TVLine's Performer of the Week: Melissa McBride

The Walking Dead The GroveA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Melissa McBride

THE SHOW | The Walking Dead

THE EPISODE | “The Grove”

THE AIRDATE | March 16, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | On just about every level, this was a big episode. There was a big outburst (Lizzie had an epic meltdown after Carol dispatched her walker playmate). There were big shocks (Lizzie murdered her sister, then was put down by Carol). And there was a big turning point (not only did Carol confess that she killed Karen, but Tyreese forgave her). Yet what was most impressive about it all was something very small: McBride’s sublimely quiet, nuanced work.

Whether drawing a prescient parallel between sweet Mika and poor, ill-fated Sophia or struggling not to let her post-apocalyptic alter ego buckle under the weight of Tyreese’s trust, the actress so subtly shaded her performance with apprehension and regret that it’s no wonder Carol’s makeshift family didn’t notice her mixed emotions. They all crossed her face as swiftly and silently as shadows. Even when Carol’s voice betrayed her anxiety, McBride kept it just beneath the surface, as distinct as a scream but as faint as a whisper.

In perhaps the hour’s finest moment — certainly one that was a long time coming — Carol pushed the gun she’d used to euthanize Lizzie across a card table toward Tyreese and admitted that it hadn’t been “some stranger” who’d killed his girlfriend, it had been her. “Do what you have to do,” she said, at once begging for release from their miserable existence and asking for a reason to fight, to live, to hope. And indeed, Tyreese did do what he had to — he forgave her. Now it’s our turn to do what we must — applaud McBride for a performance that could stand as a master class in the merits of restraint.

Community Danny Pudi HONORABLE MENTION | We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: If Abed Nadir was our dungeon master, we’d play a lot more D&D — and that’s because Community‘s Danny Pudi brings such world-creating, fate-deciding zeal to his occasional turns as the study group’s game-master. But this week, Pudi was afforded an opportunity to bring the graph paper adventure even more to life, in a brilliant and hilarious scene in which Professor Hickey (an equally excellent Jonathan Banks) interrogated two trolls, tough cop-style, for information, ultimately playing them against each other. Pudi gave Klem and Gobak colorful yet distinct personalities — for trolls — as they slowly but surely succumbed to Hickey’s mind-frack and gave up the goods. It was so funny, you could 20-sided die.

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