Performer of the Week: Sherlock's Martin Freeman

sherlock-season-3-premiere-recap-faked-death-watson-engagedA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Martin Freeman

THE SHOW | Sherlock

THE EPISODE | “The Empty Hearse”

THE AIRDATE | Jan. 19, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | It takes a good actor to unexpectedly shift a scene from utter heartbreak to pure comedy, and an exceptional one to maintain both moods with effortless believability. And that’s exactly the magic trick Martin Freeman pulled off in Sherlock‘s Season 3 premiere.

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Specifically, we’re talking about that gut-wrenching moment where Freeman’s Dr. John Watson discovered — at a most inopportune time — that his best friend and partner in crime-solving, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), was alive and well and briefly posing as a wine-expert waiter in the London restaurant where Watson was attempting to propose to his girlfriend Mary.

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Our favorite part was when Watson, already twisted up with nervous anticipation from the ring box in his pocket, finally looked up and saw his old pal. Freeman painted a portrait of a man experiencing profound shock and disbelief, the sudden urge to cry, and then — quickly thereafter — a deep undercurrent of anger at the deceit to which he’d been subjected. (For the uninitiated, Sherlock had let Watson believe he’d hurled himself off the roof of a building and met a tragic death some two years prior.)

Watson’s fist slamming against the table in response to Sherlock’s flip, “I probably owe you some sort of apology,” shifted the airy mood that the famous detective had been trying to set. “Two years,” Watson gulped, looking downward, averting his gaze, then finally locking eyes with Sherlock. “I thought, I thought you were dead. Now, you let me grieve. How could you do that?” Watson’s voice was so ragged with emotion, his speech so peppered with guttural little “hmms,” that you could almost feel him trying not to fall completely to pieces.

Of course, when Sherlock cut the tension by asking Watson if he intended to keep his bushy moustache, the stage was set for something completely different. Freeman hilariously catapulted his incensed character across the restaurant, tackling Holmes and attempting to strangle him in front of a shocked audience of diners.

Throughout the rest of the episode, Freeman expertly juggled comedy (trying to convince landlady Mrs. Hudson that he and Sherlock had never been romantically involved), terror (waking up from kidnapping/sedation at the bottom of a Guy Fawkes Night bonfire — yikes!), romance (the chemistry with real-life partner Amanda Abbington as Mary was expectedly stellar) and suspense (uncovering a stolen subway car set to blow up Parliament).

We’re not sure what more we can ask of Freeman for the remainder of Sherlock‘s painfully short third season, but we’re certain his work will continue to impress.

mindy-project-danny-mindy-airplane-kissHONORABLE MENTION | The Mindy Project‘s winter finale was full of shock and awww — with formerly prickly colleagues Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Danny (Chris Messina) finally succumbing to their heretofore unspoken attraction. Messina, especially, delivered Emmy-worthy work as his Dr. Castellano gruffly reunited with the father who abadoned him, begrudgingly began a sweet relationship with his little sis Dani and then — on a flight back home from LA with Mindy — delivered the swoon-worthiest TV scene of the 2013-2014 TV season.

As Danny helped Mindy draft a love letter to her estranged boyfriend Cliff, you could see him realize that he ought to be speaking the words to Mindy himself. “You know you’re right for someone when they force you to be the best version of yourself. That’s how I know we’re right for each other, Cliff,” Danny dictated, before giving a satisfied smile, then staring longingly at his clueless pal. Seconds later, after getting rocked by a bout of turbulence (nice callback to a prior Mindy installment there!), Danny rushed to the back of the cabin, interrupted Mindy’s tonic-water mission, and planted on her a whopper of a kiss (complete with sexy ass-grab!) that we’re pretty sure made even our flat-screen turn to Jell-O. And just like that, the cruelest six words in the English language are now: “The Mindy Project returns April 1.”

Which performances rocked your TV set this week? Let us know in the comments!

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39 Comments
  1. SJ says:

    Boo! No! The performer of the week was Madeleine Stowe from Revenge, hands down! That scene in which she shared to Patrick how he came to be was one of the most well-acted scenes of the entire series.

    • Jason says:

      No, it’s not. There’s nothing really special about it. We have seen many things better than that before.

      • Jerry says:

        I would have to disagree with both of you. I don’t necessarily think it should be worthy of performer of the week, but that scene was quite intense and really well acted (and I normally don’t feel any emotions even when people cry in real life, but I was quite drawn to it).

  2. Gaia says:

    Martin Freeman’s performance was absolutely outstanding! Totally deserves it!

  3. Nancy says:

    Raylan on JUSTIFIED, Sean Hayes on SEAN SAVES THE WORLD, Jesse Spencer on CHICAGO FIRE. Taylor Kinny on CHICAGO FIRE.

  4. Tran 2.0 says:

    Is Martin Freeman the same actor who was in The Hobbit movies?

  5. nikki says:

    Second week in a row I agree with the choice of Performer of the Week.

  6. Aimee says:

    I absolutely agree! Martin was brilliant in that scene. Actually, the whole sequence from when he first sees Sherlock until he leaves in the cab was outstanding.

  7. enri says:

    Freeman and Messina both owned their episodes. Good choices.

  8. Alichat says:

    Wholeheartedly agree with this choice. Freeman was spectacular! My heart just broke for him. Watson’s hurt and anger choking his every word as he tried not to let it explode out of him……it was a masterclass in acting. Freeman is really the reason Sherlock’s death was so believable in the finale of season 2. The show is called Sherlock, so you know he didn’t really die (especially if you know the books), but for the last 10 minutes of the show, Freeman convinced you that Sherlock really had jumped off that roof. His reaction at the scene, and the speech in the cemetery were overwhelming.

  9. guest says:

    Totally agree! That scene was equally as heartbreaking as it was hilarious.

    “For the uninitiated, Sherlock had let Holmes believe he’d hurled himself off the roof of a building and met a tragic death some two years prior”.
    It should say “Sherlock had let Watson..”.

    • Gwen says:

      I absolutely agree with your choice! He is a wonderful actor and I’m happy he got a real chance to shine in this episode.

  10. Jen says:

    Tom Mison and Nicole Baharie. Their goodbye scene was a beautiful moment that broke my heart and separately they were both superb(Abbie and Jenny’s goodbye scene also made me tear up a bit). Also Tom and John Noble going toe to toe was brilliant!

    • uh huh says:

      If there were a “performer of the year” category, both of them should be in contention. The show is so silly on its face that people dismiss it and the absolutely stellar acting that occurs on it every week. Mison gets special consideration, because it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing that role. The way he balances the archness, confusion, pride, intelligence, and bravery of Ichabod Crane is something to marvel.

    • Angela says:

      Seconding every word of this. Yes.

  11. Erika says:

    Well deserved! He’s awesome in everything. Great actor! <3

  12. redjane12 says:

    Great choices! As much as Cumberbatch was an amazingly apt bit of casting as Sherlock, the subtlety of Freeman in playing ‘regular guy’ Doctor Watson is really top notch acting. No big fireworks, just consistently excellent acting.
    And Chris Messina just deserves a show where we can show what a great actor he is. Nothing wrong with The Mindy Project where his Danny Castellano is a fab character but the show may end this season with the poor ratings and all…

    • The Beach says:

      Yes, he is very talented. And his role as the sniveling mama’s boy/network president on Newsroom is coming to an end this year too.

  13. Winnie says:

    I predict Martin Freeman will top this list (or tie) in 2 weeks, because the material in each season’s Sherlock (BBC) finale never seems to disappoint!

    • Znachki says:

      I totally agree with this. He certainly should be. It was wow!

    • WonderWaage says:

      If all is fair, and nobody else really blows us away… The next two weeks, will belong to an actor appearing on Sherlock. My best bet is Cumberbatch for 0302 and Lars Mikkelsen for 0303… Both are absolutely amazing performances.

  14. Kelly Deeny says:

    A wonderful choice! Martin Freeman is an actor who flawlessly transitions from drama and comedy with matched ease. Last week’s episode of Sherlock showed just that.

  15. Maki says:

    Reign’s Toby Regbo deserves and honarable mention for being so despereatly in love that my hearts bleed for him.

  16. Lecholls says:

    Martin Freeman is incredible. This is the perfect choice for performer of the week.

  17. charlotte says:

    Completely agree with both choices! They were absolutely phenomenal.

  18. Margaret says:

    I think she’s already won this & I know the vampire diaries is what it is, but I thought Nina Dobrev was pretty phenomenal in the 100th episode. She tapped into a myriad of emotions, especially in her scenes as Katherine, and they were heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe I might actually be feeling sorry for Katherine!

  19. Dana says:

    Wait till you see him in episode 3. Emmy material. Seriously. And Bafta without a doubt. It is the peformance of the entire Sherlock series for me.

  20. PJR says:

    I would have chosen Erika Christensen from Parenthood for the heart wrenching portrayal of Julia Braverman. Craig T. Nelson for Parenthood as well. Both were spot on this week.

  21. Luna says:

    Martin Freeman is indeed a very good choice this week. Wait until you see the other épisodes though, you’ll he even gets better. It’ll we be a hard choice between him and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance for the second and third episode. I favor Cumberbatch, but it find that sometimes, some people forget there’s an actor behind Sherlock, because he inhabits him so perfectly… Oh well, let’s see!

  22. Alan says:

    freeman could easily win it again for both the remaining episodes. i know cumberbatch gets all the plaudits for the show and he definitely deserves it but for me its freeman that really excels on the show and holds everything together. it nice to see him finally getting the recognition he has deserved for many years now.

  23. JM says:

    Loved both your picks!

    Freeman is amazing! Loved him in ‘The Hobbit’ movies and here as Watson. He is simply a brilliant actor.

    Chris Messina–where has this guy been? He’s great, and I hope he gets recognized, because he makes Danny’s emotions so real, and we feel them right along with him.

  24. kate'shomesick says:

    Freeman is a terrific actor! My honourable mention would definitely go to Erika Christensen. She portrayed something that’s often destroyed by overacting so subtlety…it never felt like acting at all. The end of the episode, when she (and her kids) went to her parents house and she finally confessed to them about her marriage failing, made me shiver …

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