While 'Let it Bleed' maintains the methodical pace established by 'Upon This Rock', the episode somehow feels less satisfactory. There is something lacking here, a missing component needed to really elevate it beyond the realms of the bog-standard. It isn't a bad hour of television by any stretch of the imagination; there just doesn't seem to be enough to sustain a suitable level of forward momentum. What we are given doesn't exactly come kicking and screaming off the page, demanding that you spend at least an hour of your following day talking about it behind the bin sheds where you go to smoke at school or work. HRG's sluggish crawl towards doing something, anything, about the Carnival picks up a little and then loses all of its gusto through the abduction, rehabilitation and subsequent frankly ludicrous loss of crazy British knife-wielder Brett Riverboat, sorry, Edgar um, whatever his name is. The execution of this is actually quite neat to begin with, allowing Jack Coleman a chance to come into his own in a few tame, but suitably impressive, torture/interrogation scenes. It's good to see the composed fella losing it a little bit and being reminded by his new found lover that he needs to maintain a level head. The dialogue between the two is once again replete with references to events that we weren't privy to during their time at the Company, which continue to add a much welcome element of verisimilitude to proceedings. If it weren't for the ridiculously telegraphed escape of the 'prisoner' (conveniently enough, along with all the information he'd written down for them about locating the Carnival! Would you believe it?), this might actually have come out smelling of roses.
It's the same story with poor old Zachary Quinto who, despite still being the best damn thing about the show, is lumbered with a frankly eye-rolling pay-off to his very brief time at the Carnival. It all begins spectacularly enough, with a delightful special effects sequence in which Samuel smites him, and then moves to pastures refreshing and interesting with the integration of Lydia and the idea that the poor boy just needs someone to love him (a decent piece of psychoanalysis, to be fair). Sadly, all of this is shot to s**t by the events at hour's end, in which we find out that Sylar's big destiny is... to bother himself with the cheerleader! Well strike me down with a ten tonne hammer, that's something we've never seen before! Sylar and Claire?! Their lives intertwined?! What will they think of next, eh? And regardless of whether or not this means that he's going to try to slice open her head again, or we're going to be treated to some more pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo about their similarities, it just feels like a massive cheat, an opportunity sorely wasted. We could have seen Quinto thrown together with characters he's had little exposure to, given a plot that wasn't just a complete rip off of pretty much everything he was doing for like, two seasons straight. We really don't hold out much hope for this one.
And then, of course, we have Peter and Claire's mysterious mission to the besieged office block, a highly subtle comment on young Petrelli's precarious mental condition in the wake of his brother's death. Hah. This one couldn't be more obvious if it strapped a great big banner to its head reading 'I'm Screwed Up.' To be fair to the writing staff, this is, at the very least, an interesting place to take the character, to make him reckless enough with his life that he doesn't care enough to even acquire Claire's power when he's attempting to save the lives of the gunman's hostages. And of course, this lends itself to some nicely written and surprisingly insightful interplay between the two characters, particularly in the pay-off as Peter is about to be wheeled into the ambulance. It's just a shame that the set up is so contrived, feeling far too sudden and forced. Mind, that's a nice nod to the show's continuity in the references to West and Peter's appropriation of the boy's power is completely logical and well-handled. And then, ladies and gentlemen, that's it... the episode offers no more narrative strands, choosing instead to linger longingly on each of these rather threadbare ideas. Throw in Hiro again, give us some Mohinder... where the hell is Matt Parkman, for God's sake? There are so many things in the air, so many stories being juggled that we are just dying to find out about, that it's a bit of a shame when they choose to focus squarely on the ones that just aren't all that engaging.
'Let It Bleed' does try its hardest to be a good episode, giving us a great big wad of much welcome character development for some of the regulars, a lorry load of insightful and well written dialogue and some genuinely excellent individual sequences. It's just a shame that it seems to drop the ball to a greater or lesser extent with every plot strand on offer. By no means the worst Heroes has ever served us up, but it's hardly a three course meal, is it?