Much has been made of the fate of Heroes this season, and this episode may represent the most potent argument against renewal. The ratings were abysmal, even by this season's low standards. The writing appears to be on the wall, but too many factors come into play. With NBC suffering a huge meltdown as a result of their idiotic Jay Leno experiment (which everyone with any insight into media knew would fail miserably), there will be a scramble to mitigate the damage. That could give "Heroes" a lease on fifth season life, even in a limited capacity.
Fans had better hope so, because it's already been noted by members of the cast that the fourth season will be ending on a cliffhanger. It's a remarkable display of hubris by the production staff. Why not construct a season finale that could provide resolution if the series ends, yet serve as a launching point for another story arc if the series survives? I suppose that would be asking too much.
It doesn't help when the writers deliver an episode like this. There are four characters in the spotlight, and only one of the plot threads is particularly interesting. Two of them feel like another way to spin wheels, while the last doesn't feel particularly earned.
Samuel's plot thread speaks directly to his motivations, and this latest setback in life should be quite the turning point. I was fairly disappointed to discover that all his talk about creating a place for metahumans to live free of mundane society's scrutiny was just a pretext for his desire to trap Vanessa in a fantasy world. I liked the notion that Samuel was trying to convince himself, and others, that his self-interested bid for power had a higher purpose.
But even if his reasons for proposing a metahuman haven were based on selfish reasons, that may no longer matter. Vanessa's rejection is essentially a rejection by the"real world" for Samuel, and now he could be ready to create an enclave by any means necessary. In fact, his decision to destroy an entire town, committing mass murder, suggests that he will do anything to see his will fulfilled. This only adds to the speculation that Samuel will use his ability to create a metahuman haven, only to be taken down and replaced by Peter as a more stable and pragmatic leader.
I had thought that Sylar would make the perfect assassin's weapon against Samuel, but this latest delaying tactic leaves me doubtful that the character will ever get solid treatment for long. Sylar was great in the first half of the season (one of the few highlights, for that matter), but this latest turn is disastrous. If taking away Sylar's power is supposed to be the way to restore his humanity, why didn't that work in the second season? As mentioned in previous reviews, the notion of a redeemed Sylar no longer makes sense.
Nor do I think that Hiro's little trip into the depths of his subconscious will lead to any worthwhile permanent shift in the character. How many times has Hiro been pushed back onto his path, only to stray again when the writers need comic relief or need to take him out of the equation for a while? Hiro's entire character arc this season has been about keeping him from being a challenge to Samuel as long as possible. Bringing back old characters is fun, but this is really nothing new or creative.
It's ironic that I noted in a recent review that the kiss between Claire and Gretchen must have really been a rating stunt, given that the relationship has barely been discussed since that big moment. All of a sudden, Claire is admitting that her personal issues have been driving her to avoid her true feelings. This realization is so abrupt and complete that it feels like the writers wanted to get to this point without wanting to risk a more direct approach by building up to this point over time. Compared to the development of the Willow/Tara relationship on "Buffy", this is laughable, and feels like a token attempt by Kring and/or NBC to mollify those annoyed by past mistreatment of homosexual characters.
The result is an episode that just didn't generate much in the way of excitement. Samuel's further descent into madness had its good points, since one could see things going badly from the start, but everything else has been seen before or felt disingenuous. As much as I want this season to live up to its potential, the writers keep missing the mark.