Last night's Heroes was a two-hour extravaganza introducing us to the season's new theme, "Redemption," as well as its sub-theme, which is Claire's sexual orientation. Plus a bunch of mutants from the carnival showed off their special tattoo powers.

Spoilers ahead!

So basically there are two things you need to know in order to watch Heroes this season.

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1. Everybody wants redemption, which might mean a lot of different things, including KILLING.

2. Lesbians are hot.

Heroes wouldn't want to confuse you by dealing with both of these themes at the same time, so neither will I. The episode opens with a new cast of characters, this seasons' sort-of bad guys, a group of carnival mutants led by a dude named Samuel desperately trying to channel Heath Ledger's Joker. He even does that tongue sticky-outy-slurpy thing in one scene.

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Samuel's main sidekicks are a superfast knife zoomer named Edgar (basically Speedy but with knives too) and a hot chick with tattoos whom we'll just call Hot Tattoo. She is not a lesbian, so her hotness is allowed to be part of the redemption plot. It turns out that Samuel's power is tattoos. He squirts tattoo ink onto Hot Tattoo's back to get information about people. (Yes, that leads to some amazingly great tattoo head shots appearing on her back, including tattoo versions of Claire, Peter, Sylar, and Hiro.) Then he uses a tattoo to strangle Edgar in fine Vader style. Later we see a tattoo of a compass on his body whirling. But he also has the power to move dirt around. So maybe he's a multi-powered guy who just likes ink.

Anyway, Samuel's brother just died and now he and his pals are after two things, seemingly. One, a mystical compass. Two, a time-traveler to replace the dying time traveler who hangs out the carnival with them. So Samuel strangles Edgar until he goes all swordy on people and gets the compass. Then he starts to recruit Hiro by traveling back in time with him to a moment in Hiro and Ando's pasts - and showing Hiro that if he could only prevent a slushy from falling on Ando's childhood girlfriend, Ando would be dating Hiro's sister in the present. Which is why there is actually a scene where Hiro is covered in really fake looking blue slushy and watching Ando make out with his sister.

There is also a great scene where Hiro uses his powers to rescue a cat named something like Mr. Muffin, only in Japanese.

But here's the problem. Samuel seems kind of evil, and Hiro is dying. Plus carnivals are bad, and they don't contain lesbians.

Speaking of lesbians, Claire might be a lesbian! Seriously, if you didn't get enough of watching Claire's boobies while she pretended to be drunk with those frat guys in Mexico last season, you're going to get more boobie action. But this time, it's girl-on-girl.

Claire arrives at college and discovers her roommate is an obsessive overachiever with a poster depicting her "life trajectory" on the wall. Hounded constantly by Trajectory Girl, Claire is searching for anyone to rescue her from an endless hell of listening to SAT scores and Facebook references. That's when she meets dark-haired Gretchen, who was almost a cheerleader but made too many Google references and so became one of those "Emily the Strange" cutsey-goth types who knows way too much about murder and forensics. She recognizes Claire as the chick from Texas with a decapitation problem, and then immediately sucks her into some bizarre reverse-Veronica Mars plot that involves investigating the fortuitous murder of Trajectory Girl, who has somehow jumped out of their dorm room window after beating their entire dorm at Guitar Hero.

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All you really need to know is that there has been no lesbotic action yet. But Gretchen has figured out that Claire is a mutant and wants to help her solve the murder of Trajectory Girl, which police think is suicide but really isn't. And later this season, Gretchen will do it with Claire. Then she'll probably turn out to be evil because she knows words like "forensics" and is a lesbian.

Once we get away from the whole lesbian carnivalesque thing, the episode actually gets much better and much worse. Peter is trying to deal with his problems by being a superheroic paramedic, which is actually among the cooler subplots we've seen in a while. HRG is also on the coolness track, trying to deal with being alone now that his wife has dumped him (and is already hooked up with another dude) and Claire is at college. He winds up forming a pretty interesting relationship with Tracy, back from the shattered-ice dead and looking for revenge. HRG and Tracy figure out that the carnival mutants are after this weird compass after they walk in on Edgar the Knife slicing and dicing Danko's belly to find a key.

Instead, HRG reaches into Danko's sliced-up belly and gets the key, then the compass, and promptly loses it to the carnival guys again. But not before we get the sneaking suspicion that the compass' power is that it only works when a mutant touches it. So it's a mutant-finding compass.

I like Tracy and HRG as a team. I like Peter as the super paramedic.

And then there's the whole Sylar subplot. You knew it had to happen: We now have Head Sylar. When Parkman forced Sylar to turn into Nathan, apparently a big chunk of Sylar got trapped in Parkman's head. Now Parkman is barking at his Head Sylar when he isn't freaking out about the water delivery guy being nice to his wife. Nathan is starting to realize he's got Sylar in him too. Angela is having tense conversations about all of this with HRG, and Parkman is giving us the bloobly eye and being a failure as usual.

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Tune in next week, when Head Sylar has a lesbian experience at the carnival while Hiro spills slushy everywhere. Sounds like the perfect internet porn scenario to me.