Rage Against the Mentor: Matt and Nathan spend much of the second Volume interrogating and browbeating (and Mind Raping) each other's and their own parents for answers. Answers about their origins and Jerk Ass activities: the creation of the Men in Black-like Company, their controlling their children, never helping with their abilities, and basically being dicks "for their sakes", and committing Karma Meter -reducing sins "for them". All while never being clear or concise on what they had in mind or why they did these things. Needless to say, fans are exasperated at all this holding out too. All together now: Oh, Kudzu Plot, we hate you!
Reality Is Unrealistic: Fan complaints that Claire breaking her neck when a football player accidentally tackled her indicates that she's Made of Plasticine. In reality, tackling results in crippling injuries on a disturbingly frequent basis, especially when the person being tackled isn't wearing proper safety equipment.
Really Dead Montage: Sylar gets one in the graphic novel following the Volume 4 finale. Not to mention the final scene of Volume 4 itself, with all of the heroes coming together for the first time ever in the show specifically just to watch him burn.
But this is Sylar we're talking about, so he's not dead, he's hiding. In Nathan.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Seems to have become Sylar's signature move in Season 3 (Volume 3 & 4), as he often delivers one to each of his victims before killing them. Apparently, this is a function of his original power (understanding how things and people work) combined with one of his acquired powers (learning the history of people and objects through touch).
Also Adam Monroe caps off the final episode of Season 2 with a magnificent diatribe against humanity's petty nature, successfully arguing in the process that Hiro Nakamura, the man who has come to stop him, effectively turned him into the man he is today.
Redemption Equals Death: Ted calms down and finally gets off his revenge kick, just in time to be snacked on slain by Sylar. And later Maury Parkman gets swiftly executed for defending his son.
Also, Nathan Petrelli in the Volume 4 finale, during a "face" portion of his Face Heel Revolving Door. Fandom was NOT amused.
Volume 5: Redemption seems to be taking this as literally as possible. Victim #1: "Nathan", who attempts to atone for a Ted Kennedy-esque incident from his past where he accidentally caused the death of a young woman, which only results in him being murdered by the young woman's mother... which also incidentally pops open the lid on the Person Shaped Can that was keeping Sylar sealed away. Nice going there.
Interestingly averted with Sylar, where it may actually work out.
Sylar deserves special mention , because it seems like his first "superpower" ( his ability to intuitively understand how things fit together)would allow him to, among other things, make a killing in business and on the stock market.
Retcon: In Volume One, Chandra Suresh's theory about the existence of "specials" is just that: a theory. He has no firsthand experience with metahumans and he is as giddy as a schoolboy to discover Sylar. Fast-forward to Volume Four, in which we are informed that he was the chief medical officer at Coyote Sands, a concentration camp for metahumans built in the American Southwest in the early 1960s.
I think we can assume the company Haitianed him at some point and he is rediscovering the specials.
Sylar's reasons for being a a serial killer, according to various volumes: Complexes thanks to his (adoptive) mother, being a victim to his own power, being manipulated by the Company, having it In the Blood, having lost himself because of his many powers (Clair's theory)...
Ret Gone: Daniella Parkman and Noah Gray. Averted in the final episode: Hiro's sweetheart Charlie was sent back in time, and is now a dying octogenarian with seven grandchildren. So much for Hiro's romantic happy ending. Being a True Hero sucks sometimes....
The Reveal: Warning, SPOILERS ahead. Swipe at your own risk.
"In His Own Image": Two from the end of the episode: the Man with Horn-Rimmed Glasses is Claire's father, and Nathan (not Peter) can fly!
"Better Halves": We have to wait all episode to learn that D.L.'s power is walking through walls. And Eden works for Bennet!
"Six Months Ago": Sylar's a cute nerdy guy with crazy eyebrows!
"Fallout": The Hatian can talk!
"The Fix": The man behind Hiro and Ando's kidnapping is Hiro's father.
"Distractions": Nathan is Claire's birth father!
"Parasite": Mohinder's not quite as dumb as he looks. And Mr. Linderman knows all about you, your brother, your daughter, and the bomb.
"I'm your grandmother." Interestingly, the revelation here is not that Mama Petrelli is Claire's grandmother, but that she knows she's Claire's grandmother.
Speaking of Mama Petrelli, she gets a couple more this season. In ".07%" she reveals that she knows all about her sons' superpowers. And in "Landslide" we learn that she knows all about the bomb - and is totally on board with it!
"Five Years Gone": President Nathan is Sylar!
"The Hard Part": Bennet's tracking system is Molly Walker.
"How to Stop an Exploding Man": "Call me Noah."
And throughout the season... The bomb is Peter! No, it's Ted! No! Sylar! No, wait.... It's Peter.
Revealing Hug: HRG (Noah Bennet) has done it to members of his family more than once, and it happens with the Petrellis fairly often too. Even Sylar has done it at least once.
Hugs always seem to turn disastrous for Peter. Peter finally turns the tables in one Volume 4 episode where he hugs Nathan, secretly absorbing the latter's flying ability, to make a quick and badass escape when Nathan tries to capture him.
Hiro knows Nathan's name and how he feels about revealing his powers, but still insists on punching his fists in the air and shouting "FLYING-MAN!!!" every time he sees him.
Doyle does this to Claire as well when he holds her, Sandra, and Meredith hostage and makes them play Russian Roulette. Luckily, the one that gets shot is invincible Claire, whose 'death' lets her knock him out.
Salaryman: Hiro Nakamura, and — even more so in Volume Two — Ando, who was stuck back in his cubicle as Hiro has wacky adventures traveling through time...
Scary Black Man: Volume Three introduced us to Benjamin "Knox" Washington, a black man who derives superhuman strength from people's fear. While technically he himself doesn't have to have caused that fear, it sure looks that way in most of the scenes he has appeared in.
Subverted with DL who is suggested to be this at first, only to be revealed as a compassionate, kind man who wants to lead a good life and look after his wife and child, having completely abandoned his criminal past. Sadly he winds up dying in the second stupidest death on the show (right after Adam Monroe's but just before Elle's on the list of pointless death scenes).
Screams Like a Little Girl: In "Into Asylum", Fake!Sylar is about to be killed by the real one. Cue Zachary Quinto's high-pitched squeaky screaming like a little 'bitch', and the Internet busting a collective gut. Seen again in "Pass/Fail," when Claire sticks a pen in his eye, with similar audience reaction.
To be fair, it is to show that Sylar, without his menacing, is still that gawky Gabriel Gray underneath.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Volume Two's Big Bad, Takezo Kensei aka Adam Monroe. Volume Three went this way too with Level 5. And Adam. Again. For two episodes.
Second Episode Introduction: Matt doesn't appear until the second episode. (He did appear in the show's original pilot episode, which was longer than Episode 1 alone but shorter than Episodes 1 and 2.)
Hiro uses this exact phrase and then some in his mental trial of himself. It might have worked... if David Anders hadn't called him out on simply "...saying the opening to Quantum Leap!".
Shadow Archetype: The Volume Two episode "Cautionary Tales" pretty much states outright that Elle is what would have happened to Claire had Mr. Bennet not hidden her powers from the Company. Word of God is that they were originally meant to be sisters, further highlighting the parallels.
Also, Peter and Sylar. Both capable of Power Copy, but one kills to do it and the other tries to save people. And in Volume Three, they're claimed to be brothers. The Powers That Be also briefly mixed up who's the "shadow", with Sylar attempting to go straight and Peter gaining his Great Power And Great Insanity. And then abandoned that plotline again.
Danko is very clearly HRG's dark counterpart, a stark illustration of what Bennett would become without Claire and his family. While HRG may occasionally toe the Moral Event Horizon line, Danko gleefully leaps over it
Shaggy Dog Story: The whole "Save the cheerleader, save the world" thing was based on Future Hiro's faulty information about what caused the nuclear explosion in New York. Since Sylar wasn't the direct cause of the explosion, preventing Sylar from absorbing Claire's ability wasn't actually necessary to stopping it.
On the other hand, an invincible Sylar would have been better able to capitalise on the tragedy, creating the kind of Bad Future seen in "Five Years Gone". And it's implied that Claire's presence in New York contributs to Nathan's last-minute Heel-Face Turn. So it's perfectly possible that saving the cheerleader did save the world - just not for the reasons Future Hiro thought.
Volume Three seemed like a Shaggy Dog Kennel, specifically where Peter and Sylar are concerned (and ESPECIALLY the latter's ludicrous redemption arc) Tell me, Peter absorbing Sylar's power was supposed to save the world HOW? Not that it matters since Peter was completely depowered shortly afterwards.
Shape Shifter Swan Song: Happens during Sylar's ultimate defeat in the Volume 4 finale, when he involuntarily undergoes a shapeshifting spasm through all his previous forms after Peter uses his own copied shapeshifter power to defeat Sylar.
Ship Sinking: Volume Three crushed Matt/Mohinder Audrey shippers with a forced romance between Matt and new character Daphne Millbrook, and Sylar/Elle shippers could not have been happy when Sylar kills off Elle in a painfully transparent attempt to get rid of Kristen Bell's character.
Shipper on Deck: You wouldn't believe me even if I told you: In "Pass/Fail", Sylar. For Claire and Gretchen. "Subtext" indeed.
Shirtless Scene: Most of the main male cast members, with Sylar getting the most shirtless scenes for the flimsiest reasons.
Isaac Mendez: How am I supposed to pretend this didn't happen?
Candice Wilmer: Maybe you should have thought about that before you shot her. Twice.
Shout-Out: Lots. Most are to comics, including specific title and issue references. Television Without Pity have commented that some lines and scenes seems like shoutouts to them.
Although Hiro correctly cites Kitty Pryde in Days of Future Past from the X-Men comic book, he is a couple of issue numbers off.
When he meets Charlie the waitress with an Eidetic Memory, he discusses the same storyline, and she corrects the issue number for him.
Watch the scene where Hiro incapacitates Adam Monroe. Then read/watch the scene in Naruto where Shikamaru incapacitates Hidan. Really, you only need to see one or the other. They're almost exactly the same scene.
Mr. Claremont, the swordsmith from Episode 22, Landslide, is named for Chris Claremont, who wrote one of the most successful arcs of the comic book X-Men.
The license plate on the limousine belonging to Kaito Nakamura is NCC-1701, the call sign for the original Enterprise starship from Star Trek. It's probably worth mentioning that Kaito Nakamura is played by George Takei, the actor who played Hikaru Sulu from the original Star Trek.
Similarly, the catalogue number for Kensei's katana in the private collection is CRM-114, the cipher for plane communications in Doctor Strangelove
There once was this... frog who lived with her mother and father and brother and Mr. Muggles...
As a child a person with powers is trapped in a "Relocation" camp full of people who are different. They survive but their family and countless others are killed by their captors in a mass wipe out. They go on to help form a group of people with abilities to protect their own kind against humanity by any means neccessary. Sound like Magneto's origin? Well it's also Angela Petrelli's as per "1961".
Hiro Nakamura might have been named after Hiro Okamura, the Japanese Toyman, most recently seen in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Both are Ascended Fanboys who want to be heroes, as opposed to most people in Nakamura's mileu, who can't seem to do anything but complain about it.
It's been noted that Gabriel Gray looks eerily like Clark Kent and his watch shop has a crystal shaped like the Fortress of Solitude.
Not only do we get a children's choir singing the theme from The Greatest American Hero, but William Katt, Ralph Hinkley himself, plays one of Traci's victims. Believe it or not.
When Gretchen encourages Claire to investigate her roommate's "suicide" by using the "jump, push, fall" method, she says she saw it on an episode of Crossing Jordan (Tim Kring's previous series - and both shows have episodes called... you guessed it).
Can it be a coincidence when the woman who played Serena Southerlyn is taking pains to deny that she is "shoving my liberal agenda down your throat"?
The character Lauren Gilmore delivers the somewhat Lorelai-ish "I'm thankful for canned yams." line during a Thanksgiving dinner. Who plays Lorelai again? Ah, Lauren Graham.
Shrouded in Myth: Both Mr. Bennet and Sylar seem to have something of a legendary reputation amongst the superpowered community; Bennet as the guy who comes when superpeople misbehave to kick their ass, and Sylar as the unstoppable power thief who hunts you down and steals your brain.
Given that it is visible in the Suresh's DNA program, which would make it way older than any possible conspiracy, it's more of a Running Gag.
Signature Sound Effect: Sylar has his clock ticking whenever he is being particularly evil, and in Volume Three, Mohinder's more...erm...interesting actions are accompanied by the sound of June Bugs.
Other good examples are the distinct sounds made by different abilities. Apparently, the Haitian's ability sound was given the name "Haitian Grab" by the production team.
Sitting on the Roof: Peter in the early episodes. Also the roof of the Deveaux building is a popular meeting place.
"The Deveaux Building? Really? Everyone and their mother goes there! Literally!"
Slipping a Mickey: "Cold Wars" has Bennet unknowingly ingesting a roofied drink and he's hauled back to a hotel room by Peter, Mohinder, and Matt to be interrogated. Especially ironic when Bennet does the same thing to Parkman in the first season. Mohinder pulls this on Sylar in the first season as well.
Slow Electricity: In "Dual", when the lights go off in the Primatech medical facility's hallway. Possibly justifiable in that maybe Sylar did it that way on purpose.
The Slow Path: In Season 1, Hiro meets a diner waitress with super memory on the day she is murdered by Sylar. He travels back in time 6 months and lives with her for the interim, falling in love along the way. Conveniently, this is how he learns English.
Snow Means Cold: Alice Shaw makes it snow in the desert as a test of her weather-manipulation powers.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Sylar is sauntering down the street with a folder of Company files after acquiring Claire's ability when he's stopped by two Company agents. They shoot him and after he pulls the bullet out, he quickly disposes of the agents. He sends one flying to the ground and the other right in the windshield of the car, destroying its dashboard camera. The entire scene is set to a perky Fatboy Slim / BPA cover.
Spike Shooter: Perrin Crocker from the comic books has this ability.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: It slowly became obvious that the main characters of the show would be the Petrelli family (and by extension Claire and Noah Bennet), and Sylar. This became more evident with Sylar as the show's DVD releases went from a shadowy depiction of his face to him standing in the middle of the cover.
Sylar, who has stalked Claire since the beginning of the series, has started to show a sexual attraction towards Claire, beginning with the Volume 4 finale, when he suggested, in the creepiest speech in the show's history, that they get married and live together for, literally, the rest of eternity.
Staying Alive: Sylar. So much so that they don't even bother explaining how he survived seemingly being perma-killed by Claire then left to burn in the Volume Three final showdown (after several episodes they finally throw in some jazz about "melting glass"). He's Sylar, for crying out loud. Of course he survived.
And as of the Volume 4 finale not even attacking his weak point works anymore (he's moved it with his shapeshifting powers - yes, apparently he can shapeshift his brain), eliciting a well-deserved Oh, Crap reaction from Danko.
Stay in the Kitchen: Ryan Hanover, the sexist and unpleaseant Marine in "The Recruit" webisodes.
Claire and Adam's healing abilities are nothing terribly special, right? Well, it turns out that their blood can be transfused to heal others, even raising from the dead! Unsurprisingly, Claire only ever mentions this ability again in the one instance where it won't work.
Suicide by Cop: Matt attempts this in "Shadowboxing" because Sylar's mind has possessed his body and plans on wreaking a havoc spree and then pinning the blame on Parkman. So Matt uses his power to create a gun threat, prompting the police to corner him. They shoot Parkman, but his gambit is all for naught as he survives.
Of note: After Season 2, no more of these miraculous transfusions occur. One Season 4 episode acknowledges the history: Claire admits that giving Hiro her blood would only make his brain tumor grow faster. But several deaths occur later in the season (at least two in her presence), and she never thinks to try transfusing any of 'them'.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The character of Lauren Gilmore, is suspected to be one as she bears a strong similarity to Tracy and replaces her as Noah's partner in Season 4, complete with a backstory retconned to fit in with Noah's character arc. (Though she's never revealed to have any powers, even though Primatech's "one of us, one of them" policy suggests she should be a Special.
Sword Fight: Hiro and his father, Hiro and Kensei (and, technically, Hiro and an imaginary version of Kensei).
Take Your Time: With some rather Squicky implications. Noah learns that the eclipse temporarily neutralizes powers. Seeing this as his chance to kill Sylar for good, he grabs a sniper rifle and sets up where, through the scope, he can see Sylar and Elle kissing, fully clothed. End episode. At the opening of the next episode, Sylar and Elle are post-coital in a sleeping bag, and Noah's still out there aiming...
Taking You with Me: The first battle between Peter and Sylar ends with them grappling and throwing each other off a 30 ft drop off the bleachers. Peter died, but came back to life, Sylar slowed his fall with TK and limped away.
Tangled Family Tree: The Petrelli's immediate family thus far includes Angela and Arthur, Angela's sister Alice, sons Peter and Nathan, Nathan's wife and legitimate kids, and Claire. Claire, in turn, has the Bennets as her foster family as well as biological mother Meredith, making Meredith's brother Flint her uncle. Sylar was teased for a bit as a third Petrelli brother; this was a lie but he's now Nathan's Replacement Goldfish.
Tap on the Head: Utilized fairly often in first three seasons. Hiro seems to be the Butt Monkey for this trope, averaging about two knockouts a volume. It's a wonder he doesn't have brain damage. Oh, wait...
Taxidermy Is Creepy: Sylar's biological father, Samson, turned to taxidermy to keep his hands busy after he stopped killing people.
Taxidermy Terror: Sylar steals a rabbit from his father's trailer and leaves it in plain sight at Danko's apartment. Danko is understandably weirded out.
The Taxi: Mohinder's day job at the beginning of the series.
Team Spirit: A recurring theme in Season 1 is that the characters get a lot more accomplished when they work together. Played fairly subtly most of the time, but made very obvious in the finale, where only by the combined efforts of Peter, Matt, Niki, Hiro, Claire, and Nathan is Sylar defeated and New York saved.
Made explicit in Peter's conversations with Claude. Claude maintains that relationships are distractions, but Peter eventually concludes that it is only by letting other people in that he can fully realise his heroic potential.
Technicolor Fire: Flint's pyrokinetic fire burns blue because unlike his sister he embraced his powers and practiced burning it REALLY hot. Peter's fire looks like this too since he mimicked it from Flint.
Terrible Ticking: The ticking clock sound effect that plays whenever Sylar's up to his old tricks evokes this trope. Even though it's not literally a ticking he can hear, it symbolizes that he can see how everything works in a way no one else can, which drives him batty.
That Man Is Dead: Sylar pretty much refuses to answer to "Gabriel" most of the time, but goes back to it when he's repressing his "hunger".
Subverted and made all the more intriguing by the fact that when he is Gabriel repressing the hunger, he takes the opposite stance, refusing to answer to Sylar. His little identity crisis is edging dangerously close to split personality disorder (now THAT would be awesome).
Makes one wonder what "Nathan" will end up answering to.
Too Dumb to Live: Claire edged dangerously close to this in Volume Two. She knows the kind of people looking for her family. She knows her flyboy has sworn a vendetta against her father. She's caught him spying on her at her house. How certain are we that Sylar didn't steal her brain? However, the true champions of stupidity have got to be Maya and Alejandro, with Alejandro actually getting killed by Sylar and Maya trusting Sylar completely, even after she's found out that he was wanted in connection with his mother's murder. Also, Mohinder Suresh is an example of this most of the time, but especially in the Third Volume opener.
This was one part him having "faith" and at least two parts him being emo. He lives in his brother's shadow and is desperate to be special, so throwing himself off the roof is either a cry for help or a subconscious "better dead than ordinary" attitude.
Matt seems to have taken at least half a level in Volume 4.
Micah apparently took one in Volume Three. In Volume Four, he's adopted the codename "Rebel" and is organizing a resistance effort against the government.
Peter does this, twice. First, by actually getting a grasp on his powers after his training with Claude. Later, when his DEPOWERING followed by his new NERFED ability, he becomes one of the most strategically intelligent characters of the show.
Torture Always Works: Subverted. Noah captures Edgar and threatens to cut off his fingers for information on the Carnival and Claire. His CIA agent ally Lauren stops him and convinces him that torture doesn't work and that Edgar will give information more freely if they convince him that it is in his interest to help them. They eventually realize that Edgar was exiled by Samuel when he learned that Samuel killed Joseph. Noah gets the information he wants when he convinces Edgar that they can save the Carnival members from Samuel.
Toplessness from the Back: Lydia the carnie from Volume 5 has some sort of precognitive power that only works by displaying images of people important in the immediate future...on her back in Samuel's tattoo ink. She's topless in one scene to display the tattoos.
Trailers Always Spoil: Ok, Heroes. I get it, you don't want to kill anyone. But why put the last minute of the finale, featuring one Noah Bennet, in a finale promo trailer airing for weeks, if you are putting him in a situation that he could possibly die in a cliffhanger in the penultimate episode!?
Trickster Mentor: Again, Claude, whose training methods involve gleefully whacking his pupil repeatedly with a pole and throwing him off a building. Given the circumstances, it's often hard to tell whether Claude sincerely cares about his pupil or hates his guts.
Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Sylar in Volume Three after acquiring the ability to sense truth. Sylar is utterly casual in the elevator, as is his fellow passenger... albeit for different reasons given Sylar is drenched in blood.
Another memorable one happened all the way back near the finale of Volume One, where Matt, Niki, HRG, and D.L all find themselves sharing an elevator (the last time Matt saw Niki, she was throwing him out a 10 story window... which she outright reminds him of just prior to getting into the elevator). Complete with cheesy muzak in the background.
The Unfavorite: A staple of Petrelli family dynamics. Also Mohinder was the unfavorite to his dead big sister.
Unflinching Walk: Volume 5 Big Bad Samuel gets a totally badass one; after some corrupt cops brutally murder an evolved human, Samuel uses his earthbending ability to level the police station, then walks towards the camera as the station collapses behind him.
Unexplained Recovery: Now that we know Linderman was a hallucination, Fridge Logic means that, for the time being, we must assume this is how Nathan recovered from being shot, twice. Then again, it worked for Matt and he got shot four times. Sucks for D.L., I guess. Although, given sudden religious streak Nathan embarks on shortly after his death, there are certain implications that he was either miraculously saved or just got really, really lucky.
Future!Peter kissed him on the forehead just before he revives, so it is always possible he had gained Hiro's mother's power at some point in the future, through judicious time travel.
It seems Nathan's luck has run out, as his character is Killed Off for Real (with his pseudo-personality residing for a while in a mind-blanked Sylar).
Tracy Strauss had this after being frozen-shot by Danko in Volume 4: come Volume 5, she's a water-toting ice queen with a score to settle with Building 26's remaining occupants.
The Unreveal: HRG's first name. Of course, eventually we find out that it's Noah.
Sandra Bennet: It is so funny how all of y'all call him Mr. Bennet over there. I've always just known him as – (Sees Mr. Muggles chewing on Sylar's shoelaces.) Stop that, you!
Happens a few times with Linderman in Season 1. One of the characters is all set to meet with him - only to be confronted with a middle-man instead. Nathan eventually comes face to face with him in "Parasite".
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: As one editor joked during one episode (and this is but the most spectacular example of many), "Wouldn't you know it? That's the second time in as many years the corpse of a cute blonde girl suddenly vanished off one of our operating tables!"
A truck driver who picks up a hitchhiking Hiro and Ando learns that the baby the two of them are carrying has the power to shut down machinery (i.e. the trucker's truck) when upset (which is pretty much all the time). His only reaction is to politely ask them to remove their "magic baby" from his truck so he can continue on his journey. It's especially notable that this polite nonreaction occurs in the middle of a plot arc about how normals would be so threatened by the existence of supers that they would commit mass genocide against them if they ever learned about them. There's either something very profound there, or it's just a funny piece of dissonance in a comic relief scene.
He most likely didn't know how to react to a "Magic baby". And it was the government who were shown to be paranoid of Specials, not mankind as a whole. We've seen several ordinary people on the show happy to be around evolved humans without being threatened.