TVLine's Performer of the Week: Claire Danes

Claire Danes Homeland Season 4 Performance

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Claire Danes

THE SHOW | Homeland

THE EPISODE | “From A to B and Back Again

THE AIRDATE | November 2, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | Carrie Mathison should, by all accounts, be an extremely unlikable character. This season alone, she considered drowning her infant daughter in a bathtub, seduced a relatively innocent teenager under false pretenses (knowing full well it would likely lead to his death), and continued to treat her friends, family and co-workers like crap. But therein lies the genius of Claire Danes. Even when Carrie is at her most unsympathetic, we — remarkably — sympathize with her. Heck, more often than not, we’re rooting for her. And that was certainly the case in this week’s standout episode, in which Carrie was forced to rapidly escalate her plan to track and kill Terrorist-at-Large Haissam Haqqani.

The crux of her morally questionable operation — making her jihad pawn Aayan believe in the power of love and sex long enough to lead her to Haqqani — continued to irk colleagues Quinn and Fara. The former considers it repugnant that she’s “f—ing a child” while the latter thinks Carrie should be a little more concerned about the well-being of “the boy.” It’s hard to find fault with either argument — that is, until Carrie lays out her defense.

After reminding Fara that Aayan is not a “kindergartener” but rather “a grown adult who’s been smuggling drugs to jihadists,” she noted that her controversial relationship with “the boy” would not have been necessary had she “done her job” in the first place. “You were supposed to recruit him,” she barked. “I had to go in after you f—ed that up.”

Danes is never better than when she infuses Carrie with righteous indignation — except, maybe, when she infuses her with subtle regret immediately following a righteous indignation spell. Case in point: After Fara reminds her that she is the reason there even is an operation (“I followed Aayan. I found out Haqqani’s alive,”) Carrie reluctantly stepped off her high horse. Danes’ wordless reaction spoke volumes (namely, “Damn, you’re right. Oh, and my communication skills suck. Sorry ’bout that.”)

Of course, we can’t discuss Danes’ performance in “From A to B and Back Again” without talking about The Scene — the one that began with Carrie watching Aayan get executed by his uncle and ended with her ordering her team to drop a warhead on Haqqani, even though it also meant taking out Saul. Facing opposition from her staff, most notably Quinn, who kept reminding her that “It’s Saul,” Carrie exploded, “Take the shot goddammit, wipe that f—er out!.

The anger/regret/sadness/guilt/heartbreak Danes packed into those eight words was nothing short of astonishing. Carrie didn’t end up taking the shot, but, man, Danes sure hit the bullseye.

JaegerHONORABLE MENTION | Ever since Parenthood kicked off its farewell season, Sam Jaeger has offered us glimpses at the chinks in Joel’s armor. From seeing Julia’s new boyfriend hanging around Sydney and Victor, to hearing the word “divorce” tossed around in a law firm, Joel has slowly unraveled at the possibility of losing his wife for good. That’s why it was especially heartbreaking to watch Joel get unapologetically desperate in Thursday’s episode. And while Joel’s episode-ending profession of love had us dabbing our eyes, it was his quieter moments — holding Julia close during a tearful elevator ride, thanking Zeek for becoming a father figure — where Jaeger truly triumphed.

MisonHONORABLE MENTION | In Sleepy Hollow’s second season, Tom Mison has presented Ichabod Crane as a man increasingly frustrated with the way his fate as a Witness seems to always come at the expense of his marriage. Monday’s episode finally afforded the actor a chance to let Ichabod explode, to show that his genteel manners and effortlessly delivered exposition mask a man who would like the universe, for once, to cut him a freakin’ break. Though Mison started the negotiation with Henry with Ichabod’s usual aplomb, he soon began to show Ich’s desperation for the Horseman of War to undo the spell that was killing Katrina. By the time Ich realized that Henry had no intention of alleviating his parents’ suffering, it was all too easy to see that pain playing out on Mison’s features. And later, that panicked horror on Ichabod’s face when Katrina stopped breathing? And the way Mison let Ichabod start to disintegrate, just a little? Forget NorthStar’s Yolanda — when we want someone to guide us through the warring desires of a conflicted heart, we’ll happily turn to Mison.

What performances rocked your TV set 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. “Carrie Mathison should, by all accounts, be an extremely unlikable character.”

    She is. Am I the only one who thinks so?

    • Jerri says:

      Nope. You’re not the only one who thinks that. Can’t stand her. Stopped watching the show a long time ago and now just read recaps online. She’s a ridiculous character. No way the real cia would ever keep a loony like her around.

    • Viv says:

      No! I don´t have a problem with tv shows where the main character is not the purest of pure, hell, I even like my unsympethatic main character, but most of the time I can´t stand her and this season I have a really hard time watching it. And I really don´t sympathize with her, not in the slightest. I sympathize with Quinn that´s one of the main reasons I´m still watching.

    • Sara says:

      She is so unlikeable, she is becoming unwatchable, in my opinion. I watch for the other characters now.

  2. Tran says:

    Claire Danes definitely deserve that honor this week. Carrie Mathison is still the character we always knew her since Day One and this season of Homeland truly got its groove back after last season’s disaster (RIP Brody). Hope a fifth season is around the corner.

  3. Samantha Swank says:

    Wait, seriously, Alex O’Loughlin isn’t included here after the last five minutes of Hawaii Five-0 last night? Alex O’Loughlin knocked it out of the park.

  4. I thought Darby Stanchfield was also great in this week’s Scandal!

    • Leo says:

      Yes. I usually dislike Abby for trying to out-pope Olivia but her scenes are heartbreaking this week. The panic, the messed-up, the unhinged, the hopeless and at the end the relief. Darby played them perfectly.

    • smschira says:

      I’m glad someone else said it. I watched Scandal on Thursday and I literally said “she deserves performer of the week” after watching that scene of her hiding behind her desk. She was fantastic in that episode. I tweeted Ausiello my vote for her. She should’ve at least gotten an honorable mention.

  5. johnhelvete says:

    You guys might regret giving Danes the performer of the week this week considering what I have heard happens to Carrie Mathison in the next episode. Kudos though she was great this week.

  6. Goldie says:

    Nope to Claire Danes. I think the cast of Adult swims “Too Many Cooks” should have got performer(s) of the week. I am not joking by the way. That was some funny and inventive television.

  7. Ivo says:

    Claire Danes is amazing, nothing is imposible to her.

  8. Tim says:

    I love Carrie’s potty mouth!

  9. Alex says:

    She exceeds the expectations. By far, one of the most powerful actresses in our time!

  10. Donnarie2 says:

    Thanks so much for giving Tom Mison the kudos he so richly deserves. He’s been killing it this season.

    • worldtraveler9 says:

      I second the thanks. As noted, Tom has been absolutely brilliant this season, and he was at peak performance in Deliverance.

    • Angela says:

      Agreed. His interaction with Noble last week was excellent (heck, anytime he and Noble interact, they seem to push each other to really up their game acting-wise), and I love that he can make even the most insane/ludicrous moments emotional and moving. He can flit back and forth between dry comedy and intense drama so seamlessly. Glad to see him getting a nod this week.

  11. Bwhit says:

    I detest Carrie which shows how well Claire Danes plays her!

    I also would have put Frank Grillo in for Kingdom, that opening scene was intense with how he changed his face so quick and told that guy to ‘bow to the king’ and then woke up, it was awesome. I love that show already!

  12. schu says:

    Glad a Parenthood member gets acknowledged, can’t believe there’s only a handful of episodes left of the show!

  13. Ruiroxo says:


  14. Tom Mison is one of the most gifted and versatile actors working today, and it was nice to see him recognized for a performance that truly showed his range. The scene with the amazing John Noble (Nope, these two will not be going down to the fishing hole anytime soon!) and the final scene in the church had me in a fetal position on my couch. His multi-layered portrayal of Ichabod Crane is fascinating to watch, and a large part of why Sleepy Hollow is must-see TV on Monday nights in my house.

  15. redjane12 says:

    Claire Danes deserves a mention every week… She makes Carrie Matheson a compelling character in spite of her many many flaws and her consistently poor decision making… Carrie is a spy driven by a zealous sense of responsibility for the safety of her country so much so that she will do anything, including manipulating a teenager like Aayan, which of course is sickening to watch but Danes does such a good job that you can’t help but empathise with her throughout the whole ordeal…

    Tom Mison does a great job as Ichabod… It could have been a cartoonish character (a bit like that joke that is Constantine…) and yet, Ichabod is fun to watch but he can be serious and touching as you’d expect from a guy who’s suddenly 200 years in the future. Has to be lonely…

  16. Carlos Alvarez says:

    Darby Stanchfield playing Abby on Scandal should have got this. She was amazing this week.

  17. DanielleZ says:

    Could not agree more. Terrific performance by Claire Danes and the episode rates as one of Homeland’s best. Hoping the rest of the season is this good.

  18. Rachel says:

    What about Gabriel Mann for revenge

  19. Derek117 says:

    I totally agree with your choice: Claire Danes is mesmerizing in Homeland this season. From the point when she seduced Aayan, I’ve been screaming at my TV screen–but not able to take my eyes off of her. Carrie has always been “unlikeable” and it surprises me that people who accept Tony Soprano have problems with her. More importantly, Carrie has always been a “vehicle” for the writers to explore the moral compromises Good People make when trying to destroy Evil–and survive in the quagmire that is the Middle East. So, “disliking” Carrie is pretty much a required reaction to her character.

    My Honorable Mention goes to Katie Findlay and Alfred Enoch, who rocked their Romeo & Juliet (aka: “puppy love”) romance on How to Get Away with Murder this past week. Both of these young actors are under-rated and have wonderful on screen chemistry. Finally consummating their relationship with a sex scene (juxtaposed with an autopsy, of all things) was a scene almost as powerful as Carrie demanding that the Drone pilot fire and kill Haqqani–and Saul.

  20. BetiSA says:

    you can hate her character or not but nobody can deny Claire is amazing on Homeland. Strong performance.

  21. Mel says:

    Carrie may be unlikeable and annoying at times, but Claire Danes is brilliant, and infuses Carrie with multiple layers. The scenes you mentioned were top notch, shocking and reminded me of why I love this show this much. Great pick.

  22. Anna says:

    When I watched that scene with Joel and Zeke, my first thought was “I wonder if he’ll get nominated for performer of the week on tvline!” That scene hurt my heart.

  23. LAwoman says:

    Carrie Mathison should, by all accounts, be an extremely unlikable character.” She is unlikable and she’s supposed to be. But in that episode, Claire Danes brought her “A” game. I’m liking Homeland again.

  24. Eric7740 says:

    Sam Jaeger was amazing on Parenthood and has been for the past 5 seasons!!!

  25. yen35 says:

    I do have issues with Carrie’s behavior this season. Keeping her phone off while Saul was being kidnapped was number 1. Even if she had to seduce the boy to get the info, I didn’t see why she couldn’t keep her phone on and then tell him ‘well, I have to step out to take this call’. I don’t know if Carrie fully realized what she was saying when she ordered them to take out everyone, Saul included, or at that point, she was too guilt stricken to care or probably had not been on her meds/mixing them with wine. But Claire Danes is still my favorite actress (together with Stana Katic) and her performance this season was absolutely top notch.

  26. Ram510 says:

    Sam Jaeger is awesome I’ve liked him ever since Eli Stone!
    But that episode of Sleepy Hollow was terrible

  27. lisa says:

    Darby Stanchfield was robbedddd

  28. mike says:

    What a marvellous actress is claire Danes,so expressive,so realistic !!!!hasn’t she got an Oscar or Golden Globe for her interpretations??

  29. gmoney says:

    Claire Danes is so incredible in her role I find it hard to believe she’s not bi-polar in real life. Best female protagonist ever on tv.