TVLine's Performers of the Week (tie): HTGAWM's Viola Davis & Matt McGorry

THE PERFORMERS | Viola Davis and Matt McGorry

THE SHOW | How to Get Away With Murder

THE EPISODE | “What Did We Do?” (Nov. 19, 2015)

THE PERFORMANCE | How to Get Away With Murder‘s Annalise Keating and Asher Millstone couldn’t be further apart in style and temperament if their names were Trump and Sanders. And yet as the show’s Season 2 fall finale descended into the stuff of nightmares, their portrayers Davis and McGorry not only made plausible the dozens of “What the heck is happening?!” plot twists, but ensured they were emotionally gripping, as well.

Davis’ work covered the gamut from terror to rage, from uncontrollable doubt to undoubtable control, as Annalise made the decision to cover up Asher’s murder of ADA Emily Sinclair for a multitude of reasons: Her guilt over driving Asher’s father to suicide; her dread that her lover Nate (who’d clashed angrily and publicly with Sinclair hours before her demise) might be falsely accused of homicide (again); and her very practical anxiety that an under-interrogation Asher might expose the ugly, criminal secrets held close by herself and her entire law-firm family.

One stunning scene — which unspooled twice during the episode — found the camera circling Annalise like a hungry shark. Over the course of a nearly wordless 45 seconds, Davis allowed us to see her character absorbing the sheer horror of an unheard phone call — gasping for air, hands visibly trembling, nose running — and then just as suddenly, arriving at some finite realization, composing herself, making another call, and gruffly imploring, “Tell me you’re still at the house.” Later, the scene repeated itself, only this time with the added information that Annalise was processing Bonnie’s grim report of Sinclair’s death, Annalise’s mind vibrating with voiceovers from her coworkers outlining all the complications that left her cornered — until her brilliant legal mind formulated a plan to save them all. It speaks volumes that this might rank as the Emmy-winning actress’ finest work on the series to date. In other words, she might need another acceptance speech, come next September.

McGorry, meanwhile, whose “Doucheface” law student has often been HTGAWM‘s comic relief, proved absolutely revelatory as his shellshocked Asher learned of his father’s suicide, then dealt with his mother cruelly blaming him for the tragedy. The scene culminated with Asher, alone in his car, beating the steering wheel as his face transformed into a mask of pure grief, tears flowing and drool dripping down his chin. Later, when Sinclair began to taunt him about his loss, McGorry’s subtle shift in expression telegraphed his character’s mental break, as he switched his car into reverse, hit the gas pedal and ended the life of the ambitious prosecutor who’d ensnared him in her web. For the remainder of the hour, the actor portrayed Asher as a shell of a man — barely able to process the murder he’d committed, and resigned that no matter the machinations of Annalise and her team, he was doomed to prosecution and imprisonment. Whether or not that’s true, McGorry’s powerful work made it clear Asher will never be the same again.

POTWHONORABLE MENTION | It was the worst case scenario Miranda Otto‘s CIA Berlin station chief Allison Carr had been dreading: Carrie was now in possession of the hacked documents that, once decoded, would out her as a Russian spy. As Saul delivered the ominous news to her in Sunday’s Homeland, Allison struggled to prevent the paralyzing, oxygen-depriving terror from overtaking her body (she couldn’t very well let Saul see her sweat!). Saul eventually left her alone and suddenly her knees buckled and she just fell to the floor. For the next 60 seconds, Otto deftly conveyed Allison’s despair without uttering a single word — she was just a nauseous, hyperventilating basket case. It was panic-attack performance art, and it allowed us to see Big Bad Allison at her most vulnerable and, dare we say, sympathetic.

POTWHONORABLE MENTION | FX’s Fargo this week brought a boozy barrister to a gun fight, and it made for edge-of-your-seat television. As Karl Weathers, Parks and Rec alum Nick Offerman to date — and right up until this week’s intense face-off — has mostly offered amusement. But that changed, drastically, when the conspiracy nut/lawyer was tasked with confronting Bear Gerhardt’s small army, hoping to ward off an assault on the sheriff’s office. Fingers trembling as he retrieved a smoke, Offerman showed us a man struggling to sober up, quickly, before launching into his argument. And what a case he then made, juuuuust barely convincing grizzled Bear to lower his weapon, lest “the boy,” Charlie, be hit with a harsher rap than “five years with good behavior.” Karl’s look of relief, the do-or-die battle won, reflected ours, as the stand-off was silenced.

POTWTGHONORABLE MENTION | To be sure, Scandal’s Kerry Washington brought her A-game during the fall finale’s eight-minute-long break-up scene. But it was Tony Goldwyn who put that lump in your throat as the First Romance unraveled at the seams. Goldwyn led with indignation, roaring, “Do not lie to me!” as Liv made excuses for going AWOL. When Olivia then bemoaned the “cage” she now lives in — peppered with assorted unsaid, harsh truths about the “ineffectual” POTUS — Goldwyn visibly leaned back as the verbal assault blew Fitz away. And just look at his face, the hurt, when a crushed Fitz realizes, “You liked me unavailable.” Washington unleashed the reasons for the ill-fated romance, but Goldwyn mirrored our own reactions, ultimately calling a time of death for “Olitz” with a quiet, “We tried.” And yes, they did.

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

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  1. Brian says:

    Nice seeing Tony Goldwyn getting some acknowedgement.

    • Linda Singleton says:

      Goldwyn is a gifted actor and he came across in that scene that I am still reeling from. I was so sad for him and I am still feeling it. He did the performance of his life! I don’t know why he is never chosen for awards for acting because he knows how to bring it. I watch Scandal because he is in it. Hope they don’t separate them because that is the storyline that keeps this show, in my opinion, on the air. He was amazing in that scene.

  2. spindae2 says:

    Viola nailed it. She deserves every possible award out there. I mean all the emotions she went through and still revealed even the last trump card just so she wouldn’t loose control over the situation.
    Annalise and her Keating 4 is what makes this show so Brilliant and rewatch worthy. I’ll binge the s*it out of it over the holidays.

    Matt Grory meanwhile didn’t convince me. I missed the spark especially in his car scenes, that suppoused rage and breakdown really didn’t felt that. Still it was a good performance.

  3. Mo M. says:

    I know that you already mentioned Iain de Caestecker from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a few weeks ago, but oh man, is Fitz on fire this season. This week’s scene in the lab with Simmons was fantastic. He was angry, he was upset, he was sad – everything was perfect and I truly hope that some miracle happens and Iain gets recognized this year at the Emmys.

    • Hazel says:

      I was just about to make the exact same comment, and saw that you already had. Iain is such a powerful actor, and IMHO he elevates every scene he is in.

  4. LADY_in_MD says:

    I can’t get that last scene out of my head!! SHOOT ME SHOOT ME!! Seriously just give Viola the Emmy she deserves it so much the way her face went from loosing it all to thinking of a plan all in the blink of an eye was brilliant

    • Lukas says:

      This episode seemed so long but it was 43 minutes like the rest. Annalise is really good character. Not that she’s a good person but the character is awesome. Anybody willing to shoot themselves to not goto jail shouldn’t goto jail. This episode was like a horror film. Darkness at every turn. Then the ending!!!! I’m like is she related to wes?. This show and The Flash on the cw are the only shows I watch live without DVR. I can never wait. I’m a primetime Junkie!!!! Gimme more TV!!!!!

  5. Clandestine Green says:

    Viola Davis is incredible…an unbelievable force of nature. McGorry wasn’t very good…especially his dry cry in the car. However, I love Liza Weil…she is so good with a very complicated role.

    • Jay says:

      I agree. McGorry was okay but Liza Weil ALWAYS turns it out. Her scene a couple weeks back, when she drunk, was incredible.

      • ChrisGa says:

        Liza was amazing, far better than McGorry, who is fine with lighter material but was out of his depth opposite Liza and Viola. Speaking of, the Emmy voting committee may as well messenger that trophy over to her now; the woman is astounding and a goddess to boot.

  6. Mr. Tran K says:

    Miranda Otto’s performance on Homeland is Emmy worthy. So far Season 5 is one of the best since last year’s bounce back.

  7. Sharon says:

    Haven’t you watched this week’s episode of The Leftovers???
    Justin Theroux and Ann Dowd deserve a mention (at least) as well!!!!!!!!!

  8. Michael says:

    I think Mayim Bialik deserves a mention for this episode of The Big Bang Theory. Her performance at the end part of the episode is emotional and brilliant. I mean I can’t describe in words how much her performance is heartbreaking. I actually got affected when I watched it.

  9. Randi says:

    Next Week: PLEASE show some LOVE for Days Of Our Lives Kristian Alfonso! [Hope Brady]

    Kristian is breaking my heart right now especially after Yesterday/Friday November 20, 2015 episode of Days Of Our Lives.

    • Laura says:

      Kristian has been so impressive these past weeks but yesterday for me was all about Peter Reckell. I’ve had “Holding Out for a Hero” going through my head since the episode.

  10. Patrick Maloney says:

    Miranda Otto’s performance was so much better than both Viola Davis and Matt McGorry combined!

  11. CarrieAnne says:

    I know that Manhattan never seems to get any love on this site (unless I’ve overlooked it), but it is fantastic and John Benjamin Hickey is phenomenal each and every week.

  12. arial2 says:

    Fitz “put a lump in your throat”??? What sexist planet do you guys live on? Olivia finally gave him what he deserved. He’d done nothing less than make her a prisoner, as she pointed out. I thought the whole abortion thing came from out of left field, was unbelievable. Was it supposed to make us feel sorry for them or something? Fail. But, then, I’ve stopped really caring about their pain (any of them) because they’ve done their best to make themselves totally unlikeable, just fascinating train-wrecks-in-progress which are almost comedic. But those emotions probably come from the need to find a way to cope with the horrible things all these people do to themselves and others. Even the most “victimized” of them (like David Rosen) have jumped on the “let’s see what illegal things we can do today” bandwagon. At this point, the only likeable person is the Vice President, but I’ll bet they get to her eventually. (I’m laughing as I’m writing this; I guess it’s because this show somehow provides catharsis in light of all the current real life problems. If Rowan Pope really existed, DAESH wouldn’t stand a chance if they came calling in HIS Washington, DC!)

    • Ellie says:

      Cannot disagree more. She obviously wasn’t a prisoner as she was able to go visit Mellie and have an abortion….hardly being caged in. That’s HER perspective because she has never given Fitz even a quarter of herself in that relationship. It’s always been Fitz giving in to her, letting her dictate everything. He needs a break from her. Good for him for finally coming back at her!

      • spindae2 says:

        Exactly. She can’t handle the real thing, isn’t able to let control go and let someone else have input in her life. I dislike Fitz a lot cause of the ball-less way he was written over the course of the show but he isn’t the one to blame for their break up.

      • Linda Singleton says:

        I was happy to see him come back at her. After professing how much she loved him, but always had to have conversations with Jake to convince herself that she loved Fitz was an indecisive weakling when faced with put-up or shut-up decisions. She is like her parents, unable to really show love. Eli Pope killed Fitz’s son and she had nerve to say to him “am I supposed to be grateful or bow to you for saving my father’s life .. now this is after she told Fitz in Vermont to do what he had to do and she was the head ramrod to having him jailed”. I hope they give him another love interest. The writers must be overworked…they are ruining both their characters … there is no “big dog” strength in her. She is chicken when having to face up to her own issues. She wants to rule but is incapable of handling the most important thing … she does not know how to return love. I saw an interview with TG and he was baffled at this. It is back and forth and it has gotten cumbersome. The attitude she had about the abortion stunned me because she was carrying a baby supposedly for the man she loved and it didn’t mean anything. I have no respect for that. The writers are killing her and Fitz’s characters. Hopefully they let him continue to stand up to her.

  13. Will says:

    Viola Davis hands down was the performer of the week. No disrespect to Matt McGorry, but it wasn’t even the same level as Viola. Matt; however, did turn in an “honorable mention”. The other performance, who I thought could be close to Viola’s level was Tony Goldwyn. Loved that scene between him and Kerry fighting.

  14. evababy says:

    Yes, yes, yes on Viola Davis and Mat McGorry. But honestly the entire Keating-5 were outstanding in those scenes. Everybody just unraveled so hard. Even Wes and Laurel who were seemingly stonefaced through it all, Connor’s ‘I hate you so much!’ That whole hour was a tense, exciting mess!

  15. Juan says:

    Viola Davis deserves another Emmy for that scene where she is pleasing her students to shoot. Like wow

  16. MFL says:

    They should just give Viola the GG & another Emmy now. Are any of the other lead actresses knocking the ball outta the park the way Viola is on HTGAWM. She’s just sensational as Annalise. That performance was haunting and I have to give it to Matt too..he was impressive more than he’s ever been. Glad he’s getting some recognition.

  17. wendyatgcc says:

    Otto and Offerman were two of my faves this past week. I’m really enjoying Fargo.

  18. G says:

    I know you’ve given out wins or mentions to the Leftovers like 4 weeks in a row, but I think Justin Thoreaux (sp?) was fantastic this week and should have been listed.

  19. flowerduh says:

    I know not many people watch this show but the performance that Aya Cash gave on this week’s, “You’re the worst” was brilliant! The scene where the hood girls came to beat up her clients at the radio station was NICE! When she pulled the gun out of her purse and pointed at one of the hood girls (while keeping a blank face) was flawless!

    Also, Viola did do a great job this week. But she always gives great performances.

  20. Heathers says:

    I seriously hope that Viola Davis has moved on from her shuffling, mumbling “acting” to get a Tvline performer of the week award. She was always a terrible actress who mumbled her way through every line.

    • Joey says:

      I can easily tell this is a poor trolling attempt since I have seen Viola Davis in various roles for well over 15 years, and one thing she definitely does not do is mumble.

  21. Matt C. says:

    So glad Matt McGorry got a chance to shine, and also that Asher is finally in on all of the secrets the group has kept from him. He’s no longer the goofy comic relief character, and I love that! Also, this was probably Viola’s best episode ever. The scene you mentioned with the rotating camera was brilliant, but the scene where she begs each of the students to shoot her single-handedly won her next year’s Emmy. I was on the edge of my seat!

    As for Scandal, the Olitz break up scene was some of the best work either Kerry or Tony has ever done on the whole series. I was devastated by the scene itself, but completely in awe by their performances. Just heartbreaking!

    • Angela says:

      Yeah, I definitely did not expect Matt to do the serious 180 he did this week, but he was startlingly good. I was torn between feeling really bad for Asher and being increasingly scared of him, because the look on his face after he ran down Sinclair was just…whoa. If Bonnie hadn’t been there to help him out and kinda soothe him, I honestly think he might well have completely snapped. And I still wonder if he actually will down the line. I love that we got to see this other, more dramatic side of him this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing where his character goes the next half of the season (and beyond).
      And Viola. She’s made Annalise into such a fully-realized, three-dimensional character. Anyone who messes with her does so at their own peril, that much is clear :p. That scene with her, the students, and the gun was just crazy, in the best way possible. I fully approve of Viola and Matt being this week’s top picks.

      • Rebecca says:

        I agree with the Matt choice 100 %! I have really enjoyed him since I saw him on Orange is the New Black. He is so talented and I thought he nailed it! I also really like him and Liza together. I think they act great together!

  22. darkangel200 says:

    Great choices. Miranda Otto was especially wonderful. Definitely the best thing about Homeland this season.

  23. Chris says:

    Yes viola Davis — an Emmy winning performance and matt mcgorry was amazing!!!! This is the most satisfying show on TV. Love this and limitless!

  24. niloofar says:

    Rupert Friend’s been great this season on Homeland.

  25. Leo says:

    I was worried that no one will recognize Matt McGorry’s amazing performance. While he’s not on the same gen with Viola Davis, he turned in a very surprising work. His scenes after running over DA is just amazing.

  26. Cassandra Pressley says:

    I just recently started watching How To Get Away With Murder. I started at the beginning with Season 1 and let me tell you. I was amazed with the cast performance. It only took me two days to watch Season 1 and now I am caught up with Season 2. I am look forward to see what Annalise and her law-firm family has in store when they return.

  27. Jay says:

    Yes! Viola Davis was almost unbelievably captivating. This woman has done some of the best work in the 21st century (seriously: see Lila & Eve; not well-written but her performance makes the movie compelling).
    I watched that scene where the camera circles her at lest ten times. She was phenomenal and I cannot imagine anyone else beating her in an Emmy race. If they do, I will bow to them.

  28. Roger says:

    Jenna Coleman did outstanding work on this week’s Doctor Who.

  29. Vera K. says:

    Tony Goldwyn by far; in fact he should have won an Award a long time ago. It brought tears to my eyes while making me feel quite hateful towards OP for putting him through so much pain.

  30. Ellie says:

    Tony Goldwyn is AMAZING. He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves! And I take offense to Olivia’s “truths” including Fitz as ineffectual. She certainly didn’t think so all the times he took her advice (which were plenty) and during the Brandon Bill signing.

  31. Michael says:

    My favorite last week was Nick Offerman, closely followed by Viola Davis.

  32. MTMSLG says:

    Sure, Davis deserves a nod (even though that twirling scene made me DIZZY!) but McGorry? Hell NO! He couldn’t even muster real tears in his big scene. That’s Acting 101 Matt, and you did not PASS that class!

  33. Ann Brennan-Zelenka says:

    Watched all three shows and no doubt, Tony Goldwyn displayed once again his incredible acting abilities. He far out-shown other actors, although Kerry Washington did a fantastic job, also.

  34. Brenda Phillips says:

    Tony Goldwyn is amazing, every single look on his face let’s you feel what he is feeling. Almost no words needed.

  35. JM says:

    Thank you for mentioning Nick Offerman and Fargo. I was holding my breath during that scene! This whole season of Fargo has been so excellently written and acted. I am loving it!

  36. fiberlicious says:

    The actor who plays Sylvester on Scorpion certainly deserves an honorable mention this week

  37. liame says:

    Viola Davis hands down, that lady is insanely talented.

  38. DanielleZ says:

    Nice to see Miranda Otto getting some recognition for her performance as Allison on Homeland this season. It occurred to me watching last night’s episode what a terrific job she’s doing. Well deserved.

  39. hurr says:

    Really you guys picked Matt McGorry? Okay no offense but his performance was no where near the same level as Viola’s. He was still way better than Alfred, his acting is terrible all throughout with a bland and uninteresting character.