THE PERFORMER | Carrie Coon
THE SHOW | The Leftovers
THE EPISODE | “Orange Sticker” (Oct. 25, 2015)
THE PERFORMANCE | One of the (many, many) marvels of Coon’s work on The Leftovers is how believably she’s able to play Nora as alternately someone who seems to have her s— together and someone who’s never further than a single nightmare away from a complete and total nervous breakdown. So in Sunday’s episode, which allowed the actress to highlight both sides of that dichotomy, she was every bit as brilliant as you’d expect… and then some.
First, when Nora awakened during an earthquake to find her lover, Kevin, missing, Coon revealed her alter ego’s panic and escalating fear that he’d vanished in another Sudden Departure with a rawness that was almost painful to watch. “Did it happen again?” Nora asked the 911 operator, dread suffusing each syllable. Then, after Kevin turned up, Coon tempered Nora’s relief with anger so subtle that even her boyfriend couldn’t be entirely certain whether he was in the doghouse.
Later, after illuminating another classic Nora contradiction — her combo platter of cynicism and hopefulness — in scenes with her brother and Kevin’s daughter, Coon demonstrated the resolve which might just be the key to her character’s popularity. Though Nora knew that Kevin hadn’t wanted to go sleepwalking, that it was anything but a conscious choice on his part, she also couldn’t let it happen again — not after she’d already lost her husband and children in the first Sudden Departure. So she handcuffed herself to him as they turned in for the night — in that moment also giving her portrayer a lock on Performer of the Week.
THE PERFORMER | Elizabeth Henstridge
THE SHOW | Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
THE EPISODE | “4,722 Hours” (Oct. 27, 2015)
THE PERFORMANCE | At the very least, S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Henstridge was this week’s runaway winner in the Endurance Competition, on-screen for virtually every single second of the Simmons-centric outing.
But it’s what the Brit did with those 43 minutes that landed her name here. To date, Jemma Simmons had been served well enough as a character, but the bio-chem whiz had never really been “put to the test” in the same was as her action-hero colleagues. One unplanned trip to a strange planet changed all that, affording Henstridge opportunity to explore six-plus months of adversity.
Upon first being spat out by the portal, rational Jemma sought to science the heck out of her out-of-this-world situation. When it became evident that Fitz & Co. wouldn’t extract her any time soon, Henstridge gave her alter ego a whole new color —fierce, spear-fishing for her supper (and breakfast, and lunch….).
Henstridge then started breaking our heart, a tiny bit at first when Simmons explained to fellow castaway Will that she and Fitz “are inseparable,” quickly correcting herself with “were.” Then, after keeping cool for so long, Jemma’s anguish exploded to the surface when her and Will’s bid to at least send a message into the ephemeral portal came crashing down.
Rounding out her performance, Henstridge served up both domestic bliss (as weeks later Jemma and Will had fallen into a cozy acceptance of their shared destiny) and emotional unease (for Jemma and us), once her saga had been told to Fitz. No doubt, she made every second of “4,722 Hours” memorable.
HONORABLE MENTION | Helen’s attempt to numb her sorrows in wine and pot lozenges didn’t pan out well, but it sure gave Maura Tierney an incredible opportunity to act out both the worst imaginable high and her character’s greatest low. For The Affair, a show built on understated performances, Helen’s drunken sing-along was an atypical treat. Later, the character’s intoxicated haze allowed Tierney to expose the previously unbreakable Mrs. Solloway’s fears without having to come out and verbalize them — from becoming the spitting image of her mother, to failing as a businesswoman, parent and significant other. When her side of the story ended in handcuffs as Noah looked down at her, Helen appeared as though she felt as physically crippled as she was emotionally, uncomfortable in her own skin, and Tierney conveyed the fear and anguish of that sobering moment effortlessly.
HONORABLE MENTION | A father’s love for his daughter is a powerful thing, and never have we felt that more on Arrow than in Wednesday’s episode as Lance struggled with the resurrection of his youngest child, Sara. Looking into the eyes of his now feral “baby,” with his gun aimed at her, Paul Blackthorne brought to life the inner turmoil and terror eating up the Captain. But it was Blackthorne’s emotionally conflicted performance during a heated confrontation with Oliver, the man Lance had laid so much blame upon, that reminded us that in this world of flashy superheroes, the common man and his pain is every bit as mighty.
Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!