Performer of the Week: Ming-Na Wen

THE PERFORMER | Ming-Na Wen

THE SHOW | Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

THE EPISODE | “Melinda” (April 14)

THE PERFORMANCE | Too often in TV flashbacks, we’re served a marginally different version of a character we already know well. But on this week’s S.H.I.E.L.D., Wen had occasion to inhabit a distinct Melinda May – one who had not yet been dubbed “The Cavalry.”

In the early flashbacks, it was the little things Wen did to distinguish the past May from present. Beaming warmly at husband Andrew as they looked forward to (ahem) “family planning.” Reacting to a Coulson quip with an audible “heh.” Carrying herself more softly (though still the dutiful agent) in an unfitted blazer, thanking a colleague for lending her his “tunes.” And just, you know… smiling, in general.

And then things went sideways.

This May still had heroic inclinations, as demonstrated by her extremely able infiltration of a warehouse guarded by mind-controlled friendlies. But she also had heart, hesitating to inflict on her pals any more damage than need be. And it was that softer side which got socked hardest when May came face-to-face with the op’s true adversary: a gifted, very young girl.

Wen showed us the storm of conflict churning inside May as she processed every conceivable outcome of this standoff, as insane Katya ended life after life with but a gesture. Then, when May’s hand stumbled upon the gun behind her, Wen’s expression shifted to one of clarity in purpose, dark as it may be. “Everything’s going to be all right,” the wannabe mother told Katya, before we cut to Coulson hearing the gunshot. In the coda that followed, back in the kitchen that had just been teeming with joy, Wen made clear that the gunshot that ended a young girl’s life also forever altered one woman’s world.

POIHONORABLE MENTION | Akin to Ming-Na Wen above, Jim Caviezel on Person of Interest has personified the strong and stoic, sometimes wry type. So when an episode such as “Terra Incognita” comes along, one must take notice. Reunited with former scene partner Taraji P. Henson, Caviezel found opportunity to tap into John Reese’s sliiiightly softer side, as the heavy brushed up against (yet never crossed) the line of “opening up,” during a stakeout. But it was the later sequences, when we discover John is no longer flashing back but delusional from blood loss and frigid temps, that Caviezel chilled us by allowing his steely alter ego to register the sober realization of both his predicament and his need to better connect with people, as he (mostly) did with Joss.

originalsHONORABLE MENTION | If Monday’s episode of The Originals was, in fact, the last we’ll see of Mikael — though we’re skeptical, considering it’s not the first time he’s “officially” died — then Sebastian Roché certainly gave his ancient character the exit of a lifetime. Several lifetimes, even. Opposite an equally impressive Joseph Morgan, and without saying much at all, Roché conveyed the hopelessness of a centuries-old vampire facing the last moments of his afterlife. Even in his most desperate hour, he remained every bit the cold, calculating monster we’ve loved to hate since we first encountered him on The Vampire Diaries four years ago, and he will be missed.

potwHONORABLE MENTION | In Thursday’s episode of American Crime, Elvis Nolasco had us clutching the edges of our seats as Carter confessed to his sister (an also-superb Regina King) all the sins he had committed. What began as a quiet, heartbreaking chat — in which Carter divulged his past suicide attempt to Aliyah — quickly spiraled into an angry, almost violent acknowledgment of the ways in which he abused Matt and Gwen Skokie before murdering the former. Nolasco masterfully brought to life the storm of emotions inside his character, and although we shouldn’t sympathize with Carter, his portrayer somehow gave us reason to do exactly that.

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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53 Comments
  1. Joe Blows says:

    umm Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore were great on Bates Motel this week

    • kirads09 says:

      Wasn’t she last weeks performer?

      • ChicagoDan says:

        She was, but she was even better this week. Anyway, VF is in her own class. Kind of a shame that producers stated we’re at mid-point and show will only last 50 episodes. There is so much more they can mine from Norma and White Pine Bay. It is the modern day Twin Peaks.

        • Dude says:

          I think they want to spread it around and recognize as many worthy performers as they can. I mean, if that was the case, Tatiana Maslany would get perfromer of the week/honourable mention every week. Vera is astoundingly good though.

    • tigersmurfette says:

      everyone on bates motel was on fire this week. this is way wrong. i would’ve given it to freddie, with honorable mentions to max theriot and vera farmiga.

  2. greysfan says:

    I couldn’t agree more. She was incredible!

  3. Pearl says:

    No love for anyone from the Justified series finale?

  4. Mr. Tran K says:

    Kudos to Jim Caviezel. He deserves it this week as an honorable mention.

  5. titoveli says:

    Freddie Highmore and Jim Caviezel were great this week

  6. Kudos to giving propers to Jim Caviezel. That last scene when he tells Joss that they made it and he turns back to an empty seat? Man, that scene utterly destroyed me because, just like Reese, I’m still not over Carter being gone.

  7. TV Fan says:

    Happy to see Sebastien Roché getting the recognition this week! Although I do not watch The Originals, I have been a lifelong fan of General Hospital, and Roché’s work on that show has been superb. Heck, he was able to take a 3 week guest spot and turn it into a recurring character that still pops up. He is just captivating to watch.

  8. spindae2 says:

    My vote goes to Annie Wersching. The scene were she brought back Stefan’s humanity was earthshacking. Really enjoy Annie on VD she plays an amazing Lily.

  9. bj says:

    I totally agree with your choice of Ming-Na and Jim. I was moved by both performances. Thanks for picking them.

    I don’t watch the other two shows but I’ll assume you’re bang on there too.

  10. Olya says:

    Agreed, Ming-Na was incredible, so was Jim Caviezel.
    Also, did anybody else notice that the acting on Agents of SHIELD has been really good this season? Ming-Na Wen and Iain de Caestecker alone make this show worth tuning in each week (still waiting for Iain to get the recognition he deserves)

    • Andrew Houde says:

      Kudos to ABC for sticking to their plans despite public outcry in season one. The cast turned out to be excellent, it was more that the character development dragged and lingered too long. The show may be nothing like we expected but its great now none the less.

  11. zac says:

    Actually thought of Performer of the week while watching Ming Na Wen.

  12. Simon says:

    I really thought I’d see Freddie Highmore on this week. Ming Na was great and I don’t watch any of the other shows of the preformers listed. But Freddie was terrific and really deserves an Emmy nod. Everyone knows Vera Farmiga is awesome so now it’s Freddie’s turn to shine.

    • Angela says:

      I wondered if he’d be mentioned, too. I’m in full agreement with you and other commenters here, Freddie was so good this week. Downright creepy yet vulnerable, and I just loved how Freddie got Vera’s mannerisms down so perfectly during that kitchen scene.

  13. kirads09 says:

    POI Terra Incognita Jim Caviezel was no less than incredible. Brought great character depth for his Gibbs like functional mute. Left me with so many intense feels. So emmy worthy kinda wondering why it wasn’t saved for May sweeps.

    Also best quote of the week. Root shows up fairly disheveled in a wedding gown. Finch wry as always – “Congratulations???” Literally on the floor laughing at that.

  14. tatjash says:

    Totally deserved :p

  15. Sean says:

    All actors from the b-casters. Color me shocked.

  16. PFitzDC says:

    I agree with your praise of Elvis Nolasco, but I’m pretty sure you missed the point of his speech. I think it’s clear by the end of the monologue that just like Aubrey’s, his confession is a fakeout. He’s NOT confessing his actual crimes, he’s confessing what he thinks others want to hear. He’s confessing that he is capable of such violence, that he feels like the degenerate that everyone in the system is boxing him toward. But his confession becomes so outlandish by the end, it can’t possibly be real. (Not unlike Tyrion’s rant in Game of Throne’s “trial” last year.) It WAS mesmerizing….and we SHOULD sympathize….

    • annie says:

      Agreed. By the time he got to the Skokies it seemed pretty clear to me that he hadn’t been responsible for that brutality.

    • TJeff says:

      I agree. I didn’t feel as though Carter was confessing to the murder. As many criminals do, they tell you what you and others may want to hear. I think Nolasco has genuinely played an outstanding role in American Crime. I have been following every episode and hope it receives another season. Hats off to Mr. Nolasco. Great Work.

    • Jules says:

      Exactly. It was more of a “I did whatever you said I did since that’s all you want to hear” kind of thing. He was great in that scene. The whole cast is incredibly strong

  17. Joey says:

    My only problem with these weekly columns isn’t with the columns themselves, but the comments of people saying “You should have chosen [so-and-so]!” Why not just remark on the choices that they’ve put forward. If you don’t watch the shows and you’re not familiar with the actors, why even bother commenting.

    • lauren says:

      ICAM the same people who probably wine about the Emmys being samE people again and again are probably here wanting same people to win twice in a month. Wish there was better celebrating instead of beyotching.

    • Angela says:

      I have no problem with people talking about actors they liked on shows that don’t get mentioned in the article-this can be a fun discussion space for talk about good actors in general, whether mentioned in the articles or not.
      But I do agree that people who actually get all outraged because their favorite actor wasn’t mentioned kind of seem to miss the point of this column, or the concept of spreading the attention around.

    • tigersmurfette says:

      message boards are for people’s opinions. people are allowed to voice their opposing opinions and the like. if you have a problem with the comments, but not the article, skip the comments. but please dont tell people what they can and cannot comment on, just because you dont agree with the practice.

  18. Nicole says:

    Two more groups that deserve kudos:

    1. Timothy Olyphant and Walter Groggins. Justified.

    2. The entire cast of Daredevil. But Charlie Cox especially brought it and then some as Matt Murdock/ Daredevil.

  19. Hege says:

    The whole cast of Justified! They have turned out stellar performaces week after week. And now the best show on tv has ended.

  20. Jenna says:

    That final scene alone for Raylan and Boyd earned some recognition this week. #justified
    And, yes, Freddie Highmore becoming Norma is just plain creepy good.
    Sorry, not a fan of Caviezel’s acting, so a big raspberry from me on that choice.

    • You do not have to be a fan of Jim Caviezel’s acting to acknowledge that he knocked this eppy out of the park. I do not like certain actors either, but do admire when they do good work.

      • Jenna says:

        Lol. Let me make this clearer: I don’t think he is a good actor, so I’m not going to acknowledge or admire his work, unless he does something that surprises me. I’m still waiting. And, yes, I did watch the episode.

        • Manchee11 says:

          You are entitled to your opinion, but I respectfully disagree. I think his work in this eppy was exceptional.

  21. Tiffany says:

    Ming Na was spectacular in this episode of Shield. Emmy worthy performance. I loved it.

  22. elvis nolasco was brilliant.

  23. Jim Caviezel was wonderful in this POI eppy. He showed a side of Reese we seldom see, and was brilliant opposite Taraji P. Henson. Those two actors have such chemistry, and only Carter could get him to admit the truth of Jessica to himself. Great choice.

  24. Aly says:

    Yes! Ming Na was amazing in this ep. I only wish that we got more focus on May in the present day, in an ep entitled ‘Melinda’ of all things. Skye had too much screentime. In fact, I wish we had a bit more focus on May in general. This show has become the ‘Skye show, featuring Coulson and other characters we occasionally remember we have’. Sigh. Anyway, glad to see her get recognition for this ep.

  25. Jonathon says:

    Definite honorable mention to the entire cast of Justified, especially Timothy Olymphant, Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter Just awesome!

  26. John Davis says:

    I don’t watch any of these shows.

  27. Holly says:

    Nice to see Jim Caviezel get some recognition for Person of Interest. Well deserved.

  28. It was all about Justified this week. And most of this season, for that matter. Everything else paled in comparison.

  29. mollytanner says:

    I thought it was gonna be Freddie Highmore. The scene with him making french toast and Dylan being all WTF? was great.

  30. Matt says:

    Agreed. Jim caviezel was amazing. He gave me chills. That was such a surprising depth of emotion and vulnerability.

  31. Caroline says:

    WELL deserved recognition for Ming-Na Wen this week. I would have liked to have seen just a little more of her in the episode in present day, but the fact that her backstory tied into Skye’s present day storyline made up for it.

  32. Luli says:

    Tatiana Maslany ALWAYS! :) She did an incredible job in the season 3 premier!