Performers of the Week: Rory McCann and Gwendoline Christie

Game Of Thrones Season 5 Spoilers

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMERS | Rory McCann and Gwendoline Christie

THE SHOW | Game of Thrones

THE EPISODE |The Children

THE AIRDATE | June 15, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | Physical acting rarely gets its due come awards season, but Rory McCann and Gwendoline Christie’s stunningly brutal, gasp-inducing battle scene during Game of Thrones‘ Season 4 finale was one of the finest examples of the form in recent TV history — absolutely too epic to ignore.

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The scene began with Christie’s Brienne of Tarth accidentally stumbling upon Arya Stark, the orphaned child she’d vowed long ago to track down and protect, along with Arya’s captor-turned-reluctant-guardian Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (played by McCann). Every word of their conversation vibrated with anticipation of the violence that was about to erupt: “There’s no safety, you dumb bitch: If you don’t know that by now, you’re the wrong one to look over her,” growled The Hound, after listing all of Arya’s relatives who’d met horrifying fates. “And that’s what you’re doing — watching over her?” Brienne replied, an incredulous grin creeping over her face. “Aye, that’s what I’m doing,” Clegane sniffed back, betraying the fact that his concern for Arya was no longer solely about a cash reward.

Thus, we had two beloved characters, locking eyes and drawing their swords, both believing they were on the side of right. And the ensuing two and a half minutes, with Brienne and The Hound’s lives hanging in the balance, allowed Christie and McCann to serve up a scene as horrific, suspenseful and thrilling as any in Game of Thrones history. Swords clanged. Fists connected. Brienne cornered her rival and told him she didn’t want to kill him, but he grabbed the end of her sword, the Valerian steel ripping into his hands, telling her “I’m not a knight” and letting us know his kill-or-be-killed intent. From there, the brutality began to exponentially multiply: The Hound preparing to snap Brienne’s neck; her boot connecting with his tenders; The Hound gaining the upper hand with a series of vicious kicks and then pinning his rival to the ground; Brienne countering by biting off a chunk of Clegane’s ear, then rising and pummeling him with a rock (letting out the most primal of screams and spitting out his flesh in the process). Finally, as the duo teetered at the edge of a precipice, it was The Hound who fell backwards to his presumable doom, and the audience who was finally able to let out a collective exhale.

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Later, McCann proved just as devastating — although much more quietly so — first asking, then taunting and finally begging Arya to use her tiny sword and put him out of his misery. When his ward instead made off with his coin purse and left him to waste away, the bloodied, muddied warrior suffered the worst defeat of all. If The Hound ultimately meets his maker at the bottom of that cliff, at least McCann made his gruff, often unfeeling character’s final moments on the show unforgettable — and a little bit heartbreaking.

24_Heller_DiesHONORABLE MENTION | Fox’s 24 over the years has given us all modus of POTUS, from the iconic David Palmer to the weasely Charles Logan to that bland Wayne guy. How will history remember William Devane’s James Heller? As a hero who chose “the right way” to go — in the name of saving lives. In his final hour on Live Another Day, Devane exhibited all his tools, first with a convincing roar that even Jack Bauer couldn’t argue with: “I know it’s not just about me! It’s about those dead bodies in the hospital parking lot!… Face it son, you and I are the only chance they have.” From there, he was given moments amusing (imagining the damage Jack could have done all these years as a surgeon), tender (stealthily saying farewell to unwitting daughter Audrey) and, ultimately, dutiful. “We’re outta time,” he told Jack before marching onto the Wembley field, ready to find himself squarely on the business end of a drone missile. Devane in every sense of the word went out with a bang.

Playing House Jessica St ClairHONORABLE MENTION | All season long, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham have been making us giggle uncontrollably as best friends Emma and Maggie on USA’s criminally underrated Playing House. In the Season 1 finale, though, as Maggie delivered her baby and Jessica’s unrequited crush Mark (Keegan-Michael Key) decided to put some distance between them, St. Clair proved she’s equally adept at making us reach for the Kleenex. The delivery scene in particular — where Emma steeled herself, then reminded her pal of the moment where they got through Maggie’s parents’ funeral together — proved a truly touching reminder of the characters’ deep connection. Here’s hoping a Season 2 renewal — and the promise of more authentic female friendship on our screens — is imminent.

Which performances rocked your world this week? Sound off below!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. HAP says:

    I really hope Playing House gets a renewal. The cast is stellar.

  2. Emgee says:

    Devane’s performance was outstanding. Rick Hoffman also gave a great performance in this week’s episode of “Suits.”

  3. DarkDefender says:

    Interesting choice, TVLine! I think the Brienne/Hound battle could give that Arrow/Deathstroke finale battle a run for the money. :D

  4. Dan says:

    Look, let’s get this out of the way: Gwendoline Christie is perfect for the role because she looks a lot like it. But she’s a TERRIBLE actress. Even those grunts when she was fighting sounded contrived. I wanted her to be great, really did, I don’t root against her, but she’s just never good. As much as people complain about Emilia Clarke (with some reason), Christie is still worse.

    • Wouter says:

      What? Really? I haven’t read the books so i don’t know what she’s supposed to look like, but i always thought Gwendoline was definitely one of the best parts of the show.

    • Michelle R. says:

      I think she’s great. She has this injured dignity that would come with all the slights against her.

    • Nick says:

      Completely disagree, both their screams and grunts during the fight made it more real for me. It’s like I could feel every blow each one was taking.

      • Dan says:

        You guys have all been respectful, so I do appreciate your input. Still, she sounds too fake for me even in interviews and I simply can’t take any of her acting as natural. Every line is heavily enunciated and the grunts and screams sounded like overacting as well. Thanks a lot for replying, tho.

        • Scott Johnston says:

          The things you don’t like are all part of the character. I’ve seen her in a number of other shows and she’s nothing like that in any of them.

      • The Lost Tully says:

        It’s a real fight, to the death I may add. Brienne is not going to sound pretty, The Hound’s hair is not going play nice, they weren’t holding back. This was going to end with one of them dead, and they looked like it.

    • Joey says:

      “As much as people complain about Emilia Clarke (with some reason),”

      I assume you mean “with good reason”. Any word she utters that isn’t Valyrian is just…. *shudders*

    • Zachary says:

      Personally I loved everything about the fight and some of my favorite scenes of the show have come when she is on the screen, especially when she was with Jaime. And as for Daenerys, she is my favorite character on the entire show, just beating out Tyrion and Arya. I think some people are just a little too nitpicky when watching TV and always have something too complain about (not you, but in general).

    • Rissa says:

      The fight was supposed to be brutal, a fight to death, both actors nailed it and made the fight epic. Brienne is usually called a ‘sow’ by mysoginists characters in the books so I thought Gwendoline’s grunts and screams during the Hound fight were perfect and on point. She is also described as awkward. Plus, unlike guys who control their grunts and emotions during fights (lest they be described as flamboyant), Brienne’s character is a girl, and I always see girls during street brawls fight that way.
      There are also only two of them fighting (unlike in the Mountain Viper fight where you have the crowd and Oberyn having a monologue) there would be dead air if there will only be just sounds of clanking of swords and punches.

  5. Haley1020 says:

    What about katie leclerc and Marlee matlin for switched at birth they were both stellar this week

  6. alex says:

    lena headey’s performance was impressive as always. The scene with tywin was exceptional

    • The Beach says:

      You are correct, Ser Alex. I think her’s was indeed the performance of the week.

    • Cersei says:

      Thank you! Right show, wrong performers of the week. Lena Headey was perfection in her showdown with Tywin. The way her voice broke with desperation, anger, and being on the edge of tears without going over the top when she said, “I will burn our house to the ground before I let that happen,” is worthy of the nod alone. Give her an Emmy already!

  7. Shaun says:

    Think I’d go with Colin Hanks or Keith Carradine.Or Mike from Suits.Devane didn’t show us much.

  8. Make each show longer and make more shows per season. There’s no reason for it to run only during a certain season. Make the finale like a motion picture — 90 minutes to 2 hours long.
    Don’t make “evil” and “good” characters but make both sides equally rootable for.

  9. Carol says:

    Thanks for mentioning ‘Playing House’
    When Mark told Emma he couldn’t be around her anymore it was like she’d just been kicked in the gut. I remember gasping because it was so unexpected yet in hind-site what else could Mark do. Jessica played it wonderfully.

  10. The Lost Tully says:

    Awesome! Totally earned too.
    That’s Jaime’s girl and Arya’s companion for you! In one massive and terrific performance

  11. Lisa says:

    Playing House is amazingly funny. If you are not watching it you are truly missing out on some great comedy. And you are correct about that birthing scene it was fantastic without being cringe-worthy.

  12. Tone LG says:

    Playing House is an absolute a breath fo fresh air (Thank GOD for sitcoms withOUT laugh tracks) , and Lennon Parham’s Maggie is the funniest character to hit TV comedy since Barney Stinson.

  13. Tracie Spoto says:

    I laughed and cried through the whole hour season finale of Playing House. It is crazy how funny that show and the cast are. USA please renew this show now!

  14. Nancy Lewis says:

    Yes, Rory McCann, gave a beautiful, heart wrenching performance in the season 4 finale, but has he been nominated for an Emmy this time around? I haven’t read anything saying that he has, yet maybe Maisie Williams might be nominated??? We “fans” could always give up television and going to the movies. They usually give out awards to stars & shows that aren’t talented or entertaining. The whole entertainment industry needs an attitude adjustment.