who is pretty much the exact opposite of Noah (he breeds show dogs! He tries to use French words randomly!  - Sandra nicely sums him up by saying that he’s not very bright, but a good man). The dinner goes as awkwardly as expected. Doug doesn’t pick up on the weirdness in the room and makes strange comments like “you are so likeable” (while asking why her roommate would move out) to Claire, who has never been so sorry that it’s physically impossible for her to get wasted. Lauren tries to save the evening with cute and funny comments (They are already calling each other cute names! Is she going to be around? I like her!), even after being treated like domestic help by Sandra, who thinks its okay for her to move on, but not for Noah.
Then, in the middle of the awesomeness, Claire decides to tell everybody that she intends to quit College (that’s what you do when “one relationship” fails – and that was Noah’s word) and travel through Europe or join the Carnival or something. Since Sandra has been absent from her daughter’s life for the past months, she has no clue what this is about. I thought the moment when Noah mentioned to Claire that he had invested a lot of money in her education, and Claire reminded HIM of where all that money came from, was one of the best – it sums up their relationship pretty nicely, the working around the shady past, how they are close despite all the things Claire knows about her Dad. Then Doug intervenes and compares Claire’s freakiness (no, he doesn’t know anything about her) to his like for show dog breeding when he was in College (“Do you think I had any friends?”), which prompts the only logical reaction: Claire cuts her arm, and Doug faints dramatically.
The Bennet dinner is played for the comedic element, to lighten up an episode that is otherwise pretty dark (as Claire has served the exact same purpose last episode with Tracy, I assume that really bad things are coming her way in the future) – but the last few scenes actually do advance Claire’s plot. The last surprise guest is late, and it’s… Gretchen (which of course wasn’t exactly a surprise for anyone who watched the trailer for the episode, but that’s how “Heroes” deals with surprises these days).
As I mentioned before, I liked what the writers did by separating the two for a couple of episodes to give Claire time to think, I just thought that the decisions that led them both to this point were out of character. At least now someone had the fantastic idea not to make this scene awkward at all, instead Claire and Gretchen are all smiles and just happy to see each other again. As everybody else leaves (Doug doesn’t even need the Haitian, Sandra just tells him that he ate a peanut – Noah was more concerned about two over-exited college girls than Sandra’s boyfriend?), Noah tries to show Claire all the things he has figured out about Samuel, but the message doesn’t really get through, and she misinterprets his lecture about “choices”. She tells him she’ll return to College, but in the car with Gretchen, she proposes a different idea: she will take her very un-invincible girlfriend (okay, friend. For now.) on a road-trip to the Carnival to check out her choices. And yeah, the invisible psycho killer might be there, but hey, it’s an adventure, right? I hope Gretchen remembered to pack the baby powder.

So again, while I like the idea that Gretchen and Claire team up, go on a road trip and do some detective work (I thought that was the one thing that actually worked in the weakly constructed Slaughterhouse-scavenger-hunt), I just can’t see that Claire would drag Gretchen to the person who has tried to kill her (although the returned Gretchen is once again the seemingly unshakable tough girl we met before the fall-out of the slaughterhouse: to paraphrase, she basically tells Claire that the past weeks without being scared for her life were rather dull).
“Maybe because of all the people I’ve met in College so far, you’re the only one who makes sense to me.” –Gretchen
Gretchen makes a choice here, to follow Claire wherever she goes (saying that Becky isn’t one her favourite people, but Claire is) – but I just hope that Claire doesn’t end up regretting hers, because by going to the Carnival, she is doing exactly what Samuel wanted her to. Turns out, you don’t get Claire by isolating her, but by appealing to that part of her that was most interesting in the third season, when Claire decided to use her powers and do things on her own.

The Petrelli Thanksgiving Dinner Surprise Guest (Hide the Knives!)

This is probably the most miserable of all the dinners, especially since the setting is devoid of light and decorative elements (it’s Peter’s apartment, so Angela had to provide the furniture). Angela, the one character that beats Noah’s unpredictability. We never know what she is thinking, or what motivates her actions – and yet, even as Peter asks her what exactly she did to Nathan and Sylar, she blackmails them into having a normal family (“or you’ll never see me again”). When she explains what she did, it’s hard to read whether she did all this to save her son, or the investment she made into his political future – and she only realizes her great mistake when she sees that the person appearing as Nathan is PEOPLE – and that there is now an internal struggle going on between the two minds inhabiting this body, and considering Sylar’s powers, it’s not hard to predict who will prevail. Nathan flies away after realizing that he is a threat to the people he loves, but Peter is determined to protect that little bit of family he has still left, and follows.

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