For many former and current fans of Heroes, Tim Kring has become the true villain of the series. Not only did he cave to network pressure and alter his plans for the series late in the first season, subsequently delivering a horrible first season finale that started the downward spiral in quality, but he has cast the blame for his own mediocre creative decisions onto others. This has led to writers and producers being fired. Even the best creative minds from the first season, such a Bryan Fuller, were unable to come back for very long.
The unfortunate truth is that every volume of Heroes starts out with potential and promises. It seems like that potential is never realized, and those promises are empty PR. This season is a perfect example. The season started off with enormous potential, especially in terms of the new characters and a streamlined approach to the storytelling. There were several episodes that were quite strong, and the character of Samuel was an early highlight.
Unfortunately, the execution never seems to be as edgy and daring as the producers, particularly Kring, would like the public to believe. Claire's foray into homosexuality was more about sensationalism and press than it was about a progressive character turn. The death of an original character was all over the press, but turned out to be less a shock and more an extension of the third season finale, leaving fans feeling underwhelmed (especially when it was announced to the press weeks before the fateful episode aired!). And after more than a dozen episodes building towards a massive finale, this episode comes up remarkably short, even by Heroes standards.
The stage was set for Sylar, a character that is about as irredeemable as it gets, speaking atonement for his atrocities. Peter, a character in search of a purpose, was ready to help take down Samuel, who was preparing to kill thousands in public view. And there was Noah, also adrift, seeking a way to protect mundanes from "Specials" and metahumans from mundanes. All of this taking place within the confines of the carnival, where dozens of metahumans had gathered, seeking safe haven and family.
In other words, the writers had set the stage for Sylar to sacrifice himself to take down Samuel, a man with amplified powers and an ever-escalating desire to unleash them, and for Peter to take his place as the leader of the largest "family" of metahumans revealed to date. Noah, having ties to the old Company, could have set up the community's security force. Add to that a potential public unveiling of the "Specials" in the process, and it would have indeed ushered in a "brand new world" for the series.
Instead, what did we get? Sylar delivering some of the most overwrought, on-the-nose dialogue the series has ever seen, showing a less convincing brand of redemption than ever before, and surviving to ostensibly go bad yet again should the series continue. And Peter, after all but taking down Samuel himself, showing little to no interest in what comes next. And don't even get me started on how Hiro's character arc came to nothing, as he barely factored into the final battle.
The only thing that did happen was the unveiling of the metahumans to the public, and even that was poorly handled. Could it have taken any longer for Claire to get to that platform? And the media seemed rather muted in their reaction to a young woman apparently committing suicide on live television!
Even the resolution to the Charlie plot element seemed to be a copout. While it's understandable that Jayma Mays would not be available, given the popularity of Glee, that's something that the producers should have taken into account before opening this particular door in the first place. Sure, this resolves that part of Hiro's past and forces him to see the error in attempting to "fix" the past, but didn't he already learn that lesson?
The biggest problem was the execution of the finale itself. The producers of "Heroes", particularly Kring, have never understood that the finale of a given volume should bring the story to a rousing climax. It shouldn't be less impressive than episodes halfway through the arc. While Kring did manage to factor Samuel's ability into the finale, something that was not at all a sure thing, the implementation of that ability amounted to shaking the camera. After seeing buildings and towns brought to ruin, that just doesn't cut it.
The finale does end on something of a cliffhanger, but I could see how this might serve, however poorly, as a series finale. And let's be realistic: the chances of renewal are not as good as some might want to hope. One could argue that Claire's decision at the end of this episode brings the overall arc of the series to a relative close. While I would be vaguely interested in seeing where the writers might take things in a fifth season (glutton for punishment that I am), I don't see any lingering plot elements that demand exploration.
The unfortunate fact is that "Heroes" has lost relevance in the public domain. The show that once rivaled "Lost" as an example of a crossover genre success has fallen apart due to a distinct lack of long-term vision. For a season that was all about redemption, the failure to achieve that goal creatively may be the most potent argument to bring the series to a close.