Usually, in the penultimate episode of a season, the action builds to a boiling point, with the finale serving as catharsis for the built-up tension. Well, “Heroes” never does things the normal way. So instead of featuring an episode full of action, “The Wall” focused on two chamber plays featuring four of its major characters. On one side, Noah and Claire just went for another spin on the “Why Didn’t He Ever Tell Her Before” Merry-Go-Round, whereas Peter and Sylar went on a mental Moonwalk of forgiveness inside of Parkman’s twisted nightmare world.

Oh, and Samuel finally revealed his endgame, which should make Mayor Bloomberg happy. But more on that at the end.

[Full recap of Monday's (Feb. 1) "Heroes" after the break...]

Mind Playing Tricks on Me

We start off with Sylar doing what he used to do best: fixing watches. Ironic, since it becomes clear upon meeting Peter inside his lonely dream world that time is incredibly relative here. What was three hours in the real world feels like three years in the dream world. It’s sort of like what it feels like to watch “Heroes” on occasion.

Peter vows to free Sylar from the mental prison, though he initially does it more out of duty to his vision of Emma rather than a moral purpose. When he can’t liberate them from the solitude of the city, he starts to despair. A “month” goes by with no further hope of ever returning. Peter starts to suspect Sylar doesn’t actually want to leave, a suspicion Sylar confirms. Great, now he’s Scott Stapp from Creed, living in his own prison.

As soon as Sylar agrees to help Peter free them both, a giant brick wall appears, surrounding the outskirts of Faux York. Peter notes that the bricks resemble that which trap Sylar inside of Parkman’s basement, so hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work he goes. Peter Petrelli turns into Peter Gabriel, trusty sledgehammer in hand, battering endlessly away against a wall that just won’t budge.

The conceit of the time lapse soon becomes apparent: “Heroes” needed to get to a place in which two things could logically happen before the end of the volume. Firstly, Peter Petrelli had to achieve closure over his brother’s death. Still reeling from it, he’d moved on numbly through life with little to no purpose. Secondly, the show had to earn any semblance of Sylar’s redemption through a penance that lasted literally years.

Putting the two of them in a situation to spend approximately a decade getting to their points while only using up 12 hours of plot time isn’t the cleanest way to do it, but I do give props to the show for at least realizing that the two men couldn’t realistically reach these emotional points through a measly conversation. In a way, it’s no different than the way that “Lost” used took one episode to sketch in three years of a certain relationship in Season 5. If I didn’t fault it then (which I didn’t), then I can’t fault it now. Well, I could, but then I’d have the same lack of continuity that “Heroes” so often does. Can’t have that.

Personally, I’m intrigued to see where Sylar goes now. It could be terrible, but at least it will be different. And if he chooses to forge a path of righteousness, using Hiro as his Obi-Wan would be incredibly amusing and entertaining to watch. Which means, of course, that it will never happen. Oh well. Moving on.

We’re a Happy Family

Sure, we’d seen Noah as a “Company Man,” in Season 1, but did we ever learn how he joined The Company? That’s what tonight’s 2nd plotline focused upon, as Samuel sought to sever her from Noah once and for all. Luckily, Smart Claire showed up this weekend, rendering Samuel’s mind games null and void. But in the interim, “Heroes” retconned showed Noah’s past in great detail.

Turns out Noah used to be a used car salesman with a heart of gold and a wife named Kate. He’s too gosh-darned nice to sell an overpriced car to a young couple, instead giving them info on the down low about a comparable car down the street at another dealership. When he learns his wife is pregnant, he’s thrilled, even though their money situation isn’t the best. I’d complain about this woman’s insertion into the storyline, but I’ve already bemoaned the random insertion of Lauren and Vanessa into the story this season, and we’re so close to the finish line that I’m just throwing my hands up in the air and moving on.

One night, their usual Chinese deliveryman is replaced by a special, who TK’s them both in order to rob them. He ends up sending Kate through their glass coffee table, a leg of which protrudes through her belly. Yes, her pregnant belly. Between that and everything that happened on “24,” I’ve had just about enough violence towards women for one night on my television.

This incident turns Noah into HRG, a man that patiently constructs a detailed map over the course of a year to find the man that murdered his wife. He eventually locates a special near the one he’s looking for, at which point the intolerance metaphor starts going into overdrive in tonight’s episode. Noah things all specials know each other. He assumes they are all evil. He kills the special in self-defense, though to be fair and balanced, Noah had conducted the entire conversation up to that point with a gun pointed in the special’s face.

After that murder, Noah goes downhill. He’s still a used car salesman, but now he’s an eeeevvvvvil car salesman. He’s wearing dark clothes! He’s pressing young couples to buy his overpriced models! He’s making them pay a lot for this muffler! The high-pressure tactics amuse a familiar face: Thompson, the Company man played by Eric Roberts. Always liked him in this show. He’s not as good here as he is in Akon’s “Smack That” video, but he’s pretty darn good. Thompson is impressed with Noah’s tracking and killing of the special, and wants to hire him to “sell paper” rather than used cars.

Flash forward a bit and we find Bennet and Thompson having lunch. Turns out that while working with Claude, a number of specials the duo have tracked managed to turn up “accidentally” dead. Thompson figures that Noah still bears a grudge over Kate’s death (gee, ya think?) and all but orders him to marry their waitress in order to provide both offspring and order into his life.

The last bit truly sends Claire, who has been watching all these visions via funhouse mirror, over the edge. She realizes that The Company essentially pimped her dad out. Noah insists that he did love Sandra, and THAT is why he married her. But since that marriage dissolved last season, wouldn’t it have been a bolder choice to show the roots of the deception inherent in their marriage via this flashback? Noah’s relationship to Claire, in terms of importance as well as devotion, has always and ever superseded his relationship to Sandra. To use this episode to demonstrate the inherent crack in that foundation would have been nice. But it also would have severed Noah’s relationship with Claire. Couldn’t have that.

What we could have, instead, are father and daughter buried alive as the carnival moves onto to his final, grandest stage: Central Park, New York City. Looks like Samuel wants to do a little “Concert in the Park” that might end up as a “Giant Freaking Hole in the Park.” Having seen the fear in Lauren’s eyes after he caught her snooping around the carnival, he’s ready to see it in thousands’ of eyes. Ostensibly, he’ll use Emma’s power, coupled with Doyle’s puppetry, to turn her into the Pied Piper of the Big Apple. Unless, of course, our heroes can stop them.

So there we go: the final stage is set. You excited about the prospects, or worried about another Kirby Plaza? Leave your thoughts below!