TVLine's Performer of the Week: Woody Harrelson

woody-harrelson-true-detective-performance-who-goes-thereA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Woody Harrelson

THE SHOW | True Detective

THE EPISODE | “Who Goes There”

THE AIRDATE | Feb. 9, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE |  In the wake of an episode that ends with a nail-biting, completely bananas shootout/hostage situation/nighttime escape — captured with an epic, six-minute tracking shot — we still can’t shake the equally stirring but far quieter work of Woody Harrelson as a deeply flawed husband coming to grips with the sudden but inevitable collapse of his marriage.

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Harrelson’s Det. Martin Hart is a man of enormous contradictions. On the surface — and, a lot of the time, in his own mind — he’s deeply devoted to his wife and two little girls, the shiny veneer of their home life providing a much needed counterbalance to his grim work as a Louisiana homicide detective. And yet, he’s also a self-absorbed southern chauvinist — already outmoded in the show’s 1995 setting — a good ‘ol boy who rationalizes his decisions to spend nights at his mistress’ apartment, and yet explodes in violence when his part-time sexual liaison decides she wants a real boyfriend.

In “Who Goes There,” Hart’s deceptions finally catch up with him. When he comes home to discover his packed bags and a breakup letter from his wife, his fury that his girlfriend Lisa (Alexandra Daddario) has blown his cover quickly morphs into a stunning desperation. As Hart tries to reach his wife — but instead gets his disgusted, dismissive father-in-law at the other end of the receiver — Harrelson, pacing the room like a cornered animal attached to a land line, exposes the incongruous truths of his character. He sputters and cries and pleads for a chance to explain himself, even though we see that, in the pit of his stomach, he knows there aren’t any words to win his family back. At the same time, Harrelson plays Hart as genuinely taken aback, as if he’s lived his life with such a stunning lack of self-awareness that he never recognized that the time bomb of his wife’s growing suspicions and dissatisfaction would eventually implode his entire home life.

That obliviousness — and yes, the entitled air of a man who on some level thinks he has a right to “something wild” on the side — is exposed again in a later scene where Hart drunkenly confronts his wife (Michelle Monaghan) at her place of work. Something in Harrelson’s performance, though, tells us this time, Hart’s doing it more for show. He knows before he even sees Maggie’s look of disgust that it’s over, but he still makes a big scene of getting dragged from the hospital ward where she works. It’s as though he’s telling the world — maybe trying to convince himself — that it’s partially Maggie’s fault, too. The remarkable thing about Harrelson’s sleazily charming performance is there are moments where we almost believe him.

HONORABLE MENTION | In an episode that saw The Fosters dealing with the death of a loved one both in the present and in the past via flashbacks, 20-year-old Australian actress Maia Mitchell was truly impressive in her subtle, emotional performance. Her tough girl Callie is not one to let her guard down, so Mitchell was given the challenge of being restrained and vulnerable at the same time, and she more than delivered on it as she remembered the events surrounding her mother’s passing. As Callie sat on her bed, lost in her memories, the tiniest flicker of pain and sadness flashed in her eyes, giving way to all the feelings brewing underneath the surface. Then, Mitchell delivered a beautiful, tear-filled confession to her foster brother/sorta boyfriend Brandon — as Callie realized what she needed most was a family. It’s official — Mitchell is the real deal.

HONORABLE MENTION | Haters may wanna put The Walking Dead’s Carl over their knees and spank him, but all we wanna do is high-five his portrayer, Chandler Riggs. His performance in “After” was, from top to bottom, rock solid. And, while it may not come as a huge surprise that the 14-year-old could play adolescent rebelliousness (poor Rick!), the acuteness with which he managed to shoehorn his post-apocalyptic alter ego’s sadness and rage into his developing sense of independence was a revelation. (Which, of course, made it all the sadder when Carl feared that the father he swore he could do without actually had died.) Hard as it is to believe, the child actor that we met four years ago is now a (baby-faced) leading man.

Which performances rocked your TV set this week? Sound off below and let us know!

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43 Comments
  1. Eddie says:

    What’s the deal with True Detective? I LOVE it but what will happen after this season?? A new case, new characters?? Someone enlighten me!

    • Macie says:

      It’s like American Horror Story, only they probably won’t re-use actors. Next season will be a new story with a new setting, time and characters. It’s an anthology series.

    • alex jones says:

      yeah from what I’m hearing next season will be a new case with new characters.

    • Phillip says:

      Yes. New case, new city, new characters. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConahay already stated that they’re not going to be apart of the sec

  2. Ashley says:

    Disappointed that Dylan O’Brien isn’t on here as an honorable mention. I get Teen Wolf isn’t something that you would consider would have a performance of the week, but Dylan really went above and beyond this week. He has a bright future ahead of him in the industry.

    • Warren says:

      Yes! I almost forgot that. He was great in that episode, and because of that I will endure Teen Wolf for another season. At least they are realizing now who the real lead of the show should be.

      • tjmack says:

        I’m sorry, but why exactly should Dylan be the real lead of the show? Yes, Dylan is great. Yes, I love Stiles to death, but every single actor/actress on that show has had great episodes/scenes, and they should all be recognized for their tremendous acting ability. I know that 3×06, the scene with Scott & the flare still gives me goosebumps. Everyone in that scene (Dylan included) were amazing, but for me it was Tyler Posey who stole the scene with his speech, and the way he choked up while he was giving it.

        3×05, the scene where Allison is stitching up Scott, brilliant job by Crystal Reed.

        The last 2 episodes of season 2, briliiant preformances from everyone, but the scene where Melissa finds out about Scott … so much raw emotion in that scene!

        Dylan is doing such a fanastic job, and he truly is an amazing actor, but so is everyone else on the show. That’s why it’s an ensemble, and while the show is technically about “Scott” which would technically make Tyler Posey the “lead actor” all of the main cast make the show what it is, and the show wouldn’t be the same without any of them.

        • DL says:

          Agree and disagree. As a whole, the cast is great, but some of the actors are clearly better than others. Dylan O’Brien is clearly the best of the bunch, but Crystal Reed is up there, too, and Holland Roden in the same ballpark. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Tyler Hoechlin, the twins, and Daniel Sharman as Isaac, who are decent at best (though, granted, Hoechlin still makes Derek a very interesting character, even if he isn’t incredibly dynamic outside of wolfing out).
          Tyler Posey is an interesting case. In the first season his performance was almost laugh-worthy, but he’s grown by leaps and bounds since then. He’s become a believable leading man, has evolved into a very solid actor with both comedic and dramatic chops, and he’s proven he’s worthy to carry the show on his shoulders. Fantastic moment he had with Stiles before the brain scan this most recent episode..
          I do completely agree that Tyler Posey should be the “lead” of the show. It IS ultimately about Scott, and I think that’s how it should stay. However, Dylan O’Brien truly is the standout actor among the cast, and it’s no surprise he’s already headlining a major motion picture (The Maze Runner).

    • mochellie says:

      AGREE!!!! He’s been pretty amazing these past couple episodes, but this week’s was phenomenal. I can’t believe TVLine didn’t even mention, especially considering they’ve given the performance of the week previously to similar genre shows like Vampire Diaries.

    • guest says:

      So agree! Really feel like he at least deserved a mention.

  3. Amanda says:

    I just can’t even put how I feel about True Detective into words. It’s truly bananas in such a good way. Just wow. Wow.

  4. Liz985 says:

    Good on ya for the “Carl” shout-out. Chandler Riggs has been awesome from the start of the series, but some viewers’ built-in dislike for child actors/characters gets in the way of appreciating how this character’s experience in the post-apocalyptic zombie world is unique and compelling (how do you go from being a carefree suburban grade schooler to a gun-toting survivalist in a couple of years and still maintain your sanity?). It’s not Chandler Rigg’s fault that the meme of the 2nd season (“Where’s Carl?”) became so annoying. Put that all on the writers who couldn’t seem to come up with any other dialogue to express the isolation and confusion that Carl was going through.

  5. Becca says:

    Maia Mitchell was AMAZING this week! A true standout. I’ve watched her scene with Teri Polo too many times to count now– it was that good. Everything about The Fosters is so good right now!! So glad you included Maia here.

  6. Kami says:

    No love for Stiles on Teen Wolf?

  7. Columbus says:

    So glad that you gave Maia Mitchell an Honorable Mention. She was really terrific in this episode particularly in her scene with Teri Polo where she finally hugged her foster mother tightly.

  8. Emily says:

    True Detective is one of (if not the) best shows on television right now. The acting is superb, from the leads to the supporting cast. It isn’t in your face, it isn’t cheap thrills, but it’s more gripping than anything I’ve watched in a very long time.

    • Gaara says:

      Exactly. I watched and catched up many good shows during these months, but this one – after only 4 episodes – is already the best by far imo. Now I can’t wait to read Robert W. Chamber’ “The King in Yellow” to understand the references.

  9. Jake says:

    It’s rather shocking that he got no awards love for his role in out of the furnace with christian bale

  10. Eliza says:

    True Detectives is one of my favorite shows on tv right now. Harrelson and McConaughey are phenomenal. I hope they do work together again.

  11. Spencer says:

    Chandler was amazing in the most recent episode, but I think the true star of the episode was Danai. Michonne’s backstory was heartbreaking and brilliantly performed.

  12. Fan says:

    Emmy Rossum should have won this week for her work on Shameless. She had to do some tough scenes and her work was super powerful.

  13. Grace says:

    I agree with the honorable mentions, but did you not see Teen Wolf this week? Dylan O’Brien was everything. It may just be a teen supernatural show on MTV, but brilliance is brilliance, no matter where you find it.

  14. Carol says:

    Laura Vandervoort in ‘Bitten’ was absolutely it for me this week hands down. When Elena woke up in the cage after being bitten by Clay was painful yet at the same time mesmerizing. I just ached for Elena not understanding what was happening to her. She went from a trusting woman in love, then in a heart beat, having her whole world torn apart by one rash act. Truly great drama and well played out.

  15. ... says:

    Avan Jogia in the Twisted winter premiere was pretty superb. His character has been such that he keeps things close to the vest and doesn’t have a lot of big emotions, but he had two excellent monologues this time, one where he told his best friends the real story behind the event that changed their lives and one where he confronts his (long thought dead) father for getting him sent to juvenile hall for five years. It was powerful to see his character finally let go of some of the weight he had been carrying since the first episode and Jogia’s delivery made the emotion in the scene all the more mighty and complex.

  16. TinLV says:

    I tuned into True Detective in the first place because I was intrigued by its cast. And its a great show; I really think both actors are doing a phenomenal job and the storyline is creepy and engaging. But whether I watch next year will probably depend on who is in the new cast.

  17. Glad to see Maia Mitchell as honorable mention. Her scene with Teri Polo where she breaks down is just heartbreaking…almost cried the first time I watched it and cried non-stop. So glad the show is renewed for a second season!

  18. DanielleZ says:

    Nice see Woody Harrelson getting some love for his performance last week on True Detective. Matthew McConaughey has been excellent in the series also.

  19. jerrired says:

    I agree, all three of these performances were my standout ones for the week. Glad to see them all recognized here. I rarely hate kid characters, but I hated Carl on last week’s episode, but also understood his pain, and that was definitely because of Chandler’s great acting. I just love the whole The Fosters cast and crew, and this was definitely Maia’s best moment on the show so far. I’m a not-so secret fan of Harrelson and I literary just finished the episode before reading you guys’ assessment of his performance and characterization, spot on.

  20. Jax says:

    So happy you guys recognized The Fosters here. The show is often overshadowed by the more sensational and “gritty” stuff on cable which is a real shame because people are missing out on some truly great performances.

  21. tealeaves says:

    I can’t disagree with the performance pick this week. Woody Harrelson has been phenomenal in True Detective every week. True Detective is my favorite new show in over a year. The writing is great but the acting from both Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey is what really makes it a must see show.

  22. Anna says:

    I like True Detective, but I think it’s a bit overhyped. Four episodes in and I feel nothing for the characters. I’m not sure if I believe Matthew as an actor yet. He’s good at playing stoic or campy/over the top, but I’ve never really “felt” something from a performance of his (and yes, I’ve seen Dallas Buyer’s Club). As for Woody, I don’t think his emotional outburst this week was believable. To each their own, though.

    • I’ll agree I don’t totally buy into McConaughey but what’s funny is I feel enough sympathy for Woody that I was pissed off at his father-in-law. I mean from episode 1 you could tell the character was a bit deluded to say the least with how he defended his actions. I really feel it was a kind of fascinating look into the mind of a guy who fancies himself a family man yet cheats. Might be because despite the fact that Woody kicks would be new boyfriend for his booty call’s ass I thought her revealing the truth to his wife was a terrible thing to do. This is a guy who really doesn’t like mind games and I guess I sympathize with that even if he’s an asshole. I dunno.

  23. Radha says:

    Where is Dylan O’ Brien from Teen Wolf? Actually add Tyler Posey to that list too with the hospital scene. I was in tears through that and the majority of the episode.

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  26. dude says:

    So glad to see Maia Mitchell included. She is truly a remarkable talent and The Fosters is firing at all cylinders this season.

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