TVLine's Performer of the Week: Vera Farmiga

Vera Farmiga Bates Motel Season 3

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Vera Farmiga

THE SHOW | Bates Motel

THE EPISODE | “The Deal” (April 6)

THE PERFORMANCE | We’ve long thought that one of the marvels of Farmiga’s gloriously unhinged work as Bates Motel’s Mommie Dearest is that she’s always, always acting on (at least!) two levels. And never was that stunning duality on better display than in this week’s episode.

When Romero tried to convince Norma that she had to give up the incriminating flash drive for which sleazebag Bob Paris seemed more than willing to kill, her portrayer illuminated not only her character’s outrage but also her desperation — with the motel going under (not to mention Norman going crazy), she needed something, anything to use as leverage against White Pine Bay’s ruthless power brokers. When she cut the deal of the title with Bob, Farmiga revealed her alter ego’s endearingly inappropriate sense of humor along with her sense of justice. (In exchange for her silence, she demanded an exit ramp from the dreaded bypass and billboards advertising the motel. “And,” she added hilariously, “I want a pool.”) And finally, when Norma’s sons confessed that her brother/rapist was in town — and had been for a while! — the actress made sure that we saw the hurt beneath the fury.

Most impressive of all, these are but a few examples of Farmiga’s two-tiered approach to Norma — in this hour alone! So at the end of the day, we probably shouldn’t really be naming her Performer of the Week, we should be nominating her for Performer of the Millennium. Who wants to be the first to second that motion?

POTWHONORABLE MENTION | Throughout the first season of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, leading lady Ellie Kemper maintains her character’s fierce optimism without veering into insufferable territory. That said, Kemper’s most impressive episodes are those that find Kimmy vulnerable and uncertain about the world around her. Episode 9, in which Kimmy’s 30th birthday party doesn’t live up to her expectations, is a particular standout for the actress. Kemper shifts from furious to incredulous to gleeful (and back again) with such ease, all the while delivering one-liners that remind us how truly naive Kimmy is. (“Sorry I don’t know Hanson’s current hits, Titus. I haven’t been to a Sam Goody since 1998!”) In just 26 minutes, Kemper proves that Kimmy Schmidt might be a tad breakable after all, but we actually prefer her that way.

AnnaHONORABLE MENTION | CBS’ Mom as of late has given Emmy winner Allison Janney rich, seriocomic material to mine, but this week Anna Faris movingly depicted Christy’s pathos in learning her mother leaped off the wagon. As Bonnie roared that she was done with sobriety, Faris’ alter ego found the gumption to volley back, “Then you’re done with me, and you’re done with your grandchildren.” Later, when Marjorie tried to console Christy, Faris’ slumped posture showed her character’s ache as she uttered, “That’s easy for you to say, but she’s not your mother. And, like an idiot, I thought she was finally mine.” And during a closing phone call, Faris worked the weighty pauses as Christy processed Bonnie’s DUI, mustering the courage to make her mom stew in the slammer overnight, and then privately vented her distress into a pillow.

BobHONORABLE MENTION | Let the Emmy buzz for Bob Odenkirk begin right… now. Jimmy McGill’s bingo breakdown in this week’s Better Call Saul finale was absolutely exquisite. The extended monologue about his cheating ex-wife and the “Chicago sunroof” that forced his Windy City exit gave us more of his backstory than the rest of Better Call Saul Season 1 combined, and Odenkirk’s vulnerable delivery helped reinforce the character’s insecurities about public perception and the measure of a man.

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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35 Comments
  1. craig says:

    loved those bingo scenes…. great stuff.

  2. David says:

    Thank you for recognizing one of the best dramatic actresses and one of the best dramas on TV. Farmiga and Bates Motel do not get the kind of recognition that they deserve. Farmiga, Highmore and Theirox regularly give Emmy worthy performances.

  3. Spoiler Junkie says:

    Vera Farmiga deserves a lot of TV awards awards for her enthralling performance as Norma Bates.

  4. Chase says:

    I will be the first to second Vera Farmiga for Performer of the Millenium! She is amazing on Bates Motel and deserves any accolades she is rewarded with and many that she isn’t. She is the main reason I am obsessed with Bates Motel. Anna Faris also did a superb job of giving a two-tiered performance this week: subtley comedic and lightly heartbreaking. I am glad she got the chance to show off her range and acting chops. Allison Janney is always amazing but I am glad Anna got the chance to shine. Mom is quickly becoming my favorite comedy on the air because of the blend of comedy and real life dramatic moments.

    • Spoiler Junkie says:

      So glad you mentioned Mom. Allison Janney and Anna Faris have brought so much to their characters, Bonnie and Christie that they have become my favorite mother/daughter duo on TV.

      • Sims says:

        Totally agree! This show is doing something so cool for a CBS Sitcom. It goes to dark places but the comedy is balanced so impressively. The end of this week brought tears to my eyes. Anna Faris (who usually annoys me in everything) is doing a stellar job… And I don’t think i’ve ever not loved Allison Janney!

  5. SJ says:

    Yes, yes, yes!! Thank you for recognizing Vera Farmiga. Bates Motel is like an obsession for me and Farmiga is the main reason why. I really hope she gets nominated for an Emmy again – and submits this episode.

  6. wentspeedup says:

    Vera Farmiga is one of the best(if not the best) actresses now in tv.Im glad she is recognised.

  7. quang says:

    Kudos to Vera! Is this the first time an actor has scored a SECOND performer of the week?

    Next week’s episode is Norma heavy and co-star Nestor Carbonell said that she gives (another) tremendous performance.

  8. Al says:

    Anna Faris so deserves it. I never could have tell she was a good actress based off the scary movie franchise

  9. Simon says:

    All these performers better have their names read come Emmy nominations.

  10. Eran says:

    I have always said the best comedies shine brightest when they do drama and do it well. Mom is the perfect example of that. A very well-deserving nod.

  11. Mel says:

    I love you for singling out Odenkirk.

  12. Babybop says:

    Anna Faris made me tear up this week. So heartbreaking.

  13. KatsMom says:

    Dammit! Instead of Mom this week, I watched a clip of a tornado touching down somewhere many miles outside Chicago over and over again. I hope they repeat this episode soon.

  14. LAwoman says:

    Yes! Both Vera Farmiga and Bob Odenkirk are doing amazing work.

  15. EDWARD says:

    I can’t believe Sam Heughan from Outlander didn’t at least get an honorable mention.I would have also recognized Christine Baranski from The Good Wife

  16. PJ says:

    Bates Motel is really frustrating me. I so want to like it, but performances aside its really slow and boring. The three main characters (Dylan, Norma and Norman) are great and when they interact they are fantastic and well deserving of any awards. When it gets to the “plot” of the season weather it be drug dealers or some call girl/money thing I am headed for the fast forward button. And as Mad Men fan and quite surprised to see “Ted” as the bad guy. But that part of the story? Meh. Its almost unnecessary.

    Between Vera and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) Emmy voters are missing out on some great performances.

  17. Lauren.m says:

    I agree with all of these…but I feel like Cameron Monaghan from Shameless deserved at least an HM for his work this season. He was the MVP for me.

  18. GhostofMags says:

    How can you ignore the fantastic performances by Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins on the penultimate episode of Justified? I’m so disappointed, TVLine.

  19. Cobra says:

    Odenkirk’s performance in that Bingo scene was brilliant. His frustration at the continued appearance of “B’s” was fantastic.

  20. liame says:

    Well deserved. Vera Farmiga is a brilliant actress.

  21. ChicagoDan says:

    VF is hands down the best reason to watch BM – this is really HER story – not Norman’s. Add in Max Theriot, who basically took a nothing part and shines whether he’s at the Motel or at his ‘farm.’ Norman is the most boring character on the show – give me more Dylan, Emma and Alex instead.

    • hopefruit2 says:

      Actually, the show is about Norma AND Norman, specifically as it relates Norman’s development into the killer that we saw in the movie Psycho. He is 50% of the central relationship and without him, there would be no Bates Motel. If you find the Norman character boring, you are likely watching the show for the wrong reasons.

  22. Nick says:

    So right about Odenkirk. So brilliant. Would like to see some Emmy love for Jonathan Banks and Michael McKean as well.

  23. Alex Potter says:

    Bob Odenkirk was so good in Better Call Saul all year I thought he had a good chance at getting an emmy nomination. But once I saw his heart wrenching performance in the second to last episode I think he has a great chance at getting the emmy! His “Bingo” speech was just the icing on the cake!

  24. dawn says:

    Vera is crazy, determined, driven, and draws you right into the scene. Hope to see more of her!

  25. Dorothy Pimm says:

    Vera Farmiga. She’s from my favorite show! <3

  26. David Kahoun says:

    Vera Farmiga is totally wonderful in the role of Norma Bates. The writers have to be commended for the great lines she gets to say, but the way she says them or the looks she gives or even the tiniest of gestures make her the best actress on TV today. When the sheriff asked her if she’d lost her mind and she just gave the throw away answer of “Maybe, that’s irrelevant” was a total riot. The next episode when the sales girl told her she had too many items to go in the fitting room and she looked at what she had and then looked at the chick and said “Really?!!!” was perfection. I never get tired of watching her. It’s Emmy time for Farmiga!

  27. Rebekah says:

    Vera Farmiga did an amazing job. She’s an amazing actress, period. She definitely deserves an award. The woman can not only put on the tears, but she can open the flood gates. Haha.

  28. Natalie says:

    I refuse to vote for anyone other than Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black for Performer of the Millennium. Vera Farmiga does a fantastic job as Norma Bates, but Tatiana plays the entire cast, and does such an amazing job that the viewer completely forgets there aren’t really 5 separate actresses playing the roles.

  29. a perfect birthday present would be to see the smashing pumpkins and or janes addiction…this rendition on this computer feels very live.