1977 – THE CULT OF ADAM
“It all went so wrong. Thirty years ago. A group of us came together to change to world. To fix it. And Adam had a perspective on history that was compelling and we believed in him. I did. Your father. Linderman.”
– Angela Petrelli
Enter Adam Monroe – a 400 year old man with the ability to heal himself – rapid cell regeneration, just like another “hero” we know: Claire. And the plot thickens.
After Angela and her makeshift family from the camp buried all the bodies, including their own families, and erased the memories of any of the doctors left standing, they didn’t seem to form a group right away, even though Angela told them she foresaw them doing so. We don’t know what tore them apart, but since we do know from an online comic that Linderman met Angela’s husband in Vietnam – war seems the most likely answer. (Although, for those who know the show my headcanon, based on personality, is that Bob Bishop ran off to Canada – while Charles Deveaux, who could change people’s minds with telepathy like Angela’s husband, felt it was his duty to serve)
All we know is that by 1969 Angela is married to Arthur Petrelli, alone with a small child (Nathan) while the literal man of her dreams is off fighting a war, a war she must have seen in her nightmares night after night. Perhaps, Angela thought she could start a normal life with a new family. A family to replace the old ones who had left her, with the man she loved, and children she must have met in her mind before they were even born. But “the life” she saw in her dreams still came knocking on the door – literally, when Daniel Linderman, her friend from the camp, arrived on their doorstep.
Again, Angela made a choice, even if she feels the circumstances were pushed on her.
Arthur Petrelli was a man who believed that sacrificing the few to save the many was a justifiable evil before he even knew he had an ability. His influence on Linderman, who finally bows to this ideology at the end of the online comic,speaks volumes about his future. But maybe Linderman met someone else first and introduced him to his friends – Just listen to Adam’s way of thinking:
“When you’ve been around as long as I have, the patterns are clear. Constant war, disregard for the environment, and famine. And it’s only getting worse. Someone had to make the hard choice for the greater good.”
– Adam Monroe
And so it isn’t that far fetched to think Adam became a guru of sorts in Linderman and the Petrelli’s lives in a time not foreign to cults and self help thinking – just watch the last season of The Americans.
“In the beginning I helped him….”
– Angela Petrelli on Adam Monroe
We were shown in the present of season two the sharp manipulation skills Adam Monroe had developed in his 400 years on earth, first seen locked in a prison of “The Company’s” design.
A skill Angela Petrelli must have learned from his example to perpetuate her above mentioned deeds, that also by the end of the series include: using the mommy issues of a serial killer to convince him to help find her son, using her other son’s ambition to convince him to let a bomb go off in NYC and using the truth of her husband’s own first encounter with people with abilities (Daniel Linderman’s healing properties) and his discharge under “Delusions of Grandeur”, to convince her son Peter, and later to Nathan’s wife, Heidi, that Petrelli men were crazy, as opposed to being…. you know… evolved humans with superhuman powers.
“You may think you can save the world, but you can’t.”
– Angela Petrelli to son, Peter
And history repeated itself when Adam uses Angela’s son Peter for his personal bidding, the same way he must have convinced his parents in 1977 that releasing a deadly virus was the only way to fix the world and start over.
“…And in the end Adam decided that the just wasn’t worth fixing and , that it needed to be wiped clean… And just before it was too late I came to release how wrong it was.”
– Angela Petrelli
It was Kaito (Yup again… well for the first time) who was there when Adam was stopped from implementing his plan and locked away. How did he know to be there at the right time? A call from an old lover, warning him of Adam’s plan perhaps… “before it was too late”? Did she have a dream that changed her mind? Unfortunately, due to the writers strike in season two the planned episode about what happened in 1977 will never see the light of day (Dear writers: I am happy to read the draft that was written… tweet me!) Still, taking her husband’s philosophy regarding the few over the many, mixed with Adam’s teaching, and you can see an echo of Angela’s season one argument to her son Nathan regarding his complicity with her plans for NYC.
NATHAN: Do you think I’m a mass murderer?
ANGELA: Important men make impossible decisions. President Truman dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. Killed thousands to save millions.
NATHAN: That was different; Ma, we were at war. I can’t accept this.
ANGELA: That is your one weakness, Nathan — you have no faith. So how could you possibly believe this bomb could actually heal the world if you have no faith in the idea of destiny?
FINAL ARGUMENTS: HISTORY REPEATING: THE DEATH OF A SON
Nathan Petrelli had a destiny and it wasn’t to lead the world into a time of peace; his destiny was death. Maybe for the sins of his parents, or his own, but in every future timeline, Nathan Petrelli had died.
And in every possible present he was killed. First ascending to political office, going against his own kind (by reporting them to the government) being killed, and then being replaced by a shapeshifter. Time and time again, in the series, time heals itself toward the same conclusion. How many times did Angela’s generation see this happen before throwing their hands in the air and acquiescing to more sinister plans?
As many times as one could guess as the underpinnings of Angela’s actions could be traced back to her need for family. Her chase to save her family is her, and often tragically the failure of that task, is her one consistent behavior. The circumstances may have been different but the results “Inevitable”, as Angela tells Claire about the bomb event. Except when her family is involved – Angela is unable to fully “cut out her heart” to save the world, as her ex-lover Kaito Nakamura would say, oddly later traced back loosely to Adam Monroe himself.
But back on topic, when her son Nathan finally dies for good her denial is palpable, screaming “Nooo!” over his bloody body. Half like a mourning mother and half like a woman whose entire life’s work was for nothing.
And again she made a choice – to become an accomplice to how the shape shifting serial killer previous mentioned, Sylar, becomes the son she lost – prophecy fulfilled. It is the final desperate act of a mother who has lost her child, her reason for fighting… all her actually reason. Talk about greek tragedy. It of course all blows up in her face, by the way.
Maybe Angela was even dreaming of her son’s death(s) since the day they…. he was born. Even his own father joined in on the game.
Believing his own son was getting in the way of “The Company’s”, year in the making bomb event plans, Arthur Petrelli orders his son killed (unsuccessfully). And Angela is once again on the front lines of her family’s demise, once again given a choice. This time by her childhood friend Daniel Linderman. He can heal the scars of her husband’s foul deeds to her brain, know the truth, or forever be in the dark. A human decision if there ever was one. Her choice is truth.
“Nathan!” she shouts, in despair, upon learning of her husband’s betrayal. And how traumatic must it have been to have all those bad memories flooding back at once. You suddenly get the woman in that second scene in the pilot, who warned the son to watch his heart from the brother she compares to her husband. Her coldness may not just be a facade or a mask of protection, but perhaps the literal scars of abuse that had been healed from her mind, only to be replaced by those on her heart. And in a way Angela “re-healed’ her own agenda. She chose her son over her husband and he ran for office because her husband couldn’t – plan back on course.
Same outcome – different circumstances. It all just keeps happening again and again.
“You were a great man, a visionary, but somewhere along the way, you lost your soul.”
– Angela Petrelli to her husband, Arthur
In conclusion, Angela, a woman who forged lies for a greater good, kept secrets to shield her family from her own sins, (all while looking fabulous and having a great manicure) went from an insignificant character in the pilot to in my opinion the only character from the original series to have a complete arc. (It doesn’t help that the show was canceled without a finale) After spending the entire series using every tactic at her disposal to keep her family from the “madness” she fought in, she finally relents. Angela accepts her son’s Nathan’s death and with Peter does what all mothers and fathers must do with their children, let them go off and make their own mistakes and have their own choices. Her son Peter, her only son now, tells her he is going off to fight the same war she once fought in and she does nothing to stop him.
“You have no idea the lengths a parent will go to ensure the safety of their child. Something I hope you never have to find out for yourself”
– Angela Petrelli to granddaughter, Claire Bennet
In the Heroes Reborn miniseries, that aired in this past season, we find Angela with a small, but pivotal role in the series. She is no longer a villain, but a woman barely treading water and seemingly drowning in her own mistakes. She is once again Cassandra, only it is he own deeds that has caused those around her to denounce her warnings. And with no resources, no sons by her side, she scrambles, putting her faith in the wrong person. But the world must be saved and once again her family is a crucial part of it.
History has once again re-healed itself, the cheerleader is dead (In childbirth; long story), but saving her may have not been for naught as Angela foresees that Claire’s children, twins,will be the one to save the world. Does Angela do everything in her power to change that ending? To do everything possible to shield them from the fight? Does she resort to manipulation to bend other’s will?
No, she helps hide the twins herself, taking one of them to be trained for their destiny to “save the world.”
And when it is almost time to do so, she looks upon her great-grandson’s hope to save the world and remarks: “He really is a Petrelli, isn’t he?” And maybe she sees her sons in the boy, or the husband she fell in love with before his soul was lost to the madness, but I say she’s wrong.
Her great-grandson, Nathan, isn’t a Petrelli, but a Shaw. Like his mother Claire, and his great uncle Peter before them and deep down maybe even his name sake, his grandfather, Nathan. Still, without giving away a big moment in the mini-series Angela Petrelli is the last character from the original series we see on screen – making her quite possibly the last one standing.
Angela Petrelli simply is the survivor she always was and her consistent behavior is what showed us who she truly is as a character.
I think the line that best sums up Angela Petrelli is something she says to her husband before his supposed death at her hands (Oh, yeah didn’t REALLY die until later, a story for another day) ….“So, am I gonna kiss you, or am I gonna kill you?” The not knowing is where this character’s charm lies. And this is a true testament to the actress herself. I can cut and paste lines and talk ideas all day, but it is what lies underneath those words, the emotion of Angela’s truth that made Angela the character I love.
One that in lesser hands would have made her a cookie cutter villain who drew no sympathy. And you may be thinking you’re turning her into some martyl for her evil deeds, she may have only confessed to Kaito’s murder to put herself behind bars while Adam was killing all the founders who betrayed him and so on and so forth. But the point is juxtaposition is interesting and Angela had it in spades. If this was about a heroic character I would have focused on his or her darker qualities.
Listen, I know that Heroes became a problematic series to those who watched past the first season (a glorious piece of TV) and I have to warn those who haven’t seen it and are about to crack open that netflix account. And the miniseries is very, very hard to sit through. (And if not for my love of Angela I would have stopped watching halfway in)
But the highlight for me for the entire run was The Petrelli Family (Hiro and HRG are pretty damn great also) And it kills me that that we missed what happened to Angela and her friends back in the 1970s due to the writer’s strike. I mean imagine it; A young Angela Petrelli like in the film American Hustle, going through all the trials and tribulations that we saw her children’s generation go through. I have ideas. Call me Hollywood. Big Finish, I’m talking to you – do an audio releases like you do with Doctor Who; Heroes: 1977 – starring Cristine Rose (And all the amazing actors who played The Founders)
Or maybe it is not knowing that drives my fascination? Her mystery. Either way, I guess i will just have to leave it all to my dreams…
“Can you believe? Can you be the one we need?”
– Angela Petrelli
Favorite Angela Petrelli Episodes
- Season 1: Genesis, Don’t Look Back, .07%, The Hard Part
- Season 2: Lizards, The Kindness of Strangers, Powerless,
- Season 3: Villains, Cold Snap, Into the Asylum, 1961