The show takes obvious inspiration from the venerable X-Men
comics, but with a much different twist. X-Men
is set in a universe that can be neatly divided into four factions. The big question is whether humans and mutants can coexist peacefully, and both humans and mutants are divided.Heroes
is a bit more complicated. The general public doesn't know about the "mutants" yet. Several story arcs collide with each other. The main arc involves a premonition of a nuclear explosion in New York City. Hiro Nakamura, who can manipulate time, witnessed the event in an inadvertent trip into the future. Isaac Mendez, a precognitive who can paint images of the future, painted a large mural of the event on his studio floor.
Also, Peter Petrelli had a premonition of exploding while on the streets of New York, so evidently he is the source of the explosion. Peter's powers are drawn from coming into close proximity with other "mutants;" he has to do so only once to gain that power, although controlling that ability will take lots of practice. "Claude," a man with invisibility powers, has reluctantly fallen into the role of giving Peter that training.
Peter has another clue to the explosion - which may turn out to be a false lead. One day he received a visit from a future Hiro, who delivered this message: "Save the cheerleader, save the world." But the world is threatened by more than just radioactive mutants.
Enter Sylar. He is a watchmaker who has the ability to sense where things are broken. His nickname comes from a fictional watch brand. The scientist who began the inquiry into these paranormal abilities, Dr. Chandra Suresh, compiled a list of persons with the superpower genetic marker, and Sylar was apparently the first he visited. Sylar found a name from the list, a man with telekinetic powers. He visited the man and came up with an ingenious evil plan: to kill the man and to use his ability to find the genetic information - located within the victim's brain - and somehow graft it into himself. Thus he has been on a killing spree, stealing powers from other "mutants." He killed Suresh, and under an assumed identity he has recently joined with the doctor's unwitting son Mohinder to find more prey.
The cheerleader? Claire Bennet, like X-Men's
Wolverine, has the ability to regenerate. I can see how this power would make Sylar unstoppable. Early in the series she used her power to rescue someone from a burning train wreck. She was in uniform at the time, so a cop showed up at the school to find out which cheerleader rescued the man. Claire wants to be a normal person and not someone's freak show or lab experiment, so she stays quiet. One of the other cheerleaders takes credit, and unwittingly sets herself up to be Sylar's victim. Sylar shows up to homecoming and attacks the girl, but finds out too late that the real mutant is Claire. Peter is there, having found the location of the attack through a photo of one of Isaac's paintings. Peter tackles Sylar, and the two fall from a height. Sylar disappears, and Claire finds Peter; her presence allows him to absorb her power and regenerate.
Claire's adopted father, Mr. Bennet, works for some shadowy organization that is investigating the "mutants." His people capture Sylar for a while, but Sylar eventually gets away. His people have been studying "mutants" for a while, and tagging them with a radio isotope so they can be found in the future. His comrade The Jamaican has the ability to erase specific memories; this is used to cover their tracks when they don't want their subjects to know that they were ever taken to the secret back rooms at Primatech paper.
Unfortunately for Mr. Bennet, three of his taggees have shown up on his doorstep with drawn guns: Matt Parkman (police officer, telepath), Hana Gitelman (former Israeli soldier, interfaces with computers Internet - a computer telepath), and Ted Sprage (a fugitive who can emit radiation and create nuclear explosions).
Mr. Bennet once tried to apprehend Nathan Petrelli, but Nathan used his power to fly away. Nathan is Peter's brother, a candidate for public office who has no interest in his or his brother's powers. He recently found out from an old fling (who has pyrokinesis) that Claire is his daughter. He has no interest in that relationship - or his own powers for that matter - and pays the mom to hush it up.
Unless I missed something, Peter has yet to come into contact with Sprague. Speculation: it could be that what sets off the future explosion is Peter's first contact with Sprague.
Meanwhile in Vegas, there's Niki Sanders, who has a split personality and has superhuman strength when her alternate personality Jessica surfaces. Jessica will kill anyone she perceives as a threat to herself or her son. Her husband D. L. Hawkins can pass through solid objects, and her son can manipulate over electronic gadgetry, not too unlike the alien in The Brother from Another Planet
. The kid used his powers to make a broken payphone operable, and to get an ATM to dispense thousands of dollars. Jessica and D.L. tried to kill each other earlier in the series - read her profile
for details - but have since reconciled. Jessica is secretly working for the mysterious Mr. Linderman as a hit woman and carries off her first hit - a man being protected by Parkman. During the encounter Parkman heard Niki and Jessica arguing, and assumes they're two separate people. Last Week Jessica has just received orders for her next hit - Nathan Petrelli.
Linderman hasn't been shown during the series, but several roads lead his way, and I have to wonder if he knows about the existence of "mutants" - or is one himself. He's a mobster with business ties to the Petrellis' dad. He used his influence to get Niki out of the padded cell; she had turned herself in in order to protect the world from her alter ego. This tells me that Linderman knows what Nikki/Jessica is. The mysterious mobster also owns a sword that Hiro is questing for - a samurai sword that will somehow help him control his power. (Probably as a sort of psychosomatic placebo, just as Isaac used heroin early on to manifest his abilities, and Peter needed to be around his brother early on to use his power.)
Could Linderman be Mr. Bennet's boss?
I will make a bold prediction about tonight's episode. Isaac tried to shoot Peter last week, hoping that that would prevent the nuclear explosion Peter's supposed to cause. But he shoots Simone by accident - she's Isaac's ex-girlfriend who now loves Peter. Peter earlier manifested Sylar's telekinetic power while "Claude" was training him; I'm predicting that Peter will discover Sylar's original power within himself and will "fix" Simone so that she survives.