"The Art of Deception" has started Heroes' run up to the season finale, and it did well to put Samuel Sullivan in a position of power amongst his carnival family. It helped to lay out the pieces of the puzzle, putting characters in positions to affect the outcome of what lies before us. Unlike previous season, we may not exactly be sure what Samuel's endgame is, but Monday night's episode brought us closer to what we can only hope is a major confrontation of characters and powers.
The episode had a very slow start, as we learned that the people of the carnival had lost faith in Samuel after his complete destruction of a small town. The carnival was closed and you got the impression folks were preparing to leave if they hadn't already. Samuel could see he was losing control and would need to do something big to win back the faith of his flock. Meanwhile, Claire tried to reconnect with her dad, only to discover that he and Lauren had been planning some type of assault on Samuel and the carnival. These early moments of the episode dragged with clunky exposition and tonal changes. The scenes with Claire and Gretchen, with their tentative handholding and pseudo-spats left much to be desired. No one really cares about this "relationship," and within the show, its purpose has only been to give Claire one motivation or another, usually to take her away from Gretchen.
Elsewhere, Sylar moved in on Parkman, and Peter had another vision of Emma causing the harm of many unseen people. I thought Sylar returning to Matt could be as entertaining as the duo from earlier in the season, but their story floundered a bit. Sylar threatened Matt's family to force him to help, and then when that wasn't working, Sylar threatened his family more violently. Peter's vision made him believe Sylar would need to be the savior of Emma and countless others, so he set out to find the murderer of his brother and countless others. Thankfully, once the establishing stuff was behind us, the episode was able to pick up a bit.
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