'Heroes' recap: Sylar hates Sylar, and you can, too!

People have been seeing the future since literally the first moment of Heroes. The trick doesn’t really work as drama anymore, but not because it’s a bad trick. The problem is that none of the really bad stuff ever comes true. Apocalypse is always averted. I’m not sure if Peter’s  “Sylar rescues Emma from causing mass murder with her violin” dream actually counts as another apocalypse vision, but whatever it is, I bet you a billion bucks it’s not going to happen.

With that in mind, let’s all wish a fond farewell to Lydia, the Lady with the Plot Tattoos: she might just be the most ridiculous character in Heroes history. Using her amazing powers of empathy, she spent the first half of this season as the show’s umpteenth variation on premonition dreams and 9th Wonders!: She told Samuel what to do, and he would do it, not because it made dramatic sense but because that was what the tattoos told him he should do.

Lydia’s powers were a weird slapdash of precognition and telepathy. Supposedly, she was an Empath, but Lydia, I knew Deanna Troi, and you’re no Deanna Troi. The Next Generation Empath seemed to have absorbed all the misery and joy in the universe into her sad, understanding wide Manga eyes. Sylvia, conversely, wore a perpetual flat grimace of narcotized disinterest. That lack of emotion made her actions inexplicable and her character arc illegible. She kind of had the hots for amnesiac Sylar, or maybe it was all a ruse. She kind of didn’t trust Samuel, but she never did anything to move against him.

Maybe her motivation was hiding somewhere no one would ever look (like in Slow Burn.) Yet without ever being a main character, she was arguably more important to the narrative action this season than Tracy Strauss, Mohinder Suresh, Matt Parkman, and Sylar combined. It was weirdly sad to see her die last night, but only like it’s kind of sad when your girlfriend makes you clean up the pile of newspapers that’s been building up in the corner for months. By god, you were kind of getting used to that pile.

Last night’s Heroes could charitably be called exciting – two of the plotlines were actually beyond boring, but the Carnival plotline finally gathered some steam. Or rather, for the first time all season, the Carnival plotline didn’t just lie there. Oh, Carnival Plotline: with all your tilted camera angles and your lens flares and your shots that are just a little bit out of focus. I’m sure the writers created you with the best intentions: what’s more fun than a carnival? Unfortunately, a carnival is only fun if you visit; if you actually have to live there, it’s hell. (This is the same reason why The Terminal probably seemed like a great idea to Steven Spielberg: international terminals are super fun for half an hour, and then miserable forever after.)

The Least Exciting Plotline

Peter Petrelli looks so lonely in his blue-filtered world now. He’s having more of his premonition dreams: We got a longer look into a future I will henceforth refer to as “Emma’s Violinpocalypse.” It looks like Eric Doyle is controlling her in this future, meaning that whatever is happening isn’t really her fault. Besides People Who Can See The Future, the most common demographic on Heroes is People Who Can Control Other People. What if the whole show was just about Specials with those two superpowers? They could be from two feuding families. It would be like Underworld, except cheap and not terrible.

Anyway, Peter saw Sylar rescuing Emma in his dream. Or anyways, he saw Sylar run into the Hall of Mirrors and say, “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you.” He went to see his mom, who’s still freakishly obsessed with Nathan even after death. She was agonizing over his headstone, and admiring a portrait of him. Adrian Pasdar grinned at us, as if to say, “Don’t worry, kids, I’m in a better place: Not on Heroes.!”

The Runner-Up Least Exciting Plotline

Recent studies indicate that women today are marrying men who are less well-educated than them, and thus, less salaried. Matt Parkman is racing into this New World Gender Order with open arms. He was off shopping for his breadwinning wife, excited as heck to cook her some food after she came home from a long day of wearing the pants.

But uh oh! He had a surprise visitor: Crazy Cousin Sylar! “Are you back inside my head?” asked Matt. “That’s so two months ago,” said Sylar. (Side note: Does anyone have any idea how much time is passing in this season? Some storylines seem to crawl forward about one day at a time, while other stories seem to take week-long leaps. I like the idea that the entire action of this season has taken place over a particularly eventful fortnight. Remember Season One, when we knew exactly how far away we were from the Congressional election? Okay, I’m done talking about Season One forever.)

Sylar was visiting Parkman for two reasons, one of them stupid and one of them stupid. You would think that stupid plus stupid equals less stupid, but the equation of stupidity is more complex than that. The first stupid reason was: Sylar wanted to see if it was possible for a Special to live their own life. (I like to call them Specials now, but only because I don’t want to sully the word Mutant.) “You really figured out a way to live with your ability,” said Sylar to Parkman.

The second stupid reason was: Sylar doesn’t want to be Sylar. “I don’t want to be that person anymore,” he explained. He wanted Matt to take away his powers. How should he do that? “Create a mental block? Repress them. I don’t really care.” How could a perfect plan like that fail?

Parkman held his hand up to Sylar’s head and thought REALLY HARD. When that didn’t work, he held his hand up to Sylar’s head and thought EVEN HARDER. All of this thinking was getting nowhere. Matt blamed Sylar: “You’re not trying hard enough!” Viewers, when did this show become so devoted to the most abstract superpowers?

Anyways, Matt got a quick pep talk from his wife, and somehow managed to do something not merely impressive, but also cool: he trapped Sylar inside of his own brain, and then started burying Sylar behind a brick wall. It was just like The Cask of Amontillado, except that none of the plot points made any sense.

With that perfect Petrelli timing, Peter showed up upstairs. Matt answered the door covered in plaster and said something like, “Hey man, long time no see! Remember the last time we met up, when I passed evil Brain Sylar into your brother’s Sylar body? Whatever happened with that? What, me, covered in plaster? You’re crazy! No way am I burying someone alive in my basement!”

Peter didn’t believe him and walked down into the basement. I should note that this episode may have actually been taking place in an alternate reality, since there are no basements in California. That fact took me two seconds to look up online, but as we all know, the Windowless Writers’ Room at Heroes HQ doesn’t get any internet. Peter saw Sylar hiding being an almost-complete brick wall and said something like, “What the hell did you do?” Then Peter jumped into Sylar’s brain, even though Parkman told him not to.

Cut to: Peter all alone in a busy street, yelling Parkman’s name. Could it be that Peter and Sylar will have a showdown… inside Sylar’s brain? That would be the coolest thing since never.

(I have to give full props to Zachary Quinto: he didn’t have anything interesting to do tonight, but there was a total throwaway shot where Sylar was climbing the stairs, and something in his gait – confident, straight-backed, yet also tentative, like a zombie with swagger – felt more threatening than anything else in this whole miserable episode. Can Sylar please just kill every character except for Peter Petrelli? Okay, fine, Ando can live too… but only for revenge.)

The Process-Of-Elimination Most Exciting Plotline

Am I the only one who thought that the Carnival was supposed to be, like, the main plotline of this season? So little has really happened with the Carnival, and what little has is of no interest to anyone but people who live at the Carnival. We’re supposed to like the Carnies, I think, because they’re poor downtrodden Specials downtrodden by “normal” society. “Look what they’ve done,” said Samuel of the dead Lydia, “these so-called normal people.”

Call me an Evil Normal Person, I hate everyone at the carnival. Not because they’re freaks, but because they’re dreadfully boring freaks. I expect my freaks to act freakish and look freakish and have freakish personality traits. The freaks at the Sullivan Bros. Carnival look like trustafarian renegades from a retro-future Syfy production. They wear Vampire Weekend hats and say things like, “No, Samuel!” and “Yes, Samuel!” They’re like the worst combination of hippies and hoboes. Sullivan Brothers: We’re the Carnival for Kids Whose Parents Don’t Like Them!

Anyways, last night Noah Bennet decided to launch a secret sniper attack on the Carnival and things finally got interesting. Claire found out about the attack accidentally, and decided to drive her roommate’s car out to the Carnival and warn everybody. The roommate seems pretty exasperated with Claire. Join the human race, roommate. Roommate says: “Why don’t you just try going to class for once? You say you want a normal life, right?”

I officially move that, if Heroes actually does come back for a fifth season because NBC’s pilots keep failing, no character is allowed to strive for a normal life. The first issue of X-Men came out in 1963, which means the whole “superpowered individual wants a normal life” plotline is almost half a century old. What if, instead, the characters try to use the special skills they have to further the advancement of the human race? What if they start worrying about anyone but themselves, for once?

There were two interesting things about the Carnival plot tonight:

1. The fascinating POV shot through Noah Bennet’s sniper rifle. Now, some of you will say that this was unrealistic, because no way could Noah hold a sniper rifle so smoothly. But you probably didn’t notice that he was lying prone, which allows you to hold a sniper rifle perfectly still. (It’s in Metal Gear Solid; look it up!)

Anyways, he found Samuel, but then he saw Claire. His crosshairs settled on her face, as she raised her cell phone to her ear. And then his cell phone started ringing. And he picked it up and said, “Hello, Claire.” He heard her over the phone and watched her in the crosshairs. This visual was deeply unsettling and totally awesome. If Heroes could be this smart approximately 1000 times more often, this show could actually be passably mediocre.

2. Samuel Sullivan gave three speeches last night. His first speech, to Claire and Lydia, was a speech about his sorrow. Killing his brother, destroying that town: “I wish I could take it all back.” His second speech was a louder version of the first, with an emphasis on sacrifice: he begged the carnies for forgiveness and said that he was turning himself in. His third speech was in direct opposition to the first two: having manufactured a villain (he got his good friend Michael Keaton to shoot up the carnival and blame it on the captured Bennet), he led his carnie friends in a Braveheart­-style uprising. “It’s time we show the world what we truly are!

The notion of a carnie army is laughable at best, but by god, I’m excited to see Sullivan finally become the Big Bad he was supposed to be all along. As far as the carnival goes, last night was practically a long-after-the-fact season premiere. Finally, the carnies have something to do beyond hang out and amuse easily-amused children. Finally, Samuel Sullivan wants to do something more than lurk around corners and hand out compasses to anyone who comes his way. Could this mean… viewers, could this mean that next week, something might actually happen?

Also, Tracy Strauss made an appearance. This ends the Tracy Strauss portion of the recap. Check back here next week for more fun Tracy Strauss news!

What did you think about “The Art of Deception,” viewers? Do you hate the carnival as much as I do, or do you hate it more? Who do you think would win in a Goldeneye sniper-match: Noah Bennet or the Multiplicator? Is Sylar still a character, or is he just a stipulation in Zachary Quinto’s contract? Is the tangled, reboot-heavy narrative arc of Heroes a brilliant meta-commentary on NBC’s recent fantastic programming decisions, or is it in fact a metaphor for the confusion modern life? Sound off below!

Comments (116 total) Add your comment
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  • JD612

    I think I finally found someone who is as annoyed as I am with this show. And yes before you go all “Why are you watching it?” on me… 2 reasons: 1. Zachary Quinto is still entertaining and 2. I dare you to tell me you look away from a horrible accident. YOU JUST HAVE TO KEEP LOOKING!!!!! That being said NBC, I give you permission to put this show and me out of my misery.

    • MattParkman’sBelly

      Even sadder, Heroes is the most entertaining show on NBC!!

      • Gina

        Blasphemy. Chuck is awesome!

      • Julie

        I agree with Gina…Chuck is awesome. Heroes is just sad. It’s terrible. I stuck with it until 4 episodes in this season. I know…I’m crazy…but now? I wasted money on a season pass on iTunes (I lived in England until November)…and it sickens me to even download it.

      • Marlon Wallace

        does no one watch “30 Rock” or “Parks and Recreation” or “SVU”? NBC still has three good shows.

      • thin

        Chuck, The Office, 30 Rock, Community, and Parks & Recreation are all good shows and are far more entertaining than Heroes.

      • nursesdate

        I love Heroes and Hayden!

    • WTF

      I totally agree with you.. I used to be glued to the TV to watch the show. Now, it’s on the background.. I stop caring.. that’s so sad… the plots are boring, the characters are all over the place…. and I lose my patience with it… :( thank God the end is almost over for this show!

    • Erin

      I wouldn’t go that far. There are WAY more entertaining shows – even on NBC. I offficially gave up Heroes last night. I held on as long as I could. :(

      • EL

        Welcome to the club. Our membership is growing weekly.

        I used to enjoy reading these recaps (in lieu of watching the show), but now these don’t even interest me anymore.

        Farewell, Heroes. Please do not try to contact me again. We are officially done.

      • thin

        I’m in the club too, but reading these recaps is fun. WAY more fun than sitting through watching it.

    • uuu

      Why is this show still on??

      • Chris

        Chuck is way better

    • Fredro

      I thought it was a good episode. I’ll just jump around-
      1) “since there are no basements in California”
      Cali, even LA has basements, what internet were you checking? Ihateheroes.com?

      2)”Peter didn’t believe him and walked down into the basement”
      You must have missed the part were Peter took Matts power and read his mind and knew Sylar was in the basement.

      3) “The second stupid reason was: Sylar doesn’t want to be Sylar”.Why is that stupid? I believe there is still a struggle going on inside Sylar, one side that wants to kill and the good side, I believe Nathans essense is still inside Sylar, you could see him trying to shake it off when Matt was talking to him.
      Then you lost me after that with the rest of your rambling… Long Live Heroes!!!!

      • Caryn

        No offense Fredro–I don’t come on this review to hate–but have you actually watched the show lately? It’s beyond a trainwreck and the only thing entertaining about it is reading these reviews the day after. I’ve been a big fan since season 1–and part of me thinks I should’ve known nothing that good could last. While I still tune in to see if it redeems itself, I have to say, I’m blown away that you would refer to Darren’s recap as rambling and then write ‘long live heroes’. The Art of Deception sure fooled you.

      • MC

        I’ve watched every episode since season one and this episode was by far one of the best i’ve seen. i don’t know what all of you complany complanersons are whining about. you all wanted a slow-burn (not like the sprint series) type of season like season 1 and that’s exactly what’s happening with this season. yeah, there has been a lot of stuff that’s happened that didn’t quite make sense at first, but now it feels like everything is FINALLY starting to come together, almost exactly like the first season. all of our original heroes are going to somehow converge on the carnival and brawl with samuel and avert the “violinacalypse”. looks like it’s going to turn out pretty cool to me.

        the art of deception was great, loved how samuel fooled everyone into thinking it was HRG. can’t wait for Lauren and Tracy to come in and save the day, and all in all, this episode was really good. my one small quibble is with peter always having to come in and ruin things. how do people think he’s the best character when he’s the dumbest person on the show and continues to fall for the same sh*t over and over? hopefully sylar wont be too mad and kill matt, but maybe the three years in his head did him some good and he’ll actually come out of it a better person and go with the rest to TAKE DOWN THE CARNIVAL!

  • Sam

    This show has gotten so bad. Maybe it will arc around and be so bad it will be good again? I keep watching this train wreck…I don’t know why?

  • Neil

    This is a little ridiculous. Couldn’t you have just written a post saying “I hate Heroes!” and been done with it? I get that Heroes is not what it used to be, but you don’t have to pick apart every little detail of it. I, for one, loved last nights episode, and so did many others over at the ODI. I’ll sit back now and wait for people to tell me how dumb I am now.

    • Michael

      For what it’s worth, I agree with you. I think the writing this season has shown more maturity than the two seasons before. And, honestly, despite some randomness, it’s been a more cohesive and provocative season than the first.

      Imagine an episode in which Mohinder thought about staying in India, in which Ando and Hiro were trapped with a Vegas showgirl with bad intentions, in which we had Nikki screeching at mirrors “STOP FOLLOWING ME!” Because this was Heroes in its heyday, however, it gets celebrated.

      No – it’s in vogue to hate Heroes and loathe its somewhat flighty plot patterns.

    • ash

      Reading these recaps is more fun than wathching the actual episodes.
      Thanks for the laughs.

    • Jose

      I agree with you…I still like Heroes and enjoy the show. These recaps are funny because the writer just doesn’t understand the series.

  • Maserda

    Zachary Quinto did a good acting job last night, IMHO. I was quite impressed with his varios faces as he “struggled” with his insane side.

    Also, with Lydia killed, where was her daughter? She is the focus of “Slow Burn” and she made appearances on the TV episodes. Did the writers forget about her?

    • kevin

      For that matter, where’s the Irish lady Peter left in the apocalypse future is season 2? And what happen to Monica and Micah? Heroes isn’t known for finishing story lines. It’s a lot easier to just start a new one.

  • Lori

    What a great review, it cracked me up. It is so sad, considering what Heroes has the potential to be. Rememember the first season – how good was that? Save the cheerleader save the world! What are they doing now, it keeps getting worse, I loathe the Carnival. Come on people – all these talented actors – give them something good. Also, this year Heroes was booted from the Comic Con convention hall and put in the Hilton, what does that tell you? When comic book junkies are rejecting a show about heroes, you have a problem Houston.

    • Eric

      The first season was not good. It was exciting for comic fans and it was something new for people who don’t read comics. But it wasn’t good. “Save the cheerleader, save the world” is the dumbest tagline ever. There was no mystery to it! I would have liked it if the cheerleader he was supposed to save wasn’t Claire (because that girl thinks every prophecy is about her), but the mean cheerleader Sylar killed. And everyone thought they had to save Claire because she’s so special, and in the end they were supposed to save her bratty teammate who it would turn out in some way helped save the world. That would have been a plot twist. Instead, the show moved on predictably for four seasons, and the only “twist” it can ever muster is having the character’s be related to each other.

      • God

        Eric: Your genius staggers the minds of mere men. Therefore, as God, let me say this: You are an over-inflated, flatulent, pseudo-intellectual gonad. Go to bed, please, and for *my* sake, get some perspective. P.S. I want my apple back.

  • Steven

    The best thing I ever did was stop watching this show after the first half of season 3.

    • Steven

      So is this the 15th or 16th iteration of Sylar becoming good then going bad again?

  • Soph

    I kind of found it entertaining this week, but it also left me with a numbing headache. Huh?

    Kill the cheerleader, save the show.

  • Alex

    last nights episode was really good.
    there will always be people who disagree and love to pick pick pick.
    Great show lastnight!

  • hope

    The episode was decent imo. I swear though Rob Knepper is one heck of an actor he’s really believable as a villian. I’ll admit though. I can’t wait till this rather boring season comes to an end. Then it’ll be goodbye forever.

  • paula

    Why is everyone so DUMB on this show? Hi, my name is Claire! I’m gonna go blab to the super-villain all about my fathers plans to take him down!

  • Raven_Moon

    OK, first of all, Emma plays a cello not a violin. Had to be said. Anyway, this season has been overall pretty disappointing. I keep believing them when they say, “We’ve rebooted the serious, fixed all the problems…blah, blah, blah.” I still like the show, but I do find it frustrating. Honestly, Zachary Quinto is my favorite part.

    • Raven_Moon

      Whoops! I meant “series” not “serious.” Ha ha. I should proofread these things.

  • MattParkman’sBelly

    I think next year, if there is a next year, Heroes should hire Jay Leno to play the Big Bad. His power could be stealing other people’s talk shows.

    • hockeybear


  • tigger

    i thought last night was really good until peter petrelli came in. the problem with the show is that whenever they do something interesting, they have to do something to reverse it. they finally trap syler and 1 minute later here comes peter to change it. the writers need to tune into their rules of “future” telling to make Peter’s role better. Every time he knows something will happen he has to change it, but is the future he is seeing(or is told), the future that will be if he changes it or doesn’t. The show does not seem to have any rules about that. Its pure nonsense. I say lets kill the whole Petrelli family off the show. I prefer to see Parkman’s character develop than to see sympathetic (just pathetic)Peter. And Angela Petrelli needs to be slapped and told to shut up.

    • LexLuthor

      YES. Whenever a potentially good story turn happens, they usually eradicate it WITHIN the same episode. Nothing interesting, plot-wise, is ever allowed to breathe and develop. The fact that it took Peter exactly 30 seconds to show up and ruin this somewhat interesting development made me laugh out loud. The writers act as if they have no faith in their own manipulations. [for those of you who think I am piling on…remember when they shot HRG through the eyehole? And he was resurrected 5 SECONDS later. We didn’t even get a chance for that to resonate before the reversed it. [[SIGH]]] ]

    • Diana

      If Peter Petrelli hadn’t come in, then Sylar would still be locked behind a wall, and many of the above commentators agree that Sylar is one best reasons to watch the show. It is strange that you champion Parkman, who just wants to avoid anything to do with abilities, and at the same time you call Peter “pathetic”, when Peter is willing to take any power he needs when he needs it.

      • Varris

        Maybe it’s because I like Greg Grunberg, but I think if Matt was allowed to be confident and take the lead, Matt Parkman could develop into a really strong character.

        Personally, while I enjoy Zachary Quinto’s performance, I think Heroes’ refusal to retire Sylar is one of the biggest problems with the show. They’ve literally worn out the most beguiling character they ever had.

        For me, Peter has always been disappointing. He’s so wishy-washy and makes such wrongheaded decisions that I have a hard time getting behind anything he does anymore.

  • Ken

    I am actually enjoying Heroes right now. I guess I’m not one of the ‘hate Heroes’ bandwagoners. It’s like it is the cool thing to do or something in Geekdom. I’m enjoying it and looking forward to what will happen. Sometimes, you don’t need to look through everything with a fine tooth comb and nitpicking things as little as Matt Parker thinking too hard. Hello..his power is mental, do you want X-Men comic like flares or something?

  • Bilbo

    I also hate the carnival! I love Darren’s comments, they could have done all this plot in the season premiere, or at least in a couple of episodes. Instead we get this long drawn-out beyond boring season…I can’t seem to sever with this show despite the abysmal quality since season two started.

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