'The Art of Deception' benefits greatly from its distinct concentration on the Carnival storyline. Finally, the writers offer some substantial progression and hint towards our final destination as the season draws to a close. The sequences involving Claire, Samuel and HRG are all very well executed, exhibiting just the right level of tension to keep everyone on the edge of their seat. The scenes are well structured too, with the decision to counterpoint father and daughter proving decidedly interesting. It's certainly refreshing to see Claire taking charge and actually doing something with the information she's been given; it's never exactly clear how all of this will play out, and the level of uncertainty ensures that intrigue levels remain high. Furthermore, Lydia's death comes as a genuine surprise, the first that Heroes has really managed in a long time. Thankfully, we don't spend an entire episode learning about her past just so that we can 'care' when she's murdered. Instead, she becomes an unfortunate victim which, frankly, is far more believable. This all feels like the right pay-off for her character and it works well to cement Samuel's new-found sinisterness. Robert Knepper is clearly having the time of his life with his duplicitous role, relishing every twist and turn in the dialogue and out-performing just about everyone in his goodbye scene with Tattoo Girl. Of course, it is rather questionable whether the whole Carnival would rather believe the mass-murdering lunatic who'd just laid waste to an entire town than the sane college gal, but what the hey, we get some nice gore to help us forget about these pesky details.
Elsewhere, Emma's storyline continues to intrigue. This really is a great place to go with the character, and the question mark that now hangs over her allegiances and future role gives the story an extra shot of pizazz. The Matt/Sylar narrative is at least remotely interesting too, Grunberg and Quinto reminding us all that they were the reason that we all tuned in during the early days of season four. It's a shame that Matt's bold moves seem a little sudden and extreme, even for this poor tortured soul. And what's more, any metaphorical closure or development that may have been granted to Sylar is rendered moot by Peter showing up ten minutes later to reverse pretty much everything that the story's worked towards in the past forty minutes. Heroes hasn't been quite as guilty of wheeling out the old 'bait and switch' this season but sadly, this is exactly the sort of thing that hindered the show last year. Still, on the whole, this is certainly one of the better offerings of the season, feeling far better paced and much more coherent than a great many episodes.