TVLine's Performer of the Week: Zosia Mamet

girls-zosia-mamet-two-plane-ridesA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Zosia Mamet

THE SHOW | Girls

THE EPISODE | “Two Plane Rides”

THE AIRDATE | March 23, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | The role of Girls‘ Shoshanna Shapiro is not an easy one to play. She’s an exaggerated sketch of a modern twentysomething whose combination of blinding ambition, scathing honesty and exacting artifice makes her frequently hilarious and yet all too often unknowable.

In the show’s Season 3 finale, however, Mamet let us see between the spaces in Shoshanna’s carefully constructed house of cards, to witness this young woman crumbling under the realization that her best efforts to control and micromanage every facet of her existence had resulted in an epic failure.

Shoshanna opened the episode breezily going to pick up her cap and gown (in traditional violet, of course) only to be told that her order had been flagged, that she had to go see her advisor. “I need some more information,” Shosh sputtered. “That doesn’t make any sense.” But as Shosh, in her goofy polka-dot leggings, sprinted to the exit, Mamet infused her with a horror that told us something in the NYU senior’s plan had gone horribly awry.

Later, back in her dorm room, we saw Shosh in an atypical rage, hurling books and clothes and furniture around the room with the fury of a woman scorned by a single demanding professor. “Apparently, I’m missing three credits because my f***ing c*** of a Glaciology professor decided to fail the s*** out of me!” she seethed, in hilariously crude fashion.

But it was Shosh’s scene with bumbling ex-boyfriend Ray — whom she’d just learned had been sleeping with her frenemy Marnie — where Mamet revealed new layers of her character. “We’re gonna have a chat,” she hissed, upon seeing Ray in the lobby of a Broadway theater for the opening of a mutual friend’s play. “At intermission, you’re gonna buy me some M&Ms, and we’re gonna have a f***ing chat.”

By the end of Act One, though, Shosh’s righteous indignation had abandoned her, and all that was left on her face was desperation. “I want you back,” she blurted to her stunned ex, but his befuddlement, rather than excitement, wasn’t the response she’d been seeking. Tears welling up in her eyes, panic setting in that she’d ended her college career with both academic and personal failure, she launched into a rapid fire sales pitch for getting back together. “You make me a more stable human, and you make me wanna be the best version of myself. And I just wanna be your girlfriend again and I wanna pretend that I was never not your girlfriend before. I love you,” Shosh said, before adding another pitiful, whispered “I love you” that felt like the final bit of her confidence abandoning her. “Please,” she begged one final time. “Please.”

Stripped of her hard-charging, alpha act, we saw a vulnerable, broken Shoshanna before us — and the prospect of Mamet opening up new and intriguing facets of her character when the buzzy HBO dramedy returns for its fourth season.

JustifiedAlicia WittHONORABLE MENTION | God help us, we’re feeling something for one of the new Crowes. Though Alicia Witt only had a couple of scenes on Justified this week, they afforded a peek beneath her character’s heretofore tough-as-alligator hide exterior. As Wendy, freshly beaten by her own kin Daryl, lured Raylan away from the Marshals office, Witt made clear the wavering sense of family loyalty. But it was a final, near-wordless scene where the actress truly wowed us, reacting to her TV son’s “confession” to shooting Art. As Kendal explained, “I just didn’t wanna die and leave my mom all alone,” Witt displayed a mother’s utter devastation — that her boy, so young, would be take such action or, worse, be compelled to engage in a cover-up.

RELATED | FX Sets Justified End Date; Season 6 Will Be Show’s Last

Zooey Deschanel New GirlHONORABLE MENTION | As Jess’ post-True American morning went steadily downhill on Tuesday’s New Girl, Zooey Deschanel‘s performance soared. What began as a hungover disagreement with boyfriend Nick turned into the most conscious of uncouplings: A tearful, sober (in every sense of that word) Jess and Nick realized that the only thing they actually had in common was their love for each other – and the actress nailed the heartsick moment when Jess realized that that love just wasn’t enough. Girl, you done good.

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