"Heroes" staves off the public impression of stringing the audience along with a regular stream of revelation, plenty of action, and a wealth of plot threads. In fact, the writers of "Heroes" are trying so hard to avoid being labeled as another "Lost" that they overlook the best qualities of their supposed rival.
First, however, I should focus on the positive. No matter how many times they return to the "unexpected future" well, it's a lot of fun. I thought this version of the future was a little less interesting than they could have made it, with a bigger budget, but the general premise came across. In particular, I liked the argument between Future Peter and Present Peter. Present Peter is still full of hope and optimism about the human race; Future Peter is far more pragmatic.
The introduction of freely available metahuman abilities would not begin a golden age. It would amplify the basic positives and negatives within society as a whole. The virtuous would use the abilities in a controlled manner, but the criminal element would flourish with the chance to overcome traditional law enforcement. Such a future would all too easily lead to what was seen in the alternate future explored in the first season.
Unlike the first season, however, abilities are not treated as a genetic quirk, but the combined result of genetics and biochemical manipulation. Apparently several characters are going to be revealed as "altered", given abilities by their parents or minions of the Twelve and the Company. Just as Sylar's victory over Claire undercuts the first season arc, I think this idea undercuts the strength of the second season arc. Previously, the story was starkly generational; now, I'm not sure it works as well.
But it does begin to explain some of the divisions that threaten to emerge. Hiro's impulsive decision to open his father's sage, thus allowing someone to reconstruct the formula for creating metahumans, has given someone an opportunity. Mohinder's subplot demonstrates how it can all go wrong, if the formula is not correct. Some will want abilities to proliferate; others will not. Which side is the villainous side may be hard to figure out, but that should be part of the fun.
On the other hand, wouldn't it be a nice change of pace for the writers to develop a straightforward conflict between good and evil without the need for the "alternate future" plot device? As fun as it is to see Domesticated Sylar and Evil Hottie Claire, it does become a cliche. Do the writers think that revealing the future is the only way to make the in-between more interesting? Or, once again, are they afraid to give their fans the impression of lack of direction (despite clearly making things up as they go along)?
Two problems persist. First, there is the annoying need to make Sylar sympathetic. This actually began back in the first season when they introduced his (now adoptive) mother and tried to blame his actions on his upbringing. But ever since Sylar escaped his natural moment of death (so the writers could continue to avoid the promised Peter/Sylar clash) in the first season finale, the character has been floundering.
Now, instead of letting him remain the worst of the worst, Peter's polar opposite, the writers have saddled Sylar with this ridiculous excuse for his villainy. Instead of simply being a dark and amoral madman, bent on accumulation of power, Sylar is suffering from a "hunger". This makes him kill out of insatiable need, not because of a psychological disorder. And frankly, that's just not as interesting or compelling.
Contrast Sylar with someone like Ben Linus from "Lost". Ben is incredibly popular, not because he has been softened over time, but because his constant machinations and psychological prowess remain unmatched. He's not an anti-hero; he's a man consistent with his vision, which often makes him villainous in the eyes of others. In other words, he's a fully fleshed out char