I know, I know... I swore off "Heroes" after the first episode of "Fugitives" -- because even though it was appreciably better than what had come before in season three, I felt too much irreparable harm had been done to the characters and the series for me to care anymore. But last night was a relatively slow one at Casa Sepinwall, and with Bryan Fuller -- who wrote the best episode of the series to date before going off to create a delightful little treat called "Pushing Daisies" -- back in the fold and writing "Cold Snap," I decided to give the show another shot, just to see if Fuller's return was really the cure-all that so many fans have been hoping for. Thoughts on whether he succeeded coming up just as soon as I fly to Paris...
Now, I came into "Cold Snap" having not watched the previous five episodes, so I had to play a lot of catch-up with the storyline, which characters have flip-flopped allegiances yet again, etc. But in spite of that, this was the strongest episode of the series I've watched in some time -- maybe not enough to get me back watching regularly, but at least to make sure I try to watch the episodes with Fuller's name on them.
What Fuller did so well in "Company Man," and what he did well here, is to take the characters seriously as people. They're never going to be as deep as anyone on "The Wire," or maybe even on "Lost," but the show is a lot more engaging when the characters seem like approximations of real people, with real feelings and with interests outside of accumulating more power, taking down the bad guys, or whatever the needs of the plot are.
So here Fuller spent a lot of time revisiting emotional beats that the series had largely ignored in the past in favor of keeping the story moving: Hiro reflects on what it was like to watch his mother die a second time, Ma Petrelli deals with the semi-normal life she abandoned as she got deeper and deeper into Company business, Daphne confronted Parkman on just how strange and superficial his love for her seems (before she was given a fairly poignant death), etc. Even Tracy was given an opportunity to revisit who she used to be before she became both a figurative and literal ice queen, right before the show apparently bumped off another of Ali Larter's characters(*).
(*) It's here that I should remind you again about the No Spoilers rule. For all I know, Tracy's going to melt down and then reassemble, or we're going to meet yet another of Nikki's dopplegangers, but I don't want to know anything about any interviews people have done, or spoilers that have been teased on other sites, or things in the previews, or whatever. Got me?
Because Fuller was dealing with so many characters and plotlines, he wasn't able to delve as deeply into anyone as he was with the single-focused "Company Man." But if "Heroes" could make this kind of effort every week to respect the characters, to think about who they are as people and not just pieces on a chessboard, to ask, "Well, how would someone really react if this incredible thing happened to them?," then it might be a show I'd want to watch more often.
Of course, it helped that Fuller chose to exclude or minimize most of the characters I can't stand. No Sylar, no Claire, virtually no Peter, Mohinder unconscious for a good chunk of the episode, and no Nathan (whom I used to like, but who has changed allegiances and motivation so many times that he's become just as useless as his brother, as far as I'm concerned). There's still a whole lotta dead weight in this ensemble, and I'm not sure that's a problem that can be easily solved no matter who the writers are.
So, what did everybody else think? Was it the miracle you were hoping for? And for those of you who've stuck it out over the last couple of months, how has "Fugitives" been working for you compared the last few story arcs?