This episode was a long time coming, especially given that the producers sent out a press release, detailing the final demise of one of the original characters. That the character in question was already technically dead was a bit of a cheat, and I'm still wondering why the producers would think that this episode should be framed as something extraordinary.
That's not to say that the episode was bad. In many respects, it was a solid entry for the fourth season, continuing the slow and steady pace of the story. While a lot of people saw nothing worth following in the season premiere, I still think this season has been better than anyone could have expected. It's not incredible, but I am enjoying many of the new elements and the format that has emerged.
After a couple of episodes that seemed to take Samuel in the wrong direction, the writers brought him back on track. I think it's entirely possible to cast Samuel as something of a Magneto analogue, especially given his ability, while still giving him a self-interested basis for his actions. Whether or not he's invoking sincerity about leading his fellow metahumans to some sort of "promised land" for personal gain can be irrelevant, if the writers approach it correctly.
I keep thinking back to how Samuel was portrayed in the earlier episodes of the season: dedicated to his family, but willing to step over the moral line to achieve his goals. It's possible for Samuel to demonstrate a balance, and it all has to do with his endgame. If he is willing to do all of this to gain enormous power, what comes next?
If it's just a matter of gaining the power to have the power, then building a sense of community and family as a safe haven for metahumans is a reasonable means to an end. He could look at his current actions as the cost for everyone to get what they really want and need. As much as it seems like he's borrowing from his brother's playbook when it comes to using the carnival as a sanctuary for their own kind, Samuel could believe it what he's doing.
At the same time, he could have much darker intentions. If he wants to create a place where metahumans can be themselves without a need to condescend to mundane human demands, that could be a prelude to forcing a state of independence. Samuel's own words suggest that he might use his enhanced ability to make demands. That could be his endgame, and having soldiers like Eli and Claire would only help his cause. In that light, creating a"family" develops loyalty.
I still think that Sylar is likely to derail Samuel's plans, especially now that Nathan is no longer a factor. It's just a matter of how quickly Sylar can arrive at the carnival. Peter's decision to let Nathan go may have made a certain amount of emotional sense, but Peter had to be aware that he was essentially letting Sylar run free. While I have some hope that a likely conclusion to the series at the end of the season will push the writers to deliver a solid battle between Sylar and the"heroes", I'm not sure why Peter wouldn't have used Nathan's last few moments to absorb Nathan's flying ability, carry Nathan/Sylar as far over the ocean as possible, and then let him drop.
That wasn't the only illogical moment in the episode. Noah's character arc this season has been less than interesting, even taking into account his potential relationship with Lauren, and this hasn't changed. But why would Noah and Lauren be shocked when Eli just leaves with the files and doesn't stick around to kill them? Eli plainly states that he is there for something and would prefer to take it without resistance. Maybe Noah and Lauren were still too distracted by their personal drama!
This is the last appearance in the series by Adrian Pasdar, which is probably a bit overdue. That took a little bit away from the overall impact of the final moments between Peter and Nathan, along with a surprisingly subdued approach to the scene. I must, however, give Pasdar credit for his final performance. His ability to switch between Nathan's weariness and Sylar's menace was a highlight of the episode, especially in counterpoint to Samuel's careful manipulations.