Last time on “Heroes”…yea, you got me. Considering the refresher course I had to put myself through to remember what was going on with this show, I fear for the fates of shows like “Glee” and “V” that have much longer breaks between episodes. In short: Claire was at the carnival, Mohinder was in the madhouse, Hiro was cuckoo for cocoa puffs, and the Nathan/Sylar combo pack split up and went on solo tours. Unfortunately, Nathan’s tour went to heaven. There. Caught up. Let’s move on. 

Tonight’s return featured not one but two episodes back-to-back. Hey, if it’s good enough for “Dollhouse,” it’s good enough for “Heroes,” right. Did the show make like Rob Base, proving that it takes two to make a thing go right? Hardly. As per usual, the first hour (“Upon This Rock”) bore little character continuity to the second (“Let It Bleed”), with only Claire and Samuel having decent face-time in both. Maybe this volume’s end will feature a bloodbath under the big top that will clear out the cast to a more manageable size, assuming that “Redemption” isn’t the show’s swan song.  

[Recap of Monday (Jan. 4) night's "Heroes" double-dose after the break...]

 

Holy Mind Frak, Batman! 

Still reeling from the brain scramble at the hands of Samuel’s carnie cronie, Hiro teleports to Tokyo, Japan. Yes, we’re at iteration eleven of “Hiro’s mind is messed up” in the history of “Heroes.” This time out, he’s not a small child so much as a major geek who thinks he’s living in the greatest, most elaborate cosplay of all time. He calls Ando “Sancho Panza,” drops references to Cylons, and litters his language with references to a bevy of other sci-fi, fantasy, and fable. 

Ando brings Hiro back to their office, attributing the dementia to his friends’ brain tumor. Kimiko wants to send her brother to Japan’s top neurosurgeon, but Ando soon realizes that Hiro’s jibber jabber is actually code for some important task. (Think Dan Brown by way of Comic-Con and you get the general gist.) By the end of our time with this pair, we realize that they are about to rendezvous with the monologuing marvel known as Mohinder in the same asylum in which Hiro deposited the good doctor back in “Brother’s Keeper.” 

The lesson? Always listen to the woman. It’s a lesson Peter Petrelli luckily heeds in the wake of his brother’s death. 

 

I’m learning to fly/But I ain’t got wings… 

Claire spends much of the first hour acting like she’s in a Geico commercial, to the point where I kept waiting for the world music version of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” to play as the Eli’s multiplying man kept her inside the carnival via his omnipresent stare. Having been directed by Lydia to bring Samuel pancakes before his trip to recruit Emma Coolidge, Claire realizes that the great and fearless leader of the outsiders has both a Primatech box full of information about supers and a mysterious map of the nearby landscape.  

Samuel’s visit to Emma ties in with the topographical map. Through him, we learn the true nature of Emma’s powers: she not only makes pretty light shows with sound that only she sees, but she can use those sounds to draw people to her, in a siren-like fashion. She’s like the opposite of those Ricola alpenhorn players that way. In particular, Samuel needs Emma’s music to sooth the savage beast within one particular powered person, the recluse Ian Michaels. 

Ian’s power? Super Landscaping! OK, that’s a pretty prosaic way to put it, but while Samuel can move the earth, Ian can lay down some mad greenery upon it. After incorporating Ian into the carnival, the newest member takes the barren landscape adjacent to it and instantly ups its property value by filling it with grass, trees, plants, and flowers. Take THAT, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”! Ian’s creation of Samuel’s proposed homeland stunts a lot of Claire’s venom towards Samuel, but Eli’s eyes (all three sets of them) unnerved her enough to leave anyways, albeit with conflicted feelings in her heart. 

Upon leaving, Claire checks her messages and learns of her father’s death through Peter’s phone call. (Ironic that the death of a man who could fly was staged inside a downed airplane.) And folks, while I hate on “Heroes” quite a bit, let me be on record here as saying Milo Ventimiglia absolutely brought it tonight in showing Peter’s stunted grief in the wake of his brother’s death. With Claire furious with her father’s deception and Peter’s wariness of his mother all but solidified, the unlikely uncle/niece combination have no one else but each other to turn to in their grief. 

And it makes sense: after all, both have a hard time feeling in one way or another: Claire physically, and now Peter emotionally. But thanks to Peter’s Haitian-obtained ability, Claire’s clumsiness while slicing lemons for the funeral reception allows her the unique experience to bleed and feel pain in a normal fashion. Peter, unable to face the reality/finality of Nathan’s passing, retreats from Claire’s outreach. He leaves the reception to play hero at a shoot-out in a local office building, where a fired employee had gone postal on his ex-coworkers. Peter manages to bare his soul to the attacker in a way he could not to Claire. Pretty powerful stuff, and stands even taller as a foil for the rather pedestrian material surrounding these two hours of “Heroes.” 

He gets a bullet for his troubles, but manages to subdue the attacker anyways. He absorbs Claire’s power soon after, but recognizing the godlike ability as a potential temptation, he removes it in a way that doubly honors the memory of his brother. Not only does he chose hope over fear by opting not to seek out revenge against Sylar, but he absorbs the ability to fly from Season 2’s Wes and takes off into the sky for a memorial flight in his late brother’s honor. 

But while Peter managed to fill the hole in his heart, two other major players in the “Heroes” universe weren’t so lucky. And they passed on their misfortunate to the audience at home, who had to endure the show’s two villains spending all of their screen time essentially asking for a freakin’ hug. 

 

It’s a hard knock life for us… 

At some point, the writers of “Heroes” decided that having a villain who all but shouted “Power! Sweet delicious power!” all the time wasn’t exactly what people in the industry call “good.” So now they’ve decided to add in what I call “The Annie Factor.” See, over on “Lost,” über-evil Benjamin Linus had a childhood friend Annie that may or may not be his only touchstone to anything approaching humanity as the show approaches its endgame. And in “Heroes,” Samuel now has his own Annie. Her name? Vanessa. 

All we know about Vanessa is that 1) Samuel’s known her for most of his life, 2) she plays the cello (her old instrument now sits in Emma’s apartment), and 3) we’ve never, ever, ever heard of her until this week. I’m guessing that now we’ll learn that Samuel killed his brother and started to assemble a collection of supers to augment his powers to unspeakable levels in the name of getting to second base with a girl. Awesome. But while Samuel pines for a lost love, Sylar apparently doesn’t even have the luxury of that. He storms into the carnival, finally fully intact and ready to kill, only…he can’t. Why? 

Because he’s lonely. I swear to God, this is the explanation the show gives. Stop laughing. I’m serious. He’s lonely. Lonelier than Kim Jong-il in “Team America.” Just when I thought the show couldn’t neuter Sylar anymore than they already have, they go and pull this. Apparently, Hiro’s words back in “Once Upon a Time in Texas” have haunted Sylar ever since, and you know what, I’m just moving onto the next paragraph before I’m compelled to punch a hole through my television. Simply stunning. 

Samuel and Sylar should be living the thug life, but apparently they are all about the hug life now. (Props to Michael Ian Black's Twitter feed for that pivot.) These two should be engaged in an epic life-or-death struggle in Ian Michael’s Field of Dreams, but instead they are letting the mystical flip of a coin decide things. Translations: having absorbed Lydia’s power via foreplay (don’t ask), Sylar gets inked by Samuel (again with the not asking) and sees, lo and behold, Claire pop up on his forearm. Well, that’s quicker than filling out that eHarmony profile, I guess. 

Normally, it would now be Noah to his daughter’s rescue, but he has problems of his own. 

 

It cuts like a knife/But it feels so right 

Having been banned from attending Nathan’s reception, Noah leaves Claire’s dorm and goes back to his apartment. But he senses something following him. No, it’s not another Geico moment; it’s an Edgar moment! The man can move 600 MPH, but yet gets caught by Noah via the ol’ “turn around and taser” technique that all good Primatech employees learn during orientation. 

Noah doesn’t think much of this remarkable luck, but luckily The Artist Formerly Known as Iron Maiden (aka, Lauren) is there with both truth serum and an objective point of view. Noting that Edgar no longer has a compass, she advocates the use of “tea and conversation” over “knives and serration.” Edgar admits that he initially sought to kidnap Noah to reprove his worth to Samuel, but reluctantly agrees to aid Noah in removing Samuel in order to regain the type of carnival life he enjoyed under Joseph Sullivan’s reign. 

All is going swimmingly until Lauren starts dropping the world “cult” and Noah starts dropping the word “assimilation.” Edgar (along with the majority of the carnival’s denizens) have no desire at all to reintegrate themselves back into society. A simple regime change back to their benign, nomadic lifestyle would suit them just fine. He splits, along with Noah’s plans to infiltrate the carnival. Noah rues his missed opportunity, and both he and Lauren wonder if Samuel’s influence has already penetrated Claire’s mind past the point of no return. 

With Samuel (almost literally) sowing the seeds of his plan, and Noah finally poised to make an assault on the cult leader/one-man terraformer, we’re finally getting to the inevitable confrontation hinted at all season. And while the show has often been clumsy in getting there, the pieces seem to be coming into place. That doesn’t mean the show will avoid another Kirby Plaza-esque catastrophe, but stranger things have happened at the carnival. 

 

What did you make of the first “Heroes” of 2010? Leave your thoughts below!