Review: Heroes 4×12 – The Fifth Stage

A subdued way to end the year

The Fifth Stage

In the US: Monday 30th December 2009, 8pm, NBC
In the UK: Oh, you know, some time round March or April. Or May

This is the last episode of Heroes before it goes away for its Christmas break, and comes back in its old time slot, 9pm. It’s another Tim Kring effort, and he only tends to write episodes where something big happens.

Spoilers ahoy…


H.R.G. (Jack Coleman) is greeted by some unexpected visitors and Samuel’s (Robert Knepper) grand plan begins to come to fruition. Meanwhile, Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) struggles to accept the truth and takes extreme measures to get what he wants. Elsewhere, Claire’s (Hayden Panettiere) journey leads her to an unexpected destination.

Jimmy Jean-Louis, David H. Lawrence XVII, Madeline Zima, Dawn Olivieri, Todd Stashwick and Elisabeth Rohm guest star.

Was it any good?
Tim Kring seems to be improving. But for an episode that finally writes out a season one character, it lacked a little oomph. Here’s the tag-team pairings.

Although there were more than a couple of “Hang on, why don’t they…?” and “How come…?” moments, this grouping had some decent tension and a moving conclusion, even if you wonder why Sylar, so intent on revenge, waves and walks away at the end.

Poor old Nathan. Talk about giving in easily. He has a little mental fight with Sylar and backs down. You’d have thought a politician who became a senator would have a little more gumption. A little bit of a tussle and he gives up. And if Peter was going to be so cack using the Haitian’s power, wouldn’t, I don’t know, getting the Haitian to come along have been a better idea? Good plan though.

I’m sorry to see Nathan go, since he was one of the more interesting characters and Adrian Pasdar is always great. But the writers really haven’t known what to do with him this season – it would almost have been better to have had him die at the end of last season.

Some touching moments though. Not quite tearjerking, but sad nevertheless. Shame Nathan couldn’t have simply asked Peter to chop his head off/drop him in acid/something hospital-related while his regeneration power was out of action, really. At least that would have killed the second Sylar bird with the same stone as well.

HRG/Lauren (aka Not-Tracy)/Eli
So in the pairing that was probably HRG/Tracy before Ali Larter ran off to Canada to film Resident Evil, HRG finally reveals to Lauren (after last week’s not-date) that she and he were almost an item. And Eli the multiplier turns up, having been brought back into the Carnival fold by graphic novel Tracy (who gets a whole lot more to do, a whole lot more confidently than on-screen Tracy).

That was it really, although emotionally it seemed to work: you could see what HRG was hoping and you could see why not-Tracy might have had issues with his hoping it. Nice to see how efficient HRG and not-Tracy were as a pair (although one of us, one of them, surely, not two of us, none of them), too.

Claire/Gretchen/The Carnies
Oh dear. Claire’s annoying again. She’s joined the Carnies and she’s the only we’re supposed to care about. I’m not really convinced Claire would innocently turn to the dark side so quickly after the Becky incident, even with the obvious set-up and the mentalist who glasses 18-year-old blondes at carnivals. But hey ho, let’s go with it for now, and at least Gretchen’s puttered off in her ugly product placement car.

Good news though: Doyle’s back! Everybody’s second-favourite lovable villain after Sylar has returned and might properly be a good guy now. I’m not quite sure about his suit but the hint at his webisodes was admirably subtle, and who knows what he’s going to tell ‘Barbie’ next year. That’s one thing to look forward to, for sure.

One thing: I don’t quite know why the Carnies keep going on about their new recruits, when Doyle and Claire seem to be the only new arrivals now – Tracy’s off somewhere and can’t even be bothered to turn up for the denoument – and Edgar’s legged it.

We’re not really sure where Samuel and the writers are going with all of this – Heroes, stop being Lost. We want and need answers quicker than this. We need that exploding world to be made explicit. I’m guessing Samuel intends to use his growing powers to improve the world, but will end up nearly destroying it.

A mixed bag, a bit muted, not enough cool stuff for my liking. But still okay and one of Tim Kring’s better ones. All the same, things had better pick up next year or the show’s going to be in serious trouble. With the CGI on the show being dodgy enough for more or less the first time to see matte lines with multiple Eli, either the budget is so low now that the producers really can’t do anything cool or they’re saving up for some seriously good stuff next year. I’m hoping for the second option.

Volume 5 – part one
The first half of season 4/volume 5 has been a bit meandering. A lot of the things promised in the first episode and press releases seem to have been discarded (Tracy/HRG, a new company) and some plot threads dropped because the writers didn’t know what to do with them (Nathan). There have been some real duffers (Strange Attractors, Ink), and some real classics (Brother’s Keeper, Once Upon A Time in Texas, Tabula Rasa).

It’s probably the third best of the volumes so far (not as good as 1 or 4) although in some ways the characterisation is better than 4’s. The trailer at the end for next year looks interesting though: Mohinder’s still about and running with Hiro and Ando (welcome back Ando!), Sylar’s got his hat back, Tracy’s stock footage, Emma’s still playing the cello and no one knows why, and Matt’s MIA.

What can be going on? I’d like to care more, please, so dial up the action when you get back.