TVLine's Performer of the Week: Ben Mendelsohn

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Ben Mendelsohn

THE SHOW | Bloodline

THE EPISODE | Part 2

THE PERFORMANCE | We never thought that anyone could steal the spotlight from the man who gave life to our beloved Coach Eric Taylor, but in the first few episodes of Netflix’s dark drama of family dysfunction Bloodline, a relative unknown (in this country, anyway) has done exactly that. Emmy winner Kyle Chandler may be the star of this engrossing new series, but Mendelsohn is its breakout performer.

In early episodes the Aussie sensation keeps us guessing. It’s tough to tell if his complex character – beaten down Danny Rayburn, an increasingly desperate man trying to reconnect with a family that continues to reject him – is the product of his upbringing or a genuine bad seed. Explaining to his scornful father why he has come home, Danny calmly asserts, “I thought we could work things out before you die.” It’s the stuff of a stage play by Sam Shepard, which makes the acclaimed playwright’s portrayal of Danny’s distant dad and Mendelsohn’s enthralling work opposite him all the more resonant.

When his guard is up, the tragic Danny is not very likeable or sympathetic at all. But when Mendelsohn lets his sadness and pain show through the impact is heartbreaking.

What really makes Mendelsohn stand out from the outstanding cast around him is that he plays Danny on a deeply internal level. (Even when he wakes up naked on the dock at his family’s waterfront resort in clear view of startled guests he barely reacts.) Still, there is no doubt everything that happens to him leaves a mark. Mendelsohn is a marvel at revealing a lifetime of misery in the subtlest of ways: It’s as if every awful thing in Danny’s past and present (and every bad thing we see coming in his future via scattered flash-forwards) is right there in his eyes, reflected back at everyone around him. We can’t look away.

POTWHONORABLE MENTION | Jules Kiki Cobb is many things: a wife, a giver, a red wine enthusiast… but above all else, she’s a mother — not just to Travis, but to the entire Cul de Sac crew. In Cougar Town‘s series finale, Jules’ desire to keep her tight-knit surrogate family close and lavish them with love gave Courteney Cox an excellent final showcase as she feared everyone was moving on without her. Though the ABC-turned-TBS comedy became less a starring vehicle and more of an ensemble effort, Cox was the glue that held the chaotic half-hour together for the duration of its run, and as its final installment came to a close, perfectly embodied the happy-go-lucky personality of the show itself.

POTWHONORABLE MENTION | For Chi McBride‘s Hawaii Five-0‘s character, it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times, when Grover’s longtime friend Clay paid a visit. For no sooner had the former colleagues reunited than Clay’s wife tragically tumbled off a cliff – leaving Grover to suspect the worst. As Grover grappled with his gut instinct and butted heads with his Five-0 brethren, McBride made evident the conflict between friend and lawman, fearing yet steadfastly believing in a hard truth. McBride especially shined during Grover’s confrontation with Clay, then sealed his Honorable Mention with a sudden breakdown in his wife’s arms, proving that sometimes, yes, big guys do cry.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!

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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31 Comments
  1. Amy H says:

    Totally agree about Ben Mendelsohn. I watched the entire series, and his performance is a standout.

  2. Hannah says:

    FYI: The family name on Bloodline is Rayburn, not Raymond! Completely agree with your pick though.

  3. SJ says:

    A question about Cougar Town: wasn’t Chick’s Alzheimer a major plot point in season 5 and the reason why he moved in with Jules and Grayson to begin with? Did the writers ever explain why they never so much as referenced Chick having the illness this season? It just seems odd to sweep that under the rug…

    • Ani says:

      I was actually relieved that it was hardly referred to. It felt to heavy for such a light-hearted show. I think the purpose of it was to have Chick as a main character, and I’m fine with that.

  4. Ben Mendelson absolutely deserves an Emmy for his performance in Bloodline. He’ll be in the supporting actor category. That said, the stage has been set for great performances from Chandler and Sissy Spacek for next season, but who both turned in stellar performances in the final 2 episodes and could be looking at Emmy nominations themselves.

  5. bj says:

    I haven’t seen Bloodline yet but I definitely agree with Chi McBride’s honorable mention. He thoroughly surprised me this week. And that final scene was indeed very moving.

  6. Cobra says:

    Six words:
    Bob Odenkirk on Better Call Saul.
    .
    His performance this week was brilliant, and that final scene between him and Michael McKean was heartbreaking.

  7. Kate says:

    Bloodline is amazing!!! Ben really had a standout performance! He makes the show. I started watching it to see Kyle Chandler but I couldn’t stop watching it because of Ben Mendelsohn.

    • cuius says:

      Totally agree about Bloodline – showed a clean set of heels to those other over-publicised seaside-located dramas, Broadchurch/GracePoint

  8. Roberta says:

    Once again, the best show on TV gets ignored. Justified is on fire this season, with amazing performances and stunning plots. The writing is beyond anything else on tv. The cast deserves accolades week after week.

  9. Kathy says:

    Ben Mendelsohn created one of the most terrifying characters to ever grace a TV or Movie screen. His understated manner but evil undercurrent worms his way under your skin. His complex evil is further supported by his siblings who love and come to fear him all at the same time. You feel for him but Not a character you would want to meet up with.

  10. S McMary says:

    I was happy to see Chi McBride get an Honorable Mention. I agree he was at his best in the two scenes mentioned but I think my favorite scene was the one when he was trying to convince his skeptical co-workers and friends that he was right about Clay. The actor’s hilarious imitation of his training officer (I swear Daniel Dae Kim looked like he was going to crack up) seguing into his memory of Clay chillingly lying to the T.I.’s face and finally revealing his own character’s anger and hurt when he recognized his friend putting on a similar act with his wife was incredible.

    • S McMary says:

      Typo. Meant T.O. not T.I.

    • KatsMom says:

      I agree. That was the scene that stood out for me too. It rolled all the emotions of the episode into a neat little bow, in my opinion. That Chicago accent was great. (I live in Chicago, so trust me, I notice the bad imitations). Definitely kudos to McBride all around.

  11. Lauren says:

    Cameron Monaghan was incredible and heartbreaking this week on Shameless. It makes me sad he hasn’t gotten an HM for this season.

  12. S. says:

    Paul Blackthorne and Stephen Amell. How could you ignore Blackthorne and Amell, especially this week. Quentin Lance confronting Oliver Queen was heartbreaking, for both of them.

  13. Mr. Tran K says:

    Chi McBride’s performance on last night’s Hawaii Five-0 was amazing. Fingers crossed for a Season 6.

  14. lisa says:

    Ben Mendelsohn is incredible! The entire cast of Bloodline was mesmerizing. I couldn’t stop watching the first season. If he doesn’t get nominated for an emmy it will be just as much a shame as Tatiana Maslany. If you haven’t checked out Bloodline yet do yourself a favor and watch it

  15. DanielleZ says:

    Could not agree more with your selection of Ben Mendelsohn as Performer of the Week. I was not familiar with him before seeing him in Bloodline, which is quite good. His performance as Danny is superb.

  16. P.S.L. says:

    Hello! No mention of Mark Hamill’s performance on the Flash? He was outstanding!

  17. Kay says:

    I have watched ten episodes of Bloodline and love hate to see it end. I believe each actor fulfills his role in a very believable way. Ben Mendelsen is terrific and makes me hate him to his core. Each episode makes me want to watch the next one NOW. Very glad Bloodline is coming back next year. Just hope it will be as terrific.

  18. Dee Passons says:

    I swear they created Danny’s character after my brother Ron. This is his entire life story ( without the wealth) it broke my heart to watch Danny. It brought back so many painful memories of Ron. The drug abuse, the drinking, the love/hate he felt. This was My brother down to the core. Danny had Ron’s look, his talk, his walk, his hair color and style. Danny’s death was very similar to Ron’s although Ron’s death was an accident. I sat down and cried all over again when Danny/Ron died. It’s been 21yrs since Ron died, but the heartache & pain came flooding back with a vengeance. How could Hollywood possibly have known my brother so well??