That seemed to be the general consensus when Fuller's colorful fantasy opus, ABC's Pushing Daisies, was canceled and he moved back to NBC's superhero series, on which he had previously worked on season one (he was credited with one of the season's best episodes, "Company Man").
NBC quickly snatched him up. Now, in an exclusive interview, the creative producer/writer speaks to SCI FI Wire about returning to the fold, why he thought the show lost its way and where Heroes is heading. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of our interview. Heroes airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
When it was announced you were returning to Heroes, a lot of headlines boasted you would be saving the series. Did you feel that pressure? And how's that going for you?
Fuller: I didn't really feel any pressure, because I love this show, cast and crew. As an audience member, I could see the issues and why people were frustrated with it. At least I felt I was jumping on the pendulum when it was back on the upswing. To be honest, I was absolutely "I'll be right over," and they sent me the episodes that completed the "Villains" arc. After I finished watching them, I wasn't sure I could do this. I didn't recognize the show anymore. It had become something else entirely. My favorite characters had become my least favorite, and there was a second I thought I had to get out of this. Then I started reading the "Fugitives" scripts, and I thought it was picking up again. There were some stumbles along the way, where it started to get muddy, but I was more inspired.
So coming back in, what did you want to accomplish?
Fuller: I just really wanted to get everything back to a character base. I think character was shoved aside for plot. The second year with the virus was interesting, but then it got complicated and techno-babbly. With "Villains," it started out interesting and then became about formula. When they started talking about how we were injected with our powers and it became sci-fi ghetto storytelling, I became disconnected. Mohinder went from a noble scientist to being a mad scientist with Jeff Goldblum hair and wardrobe. Claire became so strident and unlikable because she was just whining, bitching and holding a gun. I was just concerned the wheel had been jerked so sharply in the wrong direction with what had worked about the first season, which was ordinary people with extraordinary powers. Everything ordinary about their lives went out the window, and everything was extraordinary. That was my frustration.
In season one, you really found Claire and HRG's voices, but recently, in "Cold Snap," Tracy Strauss seemed to be your new muse, except you shattered her into little fragments. Is that the last we've seen of her?
Fuller: Oh, no. There was a lot of debate over whether she's winking, but no, she's not winking. She's blinking, and a tear comes down. There was miscommunication with the visual effects, where you were only supposed to see one of her eyes. It was definitely a blink and a shedding of a tear. Tracy comes back in a really big way later on in the season. That was one of the things where it was like, "Is she going to come back as Barbara now?" I was thinking "Can we please not do Barabara, because that's another sci-fi ghetto storytelling element with clones. How many Ali Larters are there?" I wish there were dozens, because I'm a fan of hers, but watching Ali in the first season, you know what she's really capable of.
Where would you like to see Tracy go in the future then?
Fuller: The journey is about getting Tracy's humanity back. What she learned from her encounter with Micah/Rebel made a huge impact on her. She is going to be following that through-line the next season. There is that realization she has been approaching politics from the wrong angle. In the fourth year, Tracy will have a new perspective that may not be right, but it's more understandable than before.
Can you tease viewers about the remaining episodes this season?
Fuller: There's actually a lot of really fun character work happening in the last four episodes that the writing staff is proud of. We'll see Matt retaliate against Danko in a very interesting way. We'll also see Sylar strike at the heart of HRG's life in a way that causes things for him to unravel. The episode after that is essentially "Company Man" for Angela Petrelli, where we'll be doing a flashback to her life in 1961 and the events that happened there, which really motivates who she is now. In episode 24, we get to the heart of Sylar's identity crisis, and we clearly understand what his agenda is, what he's after and who the people in his life are that made the biggest impact. Episode 25 is our big finale.