Exhibit B: THE BEGINNING…. BY EXPERIENCE.
It took eighteen episodes for Angela Petrelli to be injected into the plot – or more like accelerated right into it like a shot of adrenaline. Before Episode 18, titled Parasite, the last the audience saw of Angela Petrelli she was coldly advising her son Nathan to ignore the resurrection of his long thought dead illegitimate child, over his political career. Surmising his weak heart under his facade would cause the child and her mother to bleed him dry of money.
This child, who is by the way the above mentioned cheerleader and the focus of the season one infamous tag and prophecy line, “Save the cheerleader, Save the world.”
It seems the girl, Claire, was left in the safe keeping of a “Company” operative, Mr. Bennet, or HRG (Horn Rimmed Glasses) whose own tagline became “I’m comfortable with morally grey.”
Knowing nothing of her parentage he was to report to “The Company” if she manifested an ability.
His secret agenda: Claire’s adopted father actually cares for his daughter and would give up his life for her.
He is a parallel of what we would learn about Angela herself – a parent put in impossible circumstances, caught between duty to a greater good and their child to live a better life… or to live period. Each with their own set of tactics in their arsenal.
Claire ultimately is discovered and is sent away with Bennet’s partner, the mind wiping/power blocking man known as The Haitian, who tells Claire he works for someone who “supersedes” everyone else in her life. Yes, we find out that is her grandmother Angela. (We also find out later The Haitian feels indebted to Angela and has been with “The Company since he was a child and devoted to her like family)
But when the girl escapes to find the man who “saved” her life, Peter Petrelli, she discovers that not only is he her uncle, but that her grandmother had been trying to protect her all her life, but it hasn’t been “easy”.
“Quite stubborn, aren’t you? Just like your father.”
– Angela Petrelli
And then she smiles, lovingly. Now when this happened in the show I literally raised my hands in the air and screamed “YESS!” like Joan Cusack at the end of Working Girl… and Gross Point Blank… and well like Joan Cusack.
Now, how did Angela know that Claire would arrive on her son’s doorstep?
Sure, Claire had spoken out loud her desire to find this man because of a feeling of connection with him, something all our main characters with abilities felt upon meeting one of their own kind…
CLAIRE: He saved my life. He forgot to mention that we were related.
ANGELA PETRELLI: Oh, he didn’t know. He didn’t even know you existed.
CLAIRE: But you did?
ANGELA PETRELLI: Since you were a baby. Nathan’s folly in Texas.
Angela is stoic throughout most of this scene with Claire, but she smiles on the word baby, looking off as if she is remembering a happy memory. The same warm smile she bestowed upon her granddaughter while speaking of her similarities with the girl’s father, but then it turns sour.
In fact, one could surmise that Angela’s family appears to be the only thing that sparks any kind of emotion in her. I believe it is her kryptonite.
And she will spend the entire series balancing it, like two plates in the air, against her need to save the world.
Yet, many would argue that Angela sees her granddaughter as a threat to her and “The Company’s” plan, and that sending her away only protects one person: Angela Petrelli.
Except for this: “The Company” still chases the girl after she is in Angela’s hands, a company founder, and it is The Haitian, on her orders, who takes Claire from their clutches. The clutches of people who seemingly follow orders from Mr. Linderman himself, Angela’s cohort in this illuminati group, who himself has already tried to kidnap her son Nathan, behind Angela’s back, to test him for an ability. (Got that straight?)
It isn’t hard to believe that Angela doesn’t want her children nor “The Company” she founded to know her family has abilities or for them to join the secret family business. Otherwise, why hide the girl so extensively? Why, once she is discovered, plan to take our her out of the country, behind Angela’s own company’s back?
CLAIRE: And you kept me a secret?
ANGELA PETRELLI: I cared about you a great deal. Perhaps not in the traditional sense — oatmeal cookies and school plays — but I did what I could. My husband and I made arrangements for you.
ANGELA PETRELLI: Then that fire happened, and Nathan just assumed you were gone, so —
CLAIRE: So you let him.
In fact, it was another “Company” founder, and father of Hiro, one of Peter’s generation of Heroes, Katio Nakamura, and not to mention at one point Angela’s lover, who had physically handed off Claire to Mr. Bennet. A founder who in the future (the show’s present), would be on the opposing side of that “bomb” plan, and even train his son to stop “The Company” he once helped found. Were they working together to hide the child or was Angela and her husband manipulating things from behind the scenes through their position in “The Company”? Or through her ability to see the future. Oh, yeah did I mention, that’s her power. She can see the future – known as precognitive dreaming. That’s why her son Peter, who can take on other’s powers empathically had the dream he spoke of in the pilot.
“ I cannot change what I dreamed, but I can help push its outcome.”
– Angela Petrelli on her dreams
But what Angela sees aren’t dreams… they’re nightmares. But unlike Hiro Nakamura the time traveler or even Isaac the precognitive painter, dreams aren’t always what they appear to be and can be up for interpretation. And many times throughout the series Angela it not just flat out wrong on how to fix the future, but even often causes the outcome she was trying to stop.
A bootstrap paradox if there ever was one, but I digress (time travel nerd, right here!)
ANGELA PETRELLI: It was the right thing to do. You needed to be protected.
CLAIRE: Trust me, I don’t need protecting.
ANGELA PETRELLI: Because you can grow back your bones and spit up bullets. You have no idea, Claire. The life your abilities would bring you … you deserve better…
Was Angela reciting events in Claire’s past because she has seen them herself or were these very good guesses based on seeing others with her same ability? Because at the time of this scene in the chronological timeline of the series we were unaware as an audience what Angela’s ability actually was, but in retrospect one can only surmise the former.
EXHIBIT C: A PAST…
ANGELA PETRELLI: I’ll be taking you there (Paris) myself. You’ll have a chance to grow up and develop into someone who can make her own choices. And then if you choose to come back and join this madness, like I once did, at least I will have given you the option.
What these lines implied, and was revealed seasons later, was that Angela was Claire’s age when she manifested her ability, only sixteen, when she felt forced to join what she calls the “madness”.
And can you imagine how it must have been like? It must have been actual madness. The first season of Heroes alone is colorful like a comic book but its brightest color might well as be blood red. And most of the main characters aren’t even actively inviting it – Angela and her “Company” ran right into the hornet’s nest.
They were the Justice League that went horribly wrong. And by all accounts Angela and Arthur Petrelli were their King and Queen, or at least the leaders of the winning party. And still, how must it have been as a woman in that world with no defensive power? In a world where people can become bombs, or change minds, or shoot lightning out of their hands. How does one protect themselves and their family in that kind of world? What coping mechanisms do they develop like a callus? One can imagine the emotional, physiological, and even physical toll it could take on a person. How many times was her body and mind beaten into submission? How many times did she die and be resurrected? (In season two we discovered that those with abilities like her granddaughter have resurrection properties in their blood.)
Even Angela’s own husband had been a perpetrator of such atrocities on his wife.
Using his abilities, as an abilities absorber (unlike his son he actually strips a person of their ability) to acquire so much power Angela surmises he lost his soul in the process. Erasing her memories and manipulating her mind, raping her thoughts.
So much so, that right before her husband’s death we find a similar Angela to the one who greeted Nathan in the pilot – overly emotional, loving, simple: Mom.
She is involved with the bomb plot yes, seemingly relegated to the kitchen, docile, clueless, while her husband and lackey, Mr. Linderman run things.
Even her appearance is different, gone is her all black and white motif replaced with more reds and purples. But Angela is awakened to his abuse, much like sleeping beauty….but put a pin in that for now while we move on for a moment. In short, you can see why Angela wouldn’t want that kind of life for her granddaughter.
“I regret a lot of the choices I’ve made in my life. You’re getting the benefit of my experience.”
– Angela Petrelli
Unlike most villains Angela is acutely aware that her actions and choices are wrong, even if at the beginning she believes those choices were pushed on her – she still was fully aware of her actions.
“We mortgaged our souls to protect yours. Show a little respect for that,” she later tells the character Matt Parkman, the son of one of her ex associates and fellow “Company” founder. Right before he does what her husband had done to her so many times over, and Matt’s father before him – enter her head without permission and take what they need.
The men in Angela’s life almost reflect the male dominated society put upon of a woman of her generation. You can just imagine a character like Angela Petrelli staying up nights reading The Feminine Mystique while watching one disastrous event after another on television, and in her dreams, throughout the tumultuous 1960s and ‘70s.
Searching for answers, just like her children’s generation would… in the future.
“Don’t do this. If you take this memory from me. You won’t be like your father. You’ll be him.”
–Angela Petrelli to Matt Parkman
We all fear we will become the parts of our parents we detest and a big theme in Heroes is the sins of the parents and “but for the grace of god go I.” In fact, the character of Matt Parkman, who had started off as a kind soul – does eventually become his own father in a soul crushing end to his story.
What Angela is as a character is someone who is willing to take the heat for her children, stay in the burning house and close the door behind her. Yet, she is also willing to let other people’s children die to save the planet as a whole. She believes her secrets protect others, loved ones,like the secret Matt ends up taking from her in the name of good vs evil.
Angela’s first lie of protection was to her sister, Alice, and like all of Angela’s lies in the end – they literally blew up in her face. She believes her sister died, the same as Peter in season two, after he exploded in the skies over NYC, saving the world with help from his brother Nathan – both turn out to be false. The later of which is a catalyst that leads to Angela’s confession to a murder she did not commit – that of Kaito Nakamura.
“I have done so many bad things in my life it really doesn’t matter what crime I confess to.”
Exhibit C: ORIGINS
“I was just like you (Peter). My head in the clouds, full of hope. I was gonna be a teacher. And then my power manifested and the dreams came. Visions of a bloody future, of deceit and death, the apocalypse. And when I awoke I tried to warn everyone. No one would listen. Why would they? Why should they? I was Cassandra screaming that the sky was falling, but when they looked up there wasn’t a cloud in sight. And I did it with lies, with manipulation and betrayal. And it cost me everything: my friends, my husband, my boys. But Peter, it’s the price I chose.”
– Angela Petrelli to her son, Peter
In 1961, back when Angela Petrelli, was sixteen and named Angela Shaw she had a family – a mother, father and a little sister she took care of like a mother. And she lost them all (as far as she knew) Murdered by the government she had looked towards for help, for a cure. This is the event in her origins story that caused her to start “The Company” with a group of young men from the camp who all survived with her.
A “Company” to police people like themselves, under ground, away from the government’s praying eye, a government she most likely blames for her family’s death. To killing her own kind. The other reason she calms to confess to Kaito’s murder.
“…If they keep digging, they will find out about all of us and what we can do.”
Angela’s family, and others, were taken to a camp in ‘61 under the guise of helping. Only to lose everything she held dear – family. She would spend the rest of her life chasing this same circle, struggling to keep her family and the world from destruction. From the future she saw in her dreams. Using this camp as a cautionary tale.
A camp run by the man, whose son would one day bring Angela the body of her supposed dead son Peter. (the first time she thought he was dead) Angela dreamt of her family’s death at the camp and like Cassandra this man didn’t believe her. She lied to her sister to stay behind while she went for help and lost her for forty odd years.
The “proper way” hadn’t worked for Angela and her friends, the survivors, so why make the same mistake again. Why take the high road if the result doesn’t change?
“I had a dream… About the future. We’re going to form a group. A company. It’s going to protect people like us….. They’re right to be afraid of us. The things we can do… The things we’re going to do to keep this secret safe”
– Angela Petrelli
Part Three: The final analysis and closing arguments.