Performer of the Week: Thrones' Peter Dinklage

GoT_dinklage_potw_325A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Peter Dinklage

THE SHOW | Game of Thrones

THE EPISODE | “The Laws of Gods and Men”

THE AIRDATE | May 11, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | Tyrion Lannister didn’t say much for most of this week’s Game of Thrones – but in the episode’s final minutes, Dinklage more than made up for his character’s reticence.

Dinklage gave an unflinching performance as Tyrion unleashed a torrent of rage at those gathered for his character’s unfair trial. No one was spared the vitriol that had been building inside Tyrion his entire life, with Dinklage growling his anger at the horrified crowd.

“I saved this city, and all your worthless lives,” he nearly whispered, Dinklage regarding the court audience with extreme contempt.  “I should’ve let Stannis kill you all.”

The speech was all the more striking in comparison to what came before it, as Dinklage curled in on himself while Tyrion listened to Shae twist their romance into something seedy and damning. “Shae, please don’t,” he pleaded softly, Dinklage’s face conveying all the hopes that his love would change her mind and recant her testimony… and all the certainty that she wouldn’t.

So the actor doubled down, funneling decades of Tyrion’s hurt and shame into what really needed to be said: “I’m guilty of being a dwarf,” he stated. “I’ve been on trial for that my entire life.” Freed of any need to pretend, Tyrion kept going – with Dinklage imbuing the performance with pre-gallows glee. “I wish I were the monster you all think I am,” he said, jaw clenched, before loudly wishing death upon everyone in the room.

If Tyrion’s going to meet his Game of Thrones end soon, we don’t want to know about it – in a cast full of pros, Dinklage rises above all.

Nashville Season 2 FinaleHONORABLE MENTION | We’ve often watched Hayden Panettiere play Nashville‘s Juliette Barnes bratty, boozed up and bereft – but it’s not often we’re lucky enough to see her tackle all three in the same episode. The actress brilliantly maneuvered her country-music alter ego from desperate whining (when she tried to get Rayna to void her contract) to hilariously out-of-control drunkenness (we know we shouldn’t have laughed at her runny-mascara face on the bathroom floor, but we did anyway) to utter desolation (if Avery finds a way to deny her quiet plea to stay, he’s a stronger man than we are). Throughout, we marveled at Panettiere’s innate ability to make us not only tolerate — but root for — a character who kicked off the series so unlikable.

HONORABLE MENTION James Spader sure knows how to make us root for the antihero. As The Blacklist Season 1 Finalecriminal mastermind Ray Reddington on The Blacklist, Spader has spent the show’s first season infusing his character with a confident swagger. Even as Red was forced to face his own mortality in Monday’s season finale, Spader’s suave demeanor kept us certain that Red would prevail. But it was the rare moments of vulnerability that Spader put on display this week that caught our attention even more. When Liz indicated that she wanted to end her working relationship with Red, Spader allowed us a brief glimpse at the man behind the sharp tongue, a man who is lonely and misunderstood. Later, as Red revealed more sobering details of the house fire that took Liz’s childhood — including the burns he suffered himself — we found ourselves feeling something akin to sympathy for the morally corrupt character, a feat only an actor of Spader’s calibre could achieve.