Review: Heroes 4×16 – The Art of Deception

Emo-Sylar's here again, but look who else is back

Heroes 4x16 - The Art of Deception

In the US: Monday 25th January 2010, 9pm, NBC
In the UK: May or something, BBC2

Woo hoo! Look who’s back!

Actually, lots of people are back this week, but (almost) best of all, it’s top Heroes writer Mark Verheiden who turns in a great episode. Spoilers after the jump.

Plot (another inaccurate one from NBC)

H.R.G. (Jack Coleman) enacts his plan to take down the Carnival with the help of Lauren (guest star Elizabeth Rohm) and Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy). Sylar (Zachary Quinto) visits Matt (Greg Grunberg) looking to understand his desire to make a human connection, but Matt has a plan of his own. Meanwhile, Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) warns Emma (guest star Deanne Bray) of Samuel’s (Robert Knepper) intentions after his grim vision of the future. Hayden Panettiere and Cristine Rose also star. Madeline Zima, Ray Park, Lisa Lackey, David H. Lawrence XVII, Dawn Olivieri, Harry Perry and Todd Stashwick guest star.

Was it any good?
Bar the usual complaints about a lack of super-duper special powers, I really liked this one. There were two real plots to the episode: HRG and Lauren coming after the carnival with the help of Suresh’s magic compass (no Suresh this week, despite the NBC press release claim to the contrary, as he’s back in India with Molly according to last week’s graphic novel); and Matt and Sylar having mental fun together. So let’s look at those first.

HRG/Not TracyLauren/Claire/Tracy
Finally, a little action. HRG and Not TracyLauren – with the stern but poorly judged disapproval of Claire, as always – go after the carnival to take down Samuel, now he’s destroyed an entire town. Claire messes up – as always – and warns Lydia and co what’s going to happen; Eli overhears, warns Samuel and they set up a framing operation in which Eli shoots a whole lot of carnies including Samuel, to make it look like HRG is responsible. Claire and HRG get captured, Lauren gets shot.


Now, if we overlook the fact that HRG’s plan was a bit basic and Claire was more than a bit dim to go and warn the carnies, this was well handled and tense. There was actual excitement and no massive leaps of logic. Lydia, Edgar and Doyle all made an appearance. Gretchen was only in it very little. People died, even certain fan favourites (although where was Lydia’s daughter in all of this?).

Yes, you could see Samuel’s plan a mile off, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad plan – I doubt the carnies would have anticipated Samuel’s willingness to get shot to get them on-side. I’m a little curious that Eli’s so willing to shoot all his family, even in a “good cause”, but let’s go with that.

And of course – mirabile dictu – for an entire 10 seconds, up pops Tracy (Ali Larter) as Lauren’s last line of help after a mere six episodes’ absence. Where’s she been? You’ll have to read this week’s graphic novel by Oliver Grigsby to find out – but I’ll give you a clue: having lunch with Angela. Fingers crossed, something desperately cool is going to happen the next time she pops up on the show itself for more than an eye’s blink.

Sylar, after last week’s emo wake-up call, has decided he wants his powers wiped so that he’s not tempted to use them and be evil. Okay. Let’s go with that and forget about ‘the hunger’ from season three, which was pants. So he goes to Matt to get them wiped with a mind block. After Sylar threatens Janice and Matt Jr, Matt agrees and after a couple of aborted attempts, channels his dad and locks Sylar up in his own nightmare – being alone. Then he physically locks up the immortal Sylar, by bricking him up behind a wall.

Meanwhile, Peter’s dreams are predicting Emma’s ability going haywire and killing people, with Sylar the only one who can help. After a brief confab with Angela, he uses the Heroes invisijet to nip over from New York to California in just a few minutes to chat with Matt, without even phoning him to see if he’ll be in. Huh.

Once there, he takes Matt’s power, finds out Sylar’s in the basement, and leaps into Sylar’s brain to get him out, despite warnings from Matt that he might get trapped there if he does.

Now, if we can buy Sylar’s strange choices – he is crazy after all – and don’t mind yet another attempt to make him good or neuter him, this was deliciously dark and had Matt become an interesting character again. Peter’s a little too confident in what he’s doing, given the vagaries of past dreams, but it was mostly great and thoroughly enjoyable and up there with season one cliffhangers for “oh my God. What happens next!?”-ness.

Definitely one of the top episodes of the season, with its only real flaws the baggage left over from previous episodes. Some action – albeit not the flashy powers kind that pushes up the budget – decent dialogue, decent characterisation, a nice visual shout-out to the first season from Sylar’s nightmare world, and Tracy’s back. What more could you want?

But we’ve only a couple of episodes of the season left to go now – yes, just two, including the finale – so I’m hoping all the cheap looking, action-empty episodes this season have all been because the producers have been saving all their pennies for an incredible action-packed finale. Fingers crossed!


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.