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Buckle up for the 'Heroes' finale

THE SHOW "Heroes" finale

WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on NBC/4

REASON TO WATCH Many - including A-list actors Zeljko Ivanek, as the darkly shaded "evolved human" hunter Danko, and Zachary Quinto (Sylar), who will be world- famous when "Star Trek" comes out shortly. (Only a couple of brief scenes with Danko tonight.) Volume four ends tonight and segues to five, entitled "Redemption."

CATCHING UP Danko's foolish attempt to kill Sylar fails, while Claire ( Hayden Panettiere), Angela (Cristine Rose) and Noah ( Jack Coleman) have headed to D.C. to stop Sylar - now a world-class shape-shifter in addition to his other wondrously evil skills - from taking over Nathan and then . . . the president.

MONDAY NIGHT Claire hooks up with Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) who - of course - really isn't Nathan. Danko's been thrown into a jail cell in Building 26 - after Sylar quickly engineers a clever shape-shift ruse to get him there - and his cellmate is none other than Noah, who was captured. They're about to form a new pact when suddenly Ando (James Kyson Lee) and Hiro (Masi Oka) turn up. Speaking of pacts, bros Nathan and Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) set aside sibling rivalry long enough to plan an assault on Sylar. Tracy (Ali Larter), whom last we saw as a pile of ice shards after Danko shot her? An answer about her fate arrives tonight, too.

BOTTOM LINE Speaking of shape-shifting, NBC and creator Tim Kring shifted some of the shape of "Heroes' " fourth volume back to those innocent long-ago days when this comic book was a little easier to follow and characters not so multitudinous. " Pushing Daisies' " whimsical mad genius, Bryan Fuller, was brought aboard as part of the triage effort, too. The result is a success. "Heroes" is character- driven again, and, when you have some of TV's most compulsively engaging characters, like Sylar, Danko, Hiro or Nathan, why wouldn't you focus on them? "Heroes" is also a thing of beauty to simply watch (even if you don't know what in the name of Mr. Muggles is going on), and its production values remain among the highest on TV. Fans, meanwhile, will swoon over this closer. Just strap yourselves in for two shocking scenes.

GRADE A

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