Performer of the Week: Thrones' Michelle Fairley

Game of Thrones Michelle FairleyA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Michelle Fairley

THE SHOW | Game of Thrones

THE EPISODE | “The Rains of Castamere”

THE AIRDATE | June 2, 2013

Over the past three seasons, portrayer Michelle Fairley has played each new layer of Catelyn’s despair (widowhood, war, the loss of home and family) like another heavy cloak flung over Lady Stark’s highborn shoulders.

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So on the occasion of Edmure’s make-peace nuptials, we welcomed the opportunity to see Fairley play small degrees of relief. With Walder Frey’s ring kissed and Robb once more seeking his mother’s advice, the actress allowed her character to lose a little of her long-standing dread. She smiled. She chatted up Roose Bolton. She even allowed herself a happy recollection of her own wedding night with Ned. Catelyn couldn’t forget that there was still a war to fight, Fairley’s subtle shift said, but she was beginning to think that Robb might just win it.

Of course, that was the exact moment that everything went south for the Starks – and Fairley was glorious in her character’s descent.

With an arrow lodged in her torso, Catelyn resolutely held a knife to Frey’s wife’s throat and demanded an honorable trade: the girl’s life for Robb’s. Fairley’s angry tears made Cat’s desperate diplomacy so hard to watch, especially as she urged her dying son to walk away. And when Bolton stepped in to finish the King in the North, Fairley’s anguished scream made us feel like we’d taken a dagger to the gut.

Fairley said nothing – but communicated everything – as her dead-eyed character matter-of-factly cut Lady Frey’s throat and then didn’t even fight as a Frey loyalist did the same to her. Rest in peace, Catelyn. If you had to go, at least you did so in Fairley’s talented hands.

HONORABLE MENTION | Veep‘s Tony Hale, who, as Vice President Selina Meyer’s primary lackey Gary, walks a fine line between pitiful sycophant and the one person who truly understands the insecurities and outbursts of America’s second most-powerful person. In Sunday’s installment, as Gary independently found a private waste-management firm to remove Selina’s trash during a government shutdown, Hale managed to play both hapless (his high-pitched squeal upon seeing a rat had the Secret Service seeking out a frightened woman) and cutthroat (he coerced White House aide Jonah to help him pick through foul rubbish until Selina’s incriminating — yet never specified — garbage could be repossessed). Somehow, Hale  repeatedly served as the butt of the joke and remained a character whom it was impossible to root against.

What performance knocked your socks off this week?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. cerelon says:

    You know, I watched the first episode and it was pretty violent, so I stayed away from it. Anyhow, when I saw the photo above of Michelle Fairley, I thought “Oh I did not know Joan Allen was in that program!”
    Hah! And she’s not.

  2. Raúl says:

    This week wasn’t a contest at all. Terrific work. I never was the biggest fan of Catelyn, but how Farley went through tension, relief, suspicious, rage and despair in 5 minutes was beyond words

  3. Azerty says:

    I am not surprised at all, she totally deserved it. That scene was breathtaking.

  4. Azrielen says:

    I know Hugh Dancy in Hannibal was one of the more recent Performers of the Week, but WOW he really knocked it out of the PLANET last episode (Roti). The complete mental breakdown he suffered at one point was purely disturbing, the only thing in that show (which is notedly gory and creepy at times) that has actually made me unable to watch for a moment. It’s hard for an actor to commit like that, but Hugh went for it, cried ugly, and made every inch of that scene so believable.

  5. Azrielen says:

    That said, Michelle Fairley absolutely deserves this. Heartbreaking scene and so well-played from just about everyone involved. Even knowing what was going to happen, there was a palpable tension to it the second that the Rains of Castamere started playing.

  6. Oh ya, she totally deserves it! Cat was my favorite character and Michelle was brilliant in the last episode…

  7. val says:

    Was thus even a competition this week. I had goosebumps watching that scene. I am only on book one so I had no idea thus was coming.

  8. Hurley says:

    It had to be her. She’s awesome.

  9. Amanda says:

    There was no competition this week. I’m surprised there was even room for an honorable mention. Michelle was simply amazing. (Now I can’t wait to see her on Suits!)

  10. Maki says:

    sooooo that was a really good one. Her face when her throat got slipped, just that relief and letting it go.

    I feel so sorry for the Starks. But seems like John Snow has to step up nig way and sooooon.

    and why nobody kills that fing Lanisters.

  11. lisa says:

    I think everyone knew the winner this week around 10 oclock last sunday night

  12. Debra says:

    “Fairley’s anguished scream made us feel like we’d taken a dagger to the gut..”
    Couldn’t have put it better myself in words! #GiveHerTheEmmyAlready!

  13. Jules says:

    Not surprising and very well deserved. I was never a big fan of her character, but Michelle Fairley’s protrayel was always spot on IMO. And last week just knocked it out of park. I went through all the emotions with her, shivering when I heard Rains of Castamere playing, crying when Robb was hit, negotiating with my TV screen “please, don’t kill him”, screaming at Robb to run and just utter defiaance in sitting there and seeing her killed.
    Please, somebody gives this woman an Emmy already, because that was incredible work!

  14. JT says:

    Yeah this couldn’t have gone to anybody else. She did a hell of a job.

  15. RyanC says:

    I know not everybody likes the character of Catelyn but she has been my favourite on this show since her confrontation of Tyrion in the inn back in season one. Michelle Fairley definitely deserves performer of the week, and any and all awards that come her way.

  16. t86 says:

    very well deserved.

  17. Monica4185 says:

    I had no feeling whatsoever for the character of Catelyn Stark, then Ned Stark died and the way Michelle Fairley potrayed her pain of losing her husband and then of not knowing whether her daughters were safe, made me like Catelyn Stark a lot more on the show than I did on the books. Last Sunday, I knew it was coming, but watching that scene and Michelle Fairley’s performance it was like a punch in the gut and made it even more brutal than in the books for me. Michelle Fairley is one heck of an actress.

  18. Aleksa says:

    Seven hells, yes. Give her the Emmy now.

  19. DarkDefender says:

    It was an amazing 5 minutes of one of the greatest scenes on television and GoT has a lot if those, but respectfully I disagree with giving her the Emmy this year. That distinction should go to Tatiama Maslany.

    • Angie says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Michelle Fairley’s performance Sunday night ripped my heart out, but for a season-long performance, I have to go with Tatiana Maslany from Orphan Black. For those who have not seen it, I highly recommend it. You will not be sorry for losing 7 1/2 hours of your life to Orphan Black.

    • Mike R. says:

      Different categories, they both should get Emmys, Faurley for supporting and Maslany for Lead.

  20. Sally says:

    Couldn’t have been anyone else this week.

  21. As good as her performance was, and it really was, i really think this should have gone to Sean Harris in The Borgias this week. I’m sorry, but he killed it this week, and showed complete vulnerability, especially when he revealed to Ceserae he was gay and sleeping with a Sfortza spy. His portrayal was pure heartbreak. I’m sorry, but i think he should have at least gotten the runner up section xx

  22. Dick Whitman says:

    Oh, there were other shows this week? I’ve been crying in fetal position since last Sunday. I really hope this gets MF a, Emmy nom (at the very least).

  23. John says:

    She just killed it! Wow! What a performance!

  24. Sarah K says:

    i totally called it! i knew it would be her!

  25. Liz says:

    You can say that again!!! Michelle Fairley was simply amazing!!! My God, I still shiver when I remember her pleading for her son’s life, and then her wail after he was murdered…

  26. nikki says:

    Well deserved. Great performance. Hope there is an Emmy waiting for her. RIP Catelyn.

  27. Ralph Hartman says:

    You got it right this week but I just thought Kane Hodder deserved an Honorable Mention for doing a great job playing an exaggerated version of himself on Holliston. I know most people probably haven’t seen it since it’s on FEARnet but I think he deserves at least a mention.

  28. Shaun says:

    I woulda went with Maisie Williams….her scene with the Hound was great.Sean Harris on Borgias is pretty great too.

  29. Sareeta says:

    I actually was most impressed when Catelyn lifted up Roose Bolton’s sleeve, revealing his chainmail. The look on her face, and that vicious slap she gave him, were so good. That wail, after Robb is killed, and how she goes into almost a catatonic state before her throat is slit. Wow. So many actors on this show deserve Emmy recognition. Michelle Fairley (Catelyn), Richard Madden (Robb), and Maisie Williams (Arya) to name a few.

  30. G says:

    Well deserved and she should be at the least nominated for an Emmy for this episode.