Heroes: “Brave New World” (2010)

Heroes: “Brave New World” (2010)

Crimes:

  • Wrapping up yet another season of convoluted superhero storytelling—largely set in a stupid carnival, no less—with a series of anticlimaxes
  • Having a production so massive that the credits keep popping up on the screen 12 minutes into the episode
  • Arrogantly setting up a fifth season rather than leaving the show’s few remaining fans with any sense of closure

Defender: Creator Tim Kring and actor Robert Knepper

Tone of commentary: Fawning back-and-forth. Knepper (who played season four’s big villain, Samuel, a carnie with the power to move dirt and rocks with his mind) hadn’t seen the season finale before doing the commentary track with Kring, so he claims to be “like a little boy” as he gushes about the cool title card, the cool camerawork (“We used a swinging tilt lens,” Kring says), and the cool special effects. Nevertheless, at the end of the episode, when Kring suggests that Knepper go back and watch it again without the commentary, Knepper demurs. “No, I saw a lot, even with you talkin’ there.”

What went wrong: This late in the series’ run, the basic logistics of how to make a Heroes episode were pretty well ironed out, although according to Kring, “Brave New World” did feature a new cinematographer who had to learn the show’s style on the fly, and the script had to be changed because a scene where Knepper quotes the song “New York, New York” would’ve required paying for the rights. Any other problems with the episode were inherent in Heroes itself, and are mentioned only glancingly, as when Kring notes the long speeches Knepper was required to deliver (“Have you ever had a role where you had to do so much soliloquy-ing?” Kring asks) or when Knepper talks about the process of playing a role without knowing any of its secrets in advance. Knepper says he even joked about that when he was introduced at Comic-Con, where he told the crowd, “You guys are going to watch me discover this character.” Kring, though, insists that the Heroes cast loved not knowing how their characters would change from script to script, saying, “A lot of the actors have talked about that process and how interesting it is to not always know.”

Comments on the cast: Knepper calls Todd Stashwick “the funniest guy on the set,” and says of Masi Oka, “I could watch him forever. Fun and loveable.” He adds that he’s promised hearing-impaired actor Deanne Bray that if they ever work together again, he’ll learn ASL so they can communicate better, and he talks about how neat it was to work with Zachary Quinto after they appeared together in an Entertainment Weekly photo shoot about best TV villains (from back when Knepper was on Prison Break). Knepper also calls Hayden Panettiere a champion crier—“She would get me going and I’d be like, ‘I can’t be crying here’”—which Kring confirms, saying that Panettiere is so good that she could ask, “You want it out of the left eye or the right eye?” As for his own performance, Knepper just laughs, saying, “What was I doing with the accent?”

Inevitable dash of pretension: Knepper pumps Kring for info on how he keeps “that fresh perspective” after spending so much time in the editing room on each episode, and Kring replies, “You also have to be willing to let this thing have a couple of different lives. It has a life in the writing, it has a life in the production, and it has another complete life in the editing room. Any one of those three may not resemble the other.” Later, when Kring asks Knepper whether he did anything differently as an actor because it was the finale, he says, “You put everything you have into it, because it’s the end of the season. I’m not going to say the end of the show, but the end of the season. It was an amazing feeling to say, ‘Okay, getting in the shoes of Samuel, this has got to happen. Got to blow up this damn city. Got to have this earthquake happen so that people will take notice of me.’”

Commentary in a nutshell: Knepper, keeping his options open in case of a last-minute Heroes renewal: “I’m so proud to have worked on this show, brother, I can’t tell ya.” 

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