Performer of the Week: Monica Potter

Parenthood - Season 5THE PERFORMER | Monica Potter

THE SHOW | Parenthood

THE EPISODE | “I’m Still Here”

THE AIRDATE | April 10, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | If we had to guess Kristina Braverman’s astrological sign, we’d go with Gemini. Why? As she has navigated a challenging year — in which she beat breast cancer, led a hard-fought campaign for mayor of Berkeley and, most recently, laid the groundwork to create a charter school for son Max — Kristina has alternately been tenacious and sensitive, not unlike those born under that dual-minded sign of the zodiac.

Never has Potter put that dichotomy so beautifully on display than in Thursday’s installment of Parenthood, in which Kristina was faced with two devastations: the loss of her friend Gwen to cancer and the challenge of getting her hands on property for the aforementioned school.

As Kristina visited Gwen for what would be their last moments together, Potter’s performance was both delicate and exquisitely raw. “I don’t want to let you go,” Kristina sobbed. “I love you.” In this final conversation with a dear friend, Kristina’s memories of her own bout with cancer seemed all too real.

RELATED2014 Renewal Scorecard: What’s Getting Cancelled? What’s Already Picked Up? What’s Still on the Bubble?

But it wasn’t just a supreme sadness that Kristina carried with her after Gwen’s death. Later, in Potter’s most harrowing scene of the episode, she unleashed genuine anger on husband Adam, questioning why she got to survive cancer while Gwen did not. “I can be a friend and a sister and a daughter, but she can’t,” Kristina cried. “Why do I get to be lucky and she doesn’t? It’s not right, and I’m mad. I’m mad!”

Perhaps more impressive than Potter’s breathtaking breakdown, though, was her ability to wipe those tears just a few scenes later, as she exchanged terse words with Berkeley mayor Bob Little about obtaining property for the charter school. As Bob skirted the issue, telling Kristina he would “look into it,” Potter’s gaze was once again steely, her demeanor unyielding. “Don’t do this for me, don’t do this for you,” Kristina warned her former competitor. “Just do it because maybe it’s the right thing to do. It’s that simple.”

With an ensemble cast as large as Parenthood’s, stealing the spotlight is no easy task. But this week, Potter took center stage with ease, reminding us why the NBC dramedy has such a tight hold on our heartstrings.

ShamelessHONORABLE MENTION | This season on Shameless, Ian’s closeted love Mickey went from denying his feelings to eventual acceptance, bringing out the best in his portrayer Noel Fisher. In Sunday’s finale, Mickey’s fear of what his bar-drinking cohorts thought of his sexuality turned from defensive anger to bewilderment at their nonchalant response. “No one gives a s–t who you bang,” bar owner Kevin assured him, eliciting a disarmed expression rarely seen on the young man’s face. But just as things were starting to come together in Mickey’s personal life, Ian fell into a manic depression. When his sister Fiona suggested that Ian might need to be hospitalized, Fisher got to show off an unusually vulnerable and fearful side of his character. “I can take care of him!” he exclaimed desperately. “He’s f—ing family.” Mickey and Ian may have a rocky road ahead of them, but thanks to the depth of emotion Fisher brought to the episode, we have faith in their love.

RELATED | Shameless Boss on [Spoiler]’s Surprise Return

POTW GoT PascalHONORABLE MENTION | Pedro Pascal brought Game of Thrones‘ brash Oberyn Martell into King’s Landing with a flourish, showing us in just a few memorable scenes exactly what the sexy Dornish prince is all about. Pascal alternately slinked and stalked through his introduction at the brothel, petting prostitutes and wounding Lannisters with equal amounts of zeal, then suavely delivered some important exposition as he explained his deep-seated hatred for Tyrion’s family. The ease with which Pascal went from gazing lovingly at his paramour to subtly threatening the Lannister clan only worked because Pascal chose to imbue Oberyn’s every motion and thought with a highly believable passion – both for earthly delights and long-sought vengeance. We’ll gladly raise a glass of Dornish sour red to Pascal’s arrival; we can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.