This season, Heroes could be said to have been telling the story of three families: the Petrellis, the Bennets and Samuel’s ‘family’ of Carnies. To tie in with Thanksgiving, this week’s episode sees all three families celebrating the holiday. What that means in effect is that the episode features three groups of people squabbling about their issues and making dramatic revelations at the dinner table.
The principle problem that the episode suffers from is one of predictability. While we may not have seen the murder of Samuel’s brother before, most of us could guess who was responsible. Likewise, we may not have been explicitly shown whose body Sylar’s soul ended up in but most people’s assumptions will be correct. Even the reappearance of a character close to the end ought not to shock those who are paying attention earlier in the episode.
Of the three thanksgiving stories shown it is the Petrellis’ which feels most predictable. Previous episodes have made it clear what Sylar would do to those involved in the theft of his body and here he is given the opportunity to make good on his threats when Angela joins Nathan and Peter for lunch. Each has their questions for their mother about what exactly happened to Nathan and, as usual, she avoids providing them with honest answers.
After weeks of teasing viewers with the prospect of a powerful Sylar reunited with his own body it is surprising how little this transformation scene pays off. The problem is one of overexposure; we have spent a considerable amount of time with variants of the Sylar character this season already and seen him display both his powers and his evil tendencies. The revelation that body and soul are reunited is not shocking or thrilling enough to make the moment feel significant enough to anchor this episode.
As usual Christine Rose is good as Angela and her insistence that the Thanksgiving celebration progress as usual, in spite of her sons’ questions, is at least reasonably entertaining. With her family threatening to crumble around her she holds on tightly to a family tradition, dealing with the situation on her own terms.
Less successful is this episode’s handling of Nathan. It would be a shame if this were to be Adrian Pasdar’s final appearance in the show. He hardly registers in this episode, overshadowed by Angela’s explanation of what happened and the reemergence of Sylar.
His character has been written out in such a drawn-out, unmoving manner over the course of this season that has done neither the show nor the character any favors. The character’s real death, at the hands of Sylar, has been diluted by the events of this season’s body theft storyline. Had that been his final moment the character would be more fondly remembered and we could have been saved several hours of convoluted plotting.
The second thanksgiving story is a dinner Noah hosts for his daughter Claire, his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. To try to even the numbers and possibly to reconnect he looks up Lauren, his former colleague who he almost had an affair with in “Once Upon a Time in Texas” but who he wiped her memory after rejecting her. Staging a ‘chance encounter’ in a supermarket aisle, he invites her to Thanksgiving which inevitably turns out to be a source of tension with his other guests.
I can understand why Noah might be interested in rekindling something with Lauren. Where there is a significant question mark for me is in the appeal of attending a family gathering at such short notice for Lauren, even if she were to feel interested in him. She must have expected that a recently divorced couple’s first Thanksgiving together might be an uncomfortable experience, yet the thought never appears to occur to her.
The dinner itself proves to be a mixed bag. Sandra’s return allows us to see a little more of her and how her life has gone on since she split from Noah. Much of the sniping across the dinner table though feels forced, particularly when Noah tries to guilt Claire into staying in school by talking about all of the money he has spent. Even though he sometimes uses guilt to try and persuade Claire to do as he wants, for him to use money as the weapon seems out of keeping with his style.
The scenes taking place towards the end of the episode with Claire speaking with Noah about Samuel’s offer and the revelation of Noah’s secret guest are both much stronger. It seems that many of the Heroes are now converging on the carnival, which should only serve to strengthen Samuel.
Meanwhile at the carnival Samuel is attempting to host a meal for his ‘family’ but they are starting to look fragmented. Hiro is mad with him for refusing to divulge the location of his beloved Charlie, while Lydia and Edgar both learn about the circumstances leading to his brother’s death. It seems that Samuel’s family is growing dysfunctional.
Of all three story threads it is this one that works best for me, even though few will be surprised by its twists. Most people will have assumed that Samuel was responsible for his brother’s death by now while Edgar and Lydia’s doubts about Samuel have been established in previous episodes. I suspect that the cliffhanger we leave Hiro on will catch most people off guard and should set up a much more unpredictable future story.
I was not enamored with the Halloween episode produced earlier this year but “Thanksgiving” proves to be a less frustrating experience. Few scenes sparkle but the conceit of basing the episode’s action around the three dinners at least allows us to see the differences between the families and allows them to address some of the issues they are currently consumed by.
The episode may not be the most entertaining of the season but it is certainly not a turkey.
– Aidan Brack